Dientes de Navarino

Dientes de Navarino trekking, Chile

Last week Claudia and I and took a zodiac boat ride from Ushuaia to Isla Navarino, an island that is actually in Chile even though it’s right across the Beagle Channel from Ushuaia and Argentina. So, coming and going, four more stamps in our passports, which are nearly full of Chile and Argentina stamps after three months of border crossings between the two countries. By now, the amount of stamping and filling out of immigration forms has reached a certain level of inanity to us.

But I digress… our reason for heading to Isla Navarino was to trek around the Dientes de Navarino, a small but rugged mountain range on the island. We spent five days out there on this wild and adventurous route, enduring a full range of extreme weather and trekking through some spectacular scenery. See lots more photos from the trek below!

hiking through lenga forest, Chile

After clearing customs (again) in Puerto Williams on Isla Navarino, we registered with the police (in case we never returned), stopped at a market for some cheese and sausages (which we weren’t allowed to bring into Chile), and then we finally started our walk into the mountains!

We climbed up through the lenga forest and then crossed a high tundra plateau where we had an excellent view of the Dientes (see the first photo above). We were excited! Right from the start we could sense that this trek was much different from the other more famous Patagonian treks. This already felt much more wild and authentic compared to the Disneyland feel of Torres del Paine or Fitz Roy.

Laguna del Paso, Isla Navarino, Chile

After camping the first night at Laguna del Salto, we headed up past Laguno del Paso and over towards Paso de los Dientes, seen on the right. Clouds were streaming up over the pass, portending foul weather on the other side.

Paso los Dientes, Isla Navarino, Chile

From the pass we had a brief but awesome view of the clouds moving in through the rugged valley. This would be the last we’d see of the mountains for a while… soon we were totally socked in with rain and fog!

Cairn in the fog

This trek doesn’t really have a real trail, but the route is marked with cairns and painted symbols. Nevertheless, it can be quite confusing at times, and route finding was often a puzzle – which I kind of like! In the fog we were grateful for the cairns; otherwise it would have been nearly impossible to know where to go.

Tundra

These green shrubs glowed a fluorescent green color in the grey fog.

Cerro Gabriel, Laguna del Los Dientes, Isla Navarino, Chile

Laguna de los Dientes : Prints Available

Cerro Gabriel and Laguna de Los Dientes, Isla Navarino, Chile.

Along the way we got a bit lost on the wrong route for a short while, but finally made it to our next destination – Laguna de los Dientes. Our spirits were low, since we were soaked and chilly in the rain, the peaks were hidden in the fog, and the weather showed no sign of changing. Camp spots are extremely difficult to find in these mountains because the ground is almost everywhere bumpy, rocky, or wet, but after some searching we found a flat spot to put the tent. Later that day I was much happier when I opened the tent door and saw the peaks out!

Beaver damage on Isla Navarino

At some point in the past, in a stroke of short-sighted brilliance, North American beavers were introduced here. They have since wreaked havoc on the native forests, leaving most of the areas around the lakes littered with dead tree carcasses. We saw a couple of these industrious critters during the trek.

Laguna de Los Dientes, Isla Navarino, Chile

Los Dientes : Prints Available

Mist rises off Laguna de los Dientes during a break in the rain on Isla Navarino, Chile.

The Dientes reminded me a bit of the Sawtooth Mountains in Idaho, with the jagged peaks rising above broad lakes. We realized here how much we’ve missed camping near alpine lakes, a feature that seems rare in the Andes, I guess. Somehow having lakes around makes a landscape feel a bit more like paradise. And this place felt like a little mountain paradise indeed, except for the hellish weather!

Laguna Escondida, Isla Navarino, Chile

The rain left that night and the next day was gorgeous! Well, gorgeous for Magellanic standards, anyways… Here’s Laguna Escondida, ringed by a rugged wall of mountains.

Hiking Paso Ventarron, Isla Navarino, Chile

Although the sun was nice that day, as we neared the top of Paso Ventarron, we got a taste of the infamous Cape Horn winds. It was shockingly windy up here, sometimes sending us staggering backwards. And this, I think, was pretty tame wind compared to some of the stories I heard and read of people getting knocked over and even dragged around on the ground by ferocious winds. Apparently that’s fairly common around here.

Hiking Paso Ventarron, Isla Navarino, Chile

Going down the other side of Paso Ventarron. It was so windy here, my eyebrows were blowing in the wrong direction! I don’t recall this ever happening before… but then again, they seem to be getting bushier as I get older… Anyhow, it was windy.

Laguna Martillo, Isla Navarino, Cerro Clem, Chile, sunset

Laguna Martillo Sunset : Prints Available

Wild sunset light behind Cerro Clem at Laguna Martillo on Isla Navarino, Chile.

That evening we camped at Laguna Martillo, a spectacular setting with the spire of Cerro Clem towering above. When I saw that the sunset colors were lighting up, I let my dinner get cold while I ran off to take some photos!

Crazy weather at Laguna Martillo, Isla Navarino, Chile

Did I mention that the weather is crazy here? Here’s our tent Laguna Martillo the day we got there. At right is fresh snow in the morning. Quite a surprise to see that when I opened the tent!

Snowy trekking on Isla Navarino, Chile

Since we had no layover days on this trek, we had no choice but to pack up the wet tent and start trekking through the snowstorm. This was another adventurous day when we were totally reliant on the cairns and markings to show us the route ahead. We were worried that it would snow enough to cover up all the route markings and cairns, in which case we would be screwed and would have to stay put. Luckily the snow didn’t accumulate enough for that.

Snowy Paso Virginia, Isla Navarino, Chile

Antarctic conditions on Paso Virginia. Again, we were very thankful for the cairns; otherwise this route would be quite a compass challenge on this broad featureless plateau. This pass is notorious for hellacious winds, so our little snowstorm actually wasn’t so bad as it could have been…

Lago Guanaco, Isla Navarino, Chile

Nevertheless, we were both relieved to have made it safely over the last pass of the trek. As if mirroring our emotions, a rainbow appeared down valley where we’d soon be camping for our final night of the trip! Below is Laguna Guanaco.

The last day was a glorious calm sunny day, and an uneventful hike took us out of the mountains, back to Puerto Williams.

We both agreed that this was one of our two favorite treks we’ve done during our three months in the Andes (the other being the Valle de Aguas Calientes near Chillan). It was a perfect grand finale adventure for our trip! Now we’re just chilling out in Ushuaia for our last couple days here before catching our flight back to Buenos Aires then home. It’s been an epic trip, but three months is enough, and I’m super excited to get back home to Ouray!

26 thoughts on “Dientes de Navarino

  1. Super cool, Jack! I remember reading Darwin’s Beagle Diary and other nautical literature and trying to imagine what the country around Cape Horn is like. This is a fascinating glimpse of really unfamiliar terrain. I’ve often read about folks departing on Antarctic cruises from Ushuaia, and thinking I wouldn’t be able to resist the temptation just to wander off and explore the tip of South America. Great stuff!

    1. Ah yeah I should read the Beagle Diary now! There is so much potential still for exploring around here, but the access is nearly impossible unless you have your own boat, and the weather is horrendous.

  2. Hi Jack,

    very interesting report & nice photographs of the very nice landscapes along this trek…

    I hope you managed to do some shots with some interesting light…

    I’ve got some questions :
    Do a map exist for this trek ?
    What is the brand and model of your tent ? Did it hold well in fuegian wind ?

    Very interesting photographs all along your trip, which allow to see the diversity of landscapes along patagonian & fuegian Andes. Thanks for sharing them. I’m now waiting to see artistic (with great lights) ones now…
    A lot work & hours of developing & postprocessing of the files to come… Good luck, hold on ! Plenty of people are interested to discover what you shot (and saw, and lived).

    Happy New Year to you & Claudia,

    Best regards,

    Guillaume

    1. Hi Guillaume, yes I got some nice sunset light one evening of the trek, which I will post later on after I’m back home with my real monitor. But for the most part, I was stoked to just SEE the peaks when I could, regardless of the time of day.

      There is no good topo map for the area. There is a comprehensive pdf guide brochure that explains the route. It is definitely the most useful thing to have for the trek, although still a bit confusing at times. You can download it here

      We’ve been using a Big Agnes Seedhouse SL3 tent. It could easily be the best tent I’ve ever owned except for the crappy zippers which have been broken for the last month, which makes me hate it now. It’s a shame that they put such shitty zippers on an otherwise excellent tent. Anyhow, we’ve been lucky and never had any super crazy wind in the tent. I think it would do well in very strong wind – it’s aerodynamic, sturdy, and when in doubt we placed rocks along the gaps below the rain fly to keep the gusts out.

      Happy new year to you too!

      1. Hi Jack,

        thank you for the informations, I’ll have a look to the topo, and to Big Agnes tents !!! didn’t know this brand.
        I will have a look to its weatherproofness, conception, weight size)(From photographs it looks resistant wherever the wind comes from, but patagonian and fuegian are special…).

        Yes, on my tent too I broke the zip and had to change it (50 € !), and they replaced it by : a bigger one, & more resistant. I think they just put some light & crappy ones just in order to minimize a little bit more the weight and stay in less than 2kg or 3kg category…
        As you used your tent during three months it’s normal it got used, that some elements may be used, damaged, or broken…

        Best regards,

        Guillaume

  3. Mmmm ok, the tent looks more spacious than mine (Vaude Odyssee), mechanically resistant to winds coming from any direction due to all the tubes (not the case for mine)(what seemed to me from the photographs). May be a little bit longer to build, and less waterproof. Same weight. Maybe a larger apse, to leave backpack.
    I stop because moderator will tell me that it is a photography blog, not a mountain gear one !!!

    1. Ha, no worries, I’m a gearhead too sometimes and have owned many tents and have done lots of research on them.

      The Seedhouse is as close to the perfect tent as I’ve ever found (SL3 for two people, and SL1 for myself). But like I said, the zippers are crap and if you camp a LOT like I do, they will probably have to be custom replaced with real zippers (Big Agnes already fixed the zipper once for a $25 charge, and it just broke again after about a month). The tent is super easy and quick to set up, and very waterproof. There’s a lot of space and sturdiness for a 4 lb. tent. Nevertheless, a tent (as with any gear) is only as good as its weakest part, and since the zippers suck, well…

      I bought the tent from REI so I’ll probably return it, rather than dealing with the hassles and cost of upgrading both zippers. (Also on principle – why should I have to do that? Big Agnes should have used better zippers from the start).

      It’s a shame, though, because I love the tent otherwise, and I really don’t know of any comparable alternative. Big Agnes’s Fly Creek model I think is the newer version of the Seedhouse, and even lighter. Probably has the same chintzy zippers though. The MSR Carbon Reflex tent looks interesting, and is lighter, but has much less space. I may go with a single wall TarpTent, but I used to use a one-man model of one of those and it was a bit wonky to set up and not too sturdy. But they are very light. The quest continues!!!

  4. Amazing update and photos!
    A Grande Finale indeed!
    May your eye brows keep flopping in the right direction from now on(:

  5. Jack, thanks a lot for this post. I’ve been thinking about planning a trip here for a while, and having looked at these photos it’ll definitely be at the top of my list for this December.

  6. Hi Jack,
    Many thanks for such magnificent views of my country. It really makes me proud to be a Chilean. I’ve been in Torres del Paine with its stunning views, but this is beyond awesome and you have captured its beauty wonderfully.
    Once again, thanks and hope you’ll be back again for us to be able to admire your work and the beautiful landscapes of the southernmost part of Chile and also the continent.

    Ricardo Burgos.

    1. Thanks Ricardo! Yes, we enjoyed this trek MUCH more than the Torres del Paine circus. I’m sure I will return to Chile again – there is so much I still want to see (and photograph) down there!

  7. hola jack viajamos a navarino en diciembre para navidad, voy a realizar el trekking junto a mi familia, tiene alguna utilidad llevar el gps? tenes alguna recomendacion en especial sobre la guia de bienes patrimoniales de chile, fantasticas fotos!!!!!

  8. Thanks for some insights. And for a link to that PDF. I DO have my own boat in Purto Williams and will have to spend the coming months there. So trekking solo will be the last resort of fixing of the boat becomes to boring. As you say that there are nice places to go but it’s impossible without own boat: can you give me any tips of such places. I’m not an pro trekker but I like the outdoors.

    Thanks also for the NICE pictures!

  9. Beautifull post and photos! I´m from Argentina and I was searching new treks in Patagonia, I wasn´t sure about doing this trek next summer but the impresive landscapes of your photos convinced me to do it. Thanks, Ileana

  10. Hi Jack,
    Great pictures – now I see what we missed when aborting the trek after 1,5 days at Xmas 2000: when getting up at that same lake where you had some snow, we had a foot of snow and thick fog; then did a rekkie just with a day-pack and after 2 hrs went breast-deep in the snow, so had to return 🙁
    Just shows you that even at that (Summer) time of the year (weather) conditions can be atrocious!
    Peter

  11. Thanks for such a good trip report. We are planning to do the same circuit and I had some questions:

    – how long did you hike each day?
    – did you carry a GPS/Sat phone with you
    – do you know how to speak spanish. Is this trek recommended for someone who does not know spanish

    Thanks a lot!

    1. Hi Manny, I don’t remember exactly but we probably hiked about 5-6 hours each day. We did not have a GPS or sat phone with us. As for Spanish, during the trek you’re basically in the wilderness so it doesn’t matter what language you speak! But of course when you’re traveling to get there, stocking up on supplies, etc., it certainly helps to speak Spanish. It is possible to travel someplace without speaking the language (if you learn a few basic words and sentences) – I’ve done this before a number of times in places like Montenegro, Turkey, etc. – but it’s definitely more difficult that way. But it can be done!

  12. As said above here I had some time on my hands since I had my boat there for some 8 months. I do not speak more than a few words of Spanish. Despite being solo this is not a big problem at all I think. People are friendly so just wave your arms.

    I carried a GPS. Not so much for navigation purpose but for geocaching and to see how much I walked and when the sun would go up/down. You get a free map at the tourist office with that super-explained route, a bit toooo much info. Must be possible to write the same in a forth of the words/checkpoints.

    I made the trekk solo in november. Still a fair amount of snow but it gives good exercise 😉

    I was up and down a few peaks on my way, among them trying out the highest (not recommended) so a daily portion is hard to say, its so individual. I was active for 12-14 h/day. If I would have some to talk to there are a million places to sit down and enjoy the view and company.
    The recomended 4-5 days is fair if one follow the tracks. Do not underestimate the last day (if starting clockwise), it might seem easy but trekking vs. woods of this kind… Hmmmm

    If you ever need a guide or a tips, find Denis Chevallay in PW. Writer of books about the area, multi lingual, trekking-guide and generally just a really GREAT guy.

    I hope to come back soon!

  13. Jack! Sorry. But i missed again to say thanks for the post! Should also explain my name, its Viltfjäll in Swedish and google translate gets it to Montaña Salvage which feels good thinking of Navarino!

  14. Wow.. amazing pictures. My husband and I are planning to go to Port Williams and came across your travelogue. Unfortunately we didn’t plan with enough time to do the full dientes-de-navarino circuit. But looking at your pictures I’m almost tempted to change our itinerary.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *