Unknown Patagonia: Backpacking The Dientes Circuit

In Backpacking, International Adventures   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   20 Comments

By Michael Lanza

As our 20-seat, twin-engine Otter DHC-6 prop plane drops through the ever-present Patagonian cloud cover, the Beagle Channel comes into view. On both sides, green hills rise to craggy, treeless mountains. To the north, the jagged Fuegian Andes of Argentina push into the sky. To the south looms our destination: the sharply pointed spires of the Dientes de Navarino. With a steep banking turn, the plane glides down onto the airstrip in the southernmost town in the world, Puerto Williams on Chile’s Navarino Island.

The leather jacket-clad pilot—whom I could practically tap on the shoulder from my second-row seat—turns around and says, “Que pase un buen dia!” or, “What’s up?

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20 Responses to Unknown Patagonia: Backpacking The Dientes Circuit

  1. Jeff   |  January 10, 2017 at 8:53 pm

    Thanks michael. I will cerainly do more investigation before heading out if i do. Wouldnt want to get lost down there. Did a hike today and the weather was gnarly.

    • MichaelALanza   |  January 11, 2017 at 5:16 am

      You’re welcome, Jeff. You might try contacting the guide Maurice (see above). Good luck.

  2. Jeff   |  January 8, 2017 at 10:22 pm

    Hi all. Michael, thanks for the blog. Mallory or meridet, curious on your thoughts on the route, and how it is to follow. Considering going for it in a week or so. Mid jan 2017. Thanks a lot, hope you had a great trek.

    • Michael Lanza   |  January 9, 2017 at 12:27 pm

      Hi Jeff, there’s no established trail along the route; it’s mostly cross-country hiking and navigating, and the terrain is rugged enough that the route isn’t always obvious. (Example: From the first night’s camp at Laguna del Salto, we ascended a steep gully between cliffs, a way that was not obvious from our camp.) Finding your way would be very difficult in poor visibility. I suggest getting your hands on a detailed, day-to-day description, and uploading some key coordinates into a GPS you bring along would be very useful. Good luck.

  3. TallG   |  May 8, 2016 at 9:47 am

    I did this hike solo in 2009 at the end of weeks hiking in southern Patagonia. It was an amazing experience. I too saw absolutely no one on this trek. It was great to see your pictures and remember it.

    I got there the hard way over land by bus to Usuaia and a dingy boat ride to Puerto Williams. Puerto Williams was bleak and not much there in terms of resources (people or supplies). Things may have changed in the past 7 years.

    After the hike, I booked a ride on a working ferry (cars/trucks and about a dozen people). I think it was to Puenta Arenas, but I may be mis-remembering.

    • MichaelALanza   |  May 9, 2016 at 7:50 am

      Hi Tall, thanks for the compliment. I was also there in March 2009. You’re right, there’s not much in the way of camping supplies available in Puerto Williams.

  4. michaellanza   |  January 29, 2016 at 6:35 am

    Thanks for the update, Jacqueline.

  5. Jacqueline   |  January 29, 2016 at 4:41 am

    I just got in contact with DAP and the say that the weight limit is 10 kg. p.p.
    The email address is ventas@aeroviasdap.cl

  6. Nicholas Liu-Sontag   |  December 12, 2015 at 7:21 pm

    Hi Michael,

    Thanks for all the great info. We are planning this hike for Jan 2016 and were hoping you could answer some questions:

    Do you know if it possible to buy Isobutane/propane canisters in Puerto Williams?
    Do you know if dehydrated meals are available in Puerto Williams?
    How necessary do you think it would be to carry crampons and/or an ice axe for the hike?

    Thanks!

    • michaellanza   |  December 13, 2015 at 8:46 am

      Hi Nicholas, I doubt you will find isobutane canisters in Puerto Williams, unless one of the two stores in town have started carrying them since I was there (several years ago). We had to arrange for white gas (see Concerns, above). You will need a multi-fuel stove because you might have no alternative but auto gas. You might try contacting one of the small stores in town.

      I’m not sure about dehydrated meals, but you will be able to buy food that you can cook on a camp stove.

      January is somewhat early in summer there; I was there in late summer and we saw hardly any snow. The Dientes Circuit is not at a high elevation, but I don’t know what they received this past winter for snowfall, or how late it lingers, and there are some steep slopes on the route. I suggest you put that question to the guide we had, Maurice van de Maele (see above).

      Good luck with your trip.

  7. Kevin Green   |  August 17, 2015 at 2:54 pm

    Hello Mr. Lanza,
    First of all, thank you for the amazing reviews of all the trips you
    go on as well as the gear you use! All the information you provide is
    extremely valuable.

    I had a few questions about your trip to the Dientes Circuit. What
    tent did you use/recommend on the trip? Are the winds bad enough to
    warrant a mountaineering tent, one that is quite robust? Also, what
    was the price of the guide? I am very interested in backpacking
    through the less touristy areas of Patagonia and this trip looks like
    it fits the bill.

    Thank you,
    Kevin Green

    • michaellanza   |  August 17, 2015 at 3:20 pm

      Hi Kevin, thanks for the nice words about my blog. Good questions. I think you’ll find the Dientes Circuit is one of the most remote treks in the world, and feels like it. We didn’t see anyone else on it. Everywhere we camped on the Dientes Circuit was exposed to wind, and the wind was often quite strong. See the photo in the story of the wind whipping our tent. I didn’t use a mountaineering tent, but as you can see in the photo, it was a sturdy model from Marmot (several years ago) that’s built to sustain strong winds, and we fully staked and guyed it out. My advice is that the most lightweight tents aren’t necessarily the best for these conditions. Get a tent with a sturdy pole structure, low profile, and decent vestibule space for your wet gear and pack.

  8. Lisa   |  May 30, 2015 at 4:42 am

    This sounds amazing. Thank you for the information. I thoroughly enjoyed the story telling component as well, it adds character to the trip. I hope to do this trek in the future as well 🙂

  9. travelhabbibi   |  April 23, 2015 at 8:08 am

    do you know if its possible to have more luggage on the flight? Paying an extra fee? Or is it absolutely strictly enforced? Thanks for your help. Very nice article. Appreciate you effort!

    • michaellanza   |  April 23, 2015 at 8:31 am

      Hi, good question, but I’m sorry I don’t know the answer. We stayed within the luggage weight limit. It’s possible the policy has even changed since I was there. Check with the airline. Good luck, it’s an amazing trek.

      • travelhabbibi   |  April 23, 2015 at 8:37 am

        Thanks heaps for you fasts reply. Unfortunately there is no luggage policy on their website. I just got a local contact. So hopefully he can find out. If you like I’ll keep you up to date with that info.

        • michaellanza   |  April 23, 2015 at 9:27 am

          Yes, if you could share you learn in a comment here, I’m sure other readers would appreciate that. Thanks.

          • Mallory   |  December 30, 2016 at 5:22 am

            Hi Michael- great post! I’ve been living in Puerto Williams for bout a year now and am planning on doing the trek next week.

            Re luggage, each extra kilo on DAP costs 1.500 CLP (about 2 USD). They’ve also added more flights in the past few years, especially in summer time, with bigger planes arriving on Mondays and Fridays.

          • MichaelALanza   |  January 2, 2017 at 9:51 am

            Thanks for the updated info, Mallory. Good luck trekking the Dientes Circuit. Please leave another comment here after you hike it and let us know what you think.

          • Meredith   |  January 3, 2017 at 2:45 pm

            Mallory, I am looking to do this trek next week (6-11 of January 2017). Please let me know hwo you found the trek, or if you are flexible and would like to do together (I am solo) please let me know.

            meredithmjackson@gmail.com

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