Camp Japones to Refugio Dickson, Torres del Paine, Chile

This is post 2 in a series of a 7 day/6 night guided hike in Torres del Paine National Park with Dittmar Adventures. We followed the modified O Trek which connects camps Japones and Dickson over the Oggioni Pass. As this part of the trail is not marked, it can be only done with a guide. If you are looking for something a little more challenging with fewer trekkers and spectacular views this may be the route for you.

Day 2 – Campamento Japones to Refugio Dickson via Oggioni Pass
Total Distance:  12 kilometers/7.5 miles
Average Time: 9 hours

We woke at 5:40 a.m. to Carlos, our guide, exclaiming, “It’s a beautiful day. Perfectly clear.” This is, of course, excellent news because in bad weather it is not possible to cross Oggioni Pass. It will be a long difficult day even in good weather.

Even though it’s dry outside the tent the sleeping bags are warm and cozy and we’re in no hurry to put on our wet clothes and face the day. Horrible slithering into wet pants, but by the time we get to breakfast my pants are dry. The wind has dried the tent. We hang our wet rain clothes in the trees and they too are dry by the time we finish breakfast.

Breakfast starts with oatmeal followed by tortilla rolls filled with ham and cheese. There are not enough places to sit in the small shelter. Standing, you have to be careful not bump your head on one of the sagging pools of water that collected in the plastic sheeting covering the shelter.

Walking out to the stream I could see that Carlos was right. It was a beautiful clear day without a cloud in the sky.

Today is the hardest day of the 7 day trek. It starts with a short walk through the forest to a stream that now looks like a raging river coming down the mountain. Those who had river shoes (not mentioned on the packing list) changed for the icy crossing. Camille crossed barefoot and I in my boots. Either way was doable, but river shoes would have been better.

Carlos demonstrates the way, first scrambling through tree branches to reach an island in the river and then crossing boulders having to step in the strong current to reach the other side. The current is upper calf deep and not so strong that it would knock you over. The crossing was intimidating and challenging but we all made it without a tumble in the drink.

Looking back, the next section, walking through the open forest, was the most pleasant part of the day.

Out of the woods we start the long, punishing ascent, mostly on steep scree (I hate scree). Water streams down the mountain side.

We stop several times to rest, take in the view and fill water bottles.

The views open up as we climb but the wall in front of us looks only higher the more we climb. Finally reaching the snow we are almost there, and then once over the ridge a magnificent view of the mountain range and Dickson Glacier on the other side of the valley is revealed.

Carlos tells us to drop our packs here and we climb a short peak just above us. I wonder why we need to climb higher when the view is so spectacular here, but another short scramble and we’re at a viewpoint with 360 views including the backside of the Towers.

A perfectly clear day, you couldn’t have a more spectacular scene. All the wet weather and pain from the punishing climb fades away with one of the most awesome vistas I have ever seen.

We spend a good moment rejoicing in our incredible fortune – this was to be our only truly clear day – before starting the slog down the other side.

Back at our packs we stop for the first lunch of the day, this being a 2 sandwich day. The usual tuna sandwich of course, pureed fruit in a squeeze container, a chocolate bar and trail mix.

The porters, Nacho, Canoa and Nico catch us. They carry more than 60 pounds up the impossible scree. Descending they fly down the sandy hill reaching the bottom before I am half way.

On the backside the scree has been replaced by rocky sand. The descent is as steep as the climb but with each step you sink and slide into the sand filling your shoes with rocks if you are not careful. Gaiters would be a good addition to the packing list.

Down, down, down, not difficult but hard on your ankles especially with rocks in your boots. I stop once to empty my shoes. Although much quicker than the ascent it’s still too long, feeling like there is always more to go. Our Nico and Canoa now just tiny specks at the bottom of the mountain. Once down we cross a couple of small water sources and cover packed sand and stone over rolling terrain to the forest.

The next 3 hours plus we scramble down and through the tree branches, over fallen logs trying not to trip on the thick vegetated floor of mostly low berry bushes that remind me of cranberry plants. Everyone is exhausted and focused on the never ending forest.

Finally we reach the maintained trail, part of the O route. Before we start the last stage to Dickson Refugio we stop for the second lunch of the day. Sally reclines on a log. We’re thrilled to walk on a maintained trail but still we have another hour to hour and half to go.

After a short while we hit Los Perros viewpoint.

From here it’s 3K to Dickson, a silent march on good trail with some mildly steep sections rolling through the forest. The longest 3k I think I have ever walked.

Refugio Dickson

Around 7PM we arrive at Dickson Refugio set in a clearing with views of the peaks and Oggioni pass with our trail down the sand visible from camp.

Carlos offers us beds inside at half price as there had been cancelations. 8,000CLP ($12.50USD) per person instead of the regular 16,000CLP. We happily accept.

It’s a small room with double bunks on 3 walls with not much space in between. It’s just the four of us. I can’t imagine if there were 6 in this tiny room as our gear takes up nearly every spare inch.

We opt for having dinner straight away. Undeterminable soup, salad with hearts of palm and peanuts followed by chicken and potato wedges – oven crisp on the outside with soft centers.

The lodge also has upstairs rooms. From down stairs you can hear other guests stomping about above your head which maybe too noisy for light sleepers. This small refugio, the smallest of the 4 we ate at, has a comfortable lounge area next to the dining tables.

Bathroom facilities, both men’s and women’s, include two toilet stalls in one room and two shower stalls with hot water in another. After a quick hot shower bed is the only thing on my mind. Exhaustion transports me past the pain into a deep sleep.

February 14, 2018

For links to all the posts in this series see the Hiking in Patagonia page.