When: 06-Apr-2019

Summary

  • Section: Emergency Camping Spot – Coirón Ranger Station – Camp Dickson
  • Distance: 12km
  • Duration: 5h, including a long break at the Coirón ranger station (at least 1.5h), having breakfast, drying clothes, getting warm around the fire
  • There’s a drop in elevation from our emergency camp spot to the Coirón ranger station of about 200m. After the station it's mainly flat with slight ups and downs.
  • We followed Río Paine all the way to Lago Dickson where the camp is located.
  • Paine river has a few small side arms that were flooding the path.
  • This section is also well-marked.
  • Distance from Coirón ranger station to Camp Dickson is about 9.5km.
  • Camp Dickson is fully equipped with hot showers, bathrooms, indoor kitchen, restaurant, a little shop.
  • Prices for food and items from shops and restaurants along the tracks in the entire park are very high.

Difficulty Rating

Below is my personal grading of the track including some key points. Check out the intro page to the SB scale here if you want to know how I do the rating.
The overall difficulty rating for this track is (with 10 being the hardest): 3.2 / 10
This is made up of the following categories:

Category A: General - 2 / 10

Distance: 12km
Duration: 5h
Elevation gain/loss:
Dropping 200m of elevation on the way to the ranger station.
From there it is mainly flat with small ups and downs.
Just before Camp Dickson you come across a little hill to get down to the camp.

Category B: Terrain - 3 / 10

Parts of the path were flooded from the day before. This required a little creativity and handiwork here and there to build bridges across streams.
The track provides a nice mix of fields, forest ground, a section of board walk.

Category C: Weather - 3 / 10

Still windy but nothing compared to the day and night before.
Sunshine and no rain all day while we were out hiking. It started raining a little bit after we've arrived at Camp Dickson.

Category D: Special Conditions - 3 / 10

Backpacks were still heavy.
Also used some of our thin rope to build a bridge.

Category E: Individual Condition - 5 / 10

We were tired from the day before. We weren't able to get any sleep during the night due to heavy storm.
We arrived at the Coirón ranger station exhausted.
The ranger allowed us to use the oven and dry our clothes, even sharing his breakfast with us.
This helped us to regain strength and energy for the rest of the way to Camp Dickson.
Also, it's worth mentioning that getting out of that night alive and without any serious consequences gave us quite a bit of boost for the entire rest of the hike.

My Experience

It’s an understatement to say I am released when we remove our rain covers from the backpacks to find that E V E R Y T H I N G is dry. I never considered this possibility with the water masses that were coming down all night. I simply gave up on it.

There is still some strong winds going on but it’s nothing compared to the show we were part of the day before. Patagonia had mercy on us and is in a good mood today. So are we.

Taking down the tent, we have to fiddle the pole out of the tent sleeve. It's been ripped apart. Oddly enough the tent fabric doesn’t have a single scratch. We scan the mess and realize how lucky we are.

 

 

The hike to the Coirón ranger station feels like a walk in a park. It’s mainly downhill through some nice forest bits. Every now and then, we have to cross flooded sections. During this first hour of trekking we keep busy analysing what happened the night before.

When we arrive at the station, we ask the ranger if we could rest and warm up inside. Not only does he invite us in to sit by the fire and dry our clothes. He also shares his breakfast with us. Part of the job of a ranger is to walk the tracks or sections of them between the different ranger stations they reside in for a time period to check if everything is alright.

We take a long break and then head off to Dickson. Even though we're able to watch bad weather building up in the mountains ahead of us, we are in luck with a mixture of sunshine and fluffy clouds all day.

With all the stress slowly falling off my shoulders, I take in every view. I’m overwhelmed to say the least. The landscape reminds me of these breathtaking scenery shots in the “Lord of the Rings” movies. My fellow survivor agrees with me when I say it out loud.

Torres del Paine National Park is by far not the only mesmerising spot in Patagonia. All landscapes I’ve seen in this beautiful part of the world spoiled me for life. But this park and the correlating experiences will always remain special to me.

We are tired, our backpacks still heavy. But the final kilometers to Dickson are an easy walk compared to our first day. We are distracted by the views and little adventures like building a bridge. Río Paine has smaller sidearms that you have to cross on the way. As you see on the pictures above, there are bridges that are supposed to serve as help. Due to the flooding from the days before not all of them were as useful. A bit of rope, a few big branches from the ground and some balancing action, et voilà: the little bridge is extended. Later we will find out that this construction also helped the two hikers who arrive at Dickson a few hours after us.

 

 

When we arrive at Dickson the camp seems deserted. We sign in and tell the staff about our situation. They are understanding and let us stay without having to pay again, despite the one day delay. So will all the other campsites, except for Camp Francés.

I begin to think we are the only ones doing the circuit this late in the season. We haven’t seen anyone but the ranger in 2 days. The more I am surprised when we step into the kitchen and see one guy sitting there, enjoying a maté.

His name is Darryn. He will show us how to properly have maté in the following days. The three of us will eventually end up hiking the rest of the O-Circuit together. Including a post hike pizza and pisco sour celebration in Puerto Natales. Also, Christian’s last party before he leaves South America.

To stretch it even further into the future: Darryn and I will end up traveling together. In many ways, this hiking experience will have an impact on my life.

While I’m prepping the first big hot meal in two days, Christian fixes the broken tent pole. After a short while, the tent is pretty and functional again. Despite the best first day of a 9-day hike you could possibly imagine – NOT - we officially agree to keep pushing for the rest.

P.S.: If you have time while doing this track, I recommend spending an extra day at Camp Dickson to discover Dickson Valley, including the lake and the glacier.

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