Hiking the Lago Windhond route on Navarino Island

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Editor’s note: In the first of our new “Patagonian Diaries” section, a space for our readers to share their trips and adventures in Chilean and Argentine Patagonia, Chilean photographer and architect Santiago Bernales (29) tells us about his journey through one of the three trekking routes that can be done on Navarino island: the Lago Windhond route.
Text and photos by Santiago Bernales 
Translation by Lily Alford
We had given ourselves the goal of traversing Dientes de Navarino, a trail that is becoming more and more popular. We researched the circuits in depth and finally decided to take the lesser-known route, which took us to more remote and southern parts of Navarino Island.
We traveled to the city of Punta Arenas in southernmost Chile, and from there we took the ferry to Puerto Williams, the small capital town of Navarino Island. It was a breathtaking 48-hour journey that took us through the Alberto de Agostini National Park, and the Brecknock and Cockburn channels, which provided views of the Darwin Mountain Range, the Italia Glacier and the Roncali Glacier, before ultimately entering the Beagle Channel.
Ascent of Cerro Bandera on the first day of trekking. Ascent of Cerro Bandera on the first day of trekking.
From Puerto Williams, the Lago Windhond route begins by sharing the trail during the first two days with the classic Dientes de Navarino route. The first day involves an ascent of Cerro Bandera, a stone-carrying trail that gave us remarkable views of the Beagle Channel and the first postcards of the Dientes de Navarino.
After spending the night at Laguna el Salto, on the second day we started an intense ascent up the Australia Pass and the Dientes Pass, whose surroundings offer pristine high Andean landscapes in intense color. After making both passes very early in the morning, with a lot of loose rock and strong winds, we reached the Hito 16 monolith, which branches off into the Dientes de Navarino and Lago Windhond circuits, and presents a panoramic view of the impressive lenga beech forests and lagoons highly altered by beavers, as well as showing to the left the Monte Bettinelli, which we should then climb and cross.
Dientes de Navarino.Dientes de Navarino.
Monte Bettinelli before the storm. Monte Bettinelli before the storm.

"The Lago Windhond route is one of three that can be done on Navarino Island and is 41 kilometers long."

The second night at Bettinelli camp brought the worst. We were struck by an unexpected and intense snowstorm, precisely in the valley between the Paso Dientes and the Monte Bettinelli, both routes highly exposed and with winds that reached 110km/h. We lost almost the entire day waiting for the storm to abate and for a small window to present itself, which happened late that evening, finally affording us the possibility to climb up to the mountain peak and its crossing, while very exposed to the winds and abrupt, steep drops.
After a terrifying crossing of a high Andean plain, calm came and we were able to enter through the Entrada de los Guanacos, which let us descend through an Antarctic beech forest into the valley of the Windhond River along a path surrounded by peatlands. As night fell, we finally reached the long-awaited Refugio Charles, built in 1962 and located on the edge of Lake Windhond.
Refugio Charles.Refugio Charles.
In the shelter, we were finally able to dry our wet clothes on an old, but pleasant wood stove. From then on, the trip became calmer, and we could explore throughout the shelter’s surroundings, seeing the delta of the Windhond river and even fishing in the lake, knowing that we were in the most southern point that we had ever reached in our lives.
The return journey, quite torturous through the peatlands, beaver habitats, and forests of the Ukika Valley, is however, a gift to the eyes and a completely remote place that recalls ancient times, where we could appreciate the eastern face of the Dientes de Navarino. We spent the last night in a campsite adjacent to the destroyed Ex Refugio Beaucheff and after crossing the Alinghi Pass and some hours of walking, we finally ended up in the cogue forest that signaled the exit toward the highway and the trip back to Puerto Williams, as well as the end of one of the most epic journeys I have ever taken.
This story is the first article in our new "Patagonian Diaries" section, in which our readers can contribute articles about their adventures and journeys in Chilean and Argentine Patagonia. If you would also like to share your story, send a 400-800 word account along with photos of your trip to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .