TORRES DEL PAINE CIRCUIT TREK DAY 2 CAMPAMENTO SERON TO REFUGIO DICKSON
The trail was always clear-cut throughout the “O” circuit trek, with no chance of getting lost along the way.
Intro: With wildflower-filled fields and the dramatic peaks of Torres del Paine as a backdrop, our second day trekking along the “O” circuit was much more spectacular than the first, and our first introduction to the notorious Patagonian winds.
Charlene and I were on day two of the nine-day “O” circuit trek, located in Chilean Patagonia’s Torres del Paine National Park. It is a big trail loop that travels counterclockwise through the region and one of the most famous treks in Patagonia.
Charlene getting a close-up shot of the wildflowers with her GoPro camera.
We had spent the previous night at Campamento Seron, and left right before sunrise during what was a beautiful morning. After a good night’s sleep, we were up at 5AM to make breakfast and pack up our tent and belongings. For this trip we had to carry everything with us as we hiked from one campsite to the next, with our destination for today Refugio Dickson, roughly 18 kilometers away.
With such a big distance to travel, we knew it was going to be a long day…possibly the longest of our entire nine-day trek. But with the elevation staying relatively constant at 100 to 150 meters, we knew the trail would remain pretty flat. Still, 18 kilometers of trekking would take quite a while, especially since I love to take photos every few minutes, and we prefer to take our time and really enjoy the scenery.
The wildflower-filled landscape of Torres del Paine, beautifully illuminated in the early morning light.
Since we had traveled to South America in January, which was the height of the summer season, the days were extra long, with sunrise at about 5:30AM and sunset at 11PM. As a result, we had plenty of time (nearly 18 hours of daylight) to enjoy the trail as we made our way from one campsite to the next.
A rare photo of us together, with our backpacks and trekking poles, as we began day two of the “O” circuit trek in Torres del Paine National Park.
Even with so much time, we started our day early in order to get a head start on the rest of the trekkers staying at Campamento Seron. We noticed the night before that there were a lot of other campers and trekkers, and decided to beat the crowds and be back on the trail by 5:45AM.
A small wetland on the edge of the trail as we trekked towards Refugio Dickson in the early morning.
Before we knew it, the scenery on the trail was already better than the previous day, which had been pretty underwhelming except when we got near Campamento Seron itself. Not to mention it had been really, really hot, and we had to hike uphill quite a bit. Only twenty to thirty minutes into Day 2, however, we were walking through a gorgeous field of golden grass and wildflowers, with a river flowing nearby from the glaciers and mountains above. The air was fresh and the atmosphere quiet and peaceful. Charlene and I certainly enjoyed this start to our second day trekking in Torres del Paine.
Charlene hiking down hill and past a lake on our trek between Campamento Seron and Refugio Dickson in Torres del Paine National Park.
About an hour into our hike, we started to trek uphill a little. The hill was no more than 40 to 50 meters up and down, but as we climbed we felt the famous Patagonia wind for the first time. We had heard rumors about the fierce wind in this magnificent region of South America, but it was no longer a rumor when it was blasting us in the face. The wind was so strong that it felt like we were going to get blown off the trail, an exhilarating feeling to say the least!
Charlene battles against the famed (and fierce) Patagonia wind as we trekked through Torres del Paine National Park.
From the top of the hill we were able to look back and see an amazing view of where we had trekked. In the distance I was able to witness, for the first time, the snowcapped mountains of Patagonia. After the disappointing scenery on the first day, it was on this second day (and in particular this moment) that made me think, “Wow, we are really here.” As we continued our trek, we saw even more mountains in the distance, beautiful green hills and gorgeous blue lakes. Although the wind still penetrated, it made the hike even more exciting.
A wide angle shot (with Charlene in the far distance) of the stunning terrain we trekked through on day two of the “O” circuit trek.
By 9AM it felt like we had been hiking for much longer than three hours. We came across some signposts reminding us of the rules and regulations of the national park, and it was nice to be reassured that we were still on the right trail. Regardless, it was nearly impossible to get lost on the circuit trek because there was only one path, and when we started to see other hikers catching up to us, we knew we were going the right way.
Charlene hiking off into the distance through one of the grassy fields of Torres del Paine National Park.
We then started to descend back into the forest to a lower elevation, trekking through bushy grassland and a lot of trees. The change in scenery was quite rapid, transforming from open-air and space to the covered forest within a quarter of a kilometer or so.
A registration building at Campamento Coiron where all trekkers are signed in to ensure their safety on the trail.
Almost halfway to our destination, we came across an old campsite called Corion. The park ranger stationed there asked us to stop and give him our passport information for their records. This way the park and government knew that we were on the trail and could track our whereabouts in case anything were to happen. The old campsite also functioned as a pit stop. We took a breather, fixed our backpacks, grabbed a quick snack, and used the restroom before continuing our journey to Refugio Dickson.
Dark clouds starting to build in the sky above us as we continued on to Refugio Dickson.
By noon, the gorgeous, clear blue skies of the morning had been replaced with clouds that got angrier and greyer by the minute. Even though we prepared for rain, with rain jackets, pants and a waterproof cover for our backpacks, this made us feel a little nervous. Just like the famous Patagonia wind, Charlene and I were hoping that the ever-changing weather of this land wasn’t just a rumor. We stopped for lunch around 1PM in an open space right next to the trail. In the distance we could still see the mountains rising high and glaciers carving between.
A close-up shot of a glacier tumbling down between the mountains as we trekked towards Refugio Dickson.
After our break we continued to hike, with some light rain falling around 2PM. That wasn’t an issue at all, especially compared to the biggest issue I was having (and one that I had experienced the previous day) with my backpack. It wasn’t that it was too heavy, as I didn’t mind the weight, but that the strap around my waist was rubbing against my pelvis and was becoming very uncomfortable.
This worried me as we were only on the second day of a nine-day trek, and the last thing I was expecting was a fight with my very own backpack! I tried different techniques to alleviate the discomfort, but none of them worked. Even with my lovely and understanding wife by my side, I was actually miserable by the early afternoon. As a warning to readers, do not buy a new backpack and then go on a nine-day trek with it. I had bought the backpack shortly before our trip and this was one of my first times using it.
A wooden boardwalk, built on an area of seasonal flooding, on the “O” circuit trek to Refugio Dickson.
Despite the discomfort, slowly but surely I kept moving. As we got closer to Refugio Dickson, I could sense the nearby Lago Dickson and see the glaciers in the far distance. That final two to three kilometers felt like forever, as we walked uphill and then back downhill.
Charlene negotiates a muddy section of the trail between Campamento Seron and Refugio Dickson.
It was almost eight or nine hours since we had started our hike at Campamento Seron, and the trails had become muddy because of the rain. Even with our waterproof boots, and wooden boards in some areas to help us cross, it was an uncomfortable walk with a backpack that was literally digging into my skin.
At last…finally, we reached Refugio Dickson! The campsite was right next to the lake that it was named after, and it was a rather steep walk down to the entrance, but I felt such relief when I could finally take off my backpack. By the end of the hike I was not happy, to say the least. The issues and discomfort my backpack had caused were making me quite miserable and frustrated. I could already feel cuts because of the friction and knew I would have to apply some topical ointment and Band-Aids. Luckily, this was the last day I would have problems with my backpack! Miraculously, I would make it through the next seven days just fine.
Looking down across the beautiful Lago Dickson, with Refugio Dickson nestled on its shores.
At Refugio Dickson, we set up our tent and called it a day, finally able to relax. We arrived just before 3PM, having taken a little over nine hours to get there, and had only lost a bit of elevation, hiking from 174 meters down to 144.
The gate leading down towards Refugio Dickson with a sign requesting it is kept closed.
While the second day had only been a moderately challenging hike, with mostly flat terrain, it was more so for me because of my backpack issues. But with beautiful weather to start the day and breathtaking scenery, it had been a trek that Charlene and I won’t soon forget.
TORRES DEL PAINE CIRCUIT TREK TREKKING DETAILS
Day: 2 of 9
Start: Campamento Seron (174 meters)
End: Refugio Dickson (144 meters)
Elevation change: -30 meters
Distance: 18 kilometers
Time: 9 hours, 10 minutes