‘O’ Circuit Key Facts
Location: Patagonia, Chile
Distance: 110 km
Camping: Basic campsites
Map: Torres del Paine Trekking Map
This is post 3 of 6 about hiking in Torres del Paine, completing a combination of the ‘W’ circuit and the full ‘O’ circuit in December and January.
- Part 1: Preparing for Torres del Paine
- Part 2: Hiking to Las Torres and the Valle del Silencio (Days 1 and 2)
- Part 3: Hiking to Seron and Dickson campsites (Days 3 and 4)
- Part 4: Hiking to Los Perros, John Gardner Pass, and Las Guardas (Days 5 and 6)
- Part 5: Hiking to Lago Pehoe and Los Cuernos (Days 7 and 8)
- Part 6: Finishing the hike (Day 9)
Day 3: Las Torres to Seron
Day 3 – Christmas Day! – of the Torres del Paine trek was one of the longest – starting the actual ‘O’ circuit trek by hiking from La Torres to Camping Seron, a small and peaceful campsite next to the Rio Paine. This is also the chance to leave behind the relative bustle of the popular ‘W’ circuit and, although the trail is clearly marked and well-trodden, experience a greater feeling of wilderness and solitude. After seeing dozens of people on the hike to Los Torres – sometimes even having to wait on the trail for others to pass or to speed up – it was a welcome change to hike all day without seeing another person.
From the Las Torres area the path quickly leaves the hotel buildings and ranger’s huts behind, but continues on a wide vehicle track that makes it hard to feel like you are in wild Patagonia just yet. Fenced in on both sides by barbed wire fences and stumbling in deep vehicle tracks with a heavy pack, it was not a very motivating start to the trek (and not very photogenic either). But in the afternoon the trail improved, gradually looking less like farmland as it climbed slowly but unrelentingly before flattening out and passing through a much more pleasing environment – daisy-filled meadows alongside the Rio Paine with snow-capped mountains as a backdrop. This is why I came to Patagonia!
The Rio Paine, which the path quickly joins, was both beautiful and slightly spooky in that way open water always tends to be in the wilderness. Opaque blue, deep, and slow moving, I wondered what might lay beneath its surface – while at the same time not wanting to find out.
Like many of the days in Torres del Paine, I reached the campsite at Seron by early afternoon, feeling like I had not walked for long enough but knowing that the next campsite was many hours away. Not that this was a bad thing – each campsite is beautiful situated and a chance to roam around in the afternoon and evening was always rewarded with spectacular scenery. Certainly in the summer (December and January here) though, the long daylight hours would make it possible to combine two of the days into one if you were so inclined.
Camping Seron is a clean and sheltered little camp site with some bunk bed accommodation and a bathroom block, all perfectly situated right next to the river. The camping area was wide and there were tables and benches to use. As with most nights I spent in Torres del Paine, there was only one other tent in the campsite (although it tended to be a different one each night – everybody else was either going a lot faster or a lot slower than me!).
Day 4: Seron to Dickson
Day 4, from Seron to Dickson, was a very tough hike rewarded with probably the best campsite on the trail. Although the trail is mostly downhill, rounding the ‘corner’ from Seron onto the ‘back’ side of the park immediately exposed me to the notorious Patagonian winds that seem to run right down the valley, head on, making walking and even seeing very difficult at times.
In Patagonia the locals say “If you don’t like the weather, wait a few minutes”, and with the screaming wind, the ominous dark clouds in the distance, and the bright sunshine beaming down on me – all at the same time – I see why. One section of the path would be crazily exposed to the elements while a small dip or turn would lead to a sheltered area full of colourful trees and silence.
After descending into the valley, quite a lot of the path involves negotiating boarded walkways, designed to protect the environment (and keep your feet dry!) as the trail passes across marshy ground. Most of the boards are in good condition, but on those were one of the planks had sunk into the ground, maintaining balance with a heavy rucksack was not the easiest of tasks!
Dickson campsite can be seen for some time before you arrive there. The camp is set in an idyllic position, on a small piece of land jutting out into the lake (Lago Dickson) with a wide and smooth grassy area to laze around on and pitch a tent. Best of all, the campsite has a small shop – juice and eggs were promptly bought. It felt peaceful despite the mist hanging over the lake and the looming distant mountains bringing to mind the sets of numerous horror films.
Dickson is actually quite close to the glacier of the same name- a fact I didn’t even realise at first (I probably should have looked at a map!). As the mist over the lake lifted I could just about make out the blue-white of the distant ice – but it wasn’t until the next day as I headed towards Los Perros that I had a chance to look back and fully appreciate the size of this glacier which feeds the lake and the Rio Paine.
Overall, days 3 and 4 of the Torres del Paine hike are a great transition from the busy ‘W’ circuit to the more peaceful back country. During these two days I saw only one other person while hiking (going the opposite direction), and two other people in the campsites.
Read about the next stage of the Torres del Paine hike, to Los Perros, the John Gardner Pass, and Las Guardas.