The Route is on Navarino Island, community of Cape Horn, province of Antarctica, which forms part of Region XII, The circuit starts south of Puerto Williams, the main settlement on Navarino Island. There are two ways of getting there:
From Puerto Williams to the La Cascada sector at the head of the Róbalo valley, Suinvolving 2.8 kilometers of gravel road. Its a ten minute drive and 50 minute walk to SNUPIE 1. From Puerto Williams to the Ukika River, 3.5 kilometers along route Y905, then branching south along a secondary road, equivalent to about 50 minutes walking time to SNUPIE 1.
Markers have been designed based on ones used in France. It is a pioneering system renowned worldwide for its efficiency and simplicity and has been supplemented with SNUPIES, represented by Arabic numbers which at times accompany the markers indicating route and direction. Each number has its own meaning described in this Topoguide.
The Route is made up of 29 SNUPIES and markers indicating route and direction, using signs consisting of rock monoliths, wooden stakes and trees, as well as local materials that cause minimal impact.
The distance between signs varies depending on the nature of the section. There are more of them in areas where the trail does not exist or is not very clear. On the whole, they are placed within a hikers field of vision.
The circuit was signposted on the field in two directions. One must bear in mind that this Route considers passing through part of the Dientes de Navarino circuit, so we recommend paying attention to the series of SNUPIES whose sequence has been altered to keep both routes separate and ensure that a hiker is guided in the right direction.
The Cape Horn-Lake Windhond heritage route is 41 kilometers long from start to finish. It takes 21 hours to walk, in other words, 3 or 4 days travel time.
It starts in the La Cascada sector and ends on the Ukika River next to the vehicular access road to Puerto Williams. The trip takes you through a typical habitat of the high Andean steppes. The impressive Dientes de Navarino chain, the spectacular, unique view from the top of Bettinelli mountain, part of the large southern plain of Navarino island, and Lake Windhond where a shelter awaits hikers and fishing fans, stand out.
Its connectivity with the Dientes de Navarino Circuit, and its shape in the form of a Y, mean that there are several alternative hiking routes. The circuit consists of seven sections, defined in terms of their geographical features, the existence of suitable areas for camping and pre-designed and marked routes.
The circuit can be traveled in both directions, in other words, starting from the Ukika River valley or starting from the Róbalo River valley.
The first section runs from the La Cascada sector to el Salto lake and includes SNUPIES 1 through 6. The second section forms part of the el Salto lake-Escondida lake section of the Dientes de Navarino circuit, which crosses the Dientes pass and includes SNUPIES 11 through 16 of that circuit. The third and fourth sections are the access routes to Windhond river and lake respectively. Sections 5, 6 and 7 are the route going north through the Windhond river valley and all of the Ukika River.
In order to minimize levels of difficulty of the route for less experienced hikers, we recommend considering the possibility of only doing a part of the circuit (Puerto Williams- lake Windhond, there and back along the Ukika and Windhond valleys), so as to avoid the more difficult parts which are in the Dientes de Navarino sector and the Bettinelli mountain pass. Unstable atmospheric conditions produce strong winds that may occasionally delay the trip through high areas. Thus, in light of how isolated the area is, notice must be given before setting off.
In order to avoid losing the trail, we recommend adhering strictly to indications given in this Topoguide and using the Dientes de Navarino Circuit Topoguide as a backup.
The section starts 2800 meters from Puerto Williams, in the La Cascada section marked with SNUPIE 1, which coincides with the start of the Dientes de Navarino circuit.
Two alternatives from there, both clearly signposted with directional arrows and sign- associated colors. The first 470 meters between la Cascada and SNUPIE 1 are common to both circuits.
Alternative 1: Along Róbalo valley, starting at SNUPIE 1 and from there continuing along the trail southwards towards el Salto lake (blue signs) along the bottom of the valley, always staying to the left of the river (except for the final climb).
Alternative 2: Start along the first section of the Dientes de Navarino section, in other words, climb from SNUPIE 1 up Bandera hill and from there to lake el Salto.
If you have chosen alternative 1, follow the visible blue signs while walking through beautiful forests on the bottom of Róbalo valley until you reach SNUPIE 2, painted on a dead tree as you leave the forest and announcing an obvious change in vegetation from forest to peat.
This sector is made up of three successive peat bogs that continue along the bottom of the valley. As you advance, the valley opens out before you as you enter the first peat bog; you must cross the bed of a stream that shows evident traces of beaver dams which have been destroyed by floods.
Beavers are mammals that live next to rivers and lakes in forested areas, and this area is an ideal place for them to live. Thus along the Route you will frequently notice large dens and dikes that take up large areas and have ended up flooding and stripping forested areas.
After crossing the bed of this small stream, you follow the signs towards the right (South) so as to cross the peat bog lengthwise. You then enter another forest before crossing a second peat bog.
A climb up a slight slope in the forest takes you to a clearing with several dead trees in wet ground. To the right you can see the northern end of Lake Grande with its outlet, and SNUPIE 3 marking the entrance to the second sheltered meadow in the Róbalo valley is visible at the end of the clearing on the shore of the lake. You have reached SNUPIE 3, an ideal place to rest or possibly camp. A truly majestic landscape will entice you to stop and rest. If you light a fire, be careful of the wind eddies that which tend to occur.
After SNUPIE 3, the route continues to the left, passes between a hill and the side of the valley and zigzags up to a peculiar black forest. SNUPIE 4 is painted on a tree in this surprising spot.
Leaving the black forest as suddenly as it entered it, the route returns to the luminosity of a high canopy forest and zigzags until it eventually turns right onto firm, clear, fairly grassy land with clumps of creepers. You are reaching the top of the hill separating the sheltered meadow of Lake Grande and the one of Lake Palachinque, where SNUPIE 5 is located. As you leave the forest, there is a rocky hillock to the right. It is well worth stepping off the trail for a few moments to climb to the top. The all- encompassing view of the valley is marvelous.
SNUPIE 5 is painted on a stone marker on a large rock. It marks the second and second to last sheltered meadow in the valley. It is an excellent point to check out the coming sections. As one looks towards Lake Palachinque, one can see to the left the descent to the river that feeds it and comes from Lake el Salto.
After SNUPIE 5, one must continue skirting Lake Palachinque until one reaches the shore and then continue on for a few meters. Be careful not to miss the signposted fork which climbs sharply up to the left. It runs through the forest for a short stretch and then turns right to the foot of a clearing which has a river running through the middle. Take care to cross it at the spot indicated by signs and then turn left immediately in a southern direction. There is a sharp climb up to the outlet of Lake el Salto, where SNUPIE 6 is painted on a noticeable stone marker on the western side of the outlet of Lake el Salto.
There are suitable camping sites on the edge of the lake, although they are not sheltered from the wind. The wind and cliffs form a hemicycle around the lake and can cause violent wind eddies.
Beavers working on the shores of lake el Salto have left numerous remains of dead trees, which are ideal for lighting fires. In spite of these limitations, it is a favorite camp site for Dientes de Navarino visitors. If there is bad weather, it is an obligatory stopping place to wait for an improvement in order to cross the Dientes pass.
There are 4 alternatives from this point onwards:
1 Return to Puerto Williams along the same route.
2 Return to Puerto Williams following the Dientes de Navarino circuit in the opposite direction, in other words, over Bandera hill, where you have to be careful because the route is only signposted in one direction and hikers moving in the other direction cannot see the signs easily. Finding the trail will not be hard, since it visible on the ground, and, although the stone cairns are not marked, they stand out. We recommend this route only for experienced walkers, since this section has some steep slopes. In fact, one of the main advantages of the Cascada-Lake el Salto section is precisely that it is an alternative to these steep slopes.
If you choose this second alternative, you will move out from SNUPIE 6 seeing a steep rocky slope to the left (east) of the lake. You will have to climb it from the end on the left (north). You will then skirt the middle part of forest of creepers to your right and then turn 45 degrees to the left, just before the cliffs, to head off in a northern direction. Continue on the same heading for 3 hours, cutting across the slope generally just above the vegetation line until you reach the top of Bandera hill. You can enjoy a marvelous view of Puerto Williams from the top of the hill. At that point, you turn left (west) following the stakes into the forest and down to the valley bottom, where you retake SNUPIE 1 and turn right to reach Cascada in 5 minutes.
3 If you decided to camp at Lake el Salto and visibility is good and you have the time to spare, you can hike up to the Dientes de Navarino. This chain of mountains lies to the southwest and its series of sheer mountain tops that rise to more than 1000 meters are clearly visible. The whole sector between Lake el Salto and the Dientes is suitable for walking in the midst of imposing mountain landscapes dominated by lakes, rocky slopes and sheltered meadows. This is one of the most amazing landscapes on the whole route.
4 You can retake the Dientes de Navarino circuit from Lake el Salto to the southern slope of the Dientes pass (two hours hike from Lake el Salto), and then retake the next sections to reach Lake Windhond or continue along the Dientes de Navarino circuit.
You start this section by skirting the left (east) shore of Lake el Salto. It is important to mention that, from this point on, you start to retake the Dientes de Navarino circuit, specifically part of the Lake el Salto-Lake Escondida section. Therefore, the proper numbering will be SNUPIES 11 to 16.
One can see a rocky promontory south of the lake that falls sharply onto the shore. You must take care because the right place to start climbing is before this promontory, immediately to your left (SNUPIE N° 11). Follow the stream closest to the rocky promontory, which runs along a steeply sloped ravine. Continue up the ravine to the top and then turn left (east), following the natural course of a twisting little valley that continues on until it reaches a large plain (SNUPIE 12). Then cross the river, climb right up a long grass and peat covered hillock that rises up out of the center of the plain. Continue along the top of the hillock to a small rocky pass called First Pass, where a stream is born.
After First Pass follow the course of the stream to the entrance to a high valley (SNUPIE 13), where you will find snow even in summer. Follow the valley to the left (east) on a 140º heading until you reach Australia pass (SNUPIE 14), marked by a large stone marker. Continue on along the right-hand side of the lake at the foot of Australia pass, but without dropping down to its level. Take the route halfway down on a heading of 110º. This is a dangerous pass, especially when the ground is wet or is covered by sheets of snow; always make sure that the markers are clearly in sight.
You will reach Dientes pass, which looks southwards (SNUPIE 15). Drop down through the valley that opens up on the other side of the pass, passing to the left (east) of the lakes. SNUPIE 16 is on the southern shore of the third lake (including the tiny one in the middle). So too is SNUPIE 1 of the section that leads towards lake Windhond and which indicates a fork in the Dientes de Navarino circuit.
We start this section with the SNUPIE 1 marker which coincides with the SNUPIE 16 marker of the Dientes de Navarino circuit. This marker lies a few meters beyond the southern tip of the third lake after the Dientes de Navarino pass. There are two possible routes from this point: a) Towards lake Windhond (yellow markers) and b) Continue along the Dientes de Navarino circuit (red markers), turning towards the right (west).
The same stone marker that indicates SNUPIE 1 uses initials and directional arrows to point out the alternative routes: LW = towards lake Windhond. CDN = continuation of Dientes de Navarino circuit. PW CDN = Puerto Williams along Dientes de Navarino circuit (in other words, towards lake el Salto).
The signs with the initials LW, CDN and PW CDN are repeated 50 meters past SNUPIE 1 in all three feasible directions, so as to prevent any distracted hiker from setting off in the wrong direction.
When visibility is good, one can easily see the way up Bettinelli mountain. With binoculars, one can even distinguish the stone markers that lead to the top of that mountain. In order to climb to the top of Bettinelli mountain and continue on towards lake Windhond, we recommend checking weather conditions to see whether it is covered in cloud. Access to the top of Bettinelli mountain is beyond the shelter of the forest and takes about two and half hours (from SNUPIES 3 to 5).
The following is some information to be kept in mind: You will find suitable sites for camping at 35 minutes and 1 hour and 10 minutes hike from SNUPIE 2 and SNUPIE 3, before before you get to Bettinelli mountain. There are no other alternatives for camping until SNUPIE 10.
- If there is a strong wind or heavy rain, bear in mind that they will increase as you gain altitude. *Its about a 4 and a half hour hike to SNUPIE 10 and the bottom of the Windhond valley and another 1 and a half hours to the lake Windhond shelter.
- If you have decided to continue on to lake Windhond, descend towards the south following markers that are clearly visible from each other. Further down on the eastern side of the valley there is a clearly distinguishable series of beaver lakes which you must skirt to the east. After a stony sector, you have to cross an area with low bushes. Turn left (east) as you leave this area, crossing over about 50 meters of yellowy ground until you reach a medium high, not very thick wood. Turn right and go down the slope until you reach an open space. SNUPIE 2 is in this open space.
SNUPIE 2 is located at the bottom of a small slope just before you reach the northern end of the beaver lakes that you could see from SNUPIE 1. It is painted on an isolated rock. It indicates a change of direction to the left (east), the entrance to the wood and a camping alternative.
Turn left and enter the wood. From this moment until you leave the wood, the trail is not marked on the ground, so you have to pay special attention to reach a marker and visually look for the next one. If you get lost, return immediately to the previous one that you found and look for the next one again. Remember that the markers were set up so that you could see the next one from the one where you are, but that depends on the position of the hiker.
You will cross two rivers a few meters after SNUPIE 2, where there are small camp sites that are not very flat but which can be used as a refuge in case of bad weather or poor visibility. A large rock provides excellent shelter for lighting a fire. You will find dry firewood piled in a gap under the rock. If you use any, it is imperative that you replace it before continuing your journey.
Afterwards, still in the wood, the route turns right across the slope of the hill for a few minutes (parallel to the lake), before turning left and climbing for a short distance. As you leave the high forest, you will come across a large clearing of peat and grassland in the last section in the middle of the creepers. The beaver lake will once again be to your right. You will see a small clearing on the forest covered slope and you should head there following the stakes.
SNUPIE 3 lies at the upper end of this clearing and just before the upper limit of the forest. It is painted on a stake on the bank of a stream, a few meters before the end of the forest. It also indicates the last suitable place to camp before starting the crossing to Bettinelli mountain.
Even though the ground is not exactly flat, the area is well protected from the wind and there is a stream nearby. When visibility is good, you will have an impressive view of the southern slopes of the Dientes de Navarino mountain chain.
After SNUPIE 3, continue climbing until you suddenly leave the forest and reach a large area of stones with absolutely no vegetation. The line of stone markers takes you to the top of Bettinelli mountain. At first continue straight ahead and slightly to the right (Southeast). Shortly before reaching the summit that runs along the length of the eastern slope of Bettinelli mountain, the markers turn right (south), attacking the slope more directly. Once in the upper reaches you will reach SNUPIE 4, indicated by a cairn of stones on the summit of Bettinelli mountain. The summit provides you with one of the most amazing views in the whole journey.
There is cliff on the eastern side of SNUPIE 4 generally covered by a cornice of snow. Do not step on it because of the risk of avalanches. If there is a strong wind, be careful not to fall over and take care of things that could be blown away (caps, gloves, even photographic cameras).
You have to be very careful indeed in the next 400 meters. Crossing this sector with steep slopes can be dangerous, if visibility is poor or if there are strong winds, which can throw somebody off balance. If you suffer from vertigo, you must be accompanied by somebody surer.
It is a very short stretch (about 10 minutes). Dont try to look for any alternative route there isnt one, and it could mean taking unnecessary risks. Markers are placed very close to each other, so follow them without deviating from the route.
After SNUPIE 4, turn slightly right (southwest), following the line of the cliff and the stone markers. After a hundred meters or so on a flat area that tends to drop gently, the top of the mountain narrows towards the left (south-southwest) and one can clearly see, on that same heading, a small but deep depression that looks like a crater and has one marker at its near end and two markers on its far end. Cross this crater along its bottom.
After the double marker, continue along the steep slope until you reach the pass that can be seen below. Crossing this short slope is the most delicate part of this stretch. The ground consists of small, loose stones that occasionally cover smooth flat rock that can be quite slippery. You must test each step as you advance, especially if there is strong wind, so as to not slide down the slope.
Descending this slope ends the first difficult part of the route and starts the second one a small pass generally covered by cornice of snow. The idea is to cross towards the left (east) and then continue south following the line of the valley devoid of vegetation that can be seen below the pass.
The small lake has to be circled on the right, without getting close to it. Bear in mind that it can be covered in snow in spring. The slope ends, and the ground until the next SNUPIE is firm, fine stony ground that is pleasant to walk on.
In spite of the fact that the cornice of snow in the pass generally withstands the weight of a hiker, one must take normal precautions:
- During the descent of the slope before reaching cornice, observe it carefully and determine which part is firmer and easier to cross. *Do not stop on the cornice.
- Use a stick to check the depth of the snow.
*Make sure that a hiker has moved off the danger area (the cornice itself and the area immediately below it), before the next one starts the crossing. The stone markers below can be seen from the pass. Depending on the slope, amount and extent of snow around, adapt the route down to the conditions at the time. It would be impossible not to find the markers at the bottom of the valley that mark the route towards the right.
Following the valley to the right (South), you reach a second large, long lake that must be skirted on the right hand side (west) until you reach its outlet. Cross the river just where it is born (the shallowest spot, just a few centimeters of water), and turn right, quickly leaving the water course behind you (notice the directional arrows on the markers). A large plain that tends to drop gently leads southwards to the edge of the forest. As you walk down this gentle slope and look south you will see a marvelous view of lake Windhond, the adjacent bay of the same name which opens out onto Nassau bay and, beyond, the Wollaston islands. Further on, only 100 kilometers away, one can see mythical Cape Horn, the end of the American continent.
You continue until you reach the forest, where a stone marker indicates the position of SNUPIE 5. A new landscape begins to appear at this point. The purest expression of Andean dessert vegetation changes to a beautiful forest of more than 25 meter high Nothofagus trees.
Immediately to one side of SNUPIE 5, there is large, clean area that invites one to camp, but be careful, it is an area where guanacos come to rub their backs on the ground (as horses do) and it is not advisable to set up camp, since winds can pick up suddenly and violently without warning. It is preferable to camp at the bottom of the next slope. All of this, if you dont plan on reaching lake Windhond that same day.
The entrance to the trail through the forest is a few meters from SNUPIE 5. Continue along a natural corridor between creepers until you reach a sector with taller trees. You must follow the markers carefully, since the trail in this section is not evident on the ground. You will notice as you advance that the vegetation thickens gradually until you reach SNUPIE 6, painted on a tree, which indicates a change of direction to the left (east-southeast) and the start of a steeper slope down to the bottom of the valley and river Windhond. If the ground is wet, take care not to slip as you walk.
There are two suitable places to camp when you reach the river Windhond crossing, if you cant make it to lake Windhond, which is about 1 and a half hours walk away. Recommended sites are on your right as you leave the forest, close to the river (look for the remains of campfires). You cross the river on a log that spans the bed of the river. It is a decent size and allows you to cross safely.
Anybody who doesnt feel safe, or who suffers from vertigo, should cross without their rucksacks (a destabilizing element) and with somebody to take them by the hand. If anybody absolutely refuses to use this perfectly safe bridge, then there is a ford about fifteen minutes walk to the south where one can cross the river in about 30 to 40 cm of water (its the only one in the area). Getting there is pretty hard because of fallen trunks, and getting back on the other side of the river is no easier.
After crossing the river, skirt the peat bog on the right until you reach SNUPIE 10.
SNUPIE 10 is made up of several markers painted on 3 trees close to one another and located in the middle of a small peat bog close to the river. They indicate a double change of direction and two alternative routes towards lake Windhond on a southerly heading and towards Puerto Williams, on a generally northern heading along the Windhond and Ukika valleys.
Both options are clearly visible on markers displayed on trees and accompanied by inscriptions that say LW for lake Windhond and PW for Puerto Williams. These markers are repeated about 50 meters beyond SNUPIE 10 in both directions to prevent any distracted hiker from taking the wrong route.
If you continue towards lake Windhond, bear in mind that the numerical order of the SNUPIE decreases towards lake Windhond, in other words from 10 to 7. Turn right (south) crossing the small peat bog after SNUPIE 10 and enter the forest. After a short stretch, you will reach the end of the forest and SNUPIE 9, painted on a tree that also indicates the start of a large longitudinal peat bog (on a north-south axis) that you have to cross to reach the lake. Several stakes at the start indicate the heading, but these disappear in the center of the peat bog and reappear at the end. Continue walking south, keeping to the right (west) of the center of the peat bog. You will find a fairly large lake at the end of this stretch, which has to be skirted on the right until you reach SNUPIE 8, located on a large, solitary tree that is noticeably visible. This indicates the approach to the forest that leads to refuge Charles, close to lake Windhond.
This is a firm peat bog that is easy to walk on. Every so often the moss Sphagnum Magellanicum (often called soft peat) appears; it is easily recognizable because of its typical hues which vary from white to red. It is not dangerous in itself, but it is very spongy. For easy walking and in order to preserve this plant, we recommend that you do not step on it.
You will see several peat holes, as they are commonly called, as you cross the peat bog. These are clear witnesses to the eternal war waged by peat bogs against their main component water (which makes up nearly 95% of the composition of the moss). You have to zigzag enough to avoid stepping in these holes, since they can be fairly deep.
At the start of summer, the peat bog becomes a privileged site for Caiquenes to nest. These nests can commonly be found on the ground, so be careful not to touch them.
After SNUPIE 8, follow the slope of the peat bog for a few meters before turning right and entering a short stretch of wood that leads to refuge Charles (SNUPIE 7). This refuge was built by the Charles section of the marines on November 2nd 1962 and repaired by marines in 2000, who left it in a better state of repair.
It is 9 x 3 meter wooden building set on pillars. Its floor and walls are made of split logs and its roof of corrugated galvanized iron sheets (zinc). It has a high table (like a bar), 4 bunks, each with two beds, mattresses, and blankets in a poor state of repair. It also has a drum (an empty metal fuel or oil drum with two horizontal divisions inside and two doors), which allows one to heat the refuge to a certain extent and cook. People who have sheltered there have left a small amount of pots and pans and crockery, which is a blessing when one starts to cook.
Theres a broom and visitors book for when you leave, and dont forget to restock firewood inside the refuge for future visitors.
There is ample space close to the refuge to pitch tents with water nearby and shelter from the wind. Stumps mark an area where helicopters can land in the peat bog that separates the refuge from the lake about 150 meters east.
The lake cannot be seen from the refuge. To do so, you have to leave the refuge, turning left until youre out of the forest and then head south about 400 meters until you cross the peat bog. It is important to mention that the refuge is somewhat hidden in the forest, so hikers should memorize the route back to the refuge from the lake. For support you can make a flag consisting of a tall pole with a shirt tied to the top and stick in the ground at the entrance to the forest to mark the route to the cabin.
As a reward for this lengthy adventure, we invite you to try your hand at fishing. Those who have done so recommend December and January. The main catch is rainbow trout, which do not exceed 1000 grams on average. Since the wind is a latent enemy, we recommend using 12 to 26 gram spinners. Its a 25 minute walk towards the east from the cabin to fish from the sandy point that juts out into the adjoining bay. You will recognize it by the large number of dead trees around the beach. The bottom of the closest sectors to the cabin (river and river mouth included) is too dirty for good fishing.
It is important to stress that river Windhond, which flows into the lake close to the cabin, is generally very obstructed by fallen trees. Its irregular width is more than 12 meters and it often has pools which seem to be excellent for trout fishing. The visitors book in the cabin mentions various fishing expeditions that have caught up to 30 trout in a single day.
We have no record of fishermen fly fishing in the lake, but we presume that, apart from the wind, there should be no impediment. ===Fifth segment=== This section starts from SNUPIE 7 heading for SNUPIE 10 counting upwards, in other words, SNUPIE 7, 8, 9, and 10. Take a right (east) on leaving the refuge and continue until you cross the forest and enter a large peat bog. Turn left (north) until you come upon a tall, isolated tree (SNUPIE 8). When visibility is good, you can see the far end of the peat bog from there, as well as the entrance to the valley and the climb through the forest to Bettinelli mountain. The start of the peat bog is marked with stakes which then stop. Continue straight on until you come upon the stakes again at the end of the peat bog and reach SNUPIE 9, which marks the entrance to the wood.
After crossing the wood, follow the stakes that cross a small peat bog until you reach a small stand of trees that divides the peat bog into two. This is SNUPIE 10.
When walking the route in this direction, SNUPIE 10 has two alternative routes:
- Continue straight on in a generally northern direction until you reach Puerto Williams along the Windhond and Ukika valleys.
- Turn left (west) to advance towards Bettinelli mountain and then reach the Dientes de Navarino circuit on the southern slope of the Dientes pass. The markers are repeated about 50 meters after SNUPIE 10 in both directions with the inscriptions CDN (= Dientes de Navarino circuit) and PW (= Puerto Williams), so as to prevent any distracted hiker from taking a wrong turn.
After SNUPIE 10, turn slightly to the right to cross the peat bog and cross a small river crossing over a beaver dam so as to reach the side of the slope of the valley and the wood. Turn left (north) immediately, so as to follow the course of the valley along the lower reaches of its eastern slope, always remaining in the wood or just outside it. Then there will be a short stretch over a soft peat bog, after which the trail turns sharply to the right (east) and runs into the wood again. The slope steepens as you move back in the direction of the valley, but this time on the upper part of the slope. It gradually becomes less steep and the wood suddenly clears. The view through the trees shows you why the direction changed and why you had to climb: the river formed a narrow meander that had to be skirted by climbing above it.
Follow the stakes keeping to the eastern side of the river, crossing successively over meadows, peat bogs, scrubland and small woods, getting continually closer to the center of the valley and river Windhond until you reach SNUPIE 11, painted on a very noticeable large tree on the edge of the river. This shows you the best place to cross. A marker on the bank of the river shortly beyond SNUPIE 11 shows the location of the ford (the only one in this sector of the valley), where you can cross the river in water that is 10 cm deep.
Starting from the river crossing at SNUPIE 11, you continue along the left (west) side of the river to its headwaters close to Alinghi pass.
Shortly after SNUPIE 11, you can enjoy a clear view of the valley to the north from the summit of this modest hill and a good angle to see where this circuits route continues, especially in the sector where the valley narrows visibly (level with the highest hill on the eastern slope of the valley). There one can see a prominent hill in the lowest, narrowest part of the valley. The former Beaucheff refuge, a good place to camp, is just before the hill. The route continues zigzagging between clumps of peat, shrubs or small woods, often with waterlogged ground, until you reach SNUPIE 12.
This is a section that passes through forest and peat bogs. It starts at SNUPIE 12, painted on a tree a few meters past the former Beaucheff refuge. It is a possible camp site in the middle of the wood, between river Windhond and the start of the western slope of the valley. It is relatively sheltered from the wind (but there tend to be currents of air that can form wind eddies). You will come upon the remains of the Beaucheff refuge. Unfortunately, during a snowstorm in 1995, the weight of the snow broke the roof and part of the walls. There are several sites to camp in close to the ruins of the refuge.
We suggest that you replace firewood for the next occupants of the place. It is not easy to find firewood in the area close to the refuge; one has to go about 150 meters south into the forest and the return following your tracks. On no account use the pieces of broken cabin. There is a project to rebuild the refuge using the same timber.
Important recommendation: It is essential that loose sheets of zinc should be firmly held down using heavy logs to prevent them flying off in the wind and seriously hurting somebody.
The hill obstructing the bottom of the valley is on the other side of the valley. You can reach the top in half an hour and enjoy a magnificent view of the valley and its mountains The only difficulty lies in crossing the river (generally about 25 cm of water). This hike is particularly recommended at sunset to enjoy the play of light and the last rays of sunset over the imposing hill opposite the refuge. Condors and eagles fly around this same hill.
After SNUPIE 12, leave the forest towards the river and turn left. The stakes marking the ascent to the rocky summits that have to be climbed in order to avoid the deep canyon that the river forms here can be clearly seen from the river bank.
We recommend that you follow the stakes carefully and do not try to walk along other trails that can be seen in the midst of the creepers. These lead towards the bottom of the canyon cut by the river. The descent is dangerous because of the steep slope and slippery ground, which can put a hiker in a dangerous situation at a place where the river is a fast-flowing torrent.
After crossing this hill, a short steep descent leads to a narrow rocky pass between the river and a cliff. You then need to cross a small tributary of the river Windhond, from where you can see a large plain that leads to the climb to the Alinghi pass, always keeping the river Windhond on your left (west).
There is a large lake at the end of the plain that must be skirted on the left (west) until you reach the northern shore where SNUPIE 13 is located in a narrow pass that runs forcibly between the water and a small cliff. It is painted on a stake and marks the start of the Alinghi pass and a change of direction to the left (north).
Follow the natural course of the valley keeping to your left (west). You will then reach the Alinghi pass and SNUPIE 14, which marks the top of the Alinghi pass and the start of the Ukika valley, which will take you eventually to the Beagle channel and Puerto Williams.
From the Alinghi pass, you descend towards the Ukika valley which opens up at the foot of the pass and turns at first to the right, until you reach the Beagle channel. Remember the following recommendation in order to reach the plain at the end of the valley (which still cannot be seen from the Alinghi pass): Walk down the stairs and stick to the right of the river and the lakes. Stairs represents the way in which you descend along the Ukika valley from the Alinghi pass to SNUPIE 15, in other words, Alinghi pass, descent, flat area, descent alongside the waterfall, flat area, descent, flat area where SNUPIE 15 is located.
The lake below the pass is one of the main sources of the river Ukika, which outflows into the Beagle channel close to Puerto Williams. The circuit mostly follows the course of the river, skirting all the lakes on the right (east).
When you reach SNUPIE 14, turn first to the right and then (next marker) to the left to start the first descent, crossing parts of low scrubland. Skirt the lake on the right and climb a small, long pampa to a small pass. End of first plain or flat area.
Then continue along a narrow pass in the midst of a low forest which leads to a short, steep descent along a tiny valley where one can see the destruction caused by the beavers. You have to cross this valley and climb up one of its short slopes towards the left. Climb down again through a wood until you reach the second plain after the pass. Skirt the lake on the right- hand side until you reach its outlet. End of second plain or flat area.
Follow the stakes and the eastern bank of the river in the midst of creeper type vegetation. There is a magnificent waterfall to one side of the next descent, but it can only be seen from the bottom. The trail follows the course of the waterfall before moving away from it a little and entering a tall forest where it gradually turns to the left (it crosses a stream). Upon exiting the forest, follow the stakes along a large, soft peat bog until you come upon a small pass. End of the third plain or flat area. At its end, a descent through the forest leads finally to the bottom of the Ukika valley. After a short stretch which crosses the peat bog to the right and reaches the edge of the wood, you have to continue along the edge of the wood until you reach SNUPIE 15.
SNUPIE 15 is painted on a tree at the site called Las Marcas de Mansilla. It indicates the start of the final plain of the Ukika valley and a place for camping.
2 or 3 tents may be pitched on the small plain surrounding the SNUPIE. There is no shelter from the wind or rain. The forest nearby is not suitable for camping, because the ground is waterlogged and because of the slope. If necessary, check about 60 m inside the forest.
The River Ukika, which crosses the large peaty plain, forms several lakes of different sizes. The beavers work is evident everywhere and it is a great place to observe them.
After SNUPIE 15, skirt the lake sector on the right, crossing a sector of peat mixed with jonquil. Stakes mark the route to the right until a short climb through low trees, which leads to a higher plain with similar ground to the previous peat bog, but now full of obstacles caused by the beavers work. Stakes and markers on dead trees guide hikers between small lakes before turning right and climbing parallel to a stream on a spit of peat bog surrounded by forest. At the end of the peat bog, you have to enter a very dense forest along a comfortable trail. After a slight ascent, the ground drops again and the dense forest gradually changes into an impressive forest of tall trees that form what could be described as a natural cathedral
Leaving the forest, you cross part of a large peat bog keeping to the right edge and following the course of the river, until you reach SNUPIE 16.
SNUPIE 16 is on a stake on the right-hand side (east) of the peat bog, near the river bank. It indicates a change of direction. You turn right and take advantage of the ford to easily cross the river Ukika.
Given the width of the river bed (without much water in summer), two SNUPIE 16 were placed, one on either bank (about 40 meters apart), so that the indications included with the SNUPIE may be clearly understood by any hiker doing the circuit in the opposite direction to the SNUPIE numbering. Once on the other side of the river, enter the forest and turn left 50 meters later.
A trail that is generally visible on the ground (markers always help if in doubt) zigzags through the forest, following the course of the valley until SNUPIE 17, sticking to the eastern side of the River Ukika. At the end, the forest clears and opens up into an old, abandoned track for vehicles now covered in grass. Follow it, crossing the river and, after about 300 meters, you will reach a gravel road where SNUPIE 17 is located.
SNUPIE 17 is painted on a sheet of iron and indicates that you are close to Puerto Williams. Turn left at SNUPIE 17 and follow the road. After a few hundred meters, you will come across another road. Turn right (DO NOT cross the river) and follow that road. The same road skirts the municipal dump (a metal fence and odors indicate its presence), zigzagging in a generally northern direction until it finally reaches the Beagle channel after several bends on its way down. At the end of a large straight that cuts through the slope to the sea, you will reach the coast road, with Villa Ukika in sight. Continue until you finally reach Puerto Williams.
- This trekking is described in full detail in the following topoguide of the Ministery of Public Patrimony. The printed guide can be obtained for free in the Ministery:56-2-3512100 -> 2325. It is hihgly recommended to take it to the walk, as it enriches the experience with descrptions of flora, fauna, geography and geology.