Cerro Castillo was a surprise. Three people in our group of six had vaguely heard about this place. It was meant to offer a nice four day hike through woods and up to a laguna under a glacier. The entry point lay in the middle of nowhere, the exit point in the village Villa Cerro Castillo. One of our group had scouted ahead and already informed us that a) the weather was good and b) the scenery was beautiful. So expectations where high when we left Puerto Rio Tranquilo.
They weren’t disappointed. Villa Cerro Castillo is easily my favorite place so far. The scenery is simply amazing and the people very friendly. As it turned out our bus had its scheduled lunch stop in Villa Cerro Castillo and I saw more than one jealous eye following us unload our backpack in this little village. What they didnt know was that we had just seriously screwed ourselves… None of us had any Chilean Pesos left,, only credit cards and of course this place had no accommodation where we could pay by credit card. But where there’s a problem, there’s a solution and we ended up in the lovely dorms in Senderos Patagonia, where, on a good day, the wifi will allow you to pay by paypal.
After we had established that we would indeed be able to pay for our stay, more questions arose: One member of our group proclaimed that she was sick of trees and didn’t want to hike through forests anymore. Another pointed out that he actually had to be in Santiago in a week and 4-days of hiking was really not that easily squeezed in. One wasn’t that big a fan of hiking in the first place and it became obvious pretty quickly that there was really only one person interested in the 4 day hike: Me. The person with no tent, no sleeping back and no camping experience.
After a short chat with the owner of our hostel, I had a tent, a sleeping back and even a plan: Do a shorter loop of two days with one night at the laguna, because “the rest is really not that spectacular anyways”. Trusting in that assessment and the fact that they announced rain for the third day, I set off the next morning solo towards the laguna. A short 10km hike more or less continuously steep uphill. I was cooked when I arrived and needed a little under four hours to reach the top. But the views. There are no words.. Lagunas, glaciers and mountain peaks are all nice (in fact they are very nice), but what really took my breath away was the view over the valley. So pretty. The camp was set up quickly and illegally, due to a misunderstanding.. I later found where the actual camping site was..
Since I had set off early, I had time to explore the area, it was only early afternoon. I found a lovely waterfall not too far away and then decided to take a bath in the laguna… I only had minor frostbite on my toes coming back out.
After a night of clear skies, thousands of stars and mediocre sleep (it turned out my inflatable mattress had a hole), I set off to conquer the pass and descend on the other side.. But not before enjoying a mostly cloudy sunrise below the Cerro Castillo.
The clearly posted path of the previous day made way to a waste land of gravel and rocks. I lost my way a few times, but always ended up regaining the path.. Climbing the pass, the view onto the valley revealed more lakes and even offered a view onto the Lago General Carrera again.
On the other side the descend began, guiding me through some woods and ultimately stopping at the 4th day camp site for lunch.
From there it continued on down until I regained the road. Up to that point I had managed to kep dry feet, even though I had been warned that there were many water streams to cross.
The last one, of course, had to be my downfall. And while all the previous rivers had been crystal clear glacier water, this one was muddy and stale. I still made it out with a single wet foot… and too lazy to change the shoes then and there, I walked my wet shoe all the way home.