Trek Notes - Argentina

The Patagonia Experience

This challenging trekking adventure in the wilds of southern Patagonia, takes in three of the natural wonders of South America. We trek for seven days amid the awesome granite spires of Fitzroy in Argentina's Los Glaciares National Park, and then continue to Chile's Torres del Paine National Park, a wonder of glacial sculpture where we trek for six days. Finally we return to Argentina to observe close up the spectacular Perito Moreno Glacier. This region is renowned for its rugged beauty and wild remoteness. This multi faceted expedition allows you to really explore the area in detail and will make an unforgettable experience!

Outline Itinerary
The following itinerary is intended as a working guide only and is subject to variation as a result of local conditions, weather and government restrictions.
We reserve the right to alter (lengthen or shorten) the trek at any time if necessary.
1000m = 3281ft. 1km = 0.62 miles

Day 1: Depart London.
Day 2: Join the tour in El Calafate. A small town of some four thousand inhabitants, El Calafate was for several decades a tiny staging post for the wagons transporting wool from remote estancias (sheep stations) to the coast.
It lies near the shore of the vast, turquoise lake Argentino and is today a gateway to the natural wonders of the Los Glaciares National Park. (1 night hotel)
Day 3: Today we travel by bus north and west across stark Patagonian plateau and undulating pre-Andean heath. Flanking the opaque waters of Lake Viedma, we approach the dramatic, jagged peaks of the Fitzroy and Cerro Torre groups. Our destination is El Chalten, a small settlement on the floodplain of the Rio de Las Vueltas, set amid the magnificent surroundings of the Los Glaciares National Park. The park comprises some 2,300 square miles of forested mountains, sheer granitic spires, glaciers and lakes. This is one of the great glacial regions of the world,with the immense South Patagonian Ice Field lying nearby to the west. (1 night hostel - dormitory accommodation)
Day 4: Today we start our trek in the Los Glaciares National Park. A short bus journey takes us to the trailhead. In the morning we follow the Rio Electrico through forest to the Los Troncos mountain refuge and camp at Piedra del Fraile. Leaving our packs here we continue to the foot of Mount Fitzroy (3,441m) north face and have a view of the impressive Marconi Glacier. We return to overnight at Piedra del Fraile. (1 night camping)
Day 5: Today's trek takes us to Poincenot base camp, at the foot of the dramatic peaks of the Fitzroy group. We follow the Rio Blanco valley to the lake of Piedras Blancas where we have a superb view of the hanging Piedras Blancas Glacier. In the afternoon, we ascend the frontal moraine to Laguna de Los Tres for a stunning view of Mount Fitzroy.
Fitzroy was named in the late nineteenth century by Argentine explorer Francisco 'Perito' Moreno, in honour of the captain of The Beagle; the ship which transported Charles Darwin on his voyage of discovery. Its neighbouring peaks, including Poincenot and Saint-Exupery, were named by Lionel Teray's French climbing expedition, which completed the first ascent of Fitzroy in 1953. (1 night camping)
Day 6: We set off this morning along the shore of Laguna Madre through the Hija Valley and on to Cerro Torre base camp. Cerro Torre (3,128 metres) is a sheer, needle-shaped mountain, which was once rated unclimbable and conquered only after Everest. In the afternoon we trek to the old Maestri base camp along a moraine ridge on the northern side of Laguna Torre (source of the Fitzroy river). From here, weather permitting; we'll enjoy wonderful views of Cerro Torre, Aguja Standhardt and Torre Egger. (2 nights camping)
Day 7: The Cerro Torre Glacier is the highlight of today's trek. Depending on weather conditions we will either walk across the glacier towards the base of the sheer 2,000-metre south face of Cerro Torre, or stay near the face of the glacier doing some easy ice climbing. All necessary equipment (ropes, crampons, ice-axes etc) and expert guidance are provided. In order to access the glacier we have to make a Tyrolean crossing of the river.
This is done by clipping a karabiner onto a fixed rope over the river and pulling yourself, or having yourself pulled, across. We return to our camp for the night.
Day 8: Today we cross the river on the Tyrolean once again, and then trek through a dense forest of Southern Beech. Emerging from the forest, we complete a climb of 700 metres to the ridge that connects the summits of the Pliegue Tumbado. The panorama of the Fitzroy group and the Rio Tunel Valley is breathtaking. We descend on the far side to our camp, set in a sheltered beech forest near Lago Toro. (2 nights camping)
Day 9: From our camp we set off on a long, strenuous but hugely rewarding day hike to the Paso del Viento for views over the Patagonian Ice Cap. If the weather is clear we enjoy panoramas of the Upper Viedma Glacier and Mariano Moreno Range in the heart of the ice cap.
Day 10: Today we trek back to El Chalten. Having negotiated the ridge separating the Rio Tunel from the Rio de Las Vueltas Valley, we descend through forest and rolling pre-Andean heath to Chalten. (1 night hostel - dormitory accommodation)
Day 11: We travel by bus back to Calafate. (2 nights hostel).
Day 12: This day is dedicated to observing close-up the spectacular Perito Moreno Glacier. Vast in scale (over four miles wide and 60 metres high at its face), this sublime spectacle is set amid a labyrinth of iceberg-strewn waterways, and backed by deciduous beech forests and snow peaks. Spectacular even by the standards of the Los Glaciares National Park, this glacier also represents an anomaly: The Perito Moreno, unlike the other glaciers of the region, is still growing. Periodically its advancing edge reaches the near shore, cutting off and damming up the Brazo Sur iceberg channel. The steadily building water pressure forces a breach in the ice and eventually a huge volume of water bursts forth and surges through to Lake Argentino. A feature of the glacier is the frequent, ear-splitting calving of icebergs.
Day 13: Today we embark on our journey into the Torres del Paine National Park. En route we may see some typical fauna, such as condor, buff-necked ibis and rhea (South American ostrich). Paine is one of South America's most spectacular national parks. The soaring granite pillars of the Torres (Towers), reaching three kilometres into the sky, are only one of the park's attractions. These, the Cuernos (Horns - light-coloured granite topped with a dark sedimentary rock) and Cerro Paine Grande (3,350 metres) are distinct features of the huge massif which forms the centrepiece of the park. There are also glacial lakes, waterfalls, glaciers, dense forests and abundant wildlife, including a large colony of guanacos in the park's eastern sector. This national park is our base for the next six days.
Our first camp, to the east of the massif and near Estancia Cerro Paine, gives us access tomorrow to the eponimous Torres of Paine. (2 nights camping)
Day 14: We head out of camp and up the Ascencio valley via a steep, zigzagging path, which turns into the ravine high above the foaming river. The trail then passes through forest for an hour and a half. With patience, one of the extrovert forest-dwelling bird species, such as the screeching Austral parakeet (enicognathus terrugineus - southernmost parrot species in the world), flame-crested Magellanic Woodpecker (campephilus magellanicus) or mottled Chilean Flicker (colaptes pitius), may be spotted.
Eventually we emerge onto an exposed moranic slope for the final clamber over boulders, ending at the moraine lip (1,000m) and the Laguna Torre viewpoint. The three pillars of the awesome Torres soar to almost 2km above the glacier-encrusted cirque.
The descent to camp takes about three hours.
Day 15: We break camp and head S, continuing clockwise beneath Cerro Almirante Nieto. The final few hours take us above and along the north shore of Lago Nordenskjold on the longest stage of the Paine 'W'. Our destination is the Refugio Los Cuernos. (1 night refugio - dormitory accommodation or camp).
Day 16: Today we continue westwards for an hour or so and, at the Campamento Italiano, turn into the French Valley. Our aim is to climb above the tree line to enjoy some incredible views. The ascent takes us through Southern Beech (lenga - Nothofagus pumilio) forest, which becomes progressively more stunted as we climb. The varied trail combines forest with stretches of wind-buffeted moraine, and requires occasional steep clambers. Periodically, ear-splitting cracks announce the calving of ice from hanging glaciers on the sheer E face of Paine Grande to the left. The disintegrating glaciers are normally clear of cloud since the valley lies in the lee of the mountain. With clear conditions, ice mushrooms, characteristic of Patagonian peaks, can be seen on Paine Grande's summit ridge. The ascent continues to the Campamento Británico where a rickety climbing hut used by pioneering climbing expeditions stands in a clearing. A viewpoint just beyond affords stunning panoramas of the Cuernos to the east. To the north, a sheer wall of shale-capped granite has been sculpted by ice and wind into several weird shapes; among these is the Aleta de Tiburon (Shark's Fin). The return to Campamento Italiano takes one and a half hours. We then head west again, for 2 hours, to our camp on the northwest shore of Lake Pehoe. NB For days 15 & 16, you will be expected to carry your personal overnight requirements, including a sleeping bag. (2 nights camping)
Day 17: From here we make a day hike to the stunning Lago Grey. After some three hours we are treated, weather permitting, to great views of the Grey Glacier to the north.
Day 18: We take the morning boat from the nearby jetty, across Lago Pehoe to Pudeto. After lunch at camp we walk along the shores of Nordenskjold Lake, with wonderful views of the Cuernos. Tonight's camp also offers splendid panoramas of the Cuernos and Paine Grande. (2 nights camping)
Day 19: Today we head for the western sector of the park. We hope to get some fantastic general views of the massif and glaciers from the Ferrier viewpoint. We will also go to the beach at the southern end of Lago Grey to see close up the giant icebergs which drift here from the vast glacier at the northern end of the lake seven km away.
Day 20: Today we leave the park and drive to the Chilean border to Puerto Natales (some two hours). This remote town of 15,000 inhabitants stands on Ultima Esperanza (Last Hope) Sound at the centre of an intricate network of fjords and snow-capped islands. The gulf is home to a variety of rare bird species, including the black-necked swan. In the afternoon we continue our journey by bus, and re-enter Argentina, heading out across the steppe to El Calafate. (1 night hostel)
Day 21: Flight back to London (via Buenos Aires).
Day 22: Arrive London.



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