Trip Number: 12785B
Staff: Kern Hildebrand
- Trek in Torres del Paine National Park (Chile)
- Hike to magnificent Mt. Fitzroy in Glacier National Park (Argentina)
- See massive Perito Moreno Glacier (Argentina)
- All meals, accommodations, entry fees, and gratuities
- In-country flight, airport transfers, and on-trip transportation
- Knowledgeable local guides
Photo: Angela White
Patagonia is a remote, unspoiled, and untamed wilderness and the southern part
is where nature is at its wildest. Measuring about twice the size of France,
the land ranges from towering granite peaks and turquoise glacial lakes to windswept
steppes ending at "finis terrae" or the end of the world, Tierra del
Fuego. This is the "Land of Fire," the island that forms the end of
Patagonia and has a fascinating array of wildlife. Two countries, Chile and
Argentina, share this sparsely populated, wide-open space, split by the Andes
and bodies of water -- and we will see the best! Our trip starts in Ushuaia,
Argentina, the southern-most city in the world, and ends in Punta Arenas, Chile.
The centerpiece of the Argentinian side of Patagonia is Los Glaciares National
Park, where the awe-inspiring Perito Moreno Glacier is found in the southern
part. This groaning, grinding ice field is vast and seemingly endless and, in
fact, is one of the few glaciers in the world still advancing until the 1980s.
In the north of the national park is the famous Mt. Fitzroy massif, named after
the Beagle's Captain Fitzroy who sailed Charles Darwin's expedition up the Rio
Santa Cruz in 1834. The vertical granite fin of the mountain is 11,290-feet
high and is surrounded by icy glaciers. To get there, we will hike through forests
of lenga and nirre trees (deciduous beeches). The most beautiful area of the
Chilean side of Patagonia is Torres del Paine National Park. Filled with stunning
mountain peaks, brilliant turquoise lakes and calving glaciers, it is considered
by many to be the finest travel destination in Chile. The "W," one
of the classic treks in Patagonia, winds along the edge of the mountains next
to a chain of glacial lakes and ends with an awe-inspiring day hike to the breathtaking
Torres, for which the Park is named. Hiking in Patagonia is "high altitude"
hiking BUT at low altitude, which is often above tree line! Our days will take
us between approximately 1,000 to 3,000' overall.
Photo: Angela White
Day 1: Arrive in Ushuaia by midafternoon. Airport transfer
to our hotel is provided. We will meet and get to know each other at a welcome
dinner at a local restuarant.
Day 2: After an early breakfast, we are taking an all-day
excursion to an uninhabited island on the Beagle Channel. We begin by canoeing
down the Lashifashaj River, which flows into the Channel, then take a motor
boat to an island that has a penguin rookery. From here we sail to another island,
disembark to take a two-hour hike and observe the flora and fauna. The Yamana
Indians lived here and there is evidence of their long-gone fishing culture
for us to see. (This day is dependant on good weather conditions. If necessary,
we will change or modify the schedule to an alternative activity.)
Day 3: Today, we are hiking in Parque National Tierra del
Fuego. This Park is mostly closed to the public, but offers some excellent trails
for day hikes. We will hike along the Rio Pipo, with its lovely cascades, and
keep our eyes open for local birds. We should see more evidence of the Yamana
culture as grass-covered shell middens are found along this trail. The afternoon
is free to explore the town. You may wish to visit the Museo Maritimo and Museo
del Presidio (prison museums), which show the misery of penal life and a display
on Antarctic exploration. Another option is to visit the museum "Mundo
Yamana," a representation of Yamana life. Or else, the Museo del Fin del
Mundo has excellent exhibits on Fuegian natural history, birdlife, the lives
of the indigenous people, and the early penal colony.
Photo: Angela White
Day 4: We take a flight to El Calafate on the banks of Lago
(Lake) Argentina, where we eat lunch. Afterward, we're transported by private
bus to Chalten, driving along the edge of the lake along the way. We stop at
La Leona Petrified Forest to explore this strange, ghostly area of fossilized
wood. Chalten is our home for the next three nights.
Day 5: Our first day of strenuous walking, we'll be hiking
for 14 miles (round-trip) to Laguna Torre, which has breathtaking views of Mt.
Fitzroy and Glacier Grande. On our hike on the well-marked trail we'll get about
2,000' of altitude change and be treated to incredible views of the mountain
Day 6: We'll have another good day hike on a trail to Laguna
Les Tres where, once again, we get incredible views of the Mt Fitz Roy range,
a different face of Mt Fitz Roy, and several glaciers and glacial lakes. We
start on one trail that wends gently uphill and return on another trail that
is mostly downhill. We will walk about 16 miles and about 1,000' altitude change.
Day 7: In the morning, we'll return to El Calafate, and after
lunch we'll visit the Perito Moreno Glacier to watch it calving and creaking
as the ice forms react to the environmental changes of snow, air, and water.
Tonight we'll stay in El Calafate.
Day 8: This will be a free morning in El Calafate to explore
or relax. You can visit the Museo de El Calafate, which has displays of arrowheads,
natural history, and early photographs, or go birdwatching at Laguna (lake)
Nimes, north of town. After lunch, our bus will drive us through the steppes
to the border where we say "Adios" to Argentina and "Hola"
to Chile and our new guide. The bus takes us to Torres del Paine National Park
and the ecocamp, our base in Chile. Tonight we stay in the yurts at the ecocamp,
where we'll also return the fourth and fifth nights of our stay here.
Photo: Cascada Expediciones
Day 9: After a hearty breakfast, we'll assemble our gear for
the three-day trek and and drive to the far side of the Park, the start of the
"W." We cross Grey Lake by boat to Grey Glacier, then hike out of
the valley with views of the Glacier, the Patagonian icecap, and numerous mountain
peaks. After hiking six miles (less than 1,000' elevation change) we arrive
at Refugio Pehoe, our home for the night.. The Refugio is a rustic lodge with
shared dormitory-style rooms, with six beds per room. Mixed gender rooms are
Day 10: Today we hike from Refugio Pehoe to Refugio Cuernos,
which has delightful cabins (double occupancy) by a waterfall . Our walk takes
us along Lake Nordenskjold with outstanding views of the black-tipped mountain
peaks of the Cuernos (horns) and the lake. This hike is 10 miles with 1,000'
gain and loss. There is an optional (and well-worth-it) side hike after five
miles up French Valley (weather permitting). This adds another five miles onto
the day and another 1,500'. But you will hike into an enormous granite bowl,
surrounded by snow-capped peaks, hanging glaciers, and pygmy forests on the
way to the French and British camps, which were the base camps for the climbing
expeditions that were exploring the nearby peaks.
Day 11: From Refugio Cuernos, we'll hike over Los Cuernos
Pass and continue along the edge of the lake to the Cascada Expediciones Ecocamp,
where we will stay for the next two nights. This hike is about eight miles and
less than 1,000' gain and loss.
Photo: Angela White
Day 12: Today's hike is to see the magnificant Torres (towers),
the namesake of the Park. The hike to the base of the Torres is on a well-maintained
trail that gains 1,500' over about five miles. The last mile is a steep trail
along the side of a rocky talus slope. It isn't very difficult -- there is no
rock scrambling, but it is steep. But the view at the top is worth every step.
The Torres are vertical monoliths, part of a high-walled bowl that has a crystalline-blue
glacial lake at its center and it is breathtaking from every aspect.
Day 13: After breakfast, we get on the bus for a leisurely
drive to Punta Arenas. We will stop at various spots to look for wildlife and
birds, especially flamingos, then go to the Cuevo del Milandon (Cave of the
Milandon) the focal point of Bruce Chatworths book "In Patagonia."
At Punta Arenas, we will check in to our hotel and after some free time, meet
for a farewell dinner at a local restuarant.
Day 14: After breakfast, we are taken to the airport for our
plane back home. Some of these activities are weather permitting. If the weather
is inclement, making the planned activity dangerous, we may change that day's
itinerary to a safer one.
This trips starts and ends at different locations. It begins at Ushuaia in
Argentina and ends in Punta Arenas, Chile. You will need a "multicity air
ticket," which can be purchased from many discount sites, such as Orbitz
or Travelocity. You may wish to spend time in both Buenos Aires, Argentina and
Santiago, Chile. Both capital cities are wonderful and are the changing point
for the flights to Ushuaia and from Punta Arenas. United States citizens entering
Argentina or Chile by air must have a valid passport (good for six months AFTER
you leave either country) with at least four empty pages, and a visa, known
as a reprocity fee. This costs $131 and is purchased at the airport on arrival.
This visa is good for the life of your passport.
Accommodations and Food
Photo: Angela White
We will be staying in hotels, refugios, and an ecocamp. The ecocamp is made
of geodesic, yurt-like domes: private, double domes with bathrooms for sleeping,
and larger domes for eating and socializing. The domes each have wood stoves.
All structures are built on raised wooden platforms, which are dismantled and
removed at the end of the season to further protect the fragile environment.
The toilets are composting, and solar panels and wind turbines produce most
of the energy for the ecocamp. We will be sleeping at refugios on days 9 &
10, with common eating areas and shared bathrooms. We will be sleeping in dorm
rooms (shared) on day 9 and small cabins on day 10. The rest of the time we
will stay in local hotels that have double rooms with private bathrooms. All
meals are provided in the trip price. Patagonian food is fabulous, fresh, and
mostly local. It is very meat based -- Patagonian lamb and beef are outstanding
with delicious fish and shellfish choices. Salads and vegetables are served
with all meals and the guides will go out of their way to take care of vegetarians.
Breakfasts are simple (cereal, toast, eggs) and lunches will be either a sit-down
lunch or a box lunch.
This is a moderatly strenuous trip and participants should be in good physical
condition. All our gear will be carried for us and you will carry water, lunch,
and raingear in your day packs on the hikes. It is essential to take part in
a regular exercise program (running, hiking, biking, swimming) several months
in advance to prepare for the trip. We will have some long hiking days but none
of the hikes are at high altitude. Remember, the fitter you are, the more fun
you will have.
Equipment and Clothing
The weather in Patagonia is very unpredictable. We can get extreme wind, torrential
rain, brilliant sunshine -- all in the same day. Clothes made of a wicking fabric
are essential as are good rain clothes and warm layers. You will need a good
pair of broken-in, waterproof, over-the-ankle hiking boots, and hiking poles
are highly recommended. A detailed equipment list will be sent to participants.
- Chatwin, Bruce, In Patagonia.
- Yates, Simon, Against the Wall.
- Bridges, E. Lucas, Uttermost Part of the Earth.
- Any guidebook e.g. Lonely Planet, Rough Guide, Frommers etc.
- Jaramillo, Alvaro, Birds of Chile. The leader will bring her copy.
- Patagonia: The Wild, Wild South. National Geographic, January 2004.
A more extensive reading and movie list plus details on maps, will be sent
to participants at a later date.
Photo: Angela White
Sierra Club is an environmentally focused entity. We are concerned about conservation
and sustainability of resources, both locally and globally. Our work is accomplished
by volunteers and aided by a salaried staff, encouraging grassroots involvement.
Our outings seek to empower participants toward environmentally understanding
parallel concerns at home and abroad. Patagonia has one of the world's greatest
water reserves due to its glacial lakes, powerful rivers and two very large
non-polar ice fields. However, this makes it of great interest to hydroelectric
companies as the demand for and price of energy keeps increasing. In Chile,
a multi-dam project is planned that will threaten several pristine rivers, flood
rural areas, and overall, have a devastating effect on many ecosystems. This
is a serious issue, being challenged by many international environmentalists.
We will be updated with the latest developments nearer the trip departure dates.
This trip requires a $200 per-person deposit. An additional payment of $300 per person is due six months prior to trip departure. International trip prices are subject to change and are based on double-occupancy or group accommodations as described above. Single rooms may not be available or may cost more than the listed price. If you have any questions regarding double occupancy, please contact the trip leader.
See the How to Apply for an Outing
section for more details on registering for this trip and details
about our Reservation and Cancellation
The payment of a deposit does not confirm you as a member on the
trip. Participants must be approved by the trip leader. After signing
up for this trip, you will be sent a confirmation packet containing
approval materials (Participant Approval Questionnaire, Medical
Form, Liability Release Form). Each applicant (including those on
the waitlist) must fill out these forms and promptly mail them to
the trip leader. The leader will review the approval materials and
notify you of your acceptance in a timely manner.
The Sierra Club accurately and fairly budgets and prices our trips. However, unforeseen costs such as devaluation of the dollar compared to other currencies and fuel surcharges assessed by our international providers may necessitate adjustment in trip price. We will make every effort to mitigate and absorb these fees. If a price increase is necessary, however, you will have 14 days after announcement to cancel without penalty.
A wilderness traveler since childhood, Kern Hildebrand has led or assisted on many Sierra Club Outings for over 25 years. These have included river rafting, sea kayak, backpack, horseback, and international tours and treks to every continent. His conditioning for the trail and travel includes gardening (and otherwise tending his five acres of woodland), yoga classes, hiking and gym workouts.
Kern says he is especially pleased to be returning to this region where he can help introduce trip participants to the beauties of Patagonia, and, of course, hike together along challenging and scenic trails.
General Notes About Sierra Club Trips