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Hiking Argentina – Valle de Olum y Laguna Bélgica – Ushuaia

Having exhausted the main day hikes out of Ushuaia (well, except for the Martial Glacier, which didn’t seem too interesting) and not being terribly keen to pay to enter the Tierra del Fuego National Park again (I’d already done the best hike in the park – Cerro Guanaco – in 2016), I needed one more day-hike to fill in my time in the far south of Argentina.

Fortunately, I overheard another girl in the dorm room talking about a hike she’d done with some local friends-of-a-friend to the Valle de Olum and Laguna Bélgica, and decided I’d see if I could find the trail on Wikiloc.  I love Wikiloc, and it didn’t let me down – there were actually two GPS trails available!  I downloaded both to Maps.Me and put the word out around the hostel about my plan.

Wikiloc map for the trail to Valle de Olum and Laguna Bélgica - Ushuaia - Argentina

Wikiloc is a great place to look for GPS coordinates for different hiking trails

I must have done a reasonable job as a guide and hiking companion to the Laguna de los Témpanos and Vinciguerra Glacier because Matthias decided to join me again.  The irony was – he was from Belgium – but I didn’t tell him beforehand that our destination was Laguna Bélgica (Belgian Lake) 🙂

Fortunately, the trail began directly opposite the carpark for Laguna Esmeralda, so we caught the transfer out there (for a change, there were actually 3 of us waiting at 9am!) and started hiking through the Lenga forest. 

Yellow dots marked the start of the trail to the Valle de Olum and Laguna Bélgica - Ushuaia - Argentina

The first part of the trail was very easy, marked with yellow dots, and passed through Lenga forest. Matthias leading the way

The trail was obvious (well, once we’d walked through someone’s property) and we followed the yellow dots and worn path along the river, marveling at just how much damage beavers are doing in this part of the world!

Beaver damage - Valle de Olum and Laguna Bélgica - Ushuaia - Argentina

Evidence for beavers is everywhere in the Valle de Olum. It is impressive just how big an area they can destroy – and it is total destruction!

The hike through the forest was not terribly steep, and without too much effort we reached the top of the tree-line and the “beaver dam”.

Beaver Dam - Valle de Olum and Laguna Bélgica - Ushuaia - Argentina

Exploring the Beaver Dam in the Valle de Olum. Matthias is walking over the beaver dam wall in the image at the bottom

At this point, the yellow markers we’d been following disappeared and so we switched to following the Wikiloc GPS trail on Maps.Me for a while.

the way to the Laguna Bélgica - Ushuaia - Argentina

Laguna Bélgica is up there somewhere! It turns out it was almost at the top and over to the left

The climb got steeper at this point and we eventually came across a new set of markers … stone cairns.  These were very easy to spot while we were still hiking through vegetation, but became increasingly challenging to find as we ascended the stony trail to the Olum pass.

Stone Cairns marking the trail Laguna Bélgica - Ushuaia - Argentina

Yellow markers gave way to stone cairns to mark the route to Laguna Bélgica. They were pretty obvious while we still had vegetation (top) but much harder to spot once we’d reached rock (can you find the cairn in the bottom image?)

The views back into the valley and across to Laguna Esmeralda were incredible

View back into the Valle de Olum - Ushuaia - Argentina

The view back down into the Valle de Olum and across to Laguna Esmeralda. Spectacular!

but it seemed as if Laguna Bélgica was never going to appear!   We were almost to the pass itself, before we finally came upon it – and I told Matthias its name 🙂

Laguna Bélgica - Ushuaia - Argentina

A Belgian admiring Laguna Bélgica

We stopped here to explore and have some lunch, and contemplated going all the way to the pass.  But we could only see one cairn, and the way looked even sketchier than what we had already scrambled up, so we decided to head back to ensure we didn’t miss our return transfer to Ushuaia.

Waterfall on the way down from Laguna Bélgica - Ushuaia - Argentina

Views from our descent from Laguna Bélgica. It was very steep!

It’s amazing how you don’t really get a sense of how steep a trail is until you start to descend it.  We spied a couple of people coming over the pass from Laguna Turquesa (it is in the next valley across) and thought they were absolutely crazy heading down such a steep mountain.  But upon reflection… we had actually just done the same thing.

Recommendation

If you have hiking and navigation experience and want to get away from the “crowds”, the Valle de Olum to Laguna Bélgica is a good trail to do and easy to get to.  You get a bit of everything (Lenga forest, Patagonian vegetation, rocky scree) and some amazing views back down the valley and across to Laguna Esmeralda.  It would have been great to hike the whole way over the pass and back to the road, but unless you can arrange transportation back, that is a little more logistically challenging.

Time: 9:30am – 2pm

Cost: 350ARS for the transfer to the Laguna Esmeralda carpark

 

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Hiking Argentina – Laguna Turquesa – Ushuaia

Just 2km back down the road towards Ushuaia, the hike to Laguna Turquesa is far less popular than the hike to Laguna Esmeralda.  There were only 2 of us in our transfer who were going to do it (myself and a Marcielo from Buenos Aires), and we had the trail to ourselves up until we reached the lake itself.

We were both waiting at the main bus station near the Tourist Information Centre at 9am, but unfortunately a 3rd person didn’t show up to make the transfer happen.  So, it was 10am again before we set off.   Why don’t people want to get out early before the weather turns bad??!!  I’ll never understand…

Sign at the start of the hike to Laguna Turquesa - Ushuaia - Argentina

Sign at the start of the hike to Laguna Turquesa. I actually took this when we returned – there were a lot more people heading up later in the day

Right from the outset, the trail rises quite steeply through the Lenga forest

Lenga forest on the way to Laguna Turquesa - Ushuaia - Argentina

Marcielo leading the way through the Lenga forest. This is the way all hikes begin near Ushuaia

and doesn’t let up until you hit the treeline, where it opens out into a green valley leading up to the lake.

Green hills on the way to Laguna Turquesa - Ushuaia - Argentina

Looking back the way we’d come on the way up to Laguna Turquesa

We actually detoured up to the right, rather than heading straight for the lake, and carefully climbed a very steep shale slope to arrive at a high lookout over the Laguna itself.

Laguna Turquesa - Ushuaia - Argentina

Our first viewpoint over Laguna Turquesa

It was an amazing view, and I was intrigued that there were actually 2 people snorkeling!  Given the temperature of the water, they had to be wearing dry-suits, and I have no idea what they might have seen in there.

People snorkeling - Laguna Turquesa - Ushuaia - Argentina

They *had* to have dry suits on! I have no idea what they would find, but I thought they were keen to be snorkeling in Laguna Turquesa

From our high perch, we also had a panoramic view back across the Carbajal-Tierra valley towards Laguna Esmeralda, which is where I was hiking yesterday.  This provided a completely different perspective on the extent of the peat bogs, which form fascinating patterns from this birds-eye view.

Laguna Esmeralda as seen from Laguna Turquesa - Ushuaia - Argentina

Laguna Esmeralda as seen from the scree slope above Laguna Turquesa

Given there was no wind, we stayed up here enjoying the view and the peace for about 45 minutes, before veeeery carefully picking our way back down to the shore of the lake itself.  Unfortunately, because it was completely overcast, the lake was not showing off its brilliant turquoise colour, but it was still beautiful. 

Me at Laguna Turquesa - Ushuaia - Argentina

On the shore of Laguna Turquesa

We hiked around to the far end of the lake, which looked just like an infinity pool

Laguna Turquesa infinity pool - Ushuaia - Argentina

From this angle, Laguna Turquesa looked just like an infinity pool

and climbed again to a different high vantage point that included a view of both Laguna Turquesa and Laguna Esmeralda.

Laguna Turquesa with Laguna Esmeralda in the background - Ushuaia - Argentina

I love this view! Laguna Turquesa with Laguna Esmeralda in the background. You can see the steep shale slope we climbed initially over on the left

Again, it is an out-and-back hike, with a very easy and fast descent.  Plenty of time to take in the views so you don’t arrive too early for the minivan pickup!

Hiking in the green valley - Laguna Turquesa - Ushuaia - Argentina

Heading back through the green valley towards the trail head of Laguna Turquesa

Recommendation

This is a beautiful, short day hike that would still be manageable for people who don’t do a lot of hiking.  The hike itself is a little tougher and not as interesting as Laguna Esmeralda, but I preferred the views from above the lake.

Time: The suggested time is 1.5hrs each way, but if you have some fitness you can do it in less.  In total, there was 4.5 hours between being dropped off and picked up by the transfer – which is more than enough time to visit the lake, and scale some of the steep hills around it.

Cost: The transfer from the main bus station near the Tourist Information Centre costs 350ARS per person for the return journey.

Maximum elevation gain: 330m to Laguna Turquesa, 420m to our highest lookout over the lake

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Hiking Argentina – Laguna Esmeralda – Ushuaia

In contrast to Laguna Encantada, the hike to Laguna Esmeralda is the most popular from Ushuaia outside of the Tierra del Fuego National Park.  Transfers to the trail head are scheduled to leave from the main bus terminal near the Tourist Information Centre at 9am, 10am and 11am (returning at 4pm), but need a minimum of 3 people to run.

I was there at 9am, but unfortunately I was the only one ☹  So I went and sat in the sunshine overlooking the wreck of the St Christopher in the Beagle Channel for an hour listening to Frederik Elsner on continuous repeat.

The wreck of the St Christopher, which sits in the Beagle Channel in Ushuaia

One of the icons of Ushuaia – the wreck of the St Christopher

By 10am there were enough people for the transfer to run, so we finally drove the 22km out to the start of the hike.   With strict instructions to be back at the carpark at 4pm (or we would be walking back to Ushuaia), off we headed on the very well signposted route to the lake.

This hike is by far the easiest I’ve done around Ushuaia so far, but is very interesting as it passes through 4 distinct landscapes.  First up – a native lenga forest that was logged in the mid-20th century.

Lenga forest - Laguna Esmeralda near Ushuaia, Argentina

As with all hikes around Ushuaia, you start off in Lenga forest

This gives way to the Carbajal-Tierra valley, one of the largest peatbogs in South America. 

Peat bog - Laguna Esmeralda near Ushuaia, Argentina

Peat bogs and mountains – this is very typical of the landscape around Ushuaia

Peat forms when vegetation (in this case, mostly Sphagnum moss) doesn’t fully decay in anaerobic conditions, and if you have ever tried to walk across it you know that it is very wet and spongy!  For this reason, and due to the popularity of this hike, they have built log “roads” to help hikers across the worst of it.

Log paths across the peat bog - Laguna Esmeralda near Ushuaia, Argentina

Because of the popularity of this hike, there were quite a few of these log paths to help across the peat bogs

There are also loads of beaver dams

Beaver dams blocking the river - Laguna Esmeralda near Ushuaia, Argentina

You see lots of beaver activity on this hike, from felled trees to the dams that almost block the river

and the turquoise colour of glacial meltwater is always beautiful.

Glacial meltwater - Laguna Esmeralda near Ushuaia, Argentina

I love the turquoise colour of glacial meltwater

The third vegetation landscape is native primary forest, though I have to admit that it looked pretty similar to the Lenga forest to my untrained eye.  I guess the tree trunks are thicker…

Primary forest - Laguna Esmeralda near Ushuaia, Argentina

It looks pretty similar to the forest lower down, but apparently this is primary forest

And then you reach the high peat bog, which apparently has some very specific species of plant that are only found in areas under extreme conditions (according to the sign at the start of the hike).  Although I usually want a Geologist hiking with me, there are times when a Botanist would also be very welcome!

High peat bog - Laguna Esmeralda near Ushuaia, Argentina

The high peat bog near Laguna Esmeralda is really beautiful

The final ascent to the lake is back on dry ground

Final approach - Laguna Esmeralda near Ushuaia, Argentina

The last part of the hike to Laguna Esmeralda is much dryer

with an amazing turquoise river running beside

Me overlooking the high peat bog and river on the way to Laguna Esmeralda near Ushuaia, Argentina

Amazing view over the high peat bog on the way to Laguna Esmeralda

and an incredible view of Laguna Esmeralda once you crest the rise.  

Laguna Esmeralda near Ushuaia, Argentina

The view of Laguna Esmeralda and Ojos del Albino Glacier

It must be very special to camp there overnight (the camping spot looks great!) and experience this landscape first thing in the morning before the clouds come over and the wind picks up.  Next time!

Campsite - Laguna Esmeralda near Ushuaia, Argentina

The campsite at Laguna Esmeralda

Behind the lake sits the Ojos del Albino glacier

Ojos del Albino Glacier - Laguna Esmeralda near Ushuaia, Argentina

Ojos del Albino glacier sits at the other end of Laguna Esmeralda

and although I didn’t have enough time to hike all the way there, I did hike past the lake for a while to see what I could see.  Mostly more forest with fallen tree “hurdles”, and non-wind-swept parts of the lake that had a spectacular milkiness.

milky water - Laguna Esmeralda near Ushuaia, Argentina

Looking back towards where I first arrived at Laguna Esmeralda across the milky water

This is another out-and-back trail, so the return journey was the same as the hike in.  Was much faster though, so we ended up having to sit in the carpark (not the prettiest spot) for about 45 minutes waiting for the minivan to come and pick us up.

Recommendation

This is a really easy and beautiful day hike – great for people who don’t do a lot of hiking but would like to get out into the nature around Ushuaia.

Time: The suggested time is 2hrs each way, but if you have some fitness you can do it in less.  In total, there was 5.5 hours between being dropped off and picked up – which is more than enough time to visit the lake, but not enough time to hike all the way to the glacier.

Cost: The transfer from the main bus station near the Tourist Information Centre costs 350ARS per person for the return journey.

Maximum elevation gain: 158m

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Hiking Argentina – Laguna Encantada – Ushuaia

I arrived in Ushuaia to discover that my fellow salsa-dancing aficionado from Melbourne, Autumn, also happened to be in town.  She invited me along on a hike that her and her travelling companions were planning for the next day, and I was more than keen to join despite a desperate lack of sleep.  She was a bit vague on the details of where they were going, but it didn’t really matter 😊

Turned out that after a later-than-anticipated start (who knew it could take so long to buy bus tickets?!), we ended up hiking to Laguna Encantada, which starts along the same path as that to Laguna de Los Témpanos and Glaciar Vinciguerra, but keeps going straight rather than dog-legging around to the left.

Like many hikes in Latin America, there is no public transport to the trailhead, so we ended up catching the local bus to the turnoff that goes up the Andorra valley, and then were incredibly lucky to be picked up almost immediately by a young couple who could fit the 5 of us in the back of their ute (with the rubbish) for the 5km trip to the end of the road.  Score!

The trail starts off very easy – tracking along a flat, brilliantly green river plain with steep mountains on either side. 

The green valley at the start of the trail to Laguna Encantada near Ushuaia, Argentina

The start of the trail to Laguna Encantada passes through a wide, flat, green valley

This led us past what looked like a graveyard for wooden pallets – certainly one of the most puzzling sights I’ve ever seen on a hike, and one for which we could not think of a reasonable explanation.   Closer inspection revealed that these wooden structures were not pallets, but rather looked like drying racks, similar to what I’d seen the locals use to dry fish while I was in Greenland.  Unfortunately, there was nobody around to ask, so the we had to make do with our own imaginings, and the mystery remains unsolved.

Mystery structures in the valley before the climb Laguna Encantada near Ushuaia, Argentina

What are these??

We eventually came to the sign at the start of the hike, and were relieved to discover a bridge that would allow us to cross the river without getting wet.  After some deliberation about which of the trails we would actually do, we decided to tackle the most difficult one first (to Laguna Encantada) and see how we went from there.

Sign at the start of the hike to Laguna Encantada near Ushuaia, Argentina

The hike to Laguna Encantada starts at the same place as the hike to the Vinciguerra Glacier. Hmmmm… which one to choose?

Like all hikes in this part of Patagonia, this one starts off by climbing through the Lenga forest, with felled logs helping to keep shoes relatively dry and free of mud through the worst of the boggy patches.

Hiking through the Lenga forest on the way to Laguna Encantada near Ushuaia, Argentina

Hiking through the Lenga forest on the way to Laguna Encantada

It was a relatively steep climb which eventually ended at a large open meadow with more vibrant greenery and views of the higher mountains.

Green valley approaching Laguna Encantada near Ushuaia, Argentina

At the top of the Lenga forest we came out into this vibrantly green valley

And eventually, Laguna Encantada itself.

Laguna Encantada near Ushuaia, Argentina

Laguna Encantada and its surroundings

The lake is surrounded by steep mountains, lush green grass, and sits at the base of a tall waterfall.

Waterfall that feeds Laguna Encantada near Ushuaia, Argentina

The light was absolutely terrible for taking this photograph, but the scene was gorgeous

And seems to have been formed due to beaver dam (common around Ushuaia) blocking the water flow.

Beaver dam blocking Laguna Encantada near Ushuaia, Argentina

Beaver dams are everywhere in this part of Patagonia. It seems that a beaver dam is partially why Laguna Encantada exists

After a quick exploration of the lake shore and a discussion in French with the only other hikers we’d seen, Jean Baptiste, Cyril and Marjorie decided that we would climb to the saddle point that you can see in the middle of the above image for a view from upon high of the Laguna.

It was steep!  And impossible to see where you were putting your feet, with Majorie ending up with a boot and trouser-leg full of mud at one point.

Climbing through the grass towards the pass above Laguna Encantada near Ushuaia, Argentina

The first part of the climb to the pass above Laguna Encantada was steep and grassy, and impossible to see where you were placing your feet

We eventually reached the top of the green slope, only to be confronted with a further, equally steep slope of scree. 

Extremely steep scree slope that we climbed to get to the saddle over Laguna Encantada near Ushuaia, Argentina

It was steeper than it looks… This was an incredibly steep scree slope that we climbed

And onward we climbed…

With shaking legs and bursting lungs, we finally arrived to the most incredible view from the saddle point.   On the one side, there was the view back down to Laguna Encantada.

Climbing the scree slope above Laguna Encantada near Ushuaia, Argentina

Another view of the steep scree slope we climbed above Laguna Encantada. Autumn and Cyril are still on their way up

And on the other side, a view over into the next valley, another bowl of green with a river running through.

View to the other side of the pass above Laguna Encantada near Ushuaia, Argentina

The other side of the pass above Laguna Entantada was just as beautiful

It was a stunning place.

Saddle point overlooking Laguna Encantada near Ushuaia, Argentina

The pass offered spectacular views all around – but it was freezing cold!

Unfortunately, as with most passes in Patagonia, it was also very cold and windy, so after about 20 minutes we started our careful descent, back the way we had come.

Descending the scree slope above Laguna Encantada near Ushuaia, Argentina

Descending the scree slope back towards Laguna Encantada was much easier than climbing it

I don’t remember much about the hike back to the trail head as I was mostly helping Autumn prepare for a job interview that was scheduled for midnight that night Argentinean time (the timezone difference with Australia is terrible from Chile and Argentina). 

When we reached the bridge across the river at the start of the hike, we very fortunately ran into some Israeli hikers who had arranged a transfer to come pick them up at a specific time.   We hadn’t done such a thing and so were facing a 5km hike down the road to where we could pick up the local bus to take us back to town.  They said we could jump in their transfer if there was room.

To keep warm, we kept hiking back down the road toward Ushuaia, and met the van coming up the road.  We arranged with the driver to pick us up on the way back down for 100ARS each, and just in time too!  Because a little further down the road there was a large, white pig-dog that we didn’t like the look of and couldn’t tell if it was tied up or not.  The local dogs who had adopted us along the way were also whimpering, so our guess is that it would have attacked us had we tried to go past.

 

Recommendation

If you want to get off the main hiking paths around Ushuaia, Laguna Encantada is a really nice hike with very few people.  It is fairly well sign-posted all the way to the Lake, though if you decide to scale the mountain to the right like we did (or climb to Laguna Encantada Superior) – there is no path – it is a choose you own (very careful) adventure.

Cost:  Although we caught the local bus (7ARS) and then hitchhiked up to the trailhead (free) and back to town (100ARS), I later managed to arrange a taxi for a similar excursion for 230ARS each way.  If you can find others to split the cost – that is a much easier way to go.

Time: We took about 7 hours return to do this hike.  If you only hike to Laguna Encantada it is much, much shorter – probably more like 4 hours return

Maximum elevation gain: 381m to Laguna Encantada, 795m to the saddle point

 

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Hiking Argentina – Laguna de Los Témpanos and Vinciguerra Glacier

One of the hikes I wanted to do around Ushuaia this time, was to the Laguna de Los Témpanos and the Vinciguerra Glacier.   I’d already hiked the first part of this trail with Autumn, JB, Marjorie and Cyril when we went to Laguna Encantada, but really wanted to get to the Glacier – the only one in the region that actually has a glacier tongue.

I let it be known around the hostel that this was my plan, and that other people were more than welcome to join me.   I was super-keen for others to join so that a) I wasn’t hiking alone, and b) the cost of the taxi to get there was shared.  In the end, there were 6 of us – me, Shane (Aussie), Matan (Israel), Steffi and Hanspeter (Switzerland), and Matthias (Belgium).

It was an absolutely gorgeous day as we hiked along the flat Andorra valley with its mystery wooden structures.  My new theory on these things is that they are actually drying racks for peat – given I saw another large stash of them the other day in the peat bog on the way out to Laguna Esmeralda.

Start of the hike to Laguna de los Témpanos and Vinciguerra Glacier - Ushuaia - Argentina

The Andorra Valley is really beautiful, if a bit wet and spongy underfoot

Since I was the one that organised the excursion and I had actually done the first part of the hike before, I was the unofficial guide for our group.  I steered everyone to the bridge across the river and up through the Lenga forest until we reached the signpost where the track forked to Laguna Encantada and the Vinciguerra Glacier.

Signpost identifying the different tracks to Vinciguerra Glacier and Laguna Encantada - Ushuaia - Argentina

Signpost at the crossroad for Vinciguerra Glacier and Laguna Encantada

This time I took the left-hand fork, which turned out to be much, much easier than the route to Laguna Encantada initially.  It was even flat for a long time, if more than a little slippery!

Trail through the forest to Laguna de los Témpanos and Vinciguerra Glacier - Ushuaia - Argentina

The trail through the forest was nice and flat, but quite slippery because of all the logs. The sign on the tree wasn’t the first or last we saw advising us to take care

Eventually we did start climbing, and there was a moment where we really couldn’t figure out where the trail went.  Up until that point it had been very obvious but, judging by the state of the ground, we weren’t the only ones to wonder which way to go!

Trail to Laguna de los Témpanos and Vinciguerra Glacier - Ushuaia - Argentina

The trail is mostly obvious and does get quite steep

We did eventually find the markers (stay low when you think you should go high) and continued on until the forest eventually spilled us out into a clearing with a stream and a waterfall.

Green clearing, stream and waterfall on the way to Laguna de los Témpanos and Vinciguerra Glacier - Ushuaia - Argentina

Beautiful place for a rest stop!

We had a short break here soaking in the sun, and then hiked along the stream towards the scree-slope we could see in the distance.

Final part of the trail to Laguna de los Témpanos and Vinciguerra Glacier - Ushuaia - Argentina

Another flat bit before the final uphill

This last part was probably the steepest section of the hike, as we climbed the moraine towards the glacier and its lake.

Final scree slope on the way to Laguna de los Témpanos and Vinciguerra Glacier - Ushuaia - Argentina

Final approach to the Laguna de los Témpanos and Vinciguerra Glacier

The view was absolutely worth the effort!

Laguna de los Témpanos and Vinciguerra Glacier - Ushuaia - Argentina

Impressive view of the Laguna de los Témpanos and Vinciguerra Glacier

We stopped here for lunch and to admire the view, and ran into some more people we knew from the hostel!  Small world 🙂   

We hiked around to the right hand side along the river and past some small pools

Small pools near Laguna de los Témpanos and Vinciguerra Glacier - Ushuaia - Argentina

Small pools on the way to the glacier tongue

to reach the glacier tongue itself.

Vinciguerra Glacier tongue - Ushuaia - Argentina

Standing at the edge of the Vinciguerra Glacier

As always, I’m fascinated by patterns in the ice.

Patterns in the ice of the Vinciguerra Glacier - Ushuaia - Argentina

The patterns in the ice are one of the many reasons why I love hiking out to see glaciers

Unfortunately, and before we knew it, it was time to turn around and head back to meet our taxi that we’d arranged to pick us up at the start of the trail at a specific time.  In hindsight – we should have made this at least an hour later … but it’s hard to judge these things when you haven’t done them before. 

So with one last look at the Laguna de los Témpanos and Vinciguerra Glacier we headed back to catch our ride.

Me at the Laguna de los Témpanos and Vinciguerra Glacier - Ushuaia - Argentina

Taking a final look across the Laguna de los Témpanos to the Vinciguerra Glacier

Million thanks to Shane, Matan, Steffi, Hanspeter, and Matthias for sharing this excursion with me!  I had a great day with you guys 🙂

Recommendation

This is an awesome hike out of Ushuaia.  There are many tour operators in town who offer this excursion, but it is actually very easy to do it yourself with little risk of getting lost (well, except for that one small part – we missed the trail coming back down as well).

Time: 9:30am – 4pm

Cost: 300ARS for the taxi from La Posta Hostel to the trailhead, and another 300ARS back (shared amongst us)

Maximum elevation gain: 550m

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Hiking Argentina – Mirador de los Cóndores y Águilas – El Chaltén

The Mirador de los Cóndores and the Mirador de las Águilas (the Condor and Eagle viewpoints) are two of the three relatively short hikes around El Chaltén in Argentina (the 3rd one is out to the Chorillo del Salto).  Most travelers to the region only stay a couple of days and so tend to do these hikes plus one or two of the longer ones.  However, even though I stayed 8 days on my first visit to El Chaltén in 2015, I didn’t get around to hiking up to these viewpoints.  

On this trip, I arrived in El Chaltén 3 days before the departure of the Southern Patagonian Icefield Expedition with Serac Adventures and Swoop Patagonia.  Having just hiked for 5 out of 7 days around Ushuaia, and given the fact that I had a massive blister on the back of one foot, I was keen to take it a little easy in the lead-up to the expedition.  However, on my 2nd day in El Chaltén, the weather was so unbelievably amazing, I just had to head out.

As I followed the well-worn path from the National Parks office towards the Mirador de los Cóndores, I couldn’t get over the fact that there was no wind, the sun was shining brightly and there were only a few clouds in the sky – a true miracle in these parts!

Path to the Mirador de los Cóndores with Cerro Fitz Roy in the background - El Chaltén - Argentina

The trail to the Mirador de los Cóndores. You can see El Chaltén below and Cerro Fitz Roy in the background

The trail up to the viewpoint is short but quite steep, and I imagine quite an effort for the majority of people who hike it.  But the views over El Chaltén and the mountains are incredible!

Mirador de los Cóndores with Cerro Fitz Roy in the background - El Chaltén - Argentina

The amazing view from the Mirador de los Cóndores

On my last visit, I had 8 days of cloud and rain.  I never saw the top of Fitz Roy and barely managed to see the top of Cerro Torre, so it was a real treat to be able to relax on the rocks and take my time admiring these spectacular mountain ranges.  Yes, it looks like a single range – but the Cerro Torre range actually sits behind the Fitz Roy range.

Closeup views of Cerro Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre from the Mirador de los Cóndores - El Chaltén - Argentina

Closer views of Cerro Fitz Roy (top), Cerro Torre (middle), and nearby glacier (bottom)

After spending about 2 hours stretched out on the rocks listening to Nanook (my favourite band at the minute – from Greenland of course), I decided to hike out to the Mirador de las Águilas so that I could enjoy more of the afternoon.  It takes less than half an hour to walk between the two and given that there’s not a big altitude gain, it is quite a nice stroll.

Trail to the Mirador de los Águilas - El Chaltén - Argentina

Trail to the Mirador de los Águilas. The viewpoint is on top of the rocks you can see to the left

From this viewpoint, you have a similar view of the mountains – but this time without El Chaltén in the foreground.

View from the Mirador de los Águilas - El Chaltén - Argentina

View from the Mirador de los Águilas

There is also a view over Lago Viedma (unfortunately the Viedma Glacier is hidden) and the Patagonian steppe.   

View of Lago Viedma and the Patagonian steppe from the Mirador de los Águilas - El Chaltén - Argentina

View of Lago Viedma and the Patagonian steppe from the Mirador de los Águilas

Another couple of hours soaking in the sun here before heading back to town made for a perfect “active rest” afternoon before the big adventure!

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Trekking Argentina – Southern Patagonian Icefield Expedition – Summary

If you’ve done a few long-distance treks and are looking for a new challenge, the Southern Patagonian Icefield Expedition with Serac Expeditions will certainly deliver!  Only about 100 people a year take on this remote trek, but it is an incredible experience in one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

Admiring the view - South Patagonia Icefield, Cerro Fitzroy and Cerro Torre from the Refugio Garcia Soto

It doesn’t get any better than this. Taking in the view of the Southern Patagonian Icefield, Cerro Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre from the Refugio Garcia Soto

Was it difficult?

It’s the most difficult trek I’ve ever done!

Would I do it again?

In a heartbeat! 

In fact, I already have my eye on the Marconi Pass – Estancia Cristina Expedition also offered by Serac Expeditions.  But this time I want to do it at the start of the season so I can experience different conditions on the Icefield and snow-shoes 🙂

Here are a few final thoughts about my adventure on the ice this year.

Training

I’m still relatively new to long-distance trekking, so my previous relevant experience was only:

plus a lot of day-hikes (many at altitude) in various places around the world.

Images from each of my previous treks

My previous relevant experience from top left to bottom left: Torres del Paine Circuit Trek (Chile), Ice climbing on the Viedma Glacier (Argentina), Unplugged Wilderness Trek (East Greenland), and the high-altitude Huayhuash Circuit Trek (Peru). Yes, I’m fascinated by ice!

My “training” specifically for the expedition was 5 separate day-hikes around Ushuaia, and the Lago Torre hike from El Chaltén in the previous week.  Yes, I agree.  It could have been more extensive 🙂 And although my day-pack tends to be heavier than most (thanks to my camera gear), it would have been good to get some full backpacking in there as well.  Nevertheless, it was entirely doable for a fairly small person, even if a little tough! 

To be honest, the most important thing for this trip is your mental attitude.  The expedition is not overly technical (though there are a few moments) – but depending on the weather and your fitness, you must be willing to push yourself at times.

Gear

I’ve discovered that having the right gear makes the world of difference!  Although this expedition was much colder and wetter than the Unplugged Wilderness Trek in East Greenland, I was more comfortable here. 

The equipment provided by Serac Expeditions (in my case, tent, sleeping bag and pack) were all excellent and high quality, and as for my own gear – I can highly recommend:

  • Hunger Hiker Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles.  This is the first trek I’ve ever done with hiking poles, and I have to admit they made a huge difference!  They help get you up the hills (by taking some of the weight off your legs), save your knees on the downhills (though I’ve still yet to master this – sorry Rafa), provide 3rd and 4th points of balance (really critical at times) and are amazingly strong and unbreakable.
  • LOWA Mountain Expert GTX Evo Boot.  Yes, they are heavy.  Yes, they take some getting used to.  Yes, they rubbed holes in my feet.  But boy are they amazing!  After 6 days walking on ice and slush (and 5 days of hiking through the peat bogs near Ushuaia) my feet were still dry.  They also have insulation built in, so my feet were rarely cold on the expedition – very unusual for me.
  • Outdoor Research Verglas Gaiters.  This is the first time I’ve ever worn gaiters and these ones were comfortable and seemed to do the job they are designed for.  
  • Black Diamond Pursuit Cold Weather Gloves.  These were magic!  Along with perpetually cold feet I have constantly cold hands.  These did a wonderful job of keeping them warm and dry (despite quite a bit of rain on Day 7).
  • Mountain Hardware Ghost Whisperer Down Jacket.  Surprisingly warm given how small and light it is – and I really feel the cold!  Would have been better to buy the one with the hood, but oh well.
  • North Face Women’s Resolve Waterproof Pants.  Kept the bottom half of me nice and dry.
  • Buff.  I was always a little uncertain about these things, but I bought a merino wool one for the expedition and it was magic!  
Me in all my gear - South Patagonia Icefield Expedition - Argentina

Me in all my gear. Everything performed fantastically well – very pleased and much more comfortable than I’ve been on previous treks.

Logistics

Given that my previous long-distance treks had all been supported (ie we only had to carry a day-pack, the rest of the gear was transported for us), the day-to-day logistics of this expedition were a little different.  There were two main things that struck me, mostly because I’m a sociable person and enjoy talking to others:

  1. Because the terrain was so difficult and we had to be roped together for a fair portion of the expedition, it was not possible to chat much during the day while trekking.
  2. I really missed the communal dining tent and the ability for the group to sit around in the evening chatting.  I really appreciated the days we spent at the Refugio Garcia Soto (Days 2 & 3) and Refugio Paso del Viento (Day 6) when we could all get together properly.

For these reasons, I found it a much more solitary experience that my previous treks.  Not necessarily good or bad, just different.  Though I must admit that meeting and forming friendships with the others is one of the things I really love about long-distance trekking.

Refugio Paso del Viento - eating together

Because the trek was not supported, we did not have a communal tent to hang out in. I really appreciated the 3 nights we had near huts, when we could all sit around together

Food

The food provided by Serac Expeditions is largely what you would expect/hope for on a trek like this:

Breakfast: a choice of cornflakes or porridge

Lunch:  Argentinean empanadas and “brick” sandwiches

Dinner: instant soup, a very tasty main meal, and something sweet for dessert 

Each tent-pair shared a bag of tea/coffee/powdered milk/sugar and several different packets of biscuits, and we each had our own “snack bag” filled with chocolates, alfajores, energy bars, muesli bars and lollies.

However, there were also some very welcome surprises! 

The evening meals on Day 1 and Day 6 were as gourmet as you can get for something that comes in a packet and is cooked by boiling the whole thing in water.  And the cheese/processed meat/peanut/olives/crackers platters that magically appeared on Day 2 and Day 6 were a real treat!  Thank you Serac Expeditions!

Images of some of the food provided for the South Patagonia Icefield Expedition by Serac Expeditions

Some of the fantastic food we had on the Southern Patagonian Icefield Expedition: Argentinean empanadas and “brick” sandwiches stuffed with huge amounts of meat and cheese (top), hot dinners (bottom) and our luxury item on 2 of the days – a meat, cheese, nuts and olives platter

The Guides

What can I say – I love Juan and Rafa!

Our guide and assistant guide for the South Patagonia Icefield Expedition - Juan and Rafa

Our guide (Juan, right) and assistant guide (Rafa, left) were absolutely brilliant and huge amounts of fun

They were great fun, very safety conscious, and very patient with the photographer 😉  Big shout-out to Rafa who was usually the one that would drop behind to help me catch up to the others after taking photos!

These guys have a tough job!  While we just retreated to our tents and stayed nice and warm and dry, they ferried hot water, food and anything else that was required between the tents – regardless of what the weather was throwing at them.  Nothing was too much trouble and they were always ready with a smile and encouragement. 

Seriously guys – you are awesome!  And I’m so happy to have met you 🙂 I hope we can trek together again in the near future!

In Conclusion

I’ve managed to see the world’s 3 largest Icefields in the past 14 months – Antarctica, Greenland and now South Patagonia.  All of them have been incredible, and immersing yourself in the environment and experiencing it on foot makes it even more special.

So far, this has been the most challenging trek I’ve done, and it was made even more so by the fact that I was taking photos.  This is not a trek where you have plenty of time to stop for photos, but rather an expedition where you have to keep moving.  That being said, the photography opportunities are incredible – but you have to be prepared to shoot quickly!

Despite the challenge, it has only increased my desire to do other, even tougher expeditions in the future.  My not-achievable-unless-I-win-the-lotto goal is to do the Greenland Crossing with Greenland Adventures, but in the meantime I have my sights set on the Marconi Pass – Estancia Cristina Expedition with Serac Expeditions and the Liverpool Land North-South Traverse with Tangent Expeditions for sometime in the near future. 

Who’s in with me?

Read more about the Southern Patagonian Icefield Expedition

If this post has piqued your curiosity, read about the rest of my adventure on the the 8-day Southern Patagonian Icefield Trek with Serac Expeditions and Swoop Patagonia:

  • Prelude – leading up to departure
  • Day 1 – El Chaltén to Laguna de los 14 
  • Day 2 – Marconi Pass to Refugio Garcia Soto
  • Day 3 – Gorra Blanca summit
  • Day 4 – Refugio Garcia Soto to Circo de los Altares
  • Day 5 – Circo de los Altares to Laguna Ferrari
  • Day 6 – Laguna Ferrari to Refugio Paso de Viento
  • Day 7 – Refugio Paso de Viento to Paso Huemul to Bahía Témpanos
  • Day 8 – Bahía Tempanos to El Chaltén
  • Summary

Alternatively, check out my other posts about hiking and trekking in Argentina and around the world.

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Falkland Islands – Day 12 – Stanley

Our expedition ended this morning with the Vavilov docked in Stanley – the capital of the Falkland Islands.   We had about an hour to wander around the town, which was more than enough time given it is pretty small and nothing opened until 10am (we were there at 8:30am).    Very British though, including red telephone boxes and post boxes, and it’s a definite stronghold for Land Rover – didn’t see any other type of car!

Stanley - Falkland Islands

Stanley – more British than Britain

Then it was an hour-long bus trip to the airport.  We had a guide on the bus who told us lots of bits and pieces about the Falklands to keep us entertained, and with a quintessentially British sense of humour.

The airport is actually inside of a military base and it took us over an hour to get through all the different security there.   I don’t think I’ve ever seen such strict security in all my travels!  The number of times things got scanned, things got written down and I had to sign things was truly incredible!

And so, the Antarctic adventure ends…

 

Summary of trip

So, you may be wondering what my overall thoughts are on the trip. Words really can’t do it justice, it was incredible!  I’m sure this was aided enormously by the fact that:

  • We had only ½ the usual number of people on the ship and it was a young crowd (the crew said that they’d never had a crowd this young before) so it was a lot of fun
  • The One Ocean crew were great and really interacted with the guests a lot
  • We had incredible weather that allowed us to do all the planned excursions plus some bonus extras, including the excursion around the southern side of Cape Lookout, and Point Wild on Elephant Island
  • We got to see 7 of the 8 species of penguins (apparently, this is very rare) plus some other truly incredible wildlife experiences, such as the whale bonanza on Day 6

Being on a ship for 11 days was, in itself, an experience – and one that was very easy to get used to.   That being said, I’m glad I don’t get seasick – a lot of people had a very hard time on the days we spent crossing the Drake Passage!  You certainly don’t go hungry on this expedition!  

Antarctica itself was absolutely beautiful.  To be able to visit such a pristine environment where the animals are totally not fussed about you is incredible.  The only other place I’ve been like this is the Galapagos

To be able to experience the harsh environment (but with the comfort of polar clothing and with the assurance of a hot shower, tea and coffee afterwards) makes you really question the sanity of the early Antarctic explorers: Shackleton, Amundsen, Scott, Mawson etc.   Even more so since we had great weather, and it wasn’t as cold as it could have been, given there was nary a blizzard in sight.

And although tourism in the Antarctic continues to grow (40,000 visitors in 2015-2016 season), we only saw 1 other ship with passengers, 2 yachts and 1 “mystery” ship in all of our time there.   We were the only group at each of our landings so essentially had the place to ourselves.    Very special.   Very glad I went with the spur-of-the-moment decision to go!

 

Recommendation:

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend a One Ocean trip to Antarctica.  The Vavilov is very comfortable (there is also a sister ship the Ioffe), the crew are incredible and it is an amazing experience.    I booked through Freestyle Adventure Travel in Ushuaia who are also really awesome – very, very responsive and incredibly friendly bunch.

Note that regulations limit the number of people who can land at a site in Antarctica to 100 at a time.  So keep that in mind when you are choosing your ship.   You can see a lot more if you choose a ship with <100 people on board!

 

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Antarctica – Days 1-3 – Drake Passage

Suddenly having 6 extra weeks in South America, I was considering what to do.   Then one of my friends (thanks Alain!) suggested that if I had the money – Antarctica was the best trip he’d ever done.   Ohhhhhh – now that was a good idea!  And surprisingly, not one that I’d thought of at all.

So emailed quite a few companies with my dates looking for last minute deals and ended up going through Freestyle Adventure Tours on the 12 day,  Antarctica & Falkland Islands: Sea Birds and Penguins trip by One Ocean Expeditions on the ship: Akademik Sergei Vavilov.   There were quite a few reasons I was super-excited about this particular trip:

  1. It was a relatively small ship, with a maximum of 96 passengers (you can only land 100 passengers on Antarctica at any one time)
  2. It was a science ship that would actually have scientists on board with us who were going to Antarctica to do their research (penguin counts)
  3. It was not doing the regular trip to Antarctica: across the Drake Passage, down the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula and the back again. This one was going across the Drake Passage, up the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula, across to the Weddell Sea on the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula, over to Elephant Island, and up to the Falkland Islands before flying back to Punta Arenas in Chile. Weather and ice permitting of course!
Antarctic Peninsula and Falkland Islands Excursion Points

This is actually the final set of excursion points that we achieved rather than the initial plan. Good news though – it didn’t change.

The Antarctic trip started with a Pizza Party organised by Freestyle Adventure Tours at the Irish Pub in Ushuaia, an opportunity to get to know other passengers and receive our Antarctic bird guide, One Ocean buff and luggage tags.   Then we all met the next day at 3:30pm at the super-fancy Hotel Albatross to hand in our passports and head to the ship.

Gifts from Freestyle Adventures

Gifts from Freestyle Adventures – a guide to the wildlife of Antarctica, luggage tag and a buff (not pictured)

Turns out there was only 50 passengers on the trip and it was a surprisingly young crowd! Usually I would have been one of the younger passengers, but this time I was one of the older ones!  There was almost one staff member for ever 2 passengers on the boat, as well as a few scientists and a film crew on board.   Got shown to our cabins – I’m sharing mine with Assa from Sweden – and then explored the ship while waiting to cast off.

Exploring the Akademic Sergey Vavilov

The view from the top deck while still at port in Ushuaia (top left), mine and Assa’s cabin (top right), the bridge (mid left), the multimedia room (mid right) and the bar, otherwise known as the Vavilounge (bottom)

Had a lifeboat drill before casting off, in which our side of the ship (the starboard side) came second (hmmm…. there are only 2 sides on a ship…)

Lifeboat Vavilov

Getting to know the Vavilov’s lifeboats

Cast off was at about 6pm and we headed off up the Beagle Channel on our way to the Drake Passage.

Casting off the Vavilov at Ushuaia - OneOcean

Nice and calm going down the Beagle Channel with a great “Welcome Aboard” Party in the Bar (so much good food!) and a beautiful sunset to accompany. 

Beagle Channel

Sunset as we headed away from Ushuaia and up the Beagle Channel

Dinner was great as well (I can see us all leaving here a kilo or two heavier 🙂 ) and we all hung out in the bar for several hours afterwards before heading to bed.

I don’t think anyone slept well that first night – partially excitement and partially because we entered the Drake Passage, which decided to give us an abrupt introduction to sea-sickness.   Gale-force winds and 5-metre swells brought the majority of the passengers on the ship down, and most didn’t appear at all for the first day.

Doc Walter (an Aussie from Brisbane) was run off his feet dispensing sea-sickness patches and pills, and even with that most people stayed in bed (sea sickness abates somewhat if you are lying down).    I wasn’t doing too bad without drugs, though couldn’t finish watching the talks in the “Vomitorium” – the presentation room that is down in the bottom of the ship.  I had to get out of there … but I wasn’t the only one!

Akademic Sergey Vavilov - OneOcean - Vomitorium on the way through the Drake Passage

The “Vomitorium” down in the bowels of the Vavilov. This was actually the 2nd day of the Drake crossing when it was far less rough

Ended up hanging out on the bridge for quite a while (they have an open-bridge policy) – very impressive to see the bow of the boat crashing through the swells.  Apparently, it was a slightly worse than normal crossing.

Drake Passage - Vavilov - OneOcean

Our rough first day crossing the Drake Passage. These waves and the swell were incredible and kept the majority of the passengers in bed. View from the bridge

Also spent lots of time hanging out in the bar (the Vavilounge) – very impressed by the musical prowess of several of the staff.  These guys were awesome!

OneOcean - Vavilov - concert

The Expedition Leader (centre), Expedition Photographer (right) and assistant Hotel Manager (left) could often be found jamming in the bar of the Vavilov. They are incredible musicians!

Went down for lunch, ate, and then threw up 🙁  Good thing the staff put out a multitude of sick-bags in all corridors and stairwells – I guess they knew what to expect!

Vomit bags

The crew knew the Drake Passage! Sick bags were everywhere around the ship while we made the crossing.

Went to sleep for a couple of hours (still trying to catch up from lack of sleep coming back from Easter Island) then decided to cave in and see Doc Walter for a sea-sickness pill at 5pm – after all, I wanted to keep dinner down!   Seemed to work 🙂

Day 2 crossing the Drake Passage was a lot better!  Only 5 knot winds and not much of a swell – lots more people out and about today!   Spent a lot of time up on the bridge again as there is always a staff member up there – and usually one who knows the different birds we are seeing.   Lots and lots of Cape Petrels, and Sooty Shearwaters, plus Black-browed Albatross, Southern Fulmars, Chinstrap Penguins porpoising and some Fin Whales (and possibly some Minke whales) blowing and cresting.

Drake Passage bird sightings

Some of the wildlife we saw crossing the Drake Passage – Cape Petrel (top left), Sooty Shearwater (top right), Southern Fulmar (mid left), Black-browed Albatross (mid right), Chinstrap Penguins, and whales.

Also got shown how to find out where the ship was currently located in the map room near the bridge – love these maps!

Vavilov Maproom

The maproom in the Akademic Sergey Vavilov was right behind the bridge. You could learn how to read the instruments and maps to discover where exactly you were at any given time

Every day, the schedule is posted on a number of noticeboards around the ship.   The One Ocean guys are awesome and great fun, so these tend to have a little information, a little humour, the schedule, and the “Russian word for the day” – after all, we are on a Russian ship (it is actually owned by the Russian Institute for Science) and the ship’s crew are all Russian.

Ocean Notes - OneOcean - Vavilov

Ocean Notes were posted all around the ship to remind us of our adventures the previous day, tell us what was happening when on this day and a few other bits and pieces.

Went to the talks that were on today, but the main activity was preparing for our first landing on the Antarctic Peninsula.   This started with trying on all our outerwear to make sure it fit, and swapping it if it didn’t.   Followed by a “Vacuum Partyyyyyyyy”, which is where we had to take all our outerwear, boots, bags and anything that we were going to carry with us on shore landings to the Mud Room to go over it with a fine-tooth comb (and vacuum cleaner) to ensure that there was no soil, grass seeds or anything that could contaminate the Antarctic environment.

Vacuum Party before landing on Antarctica

The “Vacuum Partyyyyyyyy”. Getting ready to make our first landing on Antarctica

Our preparations finished with a briefing about IAATO (the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators), how to maneuver getting into and out of the zodiacs and etiquette whilst aboard, and the plan for our current landing itinerary, along with some super-scary-looking weather forecasts!

Ice Chart - Antarctica

This is an ice chart for the Antarctic Peninsula just as we left Ushuaia. Some of it didn’t look too promising!

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Hiking Cerro Guanaco – Tierra del Fuego

Given my very limited time in Ushuaia before I headed off to Antarctica, I really wanted to get out for 1 day to the Tierra del Fuego National Park to do some hiking.  There are quite a few trails but after reading some descriptions I decided to do the Cerro Guanaco trail, that promised an “outstanding view of the Fuegian mountain range and its peatbogs”.   Given the day was absolutely perfect (no clouds, sun shining, no wind!), how could I pass up the opportunity!

Tierra del Fuego National Park Map

Got let out of the park transfer bus at the Lago Roca visitors centre, and started walking along the the edge of the lake to get to the trailhead.  Spectacular views and almost perfect reflections!

Lago Roca - Tierra del Fuego National Park - Argentina

The description I’d read initially also promised that this was a “strenuous” hike, and signage at the trailhead suggested 4hrs one way.  For 4km?  I hope not!

Cerro Guanaco trail - Tierra del Fuego National Park - Argentina

Turns out, they aren’t fibbing about the strenuous part!  Reminiscent of the Brewster’s Hut trek in New Zealand – the first part is a bit of a scramble up through the shade of beech trees, using their roots as stairs and following yellow poles and red dots.  

Cerro Guanaco trail - Tierra del Fuego National Park - Argentina

After about 3/4 hour I reached a bit of a clearing which I thought might be the first viewpoint indicated on my very rough map, but a little further along there was a yellow marker that said “3km”.    Hmmmm…. now does that mean that I’ve walked 3km and have 1km to go (it sure felt like it!) or that I’ve walked 1km and have 3km to go?     

I was hoping for the former, but unfortunately it turned out to be the latter 🙁

The next 1.5km actually wasn’t too difficult until I hit the peat bogs.   There had been a fair bit of rain a few days prior so it got very muddy on the trail, and this eventually spilled out into the bog itself.  Having not done too badly getting through the mud while remaining essentially clean and dry, I had to give it up as a bad joke trying to get through the bog.   My hiking shoes have long since lost their waterproof protection (turns out that Keens hiking shoes last about 8 months when you wear them continuously and do a fair bit of hiking – even the tread is coming off now), and by the time I’d managed to cross, my feet were soaked.  Oh well.

The bog! Cerro Guanaco trail - Tierra del Fuego National Park - Argentina

The peat bog!

Once across the peat bog, the terrain changed absolutely, from beech forest to scree slope, and yes, the last 1.5km was bloody hard work as well!    Walking up a slope of 45-60 degrees is not easy, especially with arthritic toes – it’s just the wrong angle it turns out…

The scree-slope! Cerro Guanaco trail - Tierra del Fuego National Park - Argentina

But the view from the top – absolutely stunning!   From there you can see the entire Cordillera Darwin, which forms the final part of the South American continent.   And such a perfect day to sit up there for an hour or so admiring the view – it’s extremely rare to not have wind!  

The incredible view! Cerro Guanaco trail - Tierra del Fuego National Park - Argentina

You also get a nice bird’s eye view of Ushuaia and the Beagle Channel.

The view to Ushuaia and the Beagle Channel - Cerro Guanaco trail - Tierra del Fuego National Park - Argentina

And more spectacular views down into the valley behind.

The view to valley behind - Cerro Guanaco trail - Tierra del Fuego National Park - Argentina

Turns out it only took 2.5 hours to reach the summit and, just like Brewster’s hut, it took almost as long to get back down (2 hours).   Those 60 degree scree slopes without hiking poles are kinda tricky!   

 

Recommendation:  If you have a gorgeous day – this is definitely the hike to do!   But, it is tough and probably not great if you suffer from vertigo, so be prepared.

Cost:  There are transfers from Ushuaia to the National Park each day that cost 400 Argentinean Pesos round trip.  It’s expensive (captive audience) but cheaper than hiring a car or taxi.   210 Argentinean Pesos for the entrance to the National Park.

Time:  It took me 2.5 hours to reach the summit and 2 hours to descend.  Add on about 40 minutes to walk from the Information Centre to the trailhead and back.

 

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