IMG_5835Ushuaia, the end of the world as it is commonly known is the most southernly city in the world located at the very bottom of the South American continent. Expeditions for Antarctica set off from here, there is plenty of trekking and it is possible (in the right season) to visit colonies of thousands of penguins. The environment here can be very harsh with strong cold winds coming up from Antarctica, even in summer the surrounding mountains are covered in snow.

IMG_4389The weather outlook for my stay wasn’t very promising so I was only in town for two full days during which I explored the town, hiked up to Martial Glacier and spent a day walking in Tierra del Fuego National Park.

The Martial Glacier is directly behind the town and although the glacier itself isn’t that impressive the view from it is. From the top of the hike you can see down onto Ushuaia, the surrounding mountains and out to the Beagle Channel and onto Isla Navarino, Chile. The trail takes you from the bottom of the winter ski slope up into the mountain, the gravel then gives way to snow and the hike can be a little wet and slippery. Sections are fairly steep but after an hour or two you are at the top and you just can’t beat the view. Heading down can also be a little challenging until you get out of the snow and then if you decide to walk all the way back to town there are some nice trails through the bushland that you can follow rather than walk down the road.

IMG_4459To explore Tierra del Fuego national park you need at least a whole day, with two you could climb Cerro Guanaco. I just started from Ensenada Bay where I first walked the 3km Alta Plata trail which took about an hour and a half return up to the lookout. If you don’t have much time then you could probably give this one a miss as the views weren’t that impressive. I then followed the Coastal trail which follows the shoreline along Ensenada Bay. This was very nice walk, it is very easy and you get to see a number of different bird species. The view across the bay and onto the surrounding snowcapped mountains in both Argentaina and Chile is stunning. Apart from the birds I also saw two foxes at the end of the trail that both just casually strolled past me.

The following morning I was on the early bus (5am) to Punta Araenas in Chile. The bus ride was suppose to take around 12 hours as it included a border crossing and gravel roads however it turned out to be much much longer. Not long after lunch we made it to the Straight of Magellan which separates Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego and the South American mainland, here there is no bridge but a ferry to take you across however due to the 100km per hour winds the ferry was not running. After six hours of waiting we were finally able to make the short crossing and then it was another few hours to Punta Araenas. Originally I planned to visit a penguin and sea lion colney the next morning but due to our late arrival this wasn’t possible and I headed straight onto Puerto Natales to get ready to start the W trek in Torres del Paine National Park.

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El Chalten


El Chalten is a beautiful town set within a valley in the Los Glaciares National Park. The surrounding views, even from the town on the valley floor are stunning with the granite peaks of Mt Fitzroy and Cerro dominating the landscape. Access to El Chalten is usually via El Calafate which is an easy three hour bus ride away. If you come by one of the many buses that arrive during the day you’ll stop at the ranger station on the edge of the town where you will receive a run down on the national park. The rangers are very passionate about the area and their primary goal is to keep the park in a pristine condition for the generations to come, and keep it free, so they really drill down the point of respecting the land and that you leave no trace when hiking and camping in the national park.

The weather in this town, and the whole Southern Patagonian region is very unpredictable and in summer there can be very strong winds so it is ideal to allow extra days in your itinerary to wait out the weather if required. I spent six days here which wasn’t long enough if you really enjoy trekking and camping, but it was ample time to complete three amazing short treks.

Lago de los Tres – Mt Fitz Roy

IMG_4133After arriving from El Calafate in the morning we got some supplies together and headed out around 3pm for the camping ground. Our intention was to hike up to the campsite, stay the night and then hike up to the lake to see the sunrise which is suppose to be quite amazing when the first rays of light hit the granite peaks.

IMG_4137The weather when we left El Calafate that morning was quite average but it cleared up throughout the day and when we started our trek most of the sky was clear, just not the section over Mt Fitz Roy… The trail head is at the western end of town and from here the track steadily climbs for about an hour before flattening out. As you climb there are some views back over El Chalten from behind and some great views further down the valley and onto the snowcapped mountains. After the climb and once through a forested area the view is now directly onto Mt Fitz Roy and its neighbouring mountains and glaciers.

IMG_4155The hike to the Camp Poincenot was generally pretty easy. The camp is not particually pretty, it’s sheltered among tall pines that provide some protection from the gale force winds but offer no view. After setting up camp we still had a few hours of daylight left so we decided to head up to the lake so we would know what we were in for the next morning.

After perhaps 20 minutes of fairly flat terrain the trail then climbs steeply to the lake for about an hour. It was a very windy and at times the wind was almost strong enough to knock you down if you didn’t have firm footing. At the top, if it was clear, the view of the glacier and the peaks would be amazing but we were only able to see glimpses peaking through the clouds. It had now started to rain/sleet which felt like needles against our skin given the incredibly strong winds. We took in the scenery as quick as we could and then headed back down to camp.
Over night the wind died down but by around 5am it was stronger than the day before so we decided not to head up to the lake for sunrise. I checked for clouds again at 7:30 when there was some light and the peaks were still shrouded by clouds so we were glad we didn’t battle the winds for nothing. We started to head back around 9am and to our surprise when we looked back after leaving the camp the sky had completely cleared and the view of Mt Fitz Roy was stunning. We stopped not long after in a sunny spot near a stream for breakfast where we could take in the view.

Overall the trail is quite moderate with the exception of the final climb to lake and with clear skies the scenery is exceptional. It would be a solid day hike up to the lake and back of about 8 hours.

Lago Torre

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IMG_4226This trail starts at the northern end of town and steadily climbs for around an hour. As you head up there are view back towards El Chatlen but from a different aspect than from the Mt Fitz Roy trek. When the trail starts to flatten out at Mirador del Torre you are greeted by the first complete view of the tall granite spire of Cerro Torre. The trail then heads down for a short while before a steady climb all the way to the camp and Laguna Torre. The views along the way are great but the view from the lake is fantastic.

From the lake you can see Cerro Torre in all its glory along with the glacier which snakes down in front of the mountain through the valley and breaks out into the lake. When we arrived at the lake we were treated to the view of a fairly large iceberg that had run aground not far from the shore. After some lunch we headed up around the northern side of the lake from where there are great views down onto the glacier, Laguna Torre and of course Cerro Torre.

This was a great day trek and was fairly easy going the whole way but allow for an 8 hour return journey.


Lago Torro Trek

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IMG_5761After awful weather the day before the wind had died down and the sun was shinning for the start of my trek out to Lago Torro which would be a two day trip there and back. The trail head starts at the eastern end of town behind the ranger station, two short walks also start from the same location but head east while this trail heads south. It’s approximately 15km each way and the suggested time is 7hrs one way although at an average pace and carrying food and camping gear I made it in about 4 and a half hours to the campsite with good weather.

The trail starts off in nice country, heading up out of the valley that encompasses the town. From here it is a steady ascent for some time and you are treated to great views back over El Chalten and onto Mt Fitz Roy, Cerro Torre and the other peaks that stand tall over the town. After an hour or two you come to a fork in the road, to the west is the trail to mirador Pliegue Tumbado and the trail to Lago Torro continues south.

IMG_4258The trail now heads into a forested section and when you finally exit the forest you are faced with a great view of a snow capped peak straight ahead, to the west Mt Fitz Roy and two the east a small lake and beyond that is Lago Viedma. You then enter another small forest and when you come out from here the views are even better.

The trail continues along the top of this hill for some time before decending down to the valley floor below. This section was quite windy and it didn’t abate until I was well and truely down into the valley. The next section seems long and a bit boring. There are a couple of streams to cross and after another  hour or so is the Lago Torro camp ground. The camp ground is behind a rocky outcrop and a forested area partially protecting it from the winds that batter the valley.

Just around from the camp is Lago Torro and behind the lake lies the glacier Rio Tunel. If you have at least another three hours of light you can climb up the mountains behind the lake up to the face of the glacier. For me this was the highlight of this trek and was what made it worthwhile. The views from above the lake are very impressive to say the least. It is possible, with care, to get within a few meters of the glacier, standing safely on the rocks on the other side of the face. Its also possible to scale this hill for 360 degree views over the glacier, the valley and lake from where you’ve just come. Caution needs to be taken with this climb up and even more going down as there is no trail and you just have to find your own way. It is easy to get stuck on a ledge with no way down.

From here it is possible to cross the pass beyond the glacier and loop around back past the lakes for a 3 or 4 day circuit. I wasn’t aware of this when in set out so on the second day I headed back the same way I came.

If you have at least two days available to complete this trail I highly recommend it if you are up for climbing up to the glacier.

After El Chalten it was onto Ushuia at the bottom of the South American continent.


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El Calafate


IMG_4020El Calafate is a popular tourist town in southern Argentina, it is part of the Patagonian region and is the gateway to Perito Moreno Glacier, Los Glaciares National Park, and stunning trekking in El Chalten. There are buses and flights to El Calafate from as far north as Buenos Aires, in the south from Ushuaia and also buses from Torres del Paine in Chile. A trip out to Perito Moreno Glacier is a must which can be done on a tour or simply by catching the bus out for a few hours.

Perito Moreno Glacier is one of only a few patagonian glaciers that are still advancing. This glacier is in a constant state of movement which gives its visitors a spectacular show every single day when sections, sometimes quite large sections, break-off and crash into the water below. On occasion the glacier has been know to make landfall and dam the water on the western side of the glacier which then builds ups and eventually creates a land-bridge and then that bridge eventually collapses.

The shape of the valley and the general area make access and viewing of this glacier very easy, there is a road right up to its face. A substantial boardwalk has been constructed along the shore opposite the face of the glacier which gives you a front row seat to all the action but at a safe distance. If the boardwalk isn’t enough then you can head out onto the ice on a tour with Hielo & Aventura. We did the Mini Ice option which was OK but I wouldn’t really recommend it, the Big Ice option would be much better as you get to spend a lot more time on the ice and see a more remote area. Other companies also offer similar trips in the El Chalten region and they also include ice climbing.

The only thing to see in El Calafate is the glacier so the following day we caught one of the many daily buses to El Chalten, 3 hours away.


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Bariloche is a beautiful small town in Argentina which lies on the eastern side of the Andes. In winter it a very popular ski town and in the summer it is great for trekking and rock climbing. Bariloche and the surrounding area is in one of the northern sections of the Patagonia region which extends north to Concepcion, Chile, and south to the bottom of the continent, encompassing parts of both Argentina and Chile. The town itself is stunning and sits on the edge of Lago Nahuel Huapi with views onto the Andes and has streets full of chocolate and ice-cream stores. While here apart from exploring the town and trying the local chocolate we competed a one day trek to Refugio Frey.

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To get to the trailhead from Bariloche it is a short 30 min bus ride out to the Catedral Ski park. There are maps available from the information desk near the carpark but they really only show the ski runs which in summer are pretty much worthless. The trail is however very well marked and a map is not necessary. From the left side of the carpark (when facing the mountain) the trail heads up and around the mountain heading away from the winter ski area. It continues south around the mountain giving some nice views back towards some nearby lakes. After about an hour the trail heads west up into the mountain through a forested region before finally breaking out into a rocky and dry valley. Despite the lack of vegetation in this area there is a solid river running through the valley that is fed by a couple of alpine lakes, one of which is at Refugio Frey.

IMG_3928The hike up to Refugio Frey on this trail was quite easy and the views across the lake and the rocky outcrop above are stunning. From Refugio Frey many climbers also set out for what looks like a pretty amazing climb up a sheer rock face above the lake. For the return journey we had the option of returning the way we came or continuing north-west past the lake and then up out of the valley. We chose to continue on and we were rewarded with great views the whole way. This section of the trail was a bit more challenging than the way up and included a bit of scrambling. It takes maybe an hour to get up to the second lake and then another 45 mins to get up over the pass to the other side of the mountain. Once over the pass you are welcomed to views out to some snow capped mountains and a green valley below. The trail then cuts across lose rock for almost two hours until you reach the top of the ski park. It is then possible to head down to a ski lift on the right for a cable car ride down to the car park. By this stage a free ride was most welcome as the second part of the hike was quite tiring. The walk down from the top of the ski park would likely take another two hours, fortunately we made it to the ski lifts just before they shut them off at about 5pm (in summer there are two lifts running for hikers). Once on the lift the workers jumped on behind us and we were the last passengers for the day.


Completing the hike as a circuit, and in the direction we did, was in hindsight a good choice as the views you get are completely different and the return journey was much more dramatic. If you intend to do this trek make sure you allow about 8 hours and leave early enough so that you can make it to the last ski lift at around 5pm to avoid a long walk down the dry slopes.

From Bariloche we did a marathon 30hr bus ride to El Calafate.

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