trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles
One of my big goals for this Patagonia trip was to do the NEWLY popular Huemul Circuit out of El Chaltén, Argentina’s Trekking Capital or Capital Nacional del Trekking. (I do have El Chaltén included in my list of the top 10 hiking towns of the world.)
Huemul is a difficult, remote, wild visit to the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, the second largest in the world.
Here I call Huemul a route rather than a trail because navigation can be very challenging, especially in low visibility. I got lost 3 times for 1-2 hours, for example. ☹️
As weather was good, I rushed to get on the Huemel the day after my arrival.
NOTHING went right.
For example, after buying the required (and fairly useless) map, I decided to CARBO LOAD 🙄 with a half kilo of gourmet ice-cream. In that short visit I managed to lose my new map. Did it blow away? … And had to go back to the store to buy a replacement. ☹️
I must have walked 20km around town simply trying to get permit, gear and food for the trip. Many businesses still take a 3-4 hour siesta middle-of-the-day in Chaltén. ☹️
I waited for the shops to open to rent my Tyrolean Traverse harness, equipment you are suppose to show while filling out free registration at the National Park information station.
Rangers gave me excellent advice. Warned me of even BIGGER WINDS THAN USUAL forecast for day 2. And had me watch an orientation video for the Huemul.
They DISCOURAGE inexperienced hikers. And recommend you take a guide.
It was nearly 5pm before I started walking up the trail.
One GREAT thing about the Chaltén hikes is that all the popular ones walk out-of and back-to town. There’s no transport needed to get to trailheads.
It’s an easy start on the well trod Laguna Toro trail. About 15km to reach the campground.
Weird were the hundreds of thousands of caterpillars on this section. Over the 4 days I accidentally touched two — very painful.
If you have time and energy — and the big peaks are clear — consider making the side trip to the Loma del Pliegue Tumbado lookout. That’s at least 3 hours return.
I didn’t have time so climbed up there following the Huemul.
The weather was lovely for this part of the world.
Off to my left was glacier fed Lago Viedma. That’s where I’d be finishing the loop.
Most of this adventure is above tree line. But there are a few short sections day 1 through dark and gloomy forest.
When I saw this sign I decided I’d stop short of the official campsite.
So far navigation had been a piece of cake. There are stakes on grass. And some random cairns on the rocky sections.
There’s Laguna Toro below the glacier.
I’d heard some negative reports. Mice at campgrounds are a nuisance, for example. People have died of Hantavirus in the Andes.
Here’s one species of mouse I found dead on the trail.
I set up in a cow pasture with this lovely view to the river.
Wild Camping is not allowed in the National Park. But I couldn’t see any harm.
No fly was required. The night perfectly clear. My best star gazing so far. I did see the Southern Cross.