Palm Springs to Paradise Cafe – day 3

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles 

Day 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

Having hiked 1 day and 2 hours so far … I took a zero in Idyllwild, California. 😀

Most PCT hikers take a zero in Idyllwild. It’s one of the most popular towns on the PCT. Party time. But most hikers have put in 10 hard days or more to get here.

Civilization

I hadn’t planned on taking a zero. I was fresh.

But the day prior my beloved MSR Hubba tent pole broke in two places. It took a couple of hours, one splint and plenty of duct tape to hack a fix.

There’s one good gear shop in Idyllwild – Nomad Ventures.

By the time I got the tent fixed and packed up … it was Noon.

The library opened at Noon. Free internet. A chance to fully charge all my electronics. I couldn’t resist. One thing led to another and …

… the library closed at 5pm. Too late to get back on the trail.

I returned to the $5 PCT camping area and set up my fragile tent. Again.

Reportedly the least expensive rooms in town were $150 / night. And were full.

Dinner was rotisserie chicken, my favourite townie food. And then I headed over to Higher Grounds Coffee Shop for LIVE music on Friday night.

I hung around the campfire until 10pm. That’s an hour later than usual. Hiker midnight is 9pm.

PCT hikers were in holiday mode. One insisted I have a beer.

OK.

Day 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

Jetboil MiniMo – my fave stove

In recent years I’ve been using the JetBoil MiniMo.

I cook and drink out of the one pot.

I love the convenience of the piezoelectric igniter. The auto-igniters on early JetBoils FAILED quickly, but they seem to have solved that problem now.

You can fit an 8oz canister in the wider pot of the MiniMo. You can also fit a 4 oz canister along with the MiniMo’s burner in its pot sideways. That’s handy.

I don’t need simmer so that’s not a selling point for me.

The MiniMo replaced my much used MSR Reactor.

The best thing about the Reactor is that it is NOT locked on to the stove. I find it safer.

MSR Reactor

Both those stoves might be nearing end-of-life. … Or they may keep working for another decade. Both are bashed up.

So in advance of my recent, remote Patagonia trip I bought a new stove …

JetBoil Flash.

I hadn’t realized it had a colour changing boil indicator. Cute. I did watch.

But I found myself more often boiling over my dinner in the Flash. For me the larger capacity MiniMo is just right. And the MiniMo is easier to clean.

Adventure Alan likes the MiniMo best, as well.

Read about other, lighter options here

related – Outdoor Gear Labs review – JetBoil MiniMo

my favourite hiking meal

Most nights tenting in the backcountry I cook up the same basic dinner:

Instant mashed potatoes with instant soup (often Knorr brand).

Instant mashed potatoes are available in small grocery shops the world over as is instant soup.

United Kingdom

To keep gear as light as possible I cook, eat and drink out of one pot.

I carry only one metal spoon. No knife, fork or spork.

To enhance the fairly bland base meal I add chilli powder or lemon pepper. Then something like peanuts, raisins or tuna.

I never seem to tire of this grub. Cook up is fast using very little fuel. Clean-up quick and easy.

Huemul Route, Fitz Roy, Argentina – day 4

trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles

Huemul Route – day 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | info

Day 4 was my walkout back to El Chaltén. Everyone hikes counter-clockwise.

Here’s the whole circuit visiting the Southern Patagonian Ice Field.

Circuit map via Travel 2 Walk

Very atypical for me, I didn’t sleep well.

And it rained on and off through the night.

Happily the sun came out about the time I got out of the tent.

Despite my efforts of the previous day, I’d only saved about an hour by hiking past the designated campground. I could still see the glacier. And there was again a rainbow. 🙂

The trail continued in parallel to the Lake Videma shoreline thorough dry grasslands.

Though still beautiful, this was the least impressive day, I’d say. Not much variety.

The highlight was rabbits more rabbits. And one non-rabbit. He may have been a Patagonian mara.

When I caught a glimpse I assumed it was a plains viscacha, but it was more likely a mara.

I was looking forward to the second Tyrolean Traverse.

Arriving alone, I found the pulley was at this, the far side of the river. 😕 There SHOULD have been a slim rope attached to pull it over to the start on the other side.

What to do?

I knew I could walk to the lake and (probably) wade the river mouth. But figuring a way across was more fun.

My alternatives:

1. Attach my pulley carabiner directly to the cable (rather than the pulley)

2. Use ONLY my steel carabiner (normally a redundant safety system). This is what the guide did once on our first Traverse.

I went with #1 thinking it was the safer option. That worked. But I had to pull myself every inch with friction from the carabiner resisting. It was exhausting.

Here are some guys wading.

Walk Patagonia

From there it was easy to find my way down to the Bahía Del Túnel dock.

This boat takes tourists to the Videma glacier.

I saw no people. No vehicles. So stayed on the ‘trail’ headed towards a ranch.

Actually, my hiking map showed the trail ending at the dock. Some probably walk the (much longer) road to town.

I could find no trail. Instead I worked my way through more grasslands in the direction of El Chaltén.

Ready to be done, I stumbled on to this calf. It was the second dead cow I’d seen.

When I hit the first fence, being a polite Canadian, I tried to walk around the ranch.

That was a mistake. In the end I hopped about 5 fences and opened one gate. It wasted at least another hour. I should have hopped the first fence and headed directly to the highway.

It was with satisfaction and relief that my final fence hop delivered me to this roadside lookout.

From there was an easy 3km to town on pavement.

I dropped my registration form at the Parks information office. They seemed happy to see I had survived.

With a big smile on my face I returned my rental Tyrolean Traverse harness to ‘Camping Center’ in town. That was the only gear rental store I could find that doesn’t close for siesta.

It was back to the hostel for a long, hot, long shower. 🙂

YES my hostel had a 24 hour a day restaurant! It’s popular with the late night partying backpacker crowd.

All I’d consumed this day was coffee. At 6:30pm I splurged on a huge meal. Breaded chicken a lo pobre.

The Huemul Route out of Fitz Roy, Argentina is superb. Some of the best vistas of my life. One of the very best hikes in the world.

____

If you are worried at all about the Traverses … and navigation, consider signing on with a guided group. Chalten Mountain Guides, for example.

related:

For a MUCH BETTER trip report – Travel 2 Walk: El Chaltén – Fitz Roy and Huemul Circuit, March 2017. (They did it again January 2019!)

bookmundi – Argentina 2019 – Huemul Circuit Parque Nacional Los Glaciares of Argentine

If you prefer your trip reports in video format, here are a few to check out.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

Huemul Route – day 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | info

unreal Tasmanian Winter Traverse

One of the toughest journeys on foot … ever.

Louis-Phillipe Loncke …. This was an epic journey that left him exhausted, pushed to his limits, and 15 kg (33 pounds) lighter than when he set off.

The video below is from a new report aired in Australia that caught up with the Belgian adventurer just as he was crossing the finish line, providing some insights into what this journey was like. …

Adventure Blog

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

Morocco’s Toubkal Circuit – day 2

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles.

day 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | info | video

I woke at dawn. Shared a couple of cups of coffee with Aziz.

Then told him I might return if I couldn’t find the route.

I climbed back up to the paved road surprised to find this hotel.

If I was to do the circuit again I’d hire a cab in Imlil to deliver me here on the paved road. Begin the hike next morning.

I still had no idea where to start the climb up to Tizi Likemt (3550m), the first high pass.

Happily I saw a brightly coloured people walking down the highway in my direction. It was an Israeli couple who had just finished the circuit the opposite direction.

Waiting on them was the smartest thing I did all week. They told me the entire circuit is available on Maps.me. I had downloaded it in advance. My navigation problems were solved.

Maps.me saves the day again.

I’m sure they thought I looked too energetic. Over-confident.

I was raring to go.

On the other hand, this poor carnivore might have been a bad omen.

The climb was very long. And not all that thrilling.

Looking backward …

There’s a Japanese donated weather station at the pass, but you can’t see it from the side I climbed.

It was hot and sunny. No water.

My Darn Toughs did all 5 days of the hiking. I switched to camp socks / shoes each evening.

It was a long, hot descent as well.

In fact, a pass this high first day is stupid. That’s not smart acclimatization. On the way down I resolve to NOT recommend these first 2 days to future hikers.

Here’s the first water I’d seen in hours. All water sources should be treated in these mountains unless you see it coming out of the mountain with your own eyes.

I was happy to reach the river. A German group had already claimed the best spot.

Further along I enjoyed a couple of pots of coffee.

This is a summer grazing settlement. Animals and their keepers will head down soon when snow threatens.

The next section climbing through a gorge was very entertaining. One of my favourite bits.

I finally camped at an open area on another creek near yet another guided hiking group.

Dinner in the dark was coucous, soup, raisins and peanuts. For Morocco I switched from my usual instant mashed potatoes base to couscous.

day 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | info | video 

Refuge Entre Deux Eaux in the French Alps

Guest post.

How a Law Student in Paris and a Designer in Tokyo became Guardians of a Mountain Refuge in the Alps

When packing for your stay at Refuge Entre Deux Eaux, we recommend leaving your neon lycra pants and tinned food at home. Upon arrival, you’ll meet your hosts Clara and Björn who will probably greet you in ripped jeans and sneakers, and then offer you a slice of local, organic blueberry pie hot from the oven.

Perched 2200m above sea level in Vanoise National Park, there stands a one hundred year old mountain refuge situated “entre deux eaux” (between two mountain streams) which richly rewards those who venture out to find it.

From June to September every year, Clara and Björn ascend into the French Alps to assume their seasonal role as caretakers of the refuge, creating a haven for hikers and travellers who stop by for anything from a glass of local wine to a night’s stay complete with dinner and breakfast service. For those few summer months, the old house is filled with the aromas of country cooking, the sounds of different languages and occasional accordion jam sessions which have been known to break out spontaneously in the communal kitchen.

Today at the Refuge Entre Deux Eaux, travellers can enjoy organic blueberry pie from the tiny nearby village of La Chappelle-du-Bard, buttery tomme cheese from a local fromagerie and natural locally made wines by families who have practised their art for generations.

Guests who wish to stay for a meal are treated to dishes characterised by simplicity and showcase products from the region like pork sautéed with baby carrots and turnips, veal blanquette and hachis parmentier, France’s answer to shepherd’s pie.

The kitchen also happily caters for vegetarians on a daily basis, to support individuals who wish to minimise the impact their food choices have on the planet. “Our dishes are designed around local products and from environmentally friendly agriculture,” says Clara. “We’re committed to investing in the local market and supporting producers by paying them at the right price. When food is sourced, produced and prepared sustainably and locally, it tastes better. And isn’t eating well the most important thing on a mountain expedition?”


refugeentredeuxeaux.com | Instagram |refugeentredeuxeaux (a) gmail.com

 

Trekking to Aconcagua’s Plaza Francia INDEPENDENTLY – Day 1

trip report by editor Rick McCharles

day 0 | 1 | 2 | 3 | info page| video

Next morning was sunny. Mendoza enjoys 330 days of sun a year.

With only a 3-4 hour walk in gaining about 400m, I packed heavy.

There are 3 buses a day from Mendoza to the Aconcagua Provincial Park. Go early to the Mendoza bus station and buy a ticket in advance on the Buttini Bus. Seats are assigned. Ask for a window on the right side of the bus. Cost one way in 2018 was AR$130.

Roberto sat down beside me on the bus. He’s a rafting guide from Guatemala who’s worked all over the world. 15 years on the Arkansas river in Colorado, for example.

In 2018 he’s finally guiding the Grand Canyon. Those trips are decided on by a lottery system. He jumped off at Potrerillos where he was visiting a friend, another guide.

I was headed back towards Santiago, Chile on the same scenic highway I’d traveled on an express bus. My local bus stopped everywhere taking 4 hours to get back to close to the border with Chile.

The Parque Provincial Aconcagua office on the highway is quite well organized. We had our permits checked and strictly informed that all trash must be returned in a numbered bag back to this office.

Day hikers can walk a short way up the valley towards the big mountain for $10. (foreigners $25.50)

It’s a popular stop for tourists.

In fact you get quite a good view of Aconcagua from the highway. For free.

You need to walk up a paved road to the parking lot before getting started.
I was to be surprised how many helicopters race up to Aconcagua every day. Two are parked here at the entrance. Ready to go.
Only those with trekking permits can cross the river. I felt I was finally on the Francia trek.
Excited, I rushed up to Confluencia camp (3350m) as quickly as I could.

It looks much more impressive from a distance than up close.
In fact, it’s rather crowded and dirty.

Guided clients sleep in one of the company fixed tents.

When not in use they are protected.
I do like their big bright shared areas.

It was late afternoon, the sun already passed behind the mountains.
On arrival you check in with the camp guards. They directed me to the tiny area where independent campers are allowed to pitch. We are definitely second class clients here.
Toilets are BAD for guided clients as well as independents.

Chilled and surprisingly tired, I crawled into my sleeping bag and had a nap. I had a slight altitude headache but no other symptoms.

Eventually getting up, II wandered around early evening, enjoying nightfall.

There’s a convenient picnic table with good water supply for independent hikers. I had my standard Knorr soup with instant mashed potatoes. Barbecue chicken mixed in.
Cheeky Andean fox tend to show up at campsites about dusk. I saw this one hanging around at dinner hoping for leftovers. And another two in the early morning.
BIG day tomorrow. I tried to get as much sleep as I could at 3350m.

Half the crowded camp wanted to rest. The other half to party. Bring headphones or earplugs.