I’m just back from Nepal, my first trip since 2014 where I hiked Langtang.
Around 9,000 people diedduring the Nepalearthquake of 25 April 2015.
One tiny village in the Langtang Valley accounted for 243 of them: 175 villagers, 27 local tourism staff (guides and porters), and 41 foreign trekkers.
Yet in the 2018-19 fiscal year, a record 21,945 tourists (16,386 foreigners and 5,559 Nepalis) visited Langtang National Park.
So far as I could see, Nepal trails are busier than ever. And easier than ever as you could connect to the internet almost everywhere with a Nepal Telecom (Namaste) SIM card in my mobile phone. I didn’t once have to pay for electricity in the mountains.
The big 3 trekking areas for those who want to hike independently are
In South America early 2018 I quickly learned that most every tourist was using the free maps.me app every day.
I was using Google Maps offline.
Google has the best map data in the world.
Maps.me uses Open Street Map data.
Soon I was using both apps and comparing the results. Google Maps offline might be better but it’s far more complicated. You must define the exact square area you want to download. Files sizes are huge.
Maps.me does only one thing.And it does it well.
Opening the app in a new geographical area while on wifi results in one prompt asking if you want to download the maps for your current area. It’s dead easy.
Offline it uses GPS to pinpoint your location.
Surprisingly some hiking trails are included in the Open Street Map data.
From Bariloche there are two #55 buses taking two different routes to the ski resort. Check with locals to see where to catch the correct bus.
You need to purchase a SUBE bus card. Local buses do not take cash in Bariloche.
Two choices to start your trek:
1. Ski lift – Amancay to Dientes de Caballo ($24 in 2018)
2. Walk Arroyo Van Titter
Flush with cash, I took the cable car. Everyone else from my bus walked to save money.
(Early in the season the high route via the ski lift may be impassable due to snow and ice. Check with CAB in Bariloche to confirm.)
The cable car is very popular with day hikers. They come up on clear days to see the amazing vista over to Chile. This is called the Las Nubes trail.
From the top of the lift it’s about 4 hours to Frey or to the most popular alternative, Cascada camp.
I was surprised at the challenging ridge walk required. It’s difficult right off the bat. Follow the paint splotches.
It’s a high alpine route, not a trail.
I met an American day hiking who planned on descending via Frey and Arroyo Van Titter. Same day. He would be finishing in the dark.
There’s no water up high. It was hot.
At Cancha de Futbol you either turn left and head for Refugio Frey (the only Refugio which requires a reservation for both dormitory and camping) … OR, turn right towards Jacob and psych up for the long, steep scree descent towards the valley.
I planned to camp down in the green at Cascada as I couldn’t get a reservation for Frey.
First I turned left hoping to see Frey from above.
I could see the pond above the refugio, but the hut itself was out of sight below.
For navigation I was using Lonely Planet Trekking in the Patagonian Andes (out of print) — Nahuel Huapi Traverse PDF on my phone. I’d scanned it.
I enjoyed the great views up high on the ridge before starting down.
The descent was long, hot and somewhat dangerous. But I was happier than some British friends I met who were climbing UP to camp at Frey that night (illegally).
Getting to the tranquil, green, shaded campsite at dusk was wonderful. Plenty of clean water.
Viewranger offers no coverage for Chile and Argentina. Sounds like Gaia GPS is best for those nations.
I can download Patagonian maps and use them offline on the trail.
Gaia GPS is free to try for a week. Subscription membership costs $19.99/year while a Premium Membership is $39.99/year.
I joined the lower tier plan hoping the additional maps would help in South America. For Aconcagua Park, Argentina, for example, none of the layers are much good aside from Satellite with Labels. You can see the trails clearly beside water sources, tents, etc.
I’ll try it when I get there in a week or so.
Gaia claims to be superior to AllTrails in most regards, as well. And less expensive.
Without question Paine in Patagonian Chile is one of the finest and most memorable treks in the world.
But the logistics of getting everything booked in advance is daunting.
Backpackers Review posted a detailed trip report of their December 2017 circuit. It includes the latest details on getting reservations:
It is mandatory to attain all reservations for camping and refugio shelters prior to entering Torres del Paine National Park.
If you do not have reservations for your trek, you will not be able complete the Circuit trek. Reservations fill up fast for the prime season (November-March), so you should book several months in advance (for the Circuit trek, the number of trekkers is limited to 80 per day).
Outside of your camping reservations there is no separate permit needed to hike the Circuit. You simply pay the 21,000 peso (~$35) entrance fee when you arrive at the park and show proof of your camping reservations at several spots along the trek.
If you book your campsites early enough, you will have multiple options for itineraries and can decide to hike the circuit over anywhere from 6-9 days.
A map with the various campsites and refugios highlighted is shown below.
Note that there are free campsites run by the Chilean government (CONAF) and there are sites run by two different private companies (Fantastico Sur and Vertice Patagonia).
Prices for the accommodations run by the private companies range from ~$10 per person per night for camping to over $75 per person per night for a bed and meals in the refugios.
Some of the refugios are now requiring people to purchase meals, even if you camp (Chileno and Los Cuernos require full board meals in 2017-2018). This adds a lot of cost and is annoying, but the only other option is to not stay at these sites and adjust your itinerary. …
Which camps you decide stay at will largely depend on how many days you have in the park, how much money you want to spend, and whether you prefer to camp or stay in shared bunks. A few example itineraries are as follows (we hiked the 9 day one):
9 days: Seron > Dickson > Los Perros > Paso > Grey > Paine Grande > Frances > Chileno or Las Torres
8 days: Seron > Dickson > Los Perros > Paso > Paine Grande > Frances > Chileno or Las Torres
7 days: Seron > Los Perros > Grey > Paine Grande > Frances > Chileno or Las Torres
6 days: Seron > Los Perros > Paine Grande > Frances > Chileno or Las Torres