Huemul Route, Fitz Roy, Argentina – day 1

trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles

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

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.

El Chaltén

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.

Good Luck

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.

below the Loma del Pliegue Tumbado lookout

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.

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

NEW – Annapurna Seven Passes route

I’ve twice been on the Annapurna Circuit. It has been degraded by road building. In fact, on the more recent trip I enjoyed mountain biking more than hiking.

Tripple P. Gurung decided to invent an alternative in the region.

The Annapurna Seven Passes … is a 20-day trek that takes a trekker through seven high passes, four of which are above 5,000 meters. In addition to the challenge of the high passes, this trek offers a mix of wilderness and culture that is missing from treks that run through villages. …

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

It’s actually a route, not a trail. I would need a guide.

QUICK FACTS

  • Difficulty Level
    Hard
  • Total Length
    177 Km
  • Highest Altitude
    5416 Meters
  • Start location
    Tal (1,665m)
  • Finish location
    Jomsom (2,740m)
  • Permits
    ACAP Permit,TIMS Permit,Naar-Phu Restricted Area Permit
  • Best Season
    April-November

Click through for details:

Saving the Annapurna Circuit – The Annapurna Seven Passes Trek

Skurka is writing a book on the new Yosemite High Route

He hopes to publish February 2019 to get the information out for next season.

As Skurka has envisioned it, the YHR forms a figure-eight from Dorothy Lake Pass in the north, pinching in the middle at Tuolomne Meadows, and extending as far south as the area surrounding Rodgers Peak, not far from Mt. Lyell. …

What are your favorite sections?

The “good stuff” on the Yosemite High Route runs south from Grace Meadow in upper Falls Creek and ends at Quartzite Peak at the northern end of the Clark Range. All the miles between these two points are world-class. You can’t go wrong. …

Adventure Journal 

andrewskurka.com – Trip Report: Scouting the Yosemite High Route

Morocco’s Toubkal Circuit – day 1

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles.

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

Toubkal is by far the most popular and important trekking destination in Morocco for serious hikers.

It’s easily accessible from Marrakesh.

Lonely Planet

Unhappily I couldn’t find either camping fuel nor english language hiking guidebook for Toubkal in Marrakesh.

Lonely Planet said there were good gear shops in the trailhead town of Imlil (1740m).

My hostel in Marrakesh told me where to find the shared cabs to Imlil. But that turned out to be my greatest navigational challenge. Shared taxis sprawl across several streets. A tout finally took me to the right one.

In 2018 locals paid 35 Dirham to get the 64km to Imlil. Foreigners 50 Dirham. ($5.40) Cost seemed to be non-negotiable.

Vans don’t leave until full … plus 3-5 more people.

It’s less than 2 hours from the hot city to the much cooler High Atlas mountains.

Imlil is an impressive and popular tourist town.

Unfortunately the best gear shop in town — Atlas Extreme — was closed when I arrive. For an hour? A day? A Week? None of the neighbours seemed to know.

I’d wanted this guidebook for the trip. But Trailblazer doesn’t sell a digital version. I needed a paper copy.

IMG_1063

I managed to get some used stove fuel and the map of the region instead at a tiny stall. The map ($10 plus) was fairly useless. It doesn’t show the circuit route. I did have the 5 page Lonely Planet description on my phone. And I did have little maps like this.

Toubkal circuit

Not wanting to wait around, I got off on to the “trail” as quickly as possible.

departing Imlil

It was a hot, sunny day. I saw very few water sources.

Why was I walking on a paved road?

Only one stretch took me off-road and up through a village.

These mountains are massive.

I looked forwards to getting away from the heat.

On this excellent road I saw very few vehicles. A lot of sheep.

I walked up this valley past Berber villages Talate n’Chaoute, Tamguist and Ouaneskra.

Many locals ran out to greet me urging I stay in their homes or camp in their yards. I was unimpressed by most explaining that I planned to hike until 7pm.

Finally I passed a young man with a Canada cap. Stopping to chat with that group I met a guesthouse manager named Aziz. I liked him instantly. Everyone who passed by had a friendly word with him. Popular and charismatic.

I decided to “comp” at Gite Entre Les Vallees. Aziz was surprised I didn’t want instead to sleep in any of the 13 empty beds he had inside.

His location is ideal. A new bridge is being built across the river right next door. Soon he’ll have all the traffic.

Before dinner I went for a walk on the other side of the valley to try to see my route for the next day. It looked intimidating.

I still had no idea which of those passes was the one I’d need to cross.

I did meet some French hikers who’d come up with a rent-a-car to climb a peak on this side of the valley. Acclimatization. It was over 3000m.

The first time I went to take a photo of a Berber woman in the fields she called up to me NO PHOTOS. I respected that injunction for the rest of the trip.

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

free offline maps for hiking

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.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

If interested, download the free Maps.me app to your mobile device. Browse the Maps.me support – Getting started.