Ball Pass route, New Zealand

Some in New Zealand will tell you Ball Pass is … closed.

It’s possible. But tough. A route not a trail.

Halfway Anywhere posted a detailed trip description on how to pull it off yourself. In good weather.

Guide to Hiking Ball Pass Route in New Zealand

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Snowman Trek, Bhutan – Fastest Known Time attempt

Wow. This looks epic.

A team of Ultra-marathon runners (Benjamin Clark, Timothy Olson, Anna Frost, & Matt Trappe) journey to Bhutan to set a speed record on the world’s hardest trek.

But Bhutan’s Himalayan landscape isn’t welcoming to athletes unused to the conditions, and it’s inhabitants must be persuaded to let the runners pursue their dream.

The result is a shared accomplishment and an adventure that constantly teeters on the edge of total failure.

It’s going to be launched in select U.S. theatres May 17, 2018.

Click PLAY or watch a trailer on YouTube.

Hielo Azul circuit, El Bolsón, Argentina

trip report by site editor Rick McCharles 

Click PLAY or get a glimpse of my 3 day circuit on YouTube.

Getting to the trailhead at Camping Hue Nan is the most challenging navigation challenge.

You can road walk from El Bolsón as I did — 3 boring, dusty hours — or ask for bus directions to Camping Hue Nan. That trailhead may be changing. Check before you go. It was open to me February 2018

Look for the Acceso Refugio Hielo Azul sign.

I used the free Maps.me app and it worked perfectly for the entire circuit. On the other hand, I wished I’d hired a taxi or found the bus rather than done 3 hours of road walking.

Alternatively, there’s a way to start and finish a circuit by bus at Warton. The most popular trailhead.

You could reverse my route too, of course

El Bolsón, population 19,000 plus tourists is an excellent hiking town. It’s only 2 hours by bus from Bariloche, the bigger hiking destination in Argentina. Many hike both towns on the same trip.

Free registration is required. You don’t need to stick to your planned itinerary.

There are gear shops with camping fuel and fairly large grocery stores in town.

At the Mountain Information Office I bought a $4 amateur hiking guide partially translated to English. It’s not enough to navigate, but did provide some background information.

I was shocked to see some of the bridges here.

They are slowly being replaced by modern metal alternatives.

It was at least 1000m ascent and 4 hours up to Hielo Azul Refugio. My favourite alpine hut by far.

I was so happy to get there — and felt so warmly welcomed by the woman who greeted me — that I signed up for an 8pm $20 stew meal. My most expensive dinner in Argentina. (I brought my own wine.)

It really is paradise up here just below the glacier.

I paid $5 to tent.

Next morning I first registered at the mountain hut then scrambled the steep, 90 minute route up to the glacier. Beautiful.

I had some lunch on my return. Then set off on the clearly marked trail to Refugio Lago Natacion. An easy add-on.

From Natacion down to the Azul Canyon, however, was surprisingly steep and overgrown. Not many people do the circuit, I suspect, because this one section is quite challenging.

The canyon is impressive once you finally get there.

At one point you can straddle the gap, a long way above the crystal clear water!

I was reminded of Tiger Leaping Gorge. A tiger could easily leap this gorge, but not the one in China.

Tired, I decided to illegally wild camp by the river rather than walk the extra hour down to my designated refugio campground.

The trail out to Warton is a road accessible to motor vehicles. Swimming this river is the attraction, not the trail itself.

If my directions sound too sketchy, consider buying a map for about $10.

Aoneker 1:50,000 El Bolson 
(covers the following refuges: Co.Lindo, Hielo Azul, Natacion, Atillio & El Reramal)

Aoneker 1:120,000 Comarca Andina del Paralelo 42°
(covers all the refuges in the El Bolson region)

related – A Guide to Trekking in El Bolson, Patagonia

hiking Tronador to Otto Meiling – day 2

trip report by site editor Rick McCharles 

day 1 | 2 | video | info page

Happily, the rain quit sometime during the night. It dawned clear though clouds swirled around the high peak.

Beautiful.

I went wandering up towards the glacier as high as I could.

There was no rush getting back down for the 5pm bus. It was a leisurely day in every respect.

On the descent I took a long break overlooking the gorgeous waterfalls.

I also took the side trip to see the bottom of the falls on the Glaciar Castano Overo trail. Beautiful.

Climbing down 1200m was much easier than ascending.

Originally I’d considered doing a second night camped up the other trail out of Pampa Linda. Lake Lion.

But the weather was too uncertain.

I got back to the trailhead at Pampa Linda with about 90 minutes to spare. After dropping my registration confirming my return, I washed up in the river. Then ate the rest of my camping food.

These colourful birds came by seemingly looking for a handout. There are many big, beautiful birds in Argentina.

The shuttle buses left promptly at 5pm. It seemed nobody who had booked was missing.

I couldn’t keep my eyes open for much of the 2 hour ride back to Bariloche.

Click PLAY or watch the video on YouTube.

day 1 | 2 | video | info page

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A much better trip report than my own was posted last year by another old Canadian, Ramblin’ Boy:

The Hike To Refugio Otto Meiling – Getting Close To Cerro Tronador