SHOULD we hike Pakistan?

Since 2013 I’ve been recommending hikers boycott Pakistan after terrorists killed 11 at Nanga Parbat Base Camp.

The U.S. State Department advises against travel due to terrorism.

On the other hand, I’m inspired by Eva zu Beck, a Polish travel vlogger, who spent many months there. She thinks it could be the next Nepal for trekkers.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

I’m talking to the Epic about their trips in 2020.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

Palm Springs to Paradise Cafe – day 2

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles

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

The weather was lovely in the morning. As it so often is in California.

Unbelievably I’d forgotten to bring coffee! 😞 So it was Earl Grey tea for breakfast.

No worries. I was headed 2 miles back to the Mountain Station atop Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. They served coffee. Right? … It turned out to be the most expensive java I’d bought outside of Switzerland.

This morning the Ranger Station was open and I was happy to go register for my free trail permit.

I’d planned to take the most direct route to Idyllwild – Willow Creek trail. Unfortunately I learned it was still near impassible due to snow. My best bet was to return back the way I came and try to get through the snow to Saddle Junction.

Not having spikes or hiking poles I promised to return and take the Tramway down if the snow was too deep.

I was using the free Maps.me app for navigation at this point. It’s not all that accurate.

On the upside, this is the most popular trail to climb San Jacinto peak (10,834 ft). Crazies find a way to get up there in all seasons.

As it turned out the snow was still hard packed. It was fairly easy to quick step from one footprint to the next.

It got easier after Wellman’s Divide.

At Saddle Junction I ran into a PCT hiker in a hurry to get to Idyllwild. The Saddle is on the Pacific Crest Trail.

A teenager from Michigan, he had the smallest pack he’d seen so far over the first 10 days.

As we descended snow disappeared. The switchbacks very well graded.

PCT hikers were waiting at the parking lot hoping for a Trail Angel to arrive and deliver them a ride to town.

It wasn’t a local Trail Angel but tourists who drove up siteseeing. They happily agreed to make 3 trips delivering dirty hikers to the $5 PCT camp site in Idyllwild (pop. 3500).

I ordered a LARGE pizza and watched Game 1 of the Calgary Flames playoff series.

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

Palm Springs to Paradise Cafe – day 1

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles

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

Fleeing Spring allergies in British Colombia, I flew to Palm Springs.

Where to hike?

My first choice was something on the Pacific Crest Trail.

North to South so I’d meet thru hikers headed the other direction.

I rented a car at the Palm Springs airport and drove a couple of hours to the famous PCT campground at Warner Springs.

The Warner Springs Resource Center runs this campsite (by donation) as a fundraiser.

With over 40 tents full of thru hikers it’s an ideal place to get information and tips. 😀

A fellow at the information desk recommended I return the car … then take the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway to start the walk to Idyllwild, one of the most popular towns on the PCT.

I’d hiked out of Idyllwild in 2011 and loved the area. Sounded GREAT.

Perfect. I left a bag at the Resource Center. I’d pick it up when I got there.

It was 5pm by the time I got on the Tramway. Late.

I took time to watch the video on Mount San Jacinto State Park.

There are more than 50 miles of trails, ideal for hikers trying to escape the Coachella Valley heat 2640 feet below.

By the time I got to the Ranger Station, however, it was closed.

The closest campsite was Round Valley … so I filled out the confusing paperwork as best I could … and hustled off to get there before dark.

I love hiking in California. It’s heaven.

Whoa. Though it’s 100F down in Palm Springs, there’s still a lot of snow up here on April 11, 2019.

Signage is rustic. And minimal. (Keep your map and apps handy.)

Some of that rustic signage is near buried.

I knew I’d reached Round Valley when I got to the long drops. 🤔

I set up the tent at the first clearing I found. Close to the Ranger Station.

Though I’d not seen any animal tracks aside from squirrel, I put my smellies in an Ursack. Bears are hungry in the Spring.

I cooked at 7:30pm. It was quite dark by 8pm.

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

Turned back on the Dientes de Navarino trek, Patagonia

trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles 
Dientes de Navarino (Teeth of the Navarino) is one of the best hikes in South America. The island of Navarino has the most southerly established trails in the world.

The jumping off point is Puerto Williams.

Most do the 50km over 4 days.
FIRST you need get to the end of the world. That’s Puerto Williams (pop. 2000) on the island of Navarino.
There are three ways:
– flight on small plane from Punta Arenas ($150 one way 2019)
slow (30hrs) ferry from Punta Arenas ($167 one way 2019)
– fast boat from Ushuaia (45min) and shuttle van (45min) about $100 one way 2019
I stayed at the friendly and relaxed El Padrino hostel. Most people there are either coming from or going to a hike. It’s a great place to get maps and up-to-date information.
For overnight hiking you are asked to register (free) at the police station. I found it fast and efficient.

The day of my departure some left the hostel at 8am. As is often the case, I was last to get on the trail. I left town at 1pm. It was only 4-6 hours to the first campsite.
I had a hot un-dehydrated last meal for lunch. 🙂

The first big snowfall of the year was the previous week — the end of February.
Almost everyone that week had turned back after post-holing deep snow. Most trail markers were hidden.
Weather was improving for my departure March 1st. But everyone had rented snowshoes over the past couple of days … just in case.
I’d decided NOT to rent snowshoes hoping enough people were gone ahead of me to put down a trail in the snow.
But Shila — the main gear store in town‚ happened to be open (for the first time) as I walked past on the way to the trailhead. I grabbed their last pair. ($3 / day)
Even if I didn’t use them, they would make me look more macho. 😀

It’s a couple of kilometres to the start. Most people walk from town.

Summer on  Navarino island is lovely. I can’t imagine how it must be during the very long, dark, cold, wet winter months.

Everyone stops by to give their respects to the Virgin. It couldn’t hurt.

This trail is really well managed. RESPECT to whomever got this organized.
Trailhead
Actually, it was Lonely Planet’s Clem Lindenmayer who popularized it in his 1992 Lonely Planet guidebook Trekking the Patagonian Andes.
Clem died age-47 while hiking in China’s Sichuan Province, I’m sad to recall. I loved his book. It was part of the inspiration that had me start this site.
The BEST thing about the Dientes Circuit is this free pamphlet. I can’t recall a better one hiking brochure anywhere else in the world.

In Spanish with English translation, it’s crystal clear. All you need for navigation.

The start is up, up, up through the trees.

Quite a bit of trail maintenance has been done in this section.

I used Maps.me as a back-up to the pamphlet description.

The start is the most popular dayhike out of Puerto Williams. Up to some viewpoints.
Puerto Williams
Beagle channel
Most day hikers finish at the giant Chilean flag.

I continued up on the rocky plateau.

It’s fairly well marked here, as well, though you do have to keep your eyes peeled for cairns. In spots there are multiple trails to get to the same place.

The only real problem is punching through snow or ice and getting your feet wet.

A difficult section is a long traverse along the side of a mountain.

You pass a chain of pretty alpine lakes.

This is the kind of snow I faced on the first day. Easy — but with some exposure. If you slip it would be a long, painful fall.

There’s my destination. Under the teeth of Navarino. It’s a steep scramble down.
Laguna del Salto
I set up late in the day on the observation platform. Serious hikers sometimes day hike here and back. That would take at least 8 hours.

Most people tent over by the waterfall.

It was a gorgeous evening and night. I was optimistic for the weather next day.

Unfortunately clouds were getting denser when I awoke.

Here’s what I would face day 2 trying to get to Laguna Escondida. Lots of snow.

Potentially no vistas. Potentially a slog in the fog.

I also awoke with a bad stomach ache.
What to do? I had mixed feelings.
In the end I decided to hustle back to Puerto Williams and catch the 4pm ferry. It only runs twice a week in summer.
Back in town it looked to me like the highest peaks were clearing. My odds of getting through the circuit MIGHT have been 70% or more, I believe now.
I may have made the wrong decision. ☹️
Oh well. This gives me an excuse to return!
Check our Dientes information page if you want to organize this trip for yourself.

related – bookmundi information on this hike

best hike out of Ushuaia, Argentina

trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles

Zoe Agasi and Olivier Van Herck from Netherlands spent 2 months in Ushuaia. For them the best local day hike (of many) was Laguna de los Tempanos and Glacier Vinciguerra.

That was good enough for me.

I walked from my hostel to the trailhead.

Like the north of North America, everyone here has big dogs. Most roam loose. This one probably needed to be chained up.

What I hadn’t realized that morning is that it was 7.3km to the start. I should have taken a taxi.

From there it’s only a steep 5.6km up to Laguna de los Tempanos below the glacier. The sign says 6km.

Up there’s where I was headed.

The weather was atypically reasonable today. Very little wind.

Once at the trailhead, navigation is not difficult.

Your feet do get wet on this hike — I wore neoprene booties rather than socks — but at least you don’t have to wade the largest river.

Next is a long, steep section through the trees.

It’s muddy and you need to be agile as a gymnast to negotiate fallen trees. There doesn’t seem to be much trail maintenance.

Near the top you reach an alpine meadow. Then a short climb up a waterfall to the Laguna.

Carlos from Colombia and I walked up together. He’s a Master’s student studying in Argentina currently on his summer holiday.

Carlos

The glacial lagoon is gorgeous.

It’s not often the weather is this good. One woman went for a swim!

Like most in the world, this glacier is rapidly receding. ☹️

Looking back at the Beagle Channel.

I highly recommend Laguna de los Tempanos and Glacier Vinciguerra. But only in good weather. It’s tough, as well. I fell once into the mud on the way down.

And organize transport to and from the trailhead. The Los Humedales cafe at the trailhead will call you a cab if you don’t have phone that works in Argentina.

Rick at Laguna de los Tempanos, Ushuaia, Argentina

P.S. There are two side trails that I didn’t have time to do:

Laguna Encantada
Laguna del Caminante

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