Palm Springs to Paradise Cafe – day 2

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles

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.

Palm Springs to Paradise Cafe – day 1

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles

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.

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

Huemul Route, Fitz Roy, Argentina – day 3

trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles

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

As I’d fallen asleep early (exhausted) at Paso del Viento camp I was up and packed early.

And I was surprised to see someone had arrived solo after dark. In perfect weather, he’d simply crashed.

Most of the hardest parts of this hike were behind me. I thought I’d try for a long day, shortening my exit on day 4.

departing Paso del Viento camp

On this hike I listened to the autobiography of high altitude climber / legend Sir Chris Bonington. There’s no motivation to complain about what I was doing in comparison to his many, many extreme adventures!

Again there was no real trail. The route continues alongside the Glaciar Viedma moraine. Magically there was a rainbow most of the morning.

I left a Summit Stone at one conspicuous viewpoint.

The Viedma glacier is massive and intimidating.

I felt small. And very lucky to be here.

Finally the route took me up and over a high shoulder.

Again it looks easy. It was not.

On the other side was another world. Lake Videma.

This descent is the most dangerous part of the Huemul. It’s steep and slippery with only one section with assistance. It would be treacherous when wet.

Kerry Christiani

Luckily I was there after several fairly dry days.

I’ve many times seen icebergs. And loved them every time.

It wasn’t until this point — the Campamento Bahía de Los Témpanos campground — that I was able to see the wall where they had broken off.

Actually, there are a number of potential campsites widely spread out from there to the old Campamento Bahía de Hornos camp. None I saw were particularly well sheltered from wind.

Travel to Walk had this day at 2140ft ascent and 4420ft descent over 10.7 miles taking them 8.5 hours.

But I carried on planning on another 3 hours or so before stopping.

Again there was no real trail. The Maps.me app let me down for the first time in South America. The Fitz Roy section does NOT include the Southern Patagonian Icefield! … Oops. I’d not downloaded that area. … And what was included on Maps.me did not seem very accurate. I did have the recommended 1:60,000 Chalten Outdoor map as well. It wasn’t detailed enough. ☹️

BETTER would be to have a GPS track downloaded, as well.

Certainly I was quickly lost in this wet landscape.

My only company out in these fields were rabbits. Thousands of rabbits. Introduced from Europe, I understand.

Or are they hares?

These fields are covered with their droppings.

This route is named for the rare and endangered South Andean Huemul deer. Numbers in Argentina were estimated at 350–600 in 2005. Total number may be around 1500.

I did see two Huemul 15-years-ago close to Cerro Castillo in Chile. I was hitchhiking with a local. Shocked, he stopped the vehicle. Though living there his entire life it was the first time he’d seen one.

Lost in the mud, this was my least happy time on the Huemul.

It was windy too, of course, but I quite like wind.

Irked, I stopped taking photos.

After an hour of more I finally found the trail and a half-decent water supply. Most drink from lake Videma on this section.

I set up my tent near that small creek. Very tired.

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

Huemul Route, Fitz Roy, Argentina – day 2

trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles

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

I was up early and continued along the river another hour or so to reach the campground before everyone else had left.

On inspection, I was happy NOT to have slept at my assigned campground. The toilet is hideous, for one thing.

In excellent visibility I could make out the trail heading up and over the pass centre right. In poor visibility it could be difficult to find.

Old and wiserish, I followed a group to the first Tyrolean Traverse.

Then watched carefully as the guide showed his 3 clients how to do it. I hadn’t done one of these in decades.

It actually screwed up for this girl. The small rope used to pull back the pulley got tangled. The guide earned his money — and impressed me — by sliding over on the cable using his emergency back-up carabiner … and got her untangled.

It went fairly well for me, though I was very tired by the end.

We wore our packs, but it would probably be smarter to tow the backpack like this guy.

Here’s the gap crossed from above.

Actually, you can often wade the river instead. AND it looked to me that you could go around the lake to the left avoiding the crossing completely.

From here the views were spectacular. This was easily my favourite day.

I stayed close to Glacier Río Túnel because it was so cool.

In Patagonia people pay a lot of money to walk glaciers. And have a shot of whisky.

My map showed this campground at the end of Glaciar Río Túnel Inferior. Sounds like it is no longer legal to tent here, however.

The guide had taken his clients up high immediately after the Tyrolean. Eventually I was forced to scramble up the loose moraine scree to catch up.

It was work. But with great views.

From here in good weather it looked an easy up-and-over.

Not so. It seemed to take forever to reach Windy Pass (Paso de Viento).

But the astonishing first vista on to the Southern Patagonian Ice Field was the highlight of the entire hike.

Though a bit windy, I stayed quite a while at the top. I tried to recall any hiking vista that impressed me more. Anywhere.

Travel 2 Walk compares this with the Paso John Gardner looking on to Glacier Grey in Paine. I concur that Windy Pass is even more impressive.

From the pass it’s a long but comparatively easy descent down to the moraine wall. There’s no real trail, but you can’t get lost.

I decided to stay at the assigned bleak Paso del Viento Refuge and Campground as I wasn’t sure I could find better protection from the wind anywhere else.

The building is mainly used for cooking / eating. You’d only sleep inside in terrible weather. But it does seem to have wifi. 😀

My biggest problem hiking over the years have been my feet.

Yet despite appearances, they are almost zero problem for me now. I’ve got them figured out. I wear the over-sized very wide shoes (for the bunions). Apply petroleum jelly each morning. And wear neoprene booties instead of socks on wet trails like these.

Here’s my tent site selected for wind protection.

Since I was carrying a climbing harness, I used it as a tie-down, as well.

Travel 2 Walk calculated 3055 ft ascent and 2214 ft descent on the day. Only 7.8 miles, but slow. Tough. And with PLENTY of photo stops.

Tired, I fell asleep by accident after dinner and wine. And therefore kept my food in the tent.

No mice this night.

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