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.
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.
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.
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.
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.