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

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

Walking the Himalayas by Lev Wood

I was disappointed in this book.

Others disagree. It’s got fairly good ratings on GoodReads.

I learned very little about the Himalayas. Indeed most of the book has him nowhere near the mountains. He’s road walking in the lowlands.

I assume Lev’s boring route had to do with logistics for the film crew following along.

Ryan Sandes and Ryno Griesel ran much higher trails by comparison.

The book is poorly written too.

He got travel advice from the Dalai Lama. That bit I enjoyed.

And the tale of their vehicle crash was horrific. One of the real dangers of the Himalaya is motor vehicle accident.

related – TV series – Walking the Himalayas

Huemul Circuit, Patagonia

My New Year’s Resolution is to hike the Huemul in 2019.

A loop hike around Cerro Huemul in Patagonia, near Cerro Fitz Roy, Los Glaciares National Park.

Usual itinerary:

Day 1 = El Chalten to Laguna Toro, 15km, 4 hours
Day 2 = Laguna Toro to Paso Viento Refuge, 12km, 5 hours
Day 3 = Refuge to Lago Viedme, 18km, 5 hours
Day 4 = Lago Viedma to Bahia Tunel, 18km, 4 hours.

Plus another 8km (1.5 hours) to El Chalten

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

unreal Tasmanian Winter Traverse

One of the toughest journeys on foot … ever.

Louis-Phillipe Loncke …. This was an epic journey that left him exhausted, pushed to his limits, and 15 kg (33 pounds) lighter than when he set off.

The video below is from a new report aired in Australia that caught up with the Belgian adventurer just as he was crossing the finish line, providing some insights into what this journey was like. …

Adventure Blog

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

tough hike to Kjeragbolten, Norway

trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles

Every hiker has seen photos of the boulder wedged into a Kjerag mountain crevasse above a Norwegian fjord.

That’s 984m (3,228ft) high. It’s a popular site for BASE jumping.

A Russian BASE jumper was walking up at the same time as myself — some like to jump close to sunset — but he kept climbing past this spot to something more exciting.

I’d never heard it was a tough hike to get there.

Here’s the start of the easiest ascent from Øygardsstølen visitors center.

It’s 4-6 hour return over beautiful rocky terrain. Some scrambling. Very slippery. There are plenty of chain assists. I used many of them even in dry weather.

By comparison I would say this is much more challenging than Half Dome in Yosemite. And there are all kinds of inexperienced tourists with poor footwear.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

Surprisingly, it sounds like nobody has ever fallen to their death from Kjeragbolten. (Not counting BASE jumpers.)

The boulder is not as death defying as the photos make it look.

In fact, the scramble down a rocky creek to get there is as difficult as climbing out on to that boulder.

Kjeragbolten itself is a 5-cubic-metre (180 cu ft) glacial deposit …

It is a popular tourist destination and is accessible without any climbing equipment. …

Yes, I was pretty happy to finally get here.

If you have a fear of heights, this might not be the best hike for you.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

More photos.

Laugevagur hike Iceland – day 3

Day 0 | Landmannalaugar | 1 | 2 | 3 | video | info

day 3 – Þórsmörk (Básar) to Skógar

25km, 10-12hrs

When I think back on Laugevagur, my first thoughts are of the amazing waterfalls on the last day. Is there a more spectacular chain of falls anywhere else on Earth?

Happily, the weather was quite good when I woke early. Then a thunder storm rolled in and disappeared before I’d finished coffee.

Later I learned that Mark was already up high. Very nervous. There’s no place to hide from lightning in Iceland.

Here I was psyching up for the 900m climb to Fimmvörðuháls pass.

I knew it could be a long, tough day climbing to the icefields up on a high plateau. It’s the most glaciated section. But at least there are NO RIVER CROSSINGS!

The ascent was quite easy, as it turned out.

What’s this?

These were the first hikers I saw coming the other direction. Doing this with a day pack is quite popular.

Stunning views.

Recall the 2010 volcano that disrupted air traffic all over Europe?

This is it. You walk that massive lava flow.

Moodi and Magni (Thor’s sons) are two summit cones pushed up in 2010.

Magni

Everyone climbs Magni to enjoy the 360 degree view.

One worry late in the season is the snowfields turning to slush. Or water.

Happily, it was still good walking for me on July 29th.

Baldvinsskali is a small emergency hut en route. Hikers are allowed to escape the wind and elements if needed.

My only complaint about this hiking day is some road walking on the way down. I’d prefer they make a parallel walking trail.

How far to Skógar?

Waterfalls begin.

The trail follows the river down.

Every tourist to Iceland visits the falls at Skógar.

Made it!

About half way through the day I’d decided to bus back to Reykjavík, if I could. Mark was shooting photos at the base of the falls. I bought a ticket on his bus.

You could stay over. Skógar has a hostel and camping. As well as several restaurants.

Day 0 | Landmannalaugar | 1 | 2 | 3 | video | info

Laugevagur hike Iceland – day 1

Day 0 | Landmannalaugar | 1 | 2 | 3 | video | info

Landmannalaugar to Alftavatn (Hvannagil)

24km + 4km to Hvannagil, 8-10hrs

Sharing a room in a hut with dozens of strangers, I snuck out early for coffee. And to kind of organize my pack out of the rain.

Somehow I left behind my river shoes. And a jar of peanut butter. ☹️

The weather was no better but I certainly wasn’t going to wait another day at Landmannalaugar. It was go … or catch the bus out.

UP past the fumaroles and quite quickly on to snowfields.

The trail is well marked … IF you have visibility.

In 2004 Ido Keinan, a 25-year-old hiker from Israel, got caught in a late June storm and died of exposure only 1km away from the hut in Hrafntinnusker. Wardens at Landmannalaugar warned him it was too dangerous.

He needed a GPS.

Glaciers cover 11% of Iceland. Lava fields and deserts about 60%. It’s easy to get lost.

Here’s that hut. The Alaskan cyclists were just leaving as I arrived.

It only sleeps 36 so best bring a tent if you want to stop here. If the weather is cooperating, push on and over to Álftavatn as I did.

Happily and surprisingly the sky cleared. It was windy. But gorgeous.

Iceland is a dream destination for photographers. There are so many weird things to see. And the light is unusual.

Of many bizarre and wonderful volcanic features, I liked the glassy black obsidian best. Many hikers add pieces to their backpack as souvenirs.

Of the plants, I liked tundra cotton best.

You cross the Torfajokull caldera, about 15km in diameter. It last erupted 1480. There’s a wide distribution of hot springs, mud pots and fumaroles.

In good weather you can see Álftavatn (“Swan Lake”) from quite a distance

Here’s the hut.

New in 2017 was the addition of this restaurant. Lamb dinner costs about $30.

And the Álftavatn camping area.

Word on the trail was that tenting here can be very wet if it rains. Advice I got was to push on to Hvannagil if you have the energy. I did.

As I’d somehow left my river shoes behind, I had to do the river crossings barefoot. That was not fun.

I was first to arrive Hvannagil. The hut offers sleeping bag accommodations for 70 people in 4 rooms.

Without question mine was the best tent site. Totally out of the wind. A picnic table. And some sort of cairn of protection overhead.

Two Irish brothers joined me for dinner. Everyone else envious of the only picnic table.

I went walkabout after dinner. It never gets dark in July. You could hike all night if you wanted.

Day 0 | Landmannalaugar | 1 | 2 | 3 | video | info