Friday, 17 May 2019

Como escoger un buen lugar para acampar

Acampando en Puerto Español, Bahía Aguirre - Peninsula Mitre
Caminaste en un lugar silvestre durante todo el día y solo te quedas con 2-3 horas más de luz, ya estas cansado y hambriento y ahora, tienes que encontrar un lugar para armar su carpa. Lo peor será si no puedes tener un buen descanso debido a las ramas que caen en la carpa o te mojas con el agua que corre hacia la carpa durante algunas lluvias intensas.

English version: How to choose a good site to camp

Entonces, qué cosas debes tener en cuenta al elegir un buen lugar para acampar? Acampar en áreas silvestres puede ser una de las mejores experiencias de tu vida, pero existen riesgos que se pueden mitigar en la naturaleza.

Estas son mis recomendaciones según mis experiencias y las de otros exploradores/excursionistas experimentados. Muy rara vez encontrará el sitio "perfecto" para acampar, pero tenga en cuenta los siguientes puntos para asegurarse de que su sitio sea lo más seguro posible en sus circunstancias y ubicación elegido.

Tómate tu tiempo y busca un buen lugar; quítate la mochila y explora los alrededores. (Asegúrate de recordar dónde dejaste tu mochila!)

Acampando a lado el Canal de Beagle, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina


Elegiendo el sitio para acampar

Agua

  • Agua para beber y cocinar es esencial. Trata de no estar muy lejos de una fuente de agua. Alternativamente, si sabes que estarás acampando lejos del agua, asegúrese de tener suficiente agua para beber, cocinar esa noche y la mañana siguiente.
  • Los arroyos glaciales y de montaña siempre son excelentes opciones, pero asegúrarte de tener en cuenta su distancia en caso de lluvia intensa e inundaciones repentinas. La primavera, por ejemplo, representa un riesgo mayor cuando la nieve se derrite arriba en las montañas.
  • Los turbales en Tierra del Fuego también son una gran fuente de agua dulce, algunos de los mejores filtros de agua en la naturaleza.
Camping agreste sur de El Calafate, Patagonia Argentina

Clima

Viento
  • Busque protección contra vientos fuertes y ráfagas.
    • Detrás de unas grandes rocas o arbustos densos. Es buena que tengas en cuenta que el viento fuerte todavía puede mover rocas de tamaño considerable.
    • Los bosques pueden proporcionar una buena protección contra el viento. Ver si hay ramas secas arriba que puedan desprenderse y caer sobre ti..
  • La entrada de la carpa no debe hacer frente al viento.
  • Fogata: evitar que se vuelan o estallen las chispas del fuego en dirección a la carpa.
  • Un buen viento mantiene bajos los insectos voladores.

Lluvia
  • Busca signos de agua que corran como colecciones de hojas y/o piedritas y surcos en el suelo.
  • Evita armar tu carpa en valles, cañones, huecos o cuevas poco profundas donde el agua de lluvia podría acumularse.
Acampando en las pampas de Patagonia Argentina

Sol
  • Clima caluroso: busca un lugar a la sombra donde puedes instalar tu carpa. 
  • Clima frío: el sol de la mañana siempre ayuda a secar la carpa un poco antes de empacar. Alternativamente, puedes secarla más, especialmente el piso, antes de armarla al final del día.
Acampando en Peninsula Mitre, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina

Tormentas eléctricas
  • No quieres ser la "antena" que conduce los rayos, así que tienes que evitar las grandes áreas de agua y cumbres donde serás el punto más alto.
  • Evita la proximidad a los árboles altos que pueden atraer rayos y resultar en troncos y ramas que caen sobre ti. 
  • Ten en cuenta que aunque la gente te diga que un lugar “nunca” recibe tormentas eléctricas, aún puede suceder.

Nieve y Frio
Frio:
  • Los cañones y valles angostos pueden ser más fríos que los partes más altas, especialmente en lugares en altura (arriba de 2,500m.s.n.m). Sin embargo, recuerda que acampar en altitud siempre será más frío/fresco
    • Considera acampar antes de un gran ascenso si es posible.
  • Los bosques pueden darte algo más de protección contra el frío y minimizan el rocío y la escarcha.
Acampando en nieve en Patagonia Argentina
Nieve: 
  • Revisa el área en busca de indicios de avalanchas anteriores y escombros de tierra como árboles rotos y cantos rodados. Evita acampar debajo de los "canales" o "pasajes" en la ladera de la montaña.
  • Aplana y compacta el área (huella) donde estará tu carpa. Esto asegura que tengas una base sólida para armar tu carpa.

Leña

  • Donde sea seguro hacer una fogata, tienes que ver si hay leña disponible
    • Si ha estado lloviendo, ver si hay madera seca en lugares que reciban menos lluvia, como detrás de rocas y árboles grandes. Muchas veces la madera todavía está seca en el centro después de la lluvia.
    • Coloca piedras alrededor de un parte de suelo sin pasto/plantas para el fuego.
    • Ten en cuenta la dirección y fuerza del viento.
    • Apaga el fuego y cubre con arena y/o piedras antes de irte a dormir.
  • Ver si hay árboles secos y ramas que pueden caer sobre ti.
Acampando en Peninsula Mitre, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina


Fauna & Flora
Animales:
  • Asegurarte de saber qué animales puedes encontrar y los riesgos relevantes, antes de salir a caminar/hacer una excursión y acampar.
  • Evita partes con un gran volumen de huellas de animales como rutas hacia y desde lugares para beber.
  • Los lugares bien protegidos a menudo son frecuentados por animales.
  • Comprueba que no estás armando tu carpa en un nido de hormigas o cualquier concentración de insectos, arañas, etc.
  • Guarda tu comida en contenedores o bolsas herméticas para minimizar las posibilidades de que los animales busquen comida durante la noche.
    • Esto es especialmente cierto en lugares de uso alto donde muchos excursionistas se detienen para acampar regularmente; mejor evitar tales lugares si es posible.
Plantas:
  • Se deben evitar los arbustos espinosos y especialmente las plantas de tipo ortiga.
    • Si no puedes evitar estar cerca de arbustos espinosos, asegúrate de que no haya espinas ocultas en la hojarasca que no solo dañen el piso de la tienda, sino que también hagan que el campamento sea desagradable.
Acampando en Tierra del Fuego, Argentina

Terreno 

Superficie del suelo:
  • Busca un sitio plano y más o menos llano.
  • Los lugares herbosos no solo te brindan una superficie más suave para dormir sino que, en general, también facilitan la colocación de las estacas de la carpa.
  • Áreas más duras o pedregosas: busca rocas grandes, etc. a las que pueda atar las cuerdas de anclaje de la carpa.
Seguridad:
  • Evita las áreas con rocas sueltas que puedan ser un signo de derrumbes o avalanchas anteriores.


Leer también:
(Hay traductor a español)
Equipo: Gearing up for Extreme Trekking - Peninsula Mitre 

Comida/viveres: Foodstuffs and Provisions in Peninsula Mitre


Parque Nacional de Los Glaciares, Patagonia Argentina


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How to choose a good site to camp

Camping above Puerto Español, Bahía Aguirre - Peninsula Mitre
Wilderness trekking all day and only 2-3 hours of light left, tired and hungry, you have to now find a place to pitch your tent. The last thing you need is not getting a good rest because of branches falling on the tent or getting wet from water running into the tent during some heavy rains. 

Versión Español: Como escoger un buen lugar para acampar 

So what things do you need to take into consideration when choosing a place to camp? Camping in the wilderness can be some of the best experiences of your life but, there are risks that can be mitigated out there in the wild. 

These are my recommendations based on my experiences and that of other experienced trekkers/hikers. Very seldom that you will find the ‘perfect’ campsite but take the following points into consideration to ensure your site is as safe as possible in your given circumstances and location. 

Take your time and look for a good spot; take off your backpack and explore your surroundings. (Make sure you know where you left your backpack though!) 

Camping along the Beagle Channel, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina


Choosing the site to camp

Water

  • Drinking and cooking water is essential. Try not to be too far from a water source. Alternatively if you know you will be camping far from water, ensure you have enough water for drinking, cooking for that night and the next morning. 
  • Glacial and mountain streams are always great options but ensure you take into account your distance from them in case of heavy rain and flash floods. Spring for example poses a larger risk with the snow melting higher up in the mountains. 
  • Bogs (turba in Tierra del Fuego) are also a great source of freshwater - some of nature’s best filters. 
Wilderness camping south of El Calafate, Patagonia Argentina

Weather

Wind
  • Look for protection from any potential strong wind and gusts. 
    • Behind some large boulders or dense shrubs. Keep in mind that strong wind can still move considerable-sized rocks.
    • Forests can provide great protection from wind. Lookout for branches above that may break off and fall on you…often referred to as widowmakers
  • Tent entrance should not face into the wind. 
  • Campfire: you want to avoid fiery sparks blowing in the direction of the tent. 
  • Decent wind keeps flying insects down. 

Rain
  • Look for signs of water rundown like collections of leaves and/or pebbles and furrows in the soil. 
  • Avoid pitching your tent in valleys, canyons, hollows or shallow caves where rainwater may potentially accumulate. 
Pampas camping in Patagonia Argentina

Sun
  • Hot weather: area where the tent will be in the shade. 
  • Cold weather: early morning sun always helps dry out the tent a bit before packing it up. Alternatively, drying it out more, especially the floor, before pitching it at the end of the day. 
Camping in Peninsula Mitre, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina

Lightning (electric storms)
  • You don't want to be the ‘antenna’ conducting the lighting, so avoid large areas of water and summits where you’ll be the highest point.
  • Avoid proximity to high trees that may attract lightning and result in trunks and branches falling on you.
  • Note that even though people may tell you a place “never” gets electric storms, it may still happen. 

Snow and Cold
Cold:
  • Narrow canyons and valleys can be colder than areas a little higher, especially at higher altitudes. Remember though that camping at altitude will always be colder. 
    • Consider camping before a huge ascent if possible. 
  • Forests can provide some protection from cold and minimises the morning dew and frost. 
Snow camping in Patagonia Argentina
Snow: 
  • Check area for signs of previous avalanches and landslide debris like broken trees and boulders. Avoid camping below ‘channels’ or ‘passages’ in the mountainside. 
  • Flatten and compact the area (footprint) where your tent will be. This ensures you have a solid base to pitch your tent. 

Wood

  • Availability of firewood in places where it's safe to make a campfire
    • If it has been raining, check for dead wood in drier areas that get less rain like behind boulders and large trees. Many times the wood is still dry in the centre after the rain.
    • Put rocks around a patch of clear ground for the fire. 
    • Keep in mind wind direction and strength. 
    • Put out the fire and cover with sand and/or stones before going to sleep. 
  • Check out for dry trees and branches that may fall on you. 
Camping in Peninsula Mitre, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina

Wildlife & Plants
Animals:
  • Ensure you know what animals you may encounter and the relevant risks, before heading out to hike/trek and camp. 
  • Avoid an area with a high volume of animal tracks like routes to and from drinking spots. 
  • Well sheltered spots are often frequented by animals. 
  • Check that you're not pitching your tent on an ant’s nest or any concentration of insects, spiders etc. 
  • Store your food in hermetically sealed containers or bags to minimise the chances of animals looking for food during the night. 
    • This is especially true in high use areas where many trekkers stop to camp regularly; best to avoid such places if at all possible. 
Plants:
  • Thorny bushes and especially stinging type plants need to be avoided. 
    • If you can't avoid being near thorny bushes, make sure there are no thorns hidden in the leaf litter that will not only damage the tent floor but make for unpleasant camping. 
Camping in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina

Terrain

Surface:
  • You’ll be looking for a flat and reasonably level site. 
  • Grassy-type places not only give you a softer sleeping surface but also generally makes it easier to get the tent pegs in. 
  • Harder or stony areas: look for large rocks etc to which you can tie the tent anchor lines. 
Safety:
  • Avoid areas with loose rocks that might be a sign of previous landslides or avalanches. 

Read as well:
Equipment: Gearing up for Extreme Trekking - Peninsula Mitre 

Foodstuffs: Foodstuffs and Provisions in Peninsula Mitre


Parque Nacional de Los Glaciares, Patagonia Argentina


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Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Trekking Paramount: expectations vs reality

Trekking Laguna Paron, Cordillera Blanca, Peru
Nevados Paria, Garcilaso and Laguna Parón (lake)
Photos often don’t do justice to reality and this is especially true in many landscape photos - the biggest problem is that a photo cannot always convey the emotions and feelings of the moment. 

This was the case when I went on a trip to the Parón Valley (quebrada) to get some more photos and see what the trek is about. I had seen photos of this area although many had been taken from the classic/normal trail - this day was going to be anything but normal!
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Sunday, 28 April 2019

Trekking into the Autumn Colours

Autumn at the End of The World
Up early for coffee and some cereal and a bit of a relax, I was gagging for my first proper trek again in almost two months. At 08:15 head off from the hostel up to the Ruta 3 and then east.

Just over tte Arroyo Grande, follow the road that goes up to the Arakur Hotel nd at the curve in the U-route, the start of the trail to the Cascada de Los Amigos and Cerro Cortez. Arriving at 09:33, it was 5.8km up to here. The trail goes left and around the hill before continuing along the river (Arroyo Grande). Big easy trail although various parts with a lot of mud after the last 2 weeks of rain.

Frost on the banks of the Arroyo Grande.
Frost on the banks of the Arroyo Grande. 


The night had been cold and there's a lot of frost on the ground, so many of these parts are partially frozen making it a bit easier. The whole valley is still in the shade so nothing had started to melt yet, and that breeze, nice and fresh! The colours though! Unbelievable!

After 2km, I reach the junction in the trail where it splits to Cerro Cortez and to the waterfalls. The trail still good and open from here, and with yellow markers to show the way, still fairly easy and flat across an open grassy area. It soon brings me to the river crossing, a spot where there used to be an old beaver dam. The "bridge" is a collection of some big tree trunks but they're covered in a little layer of ice. This makes it all a bit more interesting as I have no intention of falling into the river early in the morning. With a combination of trekking poles and moving along on my backside, I get across without any incident i.e. dry.

Frosty valley in the early morning shade.
Frosty valley in the early morning shade. 

Continuing along the other bank, there's much more water where I also pass some horses grazing very contented. Only a bit further, the trail goes into the forest and starts ascending from where there's also way more mud on the trail. The trail is also serving as a conduit for the rain and some streams further up in the mountain. 

After a solid ascent, it flattens out a bit before descending to just above the river.
With a 90 degree turn in the trail, it also gets narrower and ascends into the forest along the little canyon where there's a stream from the waterfall. Then, into the canyon and ascending on alternating banks of the little stream of fresh albeit icy water.


Cascada de Los Amigos
The skyline is suddenly filled with high cliffs, only cut by the waterfall with a 10m drop of water surrounded by the warm autumnal colours of the Fueguino forest. Mostly in the shade, the little canyon is quite cold but luckily I brought my camping stove and soon have a mug of hot tea in my hands. Also get down to getting the noodle soup going which gives me some more hot sustenance while I enjoy the hypnotising landscape around me.

Just over an hour a half here before I start walking back around13:00. Obviously much quicker than the ascent, I spend more time taking photos with the sunlight now flooding the valley.

Reluctantly, I eventually leave the trail and follow the road back to the hostel, reflecting on a stunning day that started with pink clouds over the bay of Ushuaia and culminating in autumn coloured valleys basking in a mild sun before the will eventually take over completely.

Bosque Común valley in the sun.
Bosque Común valley with Cerro 5 Hermanos in the background. 


Trek Summary

1.  Hostel to trailhead: 5.8km
2.  Trailhead to junction: 2.1km
Junction to waterfall: 3.2km
3.  Waterfall to hostel: 11.1km

Coordinates

Trailhead: 54°4626.5S 68°1537.5W
Trail X: 54°4540.1S 68°1508.0W
Waterfall: 54°4441.4S 68°1556.9W

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Saturday, 6 April 2019

Face to Face with Fear


Every move I was acutely aware that one slip would be the last one. There was no ledge I might get stuck on or large plant/tree I could grab on the way down...

29 January, 2019 and the day after leaving the comfort of the Rancho at Puerto Español and the welcome company of Sergio Anselmino. The previous night I had camped next to the hut at Rio Sopresa and today continuing eastwards along the coast of Bahia Aguirre, one of the biggest bays of Peninsula Mitre in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. 

Rancho Sopresa - Peninsula Mitre
--------------diary
"Ascending a ridge coastline with some cliffs, i had got myself onto a section where it became almost vertical. Vertical with rocks that were crumbling in my hands, a fine gravel that refused to give any foothold and some small shrubs, a few of which were thankfully well anchored. On my back was a 35kg+ backpack, newly stocked up the two nights before in Puerto Español,  and my two trekking poles (which i was using as anchors where i could!). I was not even remotely equipped for this - from the bottom the ascent had seemed stable and nothing more steep than 45 degrees in one spot. By the time, i realised how this was turning out, going back was not an option, especially with the backpack seemingly trying to pull me off the cliff all the time. I had to find some way up unless some descent route miraculously revealed itself."

Bahia Aguirre - Peninsula Mitre
View down the cliff I ended up climbing up with the heavy backpack. 
(Yes, I even took a photo!)

"Every move I was acutely aware that one slip would be the last one. There was no ledge I might get stuck on or large plant/tree I could grab on the way down - the bushes there were would certainly not withstand that combination of weight and momentum! The real fear, the panic, was just below the surface and i was very much aware of it - i was actively “distracting” myself by concentrating on finding a way up and checking every hand hold, every foothold…attempting to make only sensible decisions."
--------------end diary quote

Facing your fears adds another challenge to the already considerable list of mental challenges during an extreme physical and solo expedition. This is where you're forced to get further out of  your comfort zone and do something which literally scares you - gets the heart racing, hands starting to sweat - mind running in a thousand directions as you look at what lies ahead. So how to deal with this because, as is well known, fear can be debilitating. The need to harness this in order to achieve what has to be done, and overcome it, is imperative. Simply suppressing it doesn't serve any purpose and in fact, the suppression might not be overly successful either. 

Adrenaline/extreme activities function as such because of a level of fear in us humans. Sure, call it being nervous but it all boils down to the fear that triggers the release of the adrenaline that will put the mind into super alert mode and the body into a higher level of physical functioning. This becomes addictive as athletes push for the bigger adrenaline rush through more extreme activities.

Peninsula Mitre
The views I got to enjoy a couple of hours later. 

Why am I telling you this? Simple, because it shows the harnessing of the fear to drive decisions and actions that have a higher chance of success. This means, example again, a skydiver does his pre-jump equipment check really thoroughly, revising mentally the emergency procedures in the case there being an equipment malfunction. Conditioning the mind results in this eventually being a ‘normal activity about which the person feels a bit nervous but positively looks forward to it…the adrenaline release also gets less as one gets more accustomed to it (remember it started with being at least a little bit scared the first time)

--------------diary quote
"I reached what seemed distinctly to me like a “junction” where I could continue the line (if you could call it that!) I was following or, go about three metres to the left and try go sort of around a rock pinnacle where it seemed there more stable bushes and footholds. The problem was that moving across those 3m, i would need to lunge and grab onto a largish bush - the type of bush that proved to mostly be pretty stable holds. This had to be done in such a way that the backpack didn't follow gravity…down! It was pretty heavy as it had just been refilled with provisions at Puerto Español, in other words a minimum of 35kg! (Just writing this has got my hands sweaty and my heart beating fast!!)"

"The first moves to the left i aimed at 2-3 times before finally just going for it, wondering briefly (…and unbelievably calm!!!) if someone flying over in a helicopter or plane would eventually see the body on the beach if I missed that grab. What bollocks!! Luckily it seemed to not be something stuck in my head although i do remember thinking it. Anyway, the lunge and grab worked and I stopped for a short breather."
-------------end diary quote

Bahía Aguirre - Peninsula Mitre
It's important to mention too that telling yourself “I can’t!” or “I’m really scared!” is a big no-no! This is totally counterproductive and must be avoided, at least suppress those thoughts (for the moment) and constructively think of how you’re going to overcome this hurdle which will also serve to distract you some from those negative thoughts. The adrenaline that will already be pumping will be making your mind more alert, sharper and help you. This is where harnessing what's happening both physically and mentally (via the adrenaline) is so important; you have just been gifted with a massive resource! No, it isn't that easy and it means taking a conscious decision - “I just have to do this, the only way that I can get out of this situation is by getting over this obstacle!”

-------------diary quote
Adrenaline really pumping now, I continued albeit slowly, very slowly and ascended up what happened to be the last 10m with the final 5m about 45 degrees - to me virtually horizontal at that moment! The GPS showed an ascent of just over 60m at the brief stop I did at the top - it was only about an half an hour later that i actually forced myself to stop and take my backpack off! Then I realised that my heart was still beating like crazy and the adrenaline still pumping! Later that night, images from the ascent would haunt me and keep me awake. 

Not only had I been completely out of my comfort zone, I had experienced a brief moment of fear which I’m not sure I’ve ever felt both mentally and physically simultaneously. This was not even a case of just being really nervous, this was on another level!
-------------end diary quote

Rio Bagualero - Peninsula Mitre

Conquering that fear, overcoming that hurdle...a very important step in becoming mentally and emotionally stronger. Don't allow it to haunt to you - remember, next time it's not something that's outside your comfort zone anymore...you're old acquaintances now. 
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