Friday, 4 October 2019

Trekking in Ushuaia, End of the World

Stream and rest spot along trail to Cerro del Medio, Ushuaia. Tierra del Fuego, Argentina.
Early spring has arrived in Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of South America. The snowy season hasn’t gone yet this year, so I thought it a good time to take advantage of a relatively good day and trek to one of the mountains directly behind Ushuaia, Cerro del Medio (middle mountain). 

I headed off from 25 de Mayo street, pretty much in the centre of town, and ascended almost directly towards the mountains. After a few sets of stairs and short trail sections, I left the last houses behind onto the trail proper. This enters the forest where there was still a fair amount of snow although also a few muddy sections. 
Cerro del Medio forest section of the trail. Ushuaia, Argentina
Ascent through the forest.
Half an hour later on the trail it was only snow and the forest was looking amazing. Initially always on one or other side of the stream coming down, the sound of the bubbling water mixing with bird calls made for a tranquil atmosphere. In the first parts there were also various tracks in the snow, compacted to ice by many feet. This diminished substantially as I ascended more. 
Stream along the Cerro del Medio trail. Ushuaia, Argentina
Resting spot next to a stream running down from the mountain.
I reached a beautiful spot with a little bridge over the stream where there were also a few seats and a table made from cut tree trunks. (3.9km) From here there was only 2 sets of tracks continuing further up the mountain...and deeper snow. For the ascent I was using these tracks, limiting my chances of trekking deep and soft snow. 
Views from Cerro del Medio trail. Ushuaia, Argentina
View across Ushuaia toward the island of Navarino (Chile).
Although not steep, the trail was now constantly ascending and with the snow, becoming a bit energy-sapping at times. But, following the tracks was helping a lot and soon I was leaving the forest out onto the open snow slopes of the mountains. The views were just simply spectacular surrounded by a variety of peaks, the majority with their jagged splendour. 
Views of the Beagle Channel from the Cerro del Medio trail. Ushuaia, Argentina
View southeast toward the Beagle Channel.
During the trek through the forest, the trail is marked with yellow markers and reflectors on trees at reasonably regular intervals. Out here in the open snow, there were yellow stakes with reflectors - probably also at regular intervals but some were completely buried in the snow. At least I had the 3-4 day old tracks to follow and the gps, so I wasn’t going to get lost soon. 
Snow trail ascending Cerro del Medio. Ushuaia, Argentina
Final sections: from here still had 20min to go.
The trail enters a type of valley between the mountains and then turns west up a ridge. Here the snow was getting decidedly deeper, even on the tracks at average 30-40cm. On the ridge and a bit of a scree slope not covered by snow (only about 10m wide) the trail turns heads almost south, approaching the summit from the “back”. Much steeper here with even deeper snow, the going was slow but I was close and motivated. 
Summit of Cerro del Medio. Ushuaia, Argentina
View east toward Monte Olivia (in the foreground) 
and Cinco Hermanos behind that.
The best of all is that as I reached these parts, the sun came out and stayed out. Even better was, hardly any wind!! With only a breeze and the sun shining, this was an absolutely winner of a day. So with everything now lit up with only some dark clouds as backdrop across the Beagle Channel, I reached the summit of Cerro del Medio at 948m altitude after 6.9km and 3h15. 
View over Ushuaia from summit of Cerro del Medio. Argentina
View from the summit: Ushuaia, the airports and the Beagle Channel
bordered in the south by the island of Navarino (Chile).
Just absorbing the views around me I was lost for words to describe really how breathtaking these views were. From the snow-covered mountains behind me, to the mountains and Beagle Channel east of Ushuaia, to the city, bay and airports below me to the west with the Chilean mountains west of Navarino Island. 
View over Ushuaia from summit of Cerro del Medio. Argentina
View across the Beagle Channel more west.
I had a flask of coffee with me so I was enjoying something warm to drink, not that it was actually cold. In the distance off the west though, the wind was starting to whip up the water so this peak would pretty soon be a very blowy place...time to head down. 
Descending Cerro del Medio. Ushuaia, Argentina
More summit views of the neighbouring mountains.
This time following on the tracks was not an option. With them being partially frozen, they’re super slippery on a descent so I descended to one side of them through the softer snow, many times at least knee deep. Just before the forest and inside, the snow was substantially deeper - hip deep. Even though I was descending reasonably quickly, there was not a moment I could take my eyes off the trail. 
Descending Cerro del Medio. Ushuaia, Argentina
On the descent at the rest spot and its little bridge.
All went well and I finally hit the streets of Ushuaia again. Arriving at the hostel (Refugio del Mochilero), I had completed 13.3km and a descent in 1h50. 
What a fantastic trek and straight from town and without needing any transport. I can really recommend this trek which in summer might be a bit easier in some senses without the snow. 
Descending Cerro del Medio. Ushuaia, Argentina
Part of the last 30min of the ascent - 
Cerro Dos Banderas looming east of the trail.




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Thursday, 12 September 2019

Hidden Marvels of Chilean Tierra del Fuego

Faro Cabo Espiritu Santo in Chilean Tierra del Fuego
Cabo Espíritu Santo Lighthouse
There were rumours and there were even official brochures that mentioned them but...there was not a single photo nor the directions to an exact place...the caves apparently below the Cabo Espíritu Santo Lighthouse.

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Friday, 9 August 2019

Fuelling a Ghost Town: Puerto Percy

Sunset in Puerto Percy ghost town through the broken panes of glass.
The silence was almost unearthly, even the wind seemed to be holding its breath. A gull scream followed by the clatter of a metal sheet shattered the moment, a moment left in shards like the numerous window frames. 

Abandoned in 1995, Puerto Percy is a relatively "young" ghost town.
Patagonian winds hammered at it from various angles across the plains of Tierra del Fuego ensuring that someone even remotely nervous would be looking around constantly at the banging and scratching sounds echoing through the air. 
This is probably not the type of place many would elect to stay the night but I liked it somehow and was going to stay two nights.
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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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