Tag Archives: Hiking

cathy b

Cathy’s Full Circuit, Montes Martial Circuit and Chalten Mountain Escape

Cathy returned in November from a Full Circuit in Torres del Paine, a Montes Martial Circuit in Tierra del Fuego, and a Chalten Mountain Escape in Los Glaciares. Here she tells us about her experiences on the trips, and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

cathy 1How were Swoop Patagonia?

I wouldn’t have managed such a great trip without your help & expertise. I met several other people who used Swoop and they all felt the same. I am already recommending you to other people.

I think the only thing I would say is your idea of sending a pre travel gift felt very last minute – I wouldn’t have noticed had you not offered a gift, but since you did having it before I left would have given a better view of your efficiency!

How were our partners who ran your trips in Chile and Argentina?

All were very good, those who organised the Full Circuit especially. The itineraries were all as expected. The guides were excellent, again especially Armando on the Full Circuit.

They all dealt well with my requirement for a gluten free diet in the end, although one company were less proactive about this. I didn’t help by not being crystal clear on their form but instead of querying it as the Full Circuit partners did, they decided to ignore it. The guide, Luis, was very helpful about trying to remedy this and luckily I’m not coeliac, just gluten intolerant so I could cope with eating the fillings out of sandwiches for instance. The other two companies were brilliant with this, again especially on the Full Circuit.

I was delighted with the 3 treks I did – it was a great combination and worked really well, even with the weather!

What was the highlight of your trip?

Difficult to choose a highlight! It was all fantastic. I think possibly waking up 2 mornings in a row to the view below from Lake Caminante is well up there.

cathy b

Did you manage to visit anywhere else in Chile or Argentina?

I visited Buenos Aires briefly which was very enjoyable. Especially the cemetery at Recoleta which I visited on Halloween, appropriately!

I also did a Patagonian cooking workshop in Puerto Natales – it was brilliant and you should recommend it to anyone who has time to do it! http://encuentrogourmet.com

cathy 2

Isabel’s W Trek in Torres del Paine

Isabel returned in November from a W Trek in Torres del Paine. Here she shares with us her experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

‘We had an amazing time in Patagonia and the W Trek was a great experience!’

How were Swoop Patagonia?

I thought that the service you provided was very good – you were helpful with the information you provided and responded quickly to any queries.  I thought that the handover to your partners in Chile was done very well and smoothly and that you were flexible in how you communicate with your clients. I would recommend you to any friends looking to visit Patagonia.

How were our Partners who ran the trek in Chile?

Our W Trek was well-organised and professional.  In addition to organising the trek itself, the company was helpful in booking us bus tickets to/from Puerto Natales.  I thought that the itinerary on the W Trek was great – a good mixture of longer and shorter days and comfortable refuges to stay in. Our guide (Carlos) was excellent – he spoke good English and was friendly and responsible. The only minor comment I have is that we passed by their office in Puerto Natales the day before our trek started as we had not been told where and what time to meet the next day. An email confirming this would have been helpful.

What was the highlight of your trip?

I’m not sure I’m able to pick out a single highlight – we really enjoyed the whole trip.  We were in a group with three others who we got on very well with – we thought that five was a good number for a group.

Did you visit anywhere else on your trip?

We also visited Buenos Aires, an estancia outside Junin (near BA), El Calafate, the Bariloche area and San Martin de los Andes.

Do you have any tips for other people planning a trip to Patagonia?

I would recommend that people planning a trip make sure that they bring all the recommended equipment as it all came in handy!  Also do not carry more that you absolutely need to in your backpacks.

[For some tips on what to pack, see Swoop’s Trekking Kit List]

Chris’ eco camp W Trek in Torres del Paine

Chris returned in late October from a W Trek based from an eco friendly camp in Torres del Paine National Park. Here he tells us about his experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners in Chile.

‘We would definitely recommend the holiday to friends looking for a luxury holiday’

How were Swoop Patagonia and our partners in Chile?

The communication from Swoop and their partners was great, we had a good deal of info on the different options and you answered our questions very quickly. We found payment through Swoop’s partner’s website was easy to use.

How was your 5 day W Trek from the eco camp?

The tour itself was fantastic, the guides were really wonderful and clearly had a huge amount of knowledge about the area and the wildlife; they looked after us throughout our stay and made sure we were comfortable.

What did you think of the eco camp you stayed at?

The camp was great, especially the luxury domes which we would highly recommend. The food was also good with a good selection of options. I even tried yoga out for the first time as our whole hiking group went along!

Is there anything you would change about your trip?

One area that might be considered to improve was that my partner was unable to go hiking one day because she had an old knee injury and the hike up Torres Del Paine was very stressful to the knees. It would have been great to have offered her a place on an alternative tour for this day. As it was though, she did have a day of rest in our dome, which was quite good.

Did you visit anywhere else as part of your trip?

We visited friends in Santiago after the trip, but we didn’t fit in any other places in Chile or Argentina.

What was the highlight of your trip?

Our highlight of the trip was the trek to see the Grey Glacier, we were impressed with how close the boat took us.

IMG_1595

Lauren’s Winter W Trek in August

Lauren returned in August from a Winter Trek in Torres del Paine. Here she tells us about her experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners in Chile…

IMG_1982

How did Swoop do in helping you plan and arrange your trip? 

From the beginning, Swoop was easy to work with and always quick to respond to any questions that we had about planning our Patagonia trip. It was especially helpful to get their insight into the pros and cons of setting up a trek during Chilean winter, and we didn’t feel pressured one way or another. In the end, doing the 5 Day Winter W Trek was amazing and worth a little bit of cold weather!

[Here’s a little more about Weather in Patagonia throughout the season]

Is there anythign we could have done differently?

Nothing! You guys had just the right amount of communication with us as we went through the trip-planning process.

IMG_1595

How did you enjoy the itinerary provided by our partners in Chile?

Although we were initially in a bit of sticker-shock from general Patagonia organised trek costs, we were very happy with the value that our trek ended up having. Everything from the itinerary to the food to the transportation was well organised and comfortable, and we were able to have a nice balance of a rugged trekking experience with certain little luxuries that made the trip more relaxing and enjoyable.

One of the nice things about the itinerary during our trek was its flexibility- obviously a lot of what we did depended on the weather and other external factors, but our guide made sure to check in with us about what we wanted to do and what we were feeling up to as the trek continued.

How were your guides on the trek?

Our guide, Mauricio, was amazing. Not only was he very knowledgable, experienced and attentive as a guide, but he was also just lots of fun to hang out with and easy to spend 5 days with. Because our trek was only 3 people including the guide, we were curious how that dynamic would go…but it was always comfortable, fun and easy-going. Mauricio also did a great job of showing us the sights, critters, and unseen spots in the winter, and he always challenged us to go a bit further. It was always worth it!

Is there anything you would have changed about your trip?

Nothing that I can think of.

IMG_1742

What was the highlight of your trip?

Our very first day of full trekking was a clear, cold, and sunny day, and we decided to head up the French Valley. Thanks to Mauricio’s knowledge and experience, we were able to put in a full day of hiking and make it all the way up to the Britanico viewpoint. The snow seemed pretty untouched and it seemed like we were the only ones who had made it up there this winter, and without any other people around, it was very surreal and beautiful. An exhausting but amazing day that was very, very worth the hard work!

Do you have any tips for other people planning a trip?

Go in the winter if you are okay with some cold temperatures and being a little bit flexible…Not only is it beautiful to see the snow, ice and winter landscape, but it was amazing to feel like we were the only ones there. A great way to do the W-trek.

Did you manage to visit anywhere else in Chile or Argentina?

We spent time in Santiago, Valparaiso, and Mendoza…but that was just warm up for the beautiful sights and great experience of being in Chilean Patagonia!

IMG_1698

Screen Shot 2014-05-23 at 14.54.24

Patagonia on the Web – 8th August

Swoop’s roundup of all things Patagonian across the web this week.

Swoop’s Favourite Photographs:

Screen Shot 2014-08-08 at 16.25.10Mt FitzRoy – Greg Boratyn
‏@GregBoratyn takes wonderfully colourful shots of Patagonia that look at how the changing light effects the landscape. You can take a look at the rest of his work at his website.

Screen Shot 2014-08-08 at 16.34.28@dbustosp posted this fantastic photo of Lago grey on his instagram account along with some awesome shots of Torres del Paine. 
Find out more about Largo Grey .

Screen Shot 2014-08-08 at 16.43.31

Glacier lake by night ~Torres del Paine National Park, Chile.
The light on this  shot by  PanTwentySix on Flicker is amazing. Follow on twitter @Aquafloater

Swoop’s blog of the week:
summit-fitz-traverse-honnold-caldwell

Climber Alex Honnold on the Fitz Traverse; Photograph by Tommy Caldwell
National Geographic Beyond the Edge blog.
Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell talk about their  “Extreme Backpacking” on Patagonia’s Fitz Traverse.

Follow in their footsteps and plan your own Fitz Traverse adventure. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Leo’s Winter Adventure in Torres del Paine

Leo returned in May from a Winter Trek in Torres del Paine. Here he tells us a little about his experiences on the trek, shares some wonderful photos, and provides some helpful tips for other people travelling to Patagonia in Winter…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I completed the 3-day Winter Highlights trek with Swoop’s local host – Victor. It was a really memorable trek. Torres del Paine has both peaceful environment and stunning views in the winter.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We tried to arrange trips to Calafate afterwards but we didn’t have enough time sadly. We travelled to Easter Island afterwards.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The temperature is already below zero on the mountain but you are still warm if you keep walking. A walking stick is very helpful when walking on frozen land with slippery ice surface.

Thank you for helping me to plan this awesome trip!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Larry & Susan’s Trek in Torres del Paine & Los Glaciares, & Cruise from Ushuaia to Punta Arenas

Larry and Susan returned in March from a trip to Patagonia with friends Jane and Jim. Their trip included an Independent trek in Torres del Paine and El Chalten, followed by a cruise from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia. Here they tell us about their experiences on the trip and in planning and arranging it with Swoop and our partners in Chile and Argentina…

What was your experience of planning and arranging your trip with Swoop?

Speaking for Susan and myself, I think that the most important point in terms of the structure of the trip was that it worked very well.  I believe that there are certainly logistical and language issues with a trip such as this, and I feel that the arrangements made by Swoop and the other operators were well worth the money.  Having self-arranged trips elsewhere in the world, at least 5 times previously, going via Swoop was a different structure, and I would encourage others to do likewise, especially with potential language issues.

What were the highlights of your trip?

In El Chalten, we were pleasantly surprised that a small village of its size has the amenities that it does.  Nothing like walking into the Mirador for Fitzroy, and walking out to enjoy a pint at the microbrewery, followed by a great restaurant meal, and a good sleep at Kaulem. For me, El Chalten was the highlight, given the total surprise at what we had expected for facilities, and the relative ease at getting into the objectives.

The cruise was wonderful; great meals, wonderful tablemates, very knowledgeable interpreters.  The choice of a berth in the lower deck was the right one, given the rough seas, going towards Cape Horn.

Swoop is commended for recommending Parc Nationale los Glaciares; this was a highlight also.

How did you find the Trekking in Torres del Paine & Chalten?

I would not describe the “W Trek” as a life-changing experience.  Having hiked, scrambled, and climbed in the Canadian Rockies for 35 years I guess I have been spoiled.

The trails in both countries are well maintained and clean; the daily itinerary was very do-able, for people of our age and relative fitness.

We found the Refugio staff to be less than helpful, not at all service based, and the meals monotonous and of dubious quality, especially some of the vegetarian options.  I certainly think these young people could learn a lesson about guest expectations and service from the folks at Palermo, and on the Cruise.  I picked up bed bugs at one of the Refugios as well.  Could they not charge a little more, and offer a little more?

On the ground , we found your partners in Torres del Paine very helpful and a good resource, although we also took in the 3:00 p.m. talk at Erratic Rock.  She could do with a little more prominent sign.

How were your other accommodations during  the trip?

In Buenos Aires, we found the Palermo Hotel and its concierge service quite exceptional.  We are not normally effusive in our praise, but Luke really picked a winner here. The facility in El Calafate was unexceptional,  no strong memories, one way or the other.

In Chile, the people at both Erratic Rock were helpful, and it was appreciated that they held our spare kit while we were elsewhere (as did Palermo, in Buenos Aires).

The B&B in Punta Arenas could have been better.  We were in side by side rooms, nearby the upstairs dining area.  Noise from the front desk carried, the staff seemed to be oblivious to their all night “yakking” and then the German group got up (or maybe never went to bed) at 4:00 a.m. or so, to have breakfast.  So, a real lack of commitment to other guests, and I’d encourage you to find something smaller, and quieter.

Overall…

In conclusion, a well planned and well organized trip, for which considerable recognition should also go to my wife, Susan, as well.  I really think her secret job is also tour operating, and should you have any vacancies, please keep her in mind!

This is a trip we have been working on since we read Bruce Chatwins’ book, “In Patagonia”, in approximately 1980.  We still have the book, and brought it along to reread.  Then, we were poor University students and all we could afford was “armchair travelling”.  So, 34 years later and the circle closes.  We have fulfilled one of our dreams as a couple, between armchair and wheelchair, I guess you’d say.

Thank you, once again, for the effort. Cheers! Larry.

Luciana’s 3 day Winter Trek in Torres del Paine

Luciana returned in May 2014 from a Winter trip to Torres del Paine, during which she took part in a 3 day Winter W Trek in the National Park. Here she tells us about her experiences on her trip…

What was the highlight of your trip to Patagonia?

I had so many amazing moments in Patagonia. The highlight was probably arriving at the 3 towers (Torres Del Paine).

Did you manage to visit anywhere else in Chile or Argentina on your trip?

I am currently in Brazil, but did not get to visit any other places on this trip. I hope to come back again one day, and would love to visit the Atacama desert.

How well did Swoop Patagonia do helping you plan your holiday, and finding the best trip or operator for you?

They were great, I loved the trekking that they suggested and arranged for me.

Were you well looked after by our partners in Torres del Paine & their guides on the trip?

For sure. Vitor was an amazing, impeccable guide.

Was there anything that you wish had happened differently/or not happened at all?

Not that I can think of!

doherty 9

Matt & Sarah: Trekking in Los Glaciares

Matt and Sarah returned in April from Trekking in Los Glaciares National Park. Here they tell us about their experiences on their trip, and in booking with Swoop and our partners, as well as providing some helpful tips for other travellers visiting Patagonia…

doherty 8How were Swoop Patagonia?

Excellent in every way, would recommend them to anyone.

What did we do well?

Everything!  Swoop offered expert advice and it was clear from the outset that you specialise in this area. They were very responsive, friendly and considerate – we typically travel independently but it didn’t take long to realise the benefits of engaging with Swoop.  I do hope we get the chance to return to the region and if so we’ll be sure to contact you again.

[Read more about How Swoop Works]

doherty 2

What could we have done differently?

It sounds like a cop-out but genuinely, we can’t think of anything we would have liked to be done differently/better.

doherty 5

How were our partners who supported your trekking in Los Glaciares?

They were also excellent – helpful, friendly, knowledgeable… great to have support from them while we were in Chalten too. Thoroughly recommended.

doherty 1

How did you enjoy their itinerary?

Excellent – we worked with them to tailor the trip to our preferences and time available and it worked really well.  We were lucky to squeeze in Perito Moreno Glacier, a small trek on Viedma Glacier and 3 great day-treks… and spent time in El Chalten which is a fantastic little town.  I don’t think we could have done any more with the time we had available.

doherty 6

How were their guides?

Pedro accompanied us to Laguna de los Tres and we really enjoyed our day with him.  We were lucky enough to have great walking conditions and probably didn’t absolutely need a guide, however we got so much insight into the area, local mountaineering etc.  He’s such a friendly and genuinely hospitable kind of guy with a wealth of experience in the area… if we ever return to the area (I really hope we do) we’d be sure to look him up!

Is there anything you would have changed about this part of your trip?

More time possibly to take in multi-day treks or head to Torres del Paine though that wasn’t really viable.  We had 5 nights and with the time we had it was perfect.

doherty 7

What was the highlight of your trip?

Very hard to say but a close call between trekking to Laguna de los Tres & Loma del Pliegue Tumbado

doherty 4

Do you have any tips for other people planning a trip?

1. Consider a guide for at least 1 trek; we got so much out of walking with Pedro.

2. Don’t rush it too much – we thought we were rushing but we heard of plenty of people with so little time in Chalten… the area is stunning and deserves more.  It’s a great place to hang out too.

3. Consider the weather – we were extremely lucky but I don’t think what we had was typical.

doherty 9

Did you manage to visit anywhere else in Chile or Argentina?

We also had time in Buenos Aires and around Salta in the North-West.  From here we hired a car and saw some of the surrounding area… Quebrada de Humahuaca, Salinas Grandes, Cafayate etc.  All great and we’d thoroughly recommend it all – although Patagonia remains our firm highlight.

‘Once again a big thanks, I do hope we’ll be in touch again for another trip at some point.’

 

scott views

Excursions from an eco camp in Torres del Paine

Scott & Orlee returned in April from a trip to Chile, during which they spent 5 days of day hikes in Torres del Paine National Park, based from an eco camp. Here they tell us about their experiences on the trip and in booking through Swoop…

‘We had an amazing time in Chile, one that will not be forgotten with Patagonia being a definite highlight!’

scott torres

What did Swoop do well?

Communication and customer service which gained trust.  I also felt that I was being dealt with directly and not as part of the masses…a personalized service in helping organize our trip.

scott moss

What did you think of the eco camp in Torres del Paine?

This place is amazing.  Clean, comfortable, & hospitable.  I would (and already have) definitely recommend it to anyone!

We did encounter one issue that could have been serious…one morning the board walks connecting the domes and other facilities had frozen over with a very thin layer of ice that was not distinguishable from wet wood.  Unassumingly my wife led the way to breakfast and nearly fell right outside our dome (double scary when pregnant).  As I sort of rushed after her my feet went flying out from beneath me and fell within inches from hitting my head on the steps leading away from our dome.  I find it unlikely none of the staff noticed this on their way to prepare breakfast but regardless, guests should be made aware of this possibility and if the ground is unsafe, signs indicating icy or slippery ground should be placed in plain view at the very least. 

Also, our room had a hot water urn to make a tea or instant coffee.  These should be filled in anticipation of guests return from excursions so when we change for our brief & dinner we have hot water waiting for us (there was not much time to shower, change, etc…and the 1 time I went for hot water, there was none ready).

scott forest

How did you enjoy the excursions from the eco camp?

They were fantastic.  We also lucked out with the weather.  Our last excursion was the Lasso-Webber (sp?) trail hike in place of the French Valley (I think).  This should always be an option…just as rewarding as the towers and less effort.

 How were the staff and guides at the eco camp?

Guides were knowledgeable, funny, and comfortable to be around for long periods of time.  The drivers however went too fast at times on those bumpy roads and car sickness was not a welcomed addition to the trip.  

 Is there anything you would have changed about this part of your trip?

No, I don’t think so.

scott glacierWhat was the highlight of your trip overall?

Hard to say…the whole thing was a highlight.

Do you have any tips for other people planning a trip?

If guests are not regular hikers I would definitely recommend this trip, it seemed a better mix of effort and comfort.

Did you manage to visit anywhere else in Chile or Argentina?

Yes, Santiago, Puerto Varas (driving around the lake and visiting Osorno was also amazing), and Chiloe.

‘All the best from us to you, Luke and Sally and thanks again for helping us plan a truly unforgettable experience.’

scott views