Tag Archives: Hiking

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Sarah & Michael’s W Trek in April

Sarah & Michael returned in April from a trekking holiday in Torres del Paine. Here they tell us about their experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

Thanks so much for all your help and information which allowed us to have a wonderful W trek! We had an unforgettable time in Patagonia and the itinerary created by Harriet was spot on.

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We took our W Trek from 5th-9th April and we were so lucky- we had lovely weather! Not a drop of rain! :)

Puerto NatalesWe got on great with our guide Victor who met us on Sunday at your partners’ office in – the whole experience was very positive- we enjoyed the refugios, the food, the lunches.

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The route was well planned and we were comfortable with the distances each day. There were some fabulous views too- Patagonia is such a lovely part of the world.

Thanks you too Harriet for the itinerary you prepared for us before we left, and for suggesting Perito Moreno and El Chalten- we took a day trip to Perito Moreno from El Calafate as you suggested and did the mini ice hiking which was a great experience. Again we had a beautiful sunny day for it which was lovely.

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We weren’t so lucky in El Chalten where it poured rain for our day hike  to Laguna de Los Tres- but we had a better day for Laguna Torres. We really enjoyed them- it’s a great town, lovely hiking, lovely views and met lovely people.

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And Chloe thank you so much for the thoughtful presents you sent just before we left- they’ve been with us on all our treks & we’d be lost without them!!

Thanks again for all your help!

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Ice Hiking on Glacier Grey

Harriet from Swoop recently returned from Torres del Paine where she spent an afternoon ice hiking on Glacier Grey. The ice hike lasts 5 hours and there are departures in the morning and afternoon  from November until March. Harriet thinks this is a great activity and everyone should add it onto a trek in Torres del Paine!

01 Embarking on our adventure near Refugio Grey....

Embarking on our adventure near Refugio Grey…

02 ....and zooming across the water to the ice

…and zooming across the water to the ice!

03 We disembarked on a Nunatak that straddles the lake and glacier Grey

We disembarked on a nunatak that straddles the Grey Lake and Glacier…

04 It took just under an hour to walk from the drop off point to start the ice hike

…and it took just under an hour to walk from the drop off point to start the ice hike.

05 The going is a little difficult so ladders have been put in place to assist

The going is a little difficult, so ladders have been put in place to assist you.

06 The striated rock is fascinating and the view towards the Cordon Olguin and Paso John Gardner is captivating

The striated rock is fascinating, and the view towards the Cordon Olguin and Paso John Garner is captivating.

07 Hey mum! Look at me!

Hey Mum! Look at me!

08 We descended to the ice

We then descended to the ice…

09 Where we put on helmets, harness...

…where we put on helmets, harnesses…

10....and crampons

…and crampons.

11 _Take your ice axe and point it at the sky._ We were instructed how to walk on the ice ‘Take your ice axe and point it at the sky!’

We were instructed on how to walk on the ice…

12 Getting onto and off the ice was the most challenging part

…getting onto and off of the ice is the most challenging part…

13 But then we were off

…but then we were off!

14 Staying in single file at all times

Staying in single file at all times…

15 Leaping across little streams

…leaping across little streams…

16 Guzzling hot chocolate

…& guzzling hot chocolate…

17 The sound of gurgling water and cracking ice made you appreciate the dynamic nature of the glacier

…whilst the sound of gurgling water and cracking ice made us appreciate the dynamic nature if the glacier.

18 Up we went.....

Up we went…

19 ....and along

…and along…

20 Peering into huge crevasses......

…peering into huge crevasses…

21 ...and wondering how deep they were

…and wondering how deep they were!

22 Two and a half hours of ice hiking passed very quickly

Two and a half hours of ice hiking went very quickly…

23 Then an hour walk back to the boat

…followed by an hour’s walk back to the boat…

24 ....and the end of our Glacier Grey experience

…and the end of our Glacier Grey experience.

15...and half expecting a Huemul to jump out

Los Huemules Reserve, El Chalten

Harriet from Swoop recently returned from El Chalten where she checked out  the Los Huemules Reserve, a private 5,800 hectare reserve, to the North of Chalten and bordering the Los Glaciares National Park. It was created 15 years ago to preserve the ecology of this area and protect it from development. Experts were brought in to assess the ecology, geology, flora and fauna of the park and help develop a reserve that would highlight the beauty of the reserve whilst helping to preserve it.

Some areas have been urbanised, 90 lots have been sold and on 11 of those, houses have been built. Sustainability is very important so water is brought down from Laguna Azul to supply the buildings and a hydro-plant powers them.

 A series of trails of different difficulties have been developed so that tourists can do a number of hikes.  The rest of the park has been left to grow wild and hopefully the Huemules, foxes, Magellanic woodpeckers, condors and puma will find sanctuary there. Although the trails will not get the spectacular views that you will get from Laguna de Los Tres and Laguna Torre, these hikes are special because of their solitude, exploratory nature, the pristine landscape and diversity of species within the reserve through which they pass.

Here is Harriet’s story of her day spent discovering the reserve…

01 From our cosy cabaña at Ricanor

From our cosy Cabaña at Ricanor…

02 we headed to Los Huemules reserve

…we headed to Los Huemules Reserve.

03 There isnan interpretation centre and the park rangers passionately told us all about the project

There is an interpretation centre, and the park rangers passionately told us all about the project.

06 It was a dreich day...

It was a dreich day…

07 ...but we set off into the woods none the less

…but we set off into the woods nonetheless…

08...heading towards Laguna verde

…heading towards Laguna Verde

09 Crossing a new bridge across the Rio del Diablo

…and crossing a new bridge across the Rio del Diablo…

10 Up to Laguna Azul

…up to Laguna Azul

11 with views of Cerro Electrico

…with views of Cerro Electrico….

12 ...and a Chilean Flicker

…and a Chilean Flicker!

13 Carefully sticking to the newly made paths following yellow waymarkers

We carefully stuck to the newly made paths, following the yellow way markers…

14 ...following the signs...

…and signs…

15...and half expecting a Huemul to jump out

…half expecting a Huemul to jump out!

16 But instead we spot some funky mushrooms,....

But instead we spot some funky mushrooms…

17 and PUFFBALLS!!!!JPG

…and PUFFBALLS!

18 The mountains clear for a moment but it doesn't last and the rain returned so we went home

The mountains cleared for a moment but sadly it didn’t last and tghe rains returned, so we head on home.

In order to reach the Los Huemules Reserve you will need to take a transfer from Chalten, it is a good idea to base yourself near the reserve for a couple of nights in order to thoroughly explore the trails. There are a cabañas, hotels and camping nearby so do let us know what you are looking for and we can check availability for you. This is a great option if you have time in Chalten and want to access some remoter areas without getting completely off the beaten track.

08 ...and we reached Lago Huemul

The Huemul Glacier Mini-Hike

Harriet from Swoop recently returned from El Chalten where she checked out a short hike that is great for people with half a day free to explore, or for those who do not want something a little easier. You climb for 30 mins to 1 hour through beautiful Lenga Forest to the Lago Huemul and hanging glacier Huemul. Allow 1-2hours for the whole hike.

This mini-hike makes a great day out when combined with a boat ride on Lago del Desierto on which you will get views of Mount Fitzroy from afar and the Vespignani glacier from close up. Alternatively hire a bike, get driven out to Lago del Desiero, complete the hike and get blown/pedal back to Chalten. Please ask for more information about this hike and other activities near Lago del Desierto.

Here Harriet takes you on the mini-hike with her to show you the way…….

01 We drove to Estancia Lago del desierto...

 First we drove to estancia Lago del Desierto… 02 ....just 37km from Chalten at the end of the road on the banks of Lago del Desierto

…just 37km from Chalten at the end of the road on the banks of Lago del Desierto.

03 The Huemul Glacier minihike climbs through the Lenga forest, gently at first

The Huemul Glacier mini-hike climbs through the Lenga forest, gently at first…

04 Before becoming steeper

…before becoming steeper…

05...where the roots of the Lenga create a staircase for you to climb

…where the roots of the Lenga create a staircase for you to climb.

06 After just 30 mins we emerged from the forest, this may take you a little longer as we were going quite fast

After just 30 minutes we emerged from the forest (although this may take  a little longer as we were going quite fast!).

07 The path flattened...

The path then flattened…

08 ...and we reached Lago Huemul

…and we reached Lago Huemul.

09 You can continue climbing the moraine to your right

You can continue climbing the moraine to your right…

10 ....but instead we had a drink...

…but instead we had a drink…

11...and enjoyed the glacier views

 …and enjoyed the views of the Glacier. 

This trailhead is 37km from Chalten so take a transfer from Chalten. There is an entrance fee of ARS$100 to enter the Estancia and climb to Lago Huemul.

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Patrick’s Trekking holiday in Torres del Paine & Los Glaciares

Patrick returned in April from a trekking holiday in Patagonia that included treks in both Torres del Paine and Los Glaciares National Parks. Here he tells us about his experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

Thanks for all the help leading up to my trip. It was a fantastic journey and Swoop’s assistance was a great part of making it a success. 

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How were Swoop Patagonia? 

You guys were fantastic. Patagonia is such a big area and it’s kind of intimidating to begin the planning process. But with Swoop’s help, I was able to put a solid travel plan together with ease. I’d say the biggest thing I appreciated was you getting me started with ideas and connecting me with reputable companies in Patagonia. It was like working with a friend who just got back from her own trip.

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How were Swoop’s partners who supported you in Chile and Argentina?

Both were fabulous.

Zoe in El Chalten was amazingly helpful with bus transportation, hiking planning, and just offering advice on how to get the most out of the area. And my guide for the Huemul Circuit, Pablo, was incredible. He was professional, knowledgeable, and helpful in every way. That trek would’ve been much less enjoyable without him guiding us along.

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Similarly, Julieta, my guide for the Torres del Paine Full Circuit trek made that experience greatly enjoyable. She did so many little things, like having her friends make brownies and granola bars for us, that really made the adventure special. I didn’t work with your Chilean partners’ office folks as much, but they were very friendly and helpful when I did interact with them.

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What was the highlight of your trip?

The highlight of the trip was the Huemul trek. It was more of a back-country adventure, which I really enjoyed. We pretty much had the trail to ourselves and the terrain was varied and challenging. Plus, the scenery, while perhaps not as famous as Torres del Paine, was still iconic Patagonia. I got pretty lucky with the weather, so I was able to get some great shots!

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Did you manage to visit anywhere else on your trip?

I did make it down to Ushuaia and Tierra del Fuego and I would say that area is not quite as magical. The hike up Cerro Guanaco in Tierra del Fuego national park was as challenging as any day of hiking I did in Patagonia and offered incredible sights from the top. But other than that, nothing else in that part of the area really amazed me. I suppose part of this could be that I visited Ushuaia after seeing the rest of Patagonia, so maybe I’d recommend people start in Ushuaia and then head elsewhere.

Thanks again for all your help! If there are any websites where I can brag about you guys, let me know.

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Teri & Deb’s Torres del Paine & Los Glaciares Adventure!

Teri and Deb returned in March from a trip to Patagonia, which included 4 days of excursions in Torres del Paine, and some hiking in Los Glaciares National Park. here they tell us about their experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

We had a great trip and enjoyed both areas of Patagonia. 

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How was your time with Swoop’s partners in Los Glaciares National Park?

We were very well taken care of from pick up & delivery services to hiking recommendations…all good. They even loaned us hiking poles during our stay in El Chalten.

We hit some rocky weather but it didn’t spoil our adventure. Sometimes we didn’t get to see the full view points on our hikes (due to snow, clouds & wind on Laguna los Tres & Laguna Torre) until we were leaving town on the bus, but then we might never have hiked in 100 Kph winds if we hadn’t ventured forth! It was an experience.

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We loved El Calafate (& the beer by the same name), and would have liked to explore the wine country after trying the local Malbecs too.

Glacier hiking on Perito Moreno was a huge highlight. We had great guides, good weather and it was a spectacular site. We only wish they would re think the age restriction on the Big Ice hike.

El Chalten is a beautiful hiking town, and a very sweet location. It was very gusty though and we sure appreciated the Buff supplied by Swoop, it kept my nose stuck on my face when the wind threatened to tear it off and fly it to Antartica.

All transportation was very comfortable and timely (except the American leg on Delta).  We spent a lot of time traveling, but those busses have great views and are cushy compared to flying.

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How was your time in Torres del Paine

The eco friendly camp…ahhhh!  What a delightful way to wrap up our trip. Blissful location, comfortable, great food, good wine, just a wee bit of travel to get where you were going to hike.

We were fortunate enough to see a Puma up close on our first excursion from camp.  She had just fed on a Guanaco kill and was lazing in a rock overhang right beside our trail.

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Were also lucky enough to get to do both our big hikes – the French Valley and Base of the Towers.  Weather threatened our Base hike but knowing how much we wanted to see it, they decided to give it a go on our last day in camp. It turned out to be spectacular. We were thrilled.

How was your experience of planning and arranging your trip with Swoop Patagonia?

Swoop was a font of information about itinerary options and tips. We were just a bit confused early on to be introduced directly to your local partners. I suppose we were thinking that you would be our single point of contact and all coordination/details would be with you. Your partners wonderfully helpful and delightful to us however. They were ready & waiting for us on arrival and all went smoothly -  so I would say you have your ducks in a row and are working with some great folks over there.

We appreciate all that you did to make our trip a success.  We were a bit late in getting the planning started but with your help it was stellar.  Not just another location checked off the bucket list for these 60+ hikers, but a beautiful, surreal series of experiences, sights and memories that will warm our hearts for a lifetime. Thank you.

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Dan & Alina’s Extended Full Circuit

Dan and Alina returned in April 2015 from a Trek in Torres del Paine. Here they tell us about their experiences on the trek and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

All was great . We discovered a universe that needs to be preserved.

What did Swoop do well?

The trip was great – both the Extended Full Circuit itinerary and Swoop’s selection of the best local partner to support us were good. I am actually going to go on a quest to try to convince all of my outdoorsy friends that this is a must do – and categorically recommend Swoop.

What could we have done differently?

The only thing I would suggest (which may work for some others like us who only spend 2 weeks there) would be to advertise a Torres De Paine Full Circuit with an El Chalten leg. This is what we ended up doing, with a night in El Calafate in between. The two places are close enough and it ended up being absolutely the best, since you see  El Chalten (Fitz Roy, Cerro Tore, etc) and the Torres Del Paine Circuit.

The other thing I would suggest is to try to promote the Torres de Paine Full Circuit  more, since it is different (and way better in my opinion) than just the W Trek. There are places like Dickson, Perros, El Paso, the view of Grey Glacier from El Paso that are ‘once in a lifetime’, and a simple W Trek does not include those.

How were Swoop’s partners in Torres del Paine?

They are great – Laura was so great to accommodate a last minute change (quite radical actually, as we wanted to include El Chalten on the Friday before the trip).

How was your guide?

Our guide, Nico, was not only a world class climber, but also ended up being like family! He was very knowledgeable, passionate, and in love with Patagonia. Dario was of the same caliber also- they were some of the best guides we used. We could not have been treated better, honestly.

What was the highlight of your trip? 

For me, every day was special, really. I cannot pinpoint to one unique highlight – Patagonia creates in you a state of inner peace that takes over everything that you experience. Really special.

Did you manage to visit anywhere else on your trip?

The only other part of Argentina we saw was a ½ day in Buenos Aires. Very pretty, highly recommended if you have a long enough layover. And the bus system is so great that you don’t even need to hire taxis from the airport to the city centre, nor to rent a locker in the airport. The bus system offers all, for very very convenient price (we ended up storing our backpacks for a day for 30 Argentinian pesos, both – the equivalent of 3 UDS – not bad for 2 big backpacks!

Thank you again for organising such an amazing trip, it was wonderful indeed.

 

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Trekking in Torres del Paine & Los Glaciares

Mark & Nat returned in March 2015 from a trekking holiday in Torres del Paine and Los Glaciares National Parks. Here they tell us about their experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

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Would you recommend Swoop to friends, family or colleagues planning a trip to Patagonia?

We would definitely recommend Swoop Patagonia to our family and friends. Your service really helped us weed through the many options available in Patagonia.

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Local knowledge and experience were clear – we really valued being able to tailor an itinerary to suit us, and giving our business to local operators.

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How were Swoop’s partners in Torres del Paine and Los Glaciares?

Both were excellent. Julietta who looked after us on the Full Circuit in Torres del Paine was a stand-out guide, and the team in Chalten was also very helpful when we had to make unplanned changes to our itinerary.

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Our plans changed in Chalten due to an injury incurred along the way, so instead of taking the Huemul Circuit, we ended up staying three nights in a house on the Los Huemules reserve. This was an excellent alternative – we were able to self-cater and go for day walks, and it got us out of El Chalten (for a change).  Worth offering to other clients in the future.

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The Laguna del Diablo day walk was especially enjoyable, and Aguas Arriba lodge was a great suggestion for a luxurious wind-down base.

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What would you have changed about your trip? 

Perhaps travelling later in the season (we were there mid Feb) – the number of people in Torres del Paine and scale of the refugios was a little overwhelming. We were very pleased that we did the Full Circuit instead of just the W Trek for this reason.

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There also seemed to be a bit of a communication gap between the trekking and kayaking companies in Torres del Paine re what gear to bring. This was resolved quickly but could have been avoided.

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What was the highlight of your trip?

The highlight was the John Garner pass on the Paine Circuit.  We had excellent weather, and this was an unexpected vista.

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The kayak tour was also a highlight, especially the hospitality and company provided by our guide, Jose Luis. Do make sure that you warn people that it is 42km on day one, and can be extremely windy – this caught us a little off guard.

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Do you have any tips for fellow travellers planning a trip?

Be prepared for the Patagonian winds, and do the Full Circuit over the W Trek if you are physically able to.

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Nancy’s Fast Track W Trek

Nancy returned in March 2015 from a Trek in Torres del Paine. Here she tells us about her experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

We can’t thank you enough for an excellent and memorable end-to-end experience. This was, by far, my favourite vacation ever and the Torres del Paine hike was certainly the highlight of the trip. Please extend our thanks to the rest of the Swoop team as well as to our guide and your partners in Torres del Paine. Thanks again and we can’t wait to travel to S. America again soon!!

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What did Swoop do well? 

I truly appreciated the extremely quick and thoughtful responses from multiple members of the Swoop team, including the initial correspondence with Luke, the Skype call with Harriet to discuss options, and the follow-up email post trip from Chloe.

Given the wealth of options for activities, trails, transportation, lodging etc in Patagonia, it quickly became overwhelming for us to try to plan this trip on our own while maximising our time in Chile. So we were so glad to find Swoop (and that you accommodated our request just 2 weeks before our trip)!

You can tell that the Swoop team is genuinely invested in working with their clients to tailor their trip to fit their specific needs/interests. The website is  very informative and easy to navigate and we appreciated the pre-trip tools like the packing list and the generous postcard and head scarf gift, mailed internationally! We also felt extremely lucky to be paired with two other hikers who we got along with very well!

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What could we have done differently? 

It might help to assess each hiker’s physical shape, hiking experience, and any concerns they may have about the hike before their trip and to communicate this to the tour guide as this could help improve communication overall between the tour guide and hikers and prevent injuries throughout the hike (see below for more notes on this). Of course, we completely understand that Swoop is not responsible for any injuries but some basic steps towards injury prevention could have been beneficial. In addition, it may be worth setting expectations with your hikers that they will need to share rooms with fellow hikers (this was definitely not an issue at all for us, but I could see where this could be surprising for others).

Would you recommend us to friends, family or colleagues for a trip to Patagonia? 

Absolutely! The Torres del Paine hike was the highlight of my overall trip to S. America and it wouldn’t have been possible without the professional guidance and support from the Swoop team. In addition, the price of the overall package was extremely reasonable considering all of the transfers needed for the 3 days.

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Did you enjoy your itinerary? 

Yes! Based on all the research we did online, it was clear that the 3 key sights to see in Torres del Paine were Base Torres, French Valley, and Grey Glacier but weren’t sure if this would be feasible in just 3 days. The hike to the base of the Torres was definitely the most rigorous (but rewarding!) hike, so we thought the sequencing of the 3 hikes on this Fast Track W Trek was perfect, with a gradual decrease in difficulty level.

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How were your guides? 

Carlos was an amazing, responsible, and knowledgeable guide. He gave us sufficient briefings each night before the next hike. We loved the lunch he packed us on Day 1 (fresh salmon sandwiches) and we were so touched when he carried hot tea for us to enjoy at the top of each hike as well as extra avocado, tomato, and cream cheese to supplement those dry boxed lunch sandwiches from our refugios :-)  We also had an especially long and tiring hike of the French Valley on Day 2, but Carlos made sure we were all settled at Paine Grande right before going to bed and had everything we need before he started pitching his own tent for the evening.

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

Our one criticism is that it was difficult at times to keep up with Carlos, especially during the French Valley hike. Our hike down the mountain was extremely fast and there were several times where all four of us in the hiking group were concerned about safety. We thought that better communication from Carlos would’ve been helpful about laying out our options for the day and how our pace would need to increase significantly with longer hikes so we could manage this better. In hindsight, I would’ve have definitely opted not to complete the final stretch of the French Valley hike, had I known that we would need to hurry back down the mountain.

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What was the highlight of your trip? 

The highlight of the trip was visiting the base of the Torres, because of the beautiful, rewarding view after a tough trek! That day started off very foggy and we weren’t sure we’d actually see the view from the top but were incredibly lucky that the weather cooperated with us for the day! The catamaran boat rides were also beautiful – we enjoyed beautiful weather both ways!

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

I found Swoop’s packing lists to be particularly useful. Initially, I doubted that we’d really need gear for 4 seasons but am really glad we packed accordingly as it was pretty cold/rainy (especially for the Base Torres and Grey Glacier legs).

You should also pack your own towels (even for Lodge Paine Grande as they ran out of their rentals).

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

Yes, we spent a total of 9 days in South America and our itinerary included 1 day in Buenos Aires, 1 day in El Calafete (to visit the Perito Moreno Glacier), 1 day in Puerto Natales (horse back riding), 3 days in Torres del Paine, and 2 days in Mendoza wine tasting.

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Bill’s Trekking holiday in Torres del Paine & Los Glaciares

Bill returned in March from a trip to Patagonia, during which he embarked on some fantastic hikes in Torres del Paine and Los Glaciares National parks. Here he tells us about his experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

How was your experience of booking with Swoop?

The service I received from Swoop Patagonia was excellent.  All emails were answered  in a timely fashion and your staff responded very well to any questions I had.  Further, you provided a number of options that I could chose from, in terms of activities, places to visit and making the best use of the time I had available.

How were Swoop’s partners who supported you in Torres del Paine and Los Glaciares?

The service I received from both partners was great.

The two different guides I had on the day hikes in Los Glaciares were excellent.  They both knew the routes, had good knowledge of the geology, plants and weather conditions we encountered.  Pablo (I think that was his name), who led the trek to Laguna de los Tres, had to make the decision to cut the trek short due to weather conditions (he thought we might run into heavy rain during the steepest part of the trek). I felt that he used good judgment in making that decision.

Regarding costs, I think the basic cost of the Self-guided W Trek was a little on the high side. I say that because this payment mainly covered transportation, and food/lodging arrangements at the refugios, and the boat on Grey Lake — no guide services.

If you were to do it all again, what would you change?

I would allow more time. Maybe two nights at Torre Central Refugio in order to improve the chances for getting some good views and photos of the actual Torres that are so iconic to any trek in Torres del Paine National Park. The day I trekked up to the “mirador” (where most people have their lunch and take in the spectacular view), on the 2nd day of the 5-day Independent W Trek, the “Torres” were shrouded in clouds and I couldn’t see much.  My trekking companion had been up there a day earlier and had fantastic, clear, views and photos of the three rock towers. Weather can make a huge difference!

I also would have allowed another day in Argentina to visit the Perito Moreno Glacier. But I was unable to extend my flight itinerary due to the fact that I was using award miles for payment.  Also, if I had booked the trip 6 months to a year in advance, I’m sure that I would have had more flexibility

‘Overall, I would certainly recommend Swoop Patagonia to friends, family or colleagues planning a trip to Patagonia. Thanks again for the excellent customer service that I received.’