Tag Archives: Trekking

15

Bader Valley – Paine’s hidden valley

In Torres del Paine the W trek is the classic route that many people hike that takes you to 3 magnificent valleys – the ascencio, Frances and Grey valleys. For more experienced hikers there are a number of different routes including the Paine Circuit and others that take you off the beaten track and allow you to see another side to the park. On my recent trip to Torres del Paine I wanted to see these routes that I hadn’t seen before.
Read here about my foray up to the Oggioni pass.

The second route was the Bader valley, a small valley that most hikers walk straight path. The turnoff isn’t obviously and it slices into the range between the Cuernos and the Torres giving you an extraordinary close up of the Cuernos and a different view of the south tower.
We took some camping kit and spent a day hanging out at the climbers camp there.

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When you wander from the ascencio valley to refugio Cuernos you’d never notice the Bader valley or the path that takes you there.

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But a teeny tiny path heads right at the Cuernos. Snow had fallen in the night and the Cuernos were white with a thin layer of snow

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As we climbed the Nordenskjold lake lay below us …

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 …the fresh snow made the going tough at times.

 

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As we climbed the valley revealed itself and the Cuernos towered overhead…
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…until our necks had to strain upwards to see them.

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In a small thicket of trees we pitched our tents…

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…and continued up the valley with just the lids of our rucksacks.

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The path stops at the camp and to continue onwards we hopped from rock to rock which was made tricky by the fresh snow.

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We continued to marvel at the Cuernos ( I really am obsessed with these fellas) as they changed shape and size. My guide Justin traced mental climbing routes up them with his eyes

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A toothy ridge of pinnacles played in and out of the clouds up ahead, and the wind started to build.

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The snow, boulders and wind made for slow going so we decided to leave exploration for the morning when better weather was forecast.

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Bader camp is a climber’s camp with no facilities just a shelter made from branches, tarpaulins and string. A shovel for digging cat hole toilets hangs from a tree trunk in the centre of the shelter.

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We prepare and consume an enormous pot of lentils and precooked pork with enough garlic to keep the vampires away.

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After a 12 hour sleep we wake to the roaring of the wind in the trees. The wind is so strong that we can’t walk in a straight line, it is certainly not great for boulder hopping. So we pack up camp and head down.

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1Check out the squalls on Lago Nordenskjold!

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There are beautiful blue skies and the Cuernos look spectacular!

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…as we descend with legs braced against the wind.

If you want to know more about Paine’s hidden valley, get in touch today.

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Bushwhacking the Oggioni Pass – The Paine range’s most adventurous trek 

 In Torres del Paine the W trek is the classic route that many people hike that takes you to 3 magnificent valleys – the ascencio, Frances and Grey valleys. For more experienced hikers there are a number of different routes including the Paine Circuit and others that take you off the beaten track and allow you to see another side to the park.
On my recent trip to Torres del Paine I wanted to see these routes that I hadn’t seen before.

The first route was the Oggioni pass high up above the Ascencio valley. This pass slices through the Paine range from the towers viewpoint directly to Dickson camp and looked incredible.  As I was short on time I recced the pass as a day hike from Hotel Las Torres but for very strong walkers you can hike across the pass to shorten a circuit trek or to create a completely different trek. Here is a description of the route and how we got on.

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The sun rose in a glorious and triumphant glow,

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We set off along the trail up the ascensio valley to the towers.

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Instead of following the general migration toward the viewpoint…

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…. We turned off and only caught this Scoundrels view of Las Torres.

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The path became small as we stumbled through a boulder field….

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….and into the woods.

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We followed the Ascensio river as it bubbled its way down through beech forests.

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There was no one around and we were on tenterhooks, certain that we would see a Huemul deer.

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Our target lay on the ridge ahead.

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At Japones Camp a climber’s camp with a ramshackle shelter made from Tarpaulin, string…

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…and fallen branches and hung with victoriously and carefully chiselled wooden plaques in celebration of climbs past.

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As the path narrowed we turned off it altogether…..

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A tricky river crossing followed which involved crossing on all fours.

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Before doing this trek ask yourself if this is a river you feel able to cross.

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The forest thickened…

– Swoop Patagonia’s BlogKfnWIhS-sN-Zv6zXj1x0BrEaLyaSa4wQ1dRR0ExdcmI,r4gPXkGuXJPX-Dd8Aa4Pm4aTztAIMSAK2preDebs7U0

…and we wander up through the forest, free of paths and people.

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WAHHHH!!!!!!

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The edible Pan de Indio didn’t tempt us as we toiled.

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As we left the treeline…

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…the views started to open out…

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…and as we climbed…

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…the peaks of Escudo and Fortaleza dominated the Silencio valley.

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Rock dykes guided us towards the pass.

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The scree slopes became tougher……

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…and tougher

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We left the valley far below, this was no place for vertigo…

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The final push to the pass was snowy and early in the season much of the scree slope can be covered in a layer of snow.

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At Paso Oggioni the view opened up to reveal Dickson lake. If you are continuing onward the trail bushwhacks down to Refugio Dickson at the near end of Lago Dickson.

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A further climb to Punta Oggioni reveals the Silencio valley. and a view back the way we’ve come…

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…and a peek at the back of the towers and the peaks of Escudo and Fortaleza peaks.

 

 

 

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My guide, Justin had been to the pass but never scrambled up to the viewpoint above. We whooped with excitement for a good 5 minutes…

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…AMAZING!!!

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The wind was starting to throw us around so we descended back to camp.

For more information on The Paine range’s most adventurous trek, get in touch today.

Lisa’s Full Circuit in Torres del Paine

Lisa returned in March from a Full Circuit Trek based from an eco friendly camp in Torres del Paine. Here she tells us about her experiences on her trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

Trip to Patagonia was fantastic.  Fortunately we had great guides, a really fit group (everyone was a hiker), pretty good weather and perfect weather for the 1 day that meant the most to me :)

How were Swoop Patagonia in helping you plan and arrange your trip?

Swoop were great – very responsive to my emails, and thanks for sending me the pre trip gift, it was a  nice surprise :)

How were swoop’s partners who ran the Full Circuit?

They were not as responsive to emails and queries as Swoop, but we got there in the end.

What did you think of your itinerary?

The 9 day Full Circuit Itinerary was good – though the first day is a very tough introduction to the hike due the number of kms walked – and it would have been nice to have a “grace” day somewhere in case of bad weather (though realise this makes logistics very difficult).

What did you think of your Guides?

The guides were fabulous – we had a lot of fun :)

What was the highlight of your trip?

My highlight was the perfect day we had for the Paso Yungai coming down on top of the Grey Glacier.  No wind, sunshine, perfect weather for the most important day of the trip for me (I’d done some of the hike before – it was for this moment/view that I wanted to do the full circuit). Another highlight was having a wonderful bunch of people to walk with.

Did you visit anywhere else on your trip?

Also visited El Chalten region in Argentina for 8 days. Unfortunately the weather was not so kind to me there but I did manage to do some day hikes.

Per’s W Trek in Torres del Paine

Per returned in March from a trekking holiday in Torres del Paine. Here he tells us about his experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and out partners…

‘I am very satisfied with the whole experience, it was really great, and booth Swoop and their partners in Torres del Paine did a great job!’

How were Swoop Patagonia? 

Swoop were very good, they answered all of my questions, provided relevant information, and helped out with all of my booking needs.

How were Swoop’s partners in Torres del Paine?

They were very good also. I had an excellent guide for the W Trek, and a great itinerary… everything worked perfectly!

Is there anything you would change about your trip?

The only room for improvement that I can think of was that the food in our last refugio (Paine Grande) was under par compared to the others, and the drinks were also more expensive.

What was the highlight of your trip?

The views in Torres del Paine are clearly the highlight, on top of that we had fantastic weather! The small group I was with was also very nice with cool people.

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Jill’s Trekking Holiday in Torres del Paine & Los Glaciares

Jill returned in February 2015 from a trip to Patagonia that included treks in both Torres del Paine and Los Glaciares National Parks. Here she tells us about her experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

‘My time in Patagonia was amazing, I loved it!’IMG_0057

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

You guys did an awesome job of organising everything and I’d definitely recommend you. Of the six of us that hiked the 7 day W Trek together, five booked through Swoop. You guys were always quick to reply to any questions I had and gave me your honest opinions on what might be a good fit for me.

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

I had my doubts about the camp but I’m so glad I stayed there. The domes are wonderful! People we met out on the trail were typically envious of us when they heard where we were staying.

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

They were fine but, I did find them to be a little disorganised at times. The biggest issue was that it would take them a long time to reply to emails. This was understandable for the partner in Chalten as I know that the internet is poor there, but not so much for the other partner who was based in Santiago. This wasn’t a huge issue, more of an annoyance, especially as my trip approached and things became more time sensitive.

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Los Glaciares

I think that the Los Glaciers partner would benefit from some sort of online payment service. Cash is such a premium down there and it’s not the best feeling having to travel around with wads of cash. I also felt that this part of the trip was quite expensive for what I got. My tour guide for the Big Ice tour did not explain things well… It was neat to be out on the glacier but I thought they could have done a better job for the money I paid. I still loved being out on the Glacier and wouldn’t have been able to do that any other way. The guide we had at Estancia Cristina was good however, the day was really long but the hike took us through a really beautiful area. Swoop’s Los Glaciares partners suggested taking a transfer from El Chalten to do the Fitz Roy hike from a different starting point and set up the transfer for me which was really good advice.

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Torres del Paine

At the eco friendly camp all the staff and guides were outstanding. I learned so much and was so comfortable the entire time I was there. And the food was unreal! I wouldn’t have changed a thing about that part of my trip (except maybe the weather for the French Valley portion of the Trek).

Patagonia was definitely the highlight of my trip, but I also spent time in Santiago, Valparaiso, Buenos Aires and Mendoza. No complaints, but nothing compared to being in the south!

‘Thanks again for everything, it was an amazing trip.’

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Chantal’s Full Circuit in Torres del Paine

Chantal returned in January from a Full Circuit in Torres del Paine. Here she tells us about her experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

I had the most fantastic adventure in Torres del Paine! THANK YOU!

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How was your experience of booking with Swoop Patagonia?

Swoop Patagonia was great in informing and accommodating me with a local operator and finding a suitable group for my level of hiking. The website also had abundant information about travel to and around Chile. They also send you a very thoughtful pre-adventure gift :) I would recommend anyone to go through them!

How were Swoop’s partners in Torres del Paine?

Their itinerary was great! The half guided, half self guided circuit I took was planned to be completed in 7 days. The days were ver

y long but it was definitely achievable and worked with my short travel schedule.

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How was your guide on the W portion of the Trek?

The guide (Dorthe) was wonderful providing lots of info about the park (natural history, geology and political history). We got snowed out on our second last day and could not make it through the pass. Dorthe was very good about accommodating the group so we could keep going to finish the circuit instead of turning back. It added an extra day to the trip and we had to improvise for food (and pay a little more $) but it was all worth it! I am also very grateful that Dorthe gave me some second skin for my blisters.The porters were just as awesome!

Is there anything you would change about your trip?

If I were to change anything I would do it in 8 or 9 days instead of 7. Eight days is good middle ground for full challenging trekking days without feeling rushed to have to keep going. I would definitely suggest taking more time to enjoy the park and rest :) The scenery is breath-taking!

What was the highlight of your trip?

The highlights were the John Gardner pass and the Patagonian winds! Despite the bad weather I am very fortunate and happy that I was able to complete the circuit.

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

I would highly recommend second skin as a necessary first aid item for blisters on the feet. This trek was my first of this length and second skin saved my feet! Also a leash/strap for sunglasses. The wind blew them right off my face and carried them a while. Luckily someone found them and brought them to camp!

Did you manage to visit anywhere else on your trip?

After Torres del Paine, I took a day tour to Tierra del Fuego to see the King Penguins. My vacation finished with a 5 day stop in Santiago and Valparaiso. Although completely different than the Patagonia region it was good to learn about Chilean history.

It was an amazing trip! THANK YOU!

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Kathy’s Trekking Adventure in 3 Patagonian National Parks

Kathy returned in January 2015 from a trekking adventure in Patagonia during which she hiked in Torres del Paine, Los Glaciares and Tierra del Fuego National Parks. Here she tells us about her experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

‘I enjoyed all my adventures in Patagonia, it really is a beautiful area and I loved the attitude of the people – the importance of family, food and wine! Thanks so much Chloe for all your efforts in providing me with such a great adventure. It took me 20 years to get there since I first began making plans to visit the region and it was everything and more than I thought it would be.’

How were Swoop Patagonia?

Swoop have excellent contacts in the region and all my travels went smoothly. I am already recommending you to friends! The gift that Swoop sent me for my trip was very useful and I even slept in mine on the Tierra del Fuego trek as it was so much colder there than Torres del Paine.

 How were Swoop’s partners in Torres del Paine?

The Extended Torres del Paine Circuit itinerary I took in Torres del Paine was comprehensive and well organised. I think most of us put on weight on this trek! Eduardo, our guide, was excellent. He knew a lot about the region and felt very strongly about preserving it.  He looked after us really well, knew his first aid (!), and had a great personality and sense of humour.

How were Swoop’s partners in Tierra del Fuego?

We had a few communication difficulties with these partners initially as I was already trekking so was unable to receive emails from them re the next stage of the trip and then I had troubles connecting to emails which further delayed the process. It would have been helpful if information about pick up times was sent out at an earlier date. Otherwise everything on the Crossing Tierra del Fuego trek went well. Matias and Nico were also very good guides and looked after us through rain, snow, bogs, clambering over a million fallen trees, and so on. We LOVED the Hosteria we stayed at on the lake and the family running it were extremely welcoming.

How were Swoop’s partners in Los Glaciares?

Everything for my day hikes in Los Glaciares was well organised once I started and the hotels used were both good, clean ones. The only problem I had was that I had to ask for the details several times before departure. More details on my self guided hike to Fitz Roy would have been useful but then, I didn’t ask the questions either!

What were the highlights of your trip?

Highlights were the people I met all along the way; the first view of Grey Glacier from the pass; the glacier trek on Glacier Grey was absolutely amazing and more so than the one in the Los Glaciares National park; El Calafate and El Chalten with so many restaurant choices. There really were so many amazing sights and I’m really glad I had the time to do the extended circuit of Torres del Paine.

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

I would suggest bringing pesos with you for Torres del Paine treks as they charge a lot more if you use U$ to pay for your wine!

[Read Swoop’s tips on Currency]

Bring a small, easily packable day pack for the two days when you trek up the valleys and aren’t carrying your main backpack.

Pippa’s Guided/ Self Guided Full Circuit

Pippa returned in November from a Full Circuit Trek in Torres del Paine, half guided and half self guided, supported by Swoop’s local partners throughout. Here she tells us about her experiences o the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

How were Swoop Patagonia?

Swoop Patagonia were great. Luke was fab at the start helping plan the trip and your correspondence after that was helpful & smooth,

How were Swoop’s partners in Torres del Paine?

Swoop’s partners were also very good. Their correspondence was very good, with consistently rapid and helpful responses. We had a small hiccup with buses at the airport and they sorted us out very quickly.

What did you think of the Half and Half Circuit Itinerary?

The Half and Half itinerary was great, we at first thought it was going to be slow with only a few hours a day but in the end we really enjoyed that we were not rushing the hike and felt like we got to know the mountains really well.

How was your guide?

Our guide Nico was really good, very patient, easy to chat too and helpful. The porters were also really nice guys.

What did you think of the accommodation on the Circuit route?

The facilities were more modern than expected, we were expecting huts and we got country houses for half the trip but we loved the more basic huts at the back of the Torres circuit.

We would recommend the hired tents in the W to be selected by the lengths, my husband is 1m80cm and lying in a tent that is 1.70-1.80 was quite uncomfortable for him and we had 3 nights like this in a row.

The tent brought in by Swoop’s partners for the remainder of the trek was good, the recommendation here would be for them to get additional ground sheets as the damp seeped through to our mats and belongings on the tent floor.

Did you visit anywhere else on your trip?

Afterwards we went onto visit Perito Moreno glacier, the Fitz Roy range and then onto Mendoza and Buenos Aires before returning back to Brazil.

What was the highlight of your trip?

The whole trip was a highlight. We had a really good time and we got on with all the group members very well. We were blessed with good weather for 9 out of 10 of the days, which made a huge difference to the trip! The winds stayed away after day 1 so we were all really happy.

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Jon & Deb’s Full Circuit in Torres del Paine

Jon and Deb returned in November from a Half & Half Full Circuit (half guided and half self guided) in Torres del Paine. Here they tell us about their experiences on the trip and in booking through Swoop and our partners…

‘Thanks for your help with our trip to Patagonia. It was amazing!’

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We were extremely blessed with the weather, as we only experienced rain once throughout the entire trek, and that was during the evening, whilst we were asleep.

The group of people that we hiked with were great – we spent10 days together and there were no real niggles. Our equipment worked really well, the guide your partners arranged was an amazing individual with a high level of professionalism, and the porters were rock solid.

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We ate amazing meals for the two days in Puerto Natales after the trip, on recommendation of your partners who ran the trip: Aldea and the Red Crab. Great food next time you are in town.

[See Sally’s Restaurant Guide for more recommendations on great places to eat throughout Patagonia]

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On a down note – and beyond your control – we had everything that could go wrong with the flights go wrong…Luckily we had such a great trip that this is only a minor distraction!

I’d like to extend a big thank you to Swoop for the great work you did for us and for making our time work so well. We had an amazing experience and feel lucky that we came across your company online. You and your partner in Torres del Paine helped make the ground part of this trip run extremely well. Thank you.

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Nicole & Dustin’s W Trek in Torres del Paine

Nicole and Dustin returned in November from a Camping W Trek in Torres del Paine, here they tell us about their experiences on their trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

‘We had an amazing time in Patagonia! We loved it! Swoop and their partners organized an amazing trek for us!! We loved Torres del Paine!!’ 

How were Swoop Patagonia?

We really appreciate you putting us in contact with your partners in Torres del Paine directly. That was super-helpful, in particular given the short timeframe we had to organize this. Just based on this, you clearly differentiated yourself from others.

What did you think of your W Trek itinerary?

Your partners organised an amazing trek for us! We never went up to Japones, as the Torres campsite was open and perfectly secluded in the woods. Next time, we would probably keep our guide another day, go to Campamento Italiano and skip Los Cuernos – it was just too crowded there. Once we arrived at Paine Grande, it felt like a 4-star hotel ;-). It was a great, great trip!! We saw sooo much, and were incredibly lucky with the weather – our rain gear never had to come out once.

The transfers in and out also worked very well – even though the bus ride is very long. We would always cut out the loop via Puerto Natales again though.

How was your guide?

Carlos, our guide, did a truly amazing job!! He is very knowledgeable about flora and fauna, but also knew many anecdotes about how the names of the lagoons and peaks came about and changed over time… We really enjoyed that!!

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

Once back in El Calafate, we had independently planned to do the kayaking at the Upsala glacier, but even though we had paid for this (almost AR$ 6,000 (!!) for the two of us), the travel agent we used (Not Swoop) lost our reservation and never came to pick us up on Saturday morning. That was very disappointing that we missed that trip.

We have since investigated this ourselves and been informed by various hotels and other agents that they all avoid working with the company we used, even though they are  the only ones that offer this trip from Calafate and are also the ones doing Estancia Cristina – this company is apparently known for making this kind of mistakes and mishaps.

Else, all was perfect!!

‘Again, thanks so much for all your help in arranging this trip for us!! We really, really appreciate it!!’