Flora and Fauna in Patagonia

Guanacos! We saw these guys nearly every day we were not in the mountains. They look a lot like llamas and are a favorite food source for the top predator in these parts, the puma.

Guanocos

On our last hiking day we got lucky and saw two pumas. We were in the van on the way back to the Eco Camp and saw some cars parked and guys with spotting scopes.  They were about 100 m away, guarding a guanaco kill. It was definitely one of the highlights of the trip (thanks Roberto!)

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Puma (with a point and shoot camera from 100 m or so)

We saw lots of birds, probably the coolest were the condors (which we saw several times) and the red-headed woodpecker.

And we saw a fox (actually saw a couple of foxes) near the trailhead on our last hike in El Chalten.

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Chile (or chilly) Hiking

After four days in El Chalten, Argentina we headed south back to El Calafate for one night before proceeding on a van trip further south and west, crossing the border into Chile and on to the Parque Nacional Torres del Paine.

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The Eco Camp and our home for our first night in Torres del Paine

The weather was decidedly worse here in Chile, a lot more rain and colder. But we saw more wildlife and some stunning views.

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Map showing the areas in Patagonia we visited

3/12 (Mon)

We  did three hikes starting with the iconic Valle Ascencio hike which was probably the hardest. Unfortunately Roberta was not feeling well so did not join us. And Mark and Debra slept it and also missed the hike! We left about 8:00 and were back at the Eco Camp by 5:00.

3/13 (Tue)

Took a van to a boat ride across Lago Pehoe to Refugio Paine Grande (a very impressive “hut”) where we dropped our dry bags and started on the Valle Frances hike. Roberta is feeling better and Mark and Debra managed to wake up in time so we have all our group today.

Back to the hut by about 4:30 – this is where we are spending the night, 6 to a room in three bunk beds. Another rainy day and our rain gear is starting look pretty nasty.

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Rain pants hanging up to dry. Nasty!

3/14 (Wed)

Last day of hiking! A short one to Glacier Grey and, again, rainy and cold but she very impressive views.

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Overlooking Lago Grey and Glacier Grey

We ended the day with a boat ride across Lago Grey to a van that took us back to the Eco Camp and our last night in the park.

 

El Chatlen

After a brief hike (about 5 miles round trip) to a spot with a view of the town we began three days of hiking in Los Glaciares  National Park, returning each night to our hotel in El Chatlen.

Had to modify my boots – the high tops were bugging me. Thank god for duct tape!

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New lo-rise boots!

Wed (3/7)

Up for our first big hike to Laguna Torre – ~11 miles round trip (out and back) but pretty flat – 1200 foot of climbing. It was a beautiful day, sunny and not too windy (which is saying something!). Left about 9:00 and back to the hotel by 4:30.  Laguna Torre is a glacier terminus lake.

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Laguna Torre

Thu  (3/8)

Up earlier – catching a van to take us to the trail head then we hike back. Earlier start – on the van at 8:00 and hiking by 8:30. Long hard day. Two of our group did not to the climb to Laguna de Los Tres. The climb was brutal – well over 1000 feet in less than a mile. 14.5 miles total and well over 3,000 feet. The weather was not great. We ended up putting on all of our rain gear in a shelter just before the climb to the Los Tres. It was rainy and cloudy pretty much all day. Snowing at the top – which was pretty cool.

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Fri  (3/9)

Another early start (8:00). Cold (31 degrees!) but looks to be clearing when we start. Fortunately it cleared and we had sunny and clear weather almost all day but it was very windy at the top. Kept us from doing the final climb to Pliegue Tombado which knocked off about 800 of climbing. Still a long day. At the lookout before the final climb it was blowing 30 mph and cold. So Jose and Rodrigo (our guides) decided we would not go.

3,000 foot day (1200 to 4200 feet) even without the final climb and 15 miles round trip. Left at 8:00 and back by 3:30. Very short lunch at the viewpoint because of the wind

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Approaching the top of our hike. Fitz Roy in the background.

We had stunning views of the Fitz Roy massive throughout the day (the first time we have been able to see it).

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Our view at lunch!

Spanish for “wind”? Patagonia!

After four days  wandering around Buenos Aires we caught our local flight to El Calafate (Monday, Mar 5) and the start of our Alpine Ascents trek. After a brief mixup at the airport (we grabbed a cab to the wrong hotel) we finally hooked up with our guide (Jose Luis) and met the rest of our hiking team.

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Our group hanging around the hotel

The drive to El Chalten the next morning (Tuesday) was our first taste of Patagonia. And, unlike all the pictures, most of Patagonia is not snow-capped mountains but rolling plains. And wind. Lots and lots of wind.

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What most of Patagonia look like

And, by the way, those are guanocos in the foreground, our first taste of Patagonian wildlife. They are pretty much ubiquitous. They are related to llamas.

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A guanaco doing what they do…

And on to our first hike… a short afternoon hike from our hotel in El Chalten

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Looking down on El Chalten
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Two wind-blown hikers just before the rain started