Patagonia, February 2005

Buzz Burrell, Lisa Ledet, Stephanie and I spent a few weeks doing
Big Routes in Wild Places.


We flew from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia, Argentina, "El Fin del Mundo". We had time for only a little exploration before crossing the Beagle Channel to Puerto Williams, Chile, on Isla Navarino, in a tiny boat.

Ushuaia, Argentina

Buzz on the Paso de Oveja route near Ushuaia

Steph & Lisa on Paso de Oveja

A lucky ride back to Ushuaia

Our main objective was the Circuito Dientes de Navarino, which is billed as the southern-most trek in the world! It is a 54 km marked route, really not a trail at all, and is normally done as a 3-5 day backpack. Of course, we wanted to pull it off in one day. And what a day! Amazingly scenic and difficult route. Rocks, downed trees, bogs, getting lost -- everything but good, honest cruiser trail. Long day too, 11:26 to close the loop.

Puerto Williams, Chile

Lisa on Cerro Bandera

Looking down into the Southern Ocean

Beaver damage

Yet another pass

Rest break

"Let's go!"

Torres del Paine. We flew from Puerto Williams to Punta Arenas, then took a bus to Puerto Natales and on to Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, Chile. Here, Buzz & I planned to pull off the classic Circuito Torres del Paine in a single day. It is a 100+ km loop around a massif of towering granite spires, flanked by enormous glaciers that pour off the Connecticut-sized Hielo Sur (Patagonian ice cap). Outside Magazine called this route one of the top 10 classic treks in the world.

The bus dropped the four of us at Los Torres, and we backpacked 11 km in to Refugio Los Cuernos, one of 5 huts along the circuit that offer dorm-style beds, meals, and (best of all!) hot showers. Just before dawn the next morning Buzz and I headed out to run the circuit in a clock-wise direction.

Glacier Grey

Blue ice

Playing in the lenga woods

Above Glacier Grey
After some mellow trail along Lago Nordenskjöld, we began the arduous ascent of Paso John Gardner. To our left the massive Glacier Grey spilled house-sized blocks of blue ice into the lake below. Though at only about 4,000 feet, the pass was far above treeline and had a distinctly alpine feel. We were surrounded by soaring peaks and glaciers, and condors circled overhead. A cold wind blew off the ice cap, so we quickly dove off the pass towards an alluring, verdant valley far below. After some talus, and then an annoying bog, we hit dreamy, smooth single track that wound for miles though lenga (southern beech) forests and open fields, with more amazing mountain and glacier views that kept our minds off our tired legs. The site of Refugio Dickson, on the remote northern side of the circuit, was so idyllic that we didn’t want to leave. But, we had a long way yet to go, and so ran on. We finally made it back to Refugio Los Cuernos just before dark, with an “official” time of 15 hours and 39 minutes, to the best of our knowledge a record for this route. We just had time for a shower before being served a nice hot meal. Great!



Refugio Dickson

Lago Paine

Parque Nacional Los Glaciers (Fitzroy). After a couple more days kicking around Torres del Paine, Buzz & Lisa headed to warmer (and less windy!) climes in northern Argentina and Brazil, while Stephanie & I went on to the Fitzroy region of Argentina's Parque Nacional Los Glaciers. It was a grueling travel day -- 11 hours of bus rides mostly on wash-boarded dirt roads, but we finally arrived in El Chalten, the dusty access town for this amazing area.

Cerro Torre from Laguna Torre

Glacier Piedras Blancas

Stephanie refuels Argentine style

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