Tag Archives: Trekking

Peter and Natalie’s wintry Torres del Paine trek

Peter and Natalie’s wintry Torres del Paine trek

In May 2015, Peter and his girlfriend Natalie ventured to Torres del Paine National Park in Chile for a 5 day winter adventure, as part of a longer two month journey within South America. Here, Peter shares some of their highlights and tips for this challenging but exciting Patagonian experience.

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How was your winter trek?

The walk was great and we were really lucky with the weather; overall our timing could not have been better, yes we got some bad weather but it came at a ‘suitable’ time. Although it did make me realise that in winter we could have easily been unlucky; we met some people doing hikes who were at slightly different stages to us and unfortunately were unable to see the towers or other parts.

Overall, I would say that if you can face the cold, I would recommend you go in the winter. The lack of people in the region at that time was a real bonus – we practically had the trails to ourselves.

Our guide was great. We couldn’t fault him – he was very accommodating and understanding when Natalie unfortunately got sick. For me, my highlight was the walk into the French Valley. Obviously the view to the towers on the last day was also incredible. Natalie really enjoyed the Grey Glacier, as she had never seen one before.

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Peter’s and Natalie’s trip 

Peter and Natalie took a private transfer to Torres del Paine National Park and started with a hike to the shore of Lake Pehoe. The rest of their trip included a trek through forests to Glacier Grey, a night in a cozy cabin on the Serrano River, hiking to Torres del Paine lookout and of course Peter’s highlight, the walk around Paine Grande, to the French Valley viewpoint.

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Final tip from Peter and Natalie

We found once in Torres del Paine, that it was still possible, in winter, to get a bus from Puerto Natales to El Calafate to see the Perito Moreno Glacier. Had we known this beforehand, we would have definitely included a visit there in our itinerary.

Swoop can help you work out the tricky logistical arrangements of your trip, even in the more complicated winter months. Do get in touch to find out how.

 

Eric & Nancy’s Patagonian Dream

Eric & Nancy’s Patagonian Dream

“I had for many decades dreamt of travelling to Patagonia. Our five days hiking in Torres del Paine are five days that we will never forget. Thank you so much for your help in organizing this trip. It would have been most difficult for us to do on our own.”

Eric and Nancy had always wanted to visit Patagonia and Swoop helped them to arrange a classic hiking trip in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile. Eric gives us feedback from their unforgettable five day hike in the park and time spent in Puerto Natales:

How did you find the W Trek in Torres del Paine National Park?

Your partners and guides did an excellent job. Our guide was informed, an excellent communicator, read our group well and challenged us accordingly. He is a skilled guide who we would happily use again.

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How was your accommodation?

All of our connections worked out perfectly. The accommodations in the park were good, perhaps excepting the 2nd refugio, but we acknowledge that they were overwhelmed by adverse weather conditions on that night. Our hostels in Puerto Natales worked out well.

How was your experience of using Swoop Patagonia?

After floundering somewhat in our attempt to access travel information for hiking in Patagonia, we found your website indirectly through a blog. The information on that site was immediately helpful. Your prompt response to our questions and your questioning of our intentions and abilities were most helpful.

Swoop can help you book the Patagonia trip of a lifetime. Do get in touch to find out how.

Jenny’s Torres del Paine dream trip

Jenny’s Torres del Paine dream trip

In September, Jenny took a memorable trip to Torres Del Paine National Park in Chile. Jenny does an amazing job below of telling us all about her experiences, the trip highlights and what is was like travelling with Swoop Patagonia and our partners.

Jenny’s feedback

Out of all the places I have seen in Chile during my trip (Santiago, Valparaiso, Atacama Desert, Torres del Paine), Torres del Paine was absolutely the highlight.

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Not only was I excited about being in Patagonia, a wish that has been on my list for quite a while, but choosing an organised hike with a tour operator was a very good choice as well. You can certainly do the trip by yourself; you will meet many people, the paths are marked very well, you can probably buy books that guide you through the park and its characteristics. But having a local guide just gives you the opportunity to learn so much more about what you see, about Torres del Paine National Park, its geology, flora, fauna and history, and getting this first-hand information right away, with the chance to get answers to more detailed questions as well, is a clear advantage in my eyes.

The trip on the W trek was organised perfectly by a tour agency recommended by Swoop Patagonia. The operation manager and one of the main organisers there were always very friendly and helpful whenever there were questions arising prior to the trip or even when urgent support was needed just the night before the trip.

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During the trip itself, even though parts of the hike were unexpectedly demanding (but still a big joy!), we always had enough time so we didn’t need to rush through the park, but enjoy the scenery whenever we wanted. The Torres del Paine National Park is a very special place, and I’m glad we were able to fully enjoy its beauty!

The trip was a big joy not least because of our very professional and pleasant guide! Whenever we had questions about things we saw he was able to give us an answer. Whenever we needed a break or wanted to spend some more time at a certain spot, he would understand and make that happen. He was very caring and always gave us the information we needed about what was going to happen the day. He had a good sense of humour on top of it all, which made the trip special as well.

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I’m thankful Swoop Patagonia put me in contact with their local partners in Torres del Paine! I would definitely recommend Swoop to friends and family, because I think first-hand advice from people who know the region just makes planning so much easier. And Swoop is doing their job very well, as far as I can tell from my experiences.

We Know Because We Go: Harriet, Chloe & Sally’s Patagonia Trips in the Spring

We Know Because We Go: Harriet, Chloe & Sally’s Patagonia Trips in the Spring

In Spring 2016 Harriet, Chloe and Sally will be downing tools and heading to Patagonia. Regular trips like these ensure we stay close to our roots and maintain our in-depth knowledge of the region. We test out new trips, visit new parks, hike new routes and eat in new restaurants – all in the name of research, of course.

Harriet – Trekking, Mountaineering & Aysen Specialist

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On a Swoop recce to Reserva Cerro Castillo in 2015

I am focusing all three weeks of my trip on the little visited Aysen region of Chile. I am planning to follow the spine of the Andes from north to south: trekking from Lago Verde to Lago Palena, visiting the Queulat National Park, sightseeing and relaxing on the Lago General Carrera. The final week of my Aysen adventure will be spent in the Patagonia Park, getting to know the various treks and day hikes there.

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The Autumn colours of Aysen

I am very excited about the Patagonia Park. It’s an area that is receiving a large amount of coverage in the press at the moment, because of its link with the late Doug Tompkins, The North Face founder. I know a particular corner of Aysen fairly well, as in 2002 I spent 3 weeks in the Tamango Reserve volunteering on a biodiversity study.

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Admiring Giant Rhubarb (Gunnera manicata) in Queulat in 2010

The Tamango Reserve is now to be integrated into the New Patagonia National park. I am very keen for Swoop to be able to offer some new and exciting adventures within the national park and only by getting into the area and exploring it with our local partners will I be able to truly understand what I am offering our customers.

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Pedalling towards Lago General Carrera in 2010

The trek between Lago Verde and Lago Palena is reported to be one of the best in Aysen. I first discovered the trek on a friend’s blog, as the photos he took are absolutely incredible. I am entranced by the apparently enchanted forests and what looks like some great streams to swim in, but also the apparent remoteness and tranquility. I can’t wait to experience it for myself.

Chloe – Wildlife & Cruise Specialist

Prepping for the Patagonian winds on the Devonshire coast

My first ever trip to Patagonia – I’m SO excited! As Swoop’s cruise and wildlife specialist, I’m starting off with a 4 night ‘Wildlife, Glaciers and Cape Horn‘ cruise through the Chilean Fjords from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia (pronounced ‘oosh – why – ah’). I will be heading out on a number of excursions to see glaciers and wildlife including penguins, elephant seals, sea lions and dolphins.

Penguins of Isla Magdalena

My next stop will be the mountain town of El Chalten, where I’ll take a 2 day hike to Cerro Fitzroy and Cerro Torre and go rafting, before heading to El Calafate for an ice hike on Perito Moreno Glacier.

Perito Moreno Glacier, El Calafate

Next – the absolute highlight for me – a Humpback Whale Watching trip in Chile, where I’ll be spending three days studying the whales that congregate in the waters of the Magellan strait from my base at an eco research camp on Carlos III Island.

Breaching humpback Whale off Carlos III Island

On the final leg of the trip I’ll be venturing to the famous Torres del Paine National Park to hike the W Trek, and try out some of the park’s hotels, eco yurt camps and luxury lodges.

The famous Towers or ‘Torres’ of Paine

Sally – Lake District & Bespoke Trip Specialist

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The flights are booked but unlike Chloe, there is really only a loose plan as to how I’ll be spending my 21 nights! One thing that is for sure though is that I am just as excited.

I absolutely love Chile and having spent so much time there over the years it always feels like going home. On this trip I will have the opportunity to visit the new Tantauco Park in the southern part of Chiloe Island. It’s a private park of 118,000 hectares with a new network of hiking refugios, virgin forests, exquisite bird life and wonderful flora.

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The Bay of Ancud, Chiloe Island

I am utterly obsessed with Chiloe Island. It is charming, quaint, relaxing, captivating, intoxicating – time simply slows down. Whenever I visit, I am always filled with the sensation that I simply just don’t want to leave. As I was on the ferry leaving the island after my last visit I wrote a few words in my diary…

There is something about Chiloe that grabs me every time I visit, it sounds silly but something reaches deep down inside and touches my soul. It fills me with a feeling of deep satisfaction for having been here, experiencing the tranquility, calmness and simplicity to life. Thank you Chiloe.

I simply can’t wait to discover this new part of the island.

For the second part of my trip I am hoping to white water raft down the mighty Futaleufu river, then cross into Argentina to either hike, kayak or mountain bike (or all 3!), using the small town of San Martin de Los Andes as my base.

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If we’ve inspired you with our passion for Patagonia and you’re interested in any of the trips or activities on which we’re embarking, then we’d love to hear from you to help you plan your incredible adventure. In the meantime, you might like to take a look at our Itinerary Selector to help you decide what sort of trip might suit you best.

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Ted and Rick visit Torres Del Paine

Ted and Rick visit Torres Del Paine

In November, Ted and Rick and a group of their friends took on a seven day circuit in Chile’s iconic Torres Del Paine National Park. They recount their trip and experiences of booking travel with Swoop Patagonia.

TedBrna1Ted’s feedback

“Many thanks for supervising a terrific and memorable trek. I would absolutely recommend you, certainly over other groups I contacted before selected your agency to organize our tour. Swoop always sent accurate communication – no question was left unanswered.  I really can’t think of anything you may have neglected.

IMG_5682Probably the best part of our trek was our trekking guide, Nicholas.  He was a perfect fit for our group of 5 with superb social skills, direction, knowledge base and flexibility. It was a shame that the wildfire had wiped out a lot of the native beech trees on the hike but that certainly did not detract much from the amazing beauty of the Park!  The highlight to me was the hike to the Towers and view there though the entire 5 day trek was awesome.“

Rick’s feedback

Trip went like clockwork and as planned. Swoop’s recommendations were spot on. Would definitely recommend Swoop and use them if I go back. Swoop’s local partners could have not been better or more helpful. Zoe and her team were great.

IMG_1536Self guided hikes were great, trails well marked. There was plenty of reading material for each hike so you knew what to look for on the hike. Reaching the Mirador base at Las Torres and Lago de los Tres at Fitzroy were certainly the highlights. Incredible views.

Ted & Rick’s itinerary

IMG_5741The group’s trip began in Punta Arenas, where we arranged a transfer for them to Torres Del Paine National Park. Swoop’s partners in Torres del Paine then took Ted, Rick and their friends on a five day hike around the famous W circuit staying at refugios along the way. Of his time spent in the refugios, Ted said “Food was generally very good and better than expected – I personally was very satisfied. Our guide also carried probably 10 lbs of avocados on the trek and personally enhanced our lunches daily with them! The refugios also provided plentiful hot water for washing/showers and adequate toilet facilities”

Ted’s top tip would be to take a towel along as not all refugios provide towels (although it’s something Swoop Patagonia are currently working hard to ensure!):  “I wish I had brought a microfiber quick dry towel for the trip – the other 2 guys said you recommended a towel in your list but I missed that!”

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Amber and Mark’s trip to Chiloe Island and Torres del Paine

Amber and Mark’s trip to Chiloe Island and Torres del Paine

Amber and Mark give us some wonderful feedback from their trip to Chiloe Island, Torres del Paine, and Los Glaciares in March 2015, as well as some great tips for people considering a similar itinerary.

Amber and Mark’s Itinerary

After arriving in Santiago, Amber and Mark flew to Puerto Montt and onto the island of Chiloe, where they enjoyed a scenic drive through The Bay of Caulin- A fantastic spot to see local and migratory birds. Whilst in Chiloe they stayed at the homestay of La Casita del Mar and enjoyed two days of trekking and sea kayaking in the Bay of Ancud. An early morning transfer took them to Puerto Montt airport where they flew to Punta Arenas and then took a bus for the rest of the journey to Puerto Natales.

After a night at the Hotel Indigo, they embarked on a self guided W trek in Torres del Paine, staying in various cabin’s, Refugio’s and Hotels. Their self guided trek took them to some of the most impressive sights that Torres del Paine has to offer – The famous towers, Lago Noredenskjold, the French Valley and the Grey Glacier.

In the last few days of their trip they enjoyed a guided excursion to the Perito Moreno glacier  before taking some self guided day hikes to Laguna Torre, Laguna de los tres and Loma del Pliegue Tumbado from El Chalten.

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Amber & Mark’s Feedback

How was your time in Chiloe?

Swoop’s partners in Chiloe were amazing, Britt made us two delicious meals (so similar to how I cook that it was wonderfully comforting) and was a gracious host. They were appropriately attentive and kind. Our kayak day was perfect and Jack gave great tips on where to go. The dogs were amazing. :-)

James was a great guide, he was super knowledgeable and clearly passionate about Chile. I would not have guessed that he had only recently moved to Chiloe from Santiago. In hindsight, we probably would have preferred a little less time with a guide, as it felt a little more scheduled that perhaps we would have liked.

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How did you enjoy your time in Torres del Paine? 

Laura and Carlos, Swoop’s partners in Torres del Paine were great. They were super helpful when someone stole our bus tickets at Punta Arenas. I would have been helpful to have had more detailed instructions on where to get the bus as I think had we been waiting in the right place, we would have been there to get our tickets before someone else took them.

Laura was also super gracious when we missed our bus to Calafate (the time had been changed to 7am from 8am which she told us on the first day and updated on our voucher but we didn’t update it on our itinerary and we had a very late night the night before due to Grey II being cancelled). She picked us up at the bus station, dropped us at a great coffee shop, and kept our bags for the day.

We had a few complications with the Grey II boat as it was cancelled last minute and we ended up having to hike 3 hours to Grey, then 40 mins round trip to the glacier, and then 3 hours back to Paine Grande to wait 3 hours for the catamaran across Pehoe instead. It was unavoidable but frustrating as we weren’t mentally prepared for it.

The refugios were great. Food was a plenty. It was great overall!

In Puerto Natales, I would recommend staying at the same hotel before and after the W trek for ease. Both the Indigo and Altiplanico were great hotels.

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How did you enjoy your time in El Calafate and El Chalten? 

El Calafate was good. The Perito Moreno glacier was amazing. We took the 3 hour trip, but 3 felt that 2 hours would have been plenty of time.

Swoop’s partner Zoe was nice when we arrived in El Chalten and helpful in adjusting our schedule after our delay in leaving Puerto Natales.

The hotel Senderos was great. The food there was the best we had…on the whole trip! We really liked the Cervercia. We thought La Taperia was overrated. 

Here’s some more information from Swoop’s Harriet on places to eat in Chalten.

Peter’s Winter W Trek

Peter’s Winter W Trek

Peter recently came back from a winter W trek, here he tells us about his experiences with Swoop, our partners and the trek itself.

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How was your winter W trek through Torres del Paine?

The walk was great and we were really lucky with the weather.

Day 1 was super windy with a few clouds – but was good to see how harsh this place could be.

Day 2 & 3 were the most perfect blue sky no wind days for the hikes into the french valley and grey glacier.

Day 4 the moving day was totally low cloud, couldn’t see a thing, but was okay because we walked out.

Day 5, was snowing on the drive and first hour or two of the hike to the towers. Then we continued on up through dense fog, and on the last scramble up to the towers it cleared to blue skies, so it couldn’t have been better. Just was we were heading down the fog rolled in again.

Overall our timing could not have been better, yes we got some bad weather but it came at suitable time. Although it made me realise in winter we could have easily been unlucky – we met some people doing hikes at slightly different stages to us and couldn’t see the towers or other parts.
Our guide was great. Couldn’t fault him. Was very accommodating and understanding when Natalie got sick.

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What were the guides like on your trek?

For me, my highlight would have been the walk into the french valley. Obviously the view to the towers on the last day was also incredible. Natalie really enjoyed the grey glacier, as she had never seen one before.

What would you have changed about your trip to Torres del Paine?

One thing that would have changed our plans was the advice we got (before leaving aus) that we couldn’t get a bus in winter from puerto natales over to el calafete in argentina to see perito moreno. We found this was not correct, it seemed buses were leaving natales almost every day to el calefete and we met multiple people who had done just that and see both. Anyway I can’t remember if it was you guys or the contacts at chile nativo that gave that advice, but that’s not the case and because we had already planned the next stage of our trip back up in northern chile we couldn’t just go while we were there. Our guide on the ground knew that it was possible, so perhaps the chile nativo contact based in Santiago (I think) could get updates from the guides in natales.

 

Bader Valley – Paine’s hidden valley

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.

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

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.