This challenging trek in Patagonia is sure to make you feel like a pioneer!
We travel to Aysen, the most sparsely populated region of Patagonia, dominated by spectacular icefields, snow-capped peaks, and impossibly-blue glacial lakes. Our adventure starts on the shores of Chile’s largest lake, Lago General Carrera, and takes us on remote gaucho trails between lakes and glaciers, climbing to passes with spectacular views of Patagonia’s highest peaks, and getting up close to rushing rivers and tranquil lakes, while on the shores of Lake Leones we witness icebergs breaking away and bobbing on the water.
To appreciate the sheer force of nature, look no further than this panorama-packed gem of a trek in remote Patagonia.
We arrive in Santiago and take an internal flight south to Balmaceda in Northern Patagonia (approx 2.5 hours). We then drive the Carretera Austral, Patagonia’s well-known long-distance road, through landscapes that whet our appetite for the days to come. We finally arrive at our wonderful purpose-built lodge overlooking Lago General Carrera, and relax! Night lodge.
Today’s trek is a superb leg-stretcher and serves as a great way to recover from the travelling and orientating ourselves with our new surroundings. We set off from the lodge and walk steadily uphill through forest towards the Veranada, a small mountain that dominates the lake and provides wonderful panoramic views over the region. We can see across to the Northern Patagonia Icecap, including the Leones Glacier which we will see in close-up later this week; Mount San Valentin (4058m), Patagonia’s highest peak, looms in the distance. On the way we look out for the sea fossils, which testify to the origins of the Andes mountain range. Returning to the lodge the same way, we relax for the rest of the day. Night lodge.
A short transfer takes us to our trek start point, where we set off for Lago Meliquina. The walking is relatively gentle at start, but soon climbs steadily to a pass, where we get our first glimpse of the lake. Its deep blue waters contrast richly with the hanging glaciers of the mountains surrounding it. We then descend into this remote, adventurous and beautiful landscape, where the remote paths are trodden mainly by local gauchos. We follow the spectacular Leones Valley into camp, part of a gaucho estancia (ranch). Night camp.
A stunning route awaits us today, on rough paths undulating deeper into the mountains, to the stunning situated Lago Leones. This lake is considerably larger than Meliquina, its waters a stunning blue-green from the dramatic glacier that carves its way down from the ice cap, splitting into three rivers of ice that spill into the lake. After soaking up this impossibly scenic setting, we head to our camp, where if time permits, we will explore our local surroundings. Night camp.
An easier morning, as we cross the lake by boat for a close-up look at the Leones glacier, hopefully witnessing the impressive sights and sounds as chunks of ice are calved into the waters of the lake. It’s an unforgettable experience. After lunch back at camp, we enjoy an afternoon trek through Rio Fiero valley to Lago Fiero, where there are wonderful views of ice bergs floating on the glacier lake; after plenty of time to savour the views we head back to camp. Night camp.
The scenery has been incredible so far, but today’s final hike ramps it up even further! Consequently, we have two options for trekking today, one of which is especially demanding and weather conditions can make it unfeasible; with more demanding and exposed terrain, individual ability is also a factor and the group may split. This tougher route is a very challenging day on foot, with a height gain of almost 1000m, as we climb up through the forests of the valley, out of the treeline and into the stark world of the glaciers. Punta Camello (1320m) is our small summit, dominated by the world of ice surrounding it, and we are treated to unparalleled panoramic views of the vast icefield, mighty glaciers and jagged mountain peaks including Mount San Valentin. The alternative option takes us up to the glaciers beside Lago Leones, before we set out to explore the valley leading to Lago Cachorro, a narrow jewel of a lake snaking between the mountains. Night camp.
We leave camp behind and walk out of the Leones valley to meet our waiting vehicles. As we make our way to Lago General Carrera, we should have time to break our journey at the stunning water-sculpted rock formations of the Marble Cathedral, a beautiful series of caverns eroded over thousands of years by the glacial waters of the lake. After enjoying the incredible shapes, and their photogenic reflections in the blue waters, we continue our journey to the lodge, where the hot tub and sauna will make short work of any aching muscles! After time relaxing, we enjoy dinner looking out over the views for our last evening in Patagonia. Night lodge
Your safety, and that of the rest of the group, is our highest priority. Our trips are designed and planned with safety in mind. Your crew will be equipped with communication devices (eg phones, radios and/or emergency satellite phones), medical kit and other safety apparatus appropriate to the destination. Our leaders always have access to our 24-hour emergency UK back-up. They are responsible for safety on the trip, and will make any changes to the itinerary they deem necessary, should local conditions dictate. Pre-trip administration - such as medical questionnaires and travel insurance as appropriate - is all done with your safety in mind.
We camp in two-man tents; these are usually expedition-style (ie sleeping room only). Camps are usually simple, in remote locations with great views! We have communal dining areas (usually with tables and chairs/stools) and toilet tents, and the local crew look after us very well. We stay in hotels (of a 2-3* standard or equivalent) at the start and end of the trip; standards may vary between different hotels, but they are generally clean and comfortable with good facilities.
We plan our trips around the optimal weather conditions, but could still be exposed to bad weather at any time. It is vital you are prepared for all conditions. We provide you with a detailed packing kit-list on registration, as well as details on useful discounts you are entitled to as a Discover Adventure customer. We are always available if you need advice.
If you are still to buy some kit don’t forget that Cotswold Outdoor, Snow and Rock, Cycle Surgery and Runners Need offer all Discover Adventure participants 15% off any purchases you make with them. Please ask us for the code if you do not have this already.
Travel Insurance is compulsory on our challenges; we strongly suggest that you arrange insurance cover as soon as your booking with us is confirmed. Should you need to cancel on medical grounds, you will need insurance to cover the costs involved (registration fee and any trip costs depending on cancellation date).
You should also ensure that you have adequate cover for the type of challenge you are taking part in as well as medical emergencies, evacuation and repatriation.
You can obtain a quote with Insure to Travel from our website here, or you may choose to take out your own travel insurance, just remember to let us know the policy number and emergency phone number!
For more information about travel insurance, please click here.
For most people, the main attraction of travelling to a different country is to see new sights and enjoy new experiences. Sometimes those new experiences can make life harder or more inconvenient than you may like, such as toilet hygiene or different food, or simply a different attitude to solving problems. This is all part of the challenge you are signing up for! We are very privileged to live in a country with a high standard of living, and travelling exposes us to different challenges – all of which help broaden our horizons. We can guarantee that coming face-to-face with experiences outside your normal ‘comfort zone’ will help you bond with your fellow participants and provide you with plenty of things to laugh about! A sense of humour and sense of adventure are two of the most important things to bring with you!