Questions about hiking in Patagonia
December 27, 2017 8:21 AM   Subscribe

For various reasons, we are getting the chance to spend some time in Patagonia in early to mid January, and intend to spend some of it hiking. We are finalizing our plans -- but we have questions, specifically about the Perito Moreno Glacier and Torres del Paine.

Perito Moreno Glacier -- my spouse and I have a full day in El Calafate and were planning to book one of the glacier tours. One is a "Mini Ice" tour which is on the ice for an hour and a half, the other is a "Big Ice" tour which is on the ice for four and a half hours. The second one stresses that it is strenuous, intended only for fit people, and there is a hard age limit that cuts off at 50. I am trying to decide if the "Big Ice" would be more fun (see more of the glacier!) or if it would become exhausting and miserable.

I am the less fit of the two of us -- I am 45 years old and reasonably fit (I am an intermediate level weightlifter), and I currently have a mild but uncomfortable left shoulder injury. I enjoy hiking, but do not generally go on serious / strenuous / extended hikes. Any advice on which tour we should take?

Torres del Paine -- we have two days in Puerto Natales, and are using one to take a group tour of the area. The second day, we plan to bus in to Torres del Paine, hike around for a while, and bus back (we won't have a car). Any advice on a fun day hike we could take starting from and returning to one of the bus drop-off points -- no more than, say, ten miles total? (We are aware that Torres del Paine is renowned for its multi-day hiking paths, but we won't have time to do that, so we just want a day hike.)

Thanks in advance!
posted by kyrademon to Travel & Transportation around Washington, DC (4 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I only learned about Torres del Paine this year. I have never seen a place so beautiful. There some spots to view that mountain range in reflection. I would not miss that if at all possible.
posted by Oyéah at 10:03 AM on December 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

We did the big ice tour several years ago, and it was very much worth it. We had about an hour of hiking with substantial vertical gain on a dirt path at the beginning, but once we put on the crampons and got on the ice it wasn’t particularly difficult or exhausting. Because the surface of the ice is unpredictable - there may be little streams and rivers over the ice - you may need to hop/jump over water a few times. From your description, I think you’ll be fine unless just being out and walking for that long with your shoulder is a problem.

I don’t have particular recommendations for day hikes, but take into account the area that was burned out a few years ago by careless hikers - it hasn’t fully regrown and isn’t as beautiful as the rest of the Park.
posted by asphericalcow at 10:36 AM on December 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

I did the mini ice walk on Perito Moreno a few years ago and felt that it was enough time on the ice. I was kind of worried I wouldn't be fit enough for something you need crampons for but it was easy. I think the benefit of more time on the ice would be getting farther away from other tourists potentially but you can only go so far, and the ice is always changing so the route will be different and depend on current conditions.

Taking a horseback ride with a Guacho from El Calafate was just as memorable, and we lucked out with only 4 people in our group. I'm not a horse person, but riding through the empty countryside with far away views of the glacier and no other tourists in sight was amazing.
posted by Bunglegirl at 2:28 PM on December 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

I did something similar to this last year. We had a car so we were a little more flexible, but in terms of dayhikes, I would try to do the Sendero Mirador los Cuernos. It's a couple hours through a fairly flat landscape (devastated by fire years ago, very eerie looking terrain), past the Salto Grande waterfall and with an excellent payoff of the mountain range. I think the nearest bus dropoff is the Pudeto station. There's also a waterbridge partway across Lake Pehoe in that same region, which gives you another fantastic panoramic view of the area.
posted by basalganglia at 2:43 PM on December 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

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