Your trip begins today in El Calafate, Argentina. Plan to meet your guide and fellow travelers at the first night's hotel at 6:30pm for orientation. Dinner in El Calafate will be after the orientation. Dinner and hotel included.
This morning we rise early and depart for El Chaltén. Our route takes us around the southeastern shores of Lago Argentino and past picturesque Lago Viedma. As we drive, we watch the granite fin of Mount Fitz Roy rise up behind the turquoise waters of the lakes. Upon arrival at El Chaltén we leave our luggage and repack into our provided backpacks with only items needed for one night. Trekking via Rio Blanco we identify a variety of colorful flowers, unique plants and several species of birds. Hiking uphill, we stop at the basecamp area where climbers stage their expeditions to Fitz Roy's summit and enjoy the craggy panorama. We continue ascending the steep zig-zag trail to Laguna de los Tres. From this small lake, we have outstanding, close-up views of the nearly vertical rock walls of Fitz Roy's east face, the impressive spire to the south called the Poincenot Needle, and the unusually blue, Piedras Blancas glacier. We hike down to Poincenot camp to spend our first night camping under the stars in Patagonia. Breakfast, box lunch and dinner included. Note: Each guest will be carrying their personal belongings and their sleeping bag for the hikes on Day 2 and 3.
Hiking: 7.7 miles; 2,700' gain/1,600' loss; Driving distance: 145 miles (3.5 hours)
Today we break camp and hike into the lovely Madre e Hija valley towards the Cerro Torre trail and the ever-changing views of the mountains around us. Our destination is the glacial Laguna Torre and the Maestri viewpoint where, if the weather cooperates we'll see iconic Cerro Torre. We then return to El Chalten along the Rio Fitz Roy to our lodge where we'll spend the next two nights. Breakfast and lunch included.
Hiking: 14.9 miles; 970' gain/ 1,860' loss
Today we take to one of the less traveled but very stunning hikes in the park on the Loma del Pliegue Tumbado trail. It's a full day hike as we walk from Chalten to the summit of this mountain. The first section of the trail climbs the slopes of the mountain and winds through steppe and forest eventually breaking through to the tree line. From our first viewpoint we'll have spectacular views of both Cerro Torre and Fitz Roy massifs and their valley between. As we continue on we will be walking on scree and feeling the full force of the winds to reach the summit cone and eventually the summit. Here we are rewarded by additional views of the surrounding mountains which include Paso del Viento and the Mariano Moreno range in the Southern Ice Field. We will get back to El Chalten in the afternoon to spend our last night at the lodge. All meals included.
Hiking: 13 miles (7-8 hours), 2,900' gain
We drive back to El Calafate this morning and have a chance to stretch our legs and do a bit of mini shopping before we go further into Los Glaciares National Park. Continuing, we take a boat excursion where we navigate the South and Rio arms of Lago Argentino. We disembark at Playa de las Monedas for a short walk to viewpoint of the Perito Moreno Glacier and then touch land again at Bajo de las Sombras to visit the catwalks to see the front of the glacier. The spectacular Perito Moreno Glacier is the only glacier outside of the Polar Regions still advancing. We observe and photograph the massive sheet of ice from various angles, as we walk along the paths that wind along the river bank, across from its snout. Late this afternoon, we drive to our estancia (farm lodge), that offers a glimpse into the distinctive Patagonian lifestyle. Overnight at the estancia for the next two nights. All meals included.
Boat excursion and walk: 3.5 hours; Driving distance: 215 miles (6 hours-broken in three sections).
This morning we set out on a short but steep hike towards the windy Filo de los Cristales peaks. The mostly off-trail route passes through typical Patagonian steppe and patches of forest with panoramic views of the Andes including Lago Argentino and the Perito Moreno Glacier off in the distance. After a hearty lunch and short siesta back at the Estancia, those who wish can participate in an additional short hike along the lakeshore and enjoy impressive views of the lake and Mount Cervantes. Those who prefer not to hike this afternoon can choose from a variety of activities including biking or just relaxing and taking in life on the ranch. In the evening, we savor a hearty Patagonian barbecue made with fresh ranch ingredients. All meals included.
Hiking: 5 miles (4 hours), 2,300' elevation gain/loss, mostly off-trail on steep terrain. Options for additional hiking this afternoon.
Leaving the ranch after breakfast, we continue overland across the Patagonian plains to Torres del Paine National Park, a crown jewel in the Chilean National Park system. After passing through Cerro Castillo, a small village near the Chilean border, we get our first views of the Paine massif, towering above the plains in the distance. Upon entering the park, we are often greeted by small herds of guanacos, a wild relative of the llama. We continue to the Sarmiento Park Station where, following a short break after our drive, we begin an afternoon hike. Our route follows a trail up and over the steppe-covered foothills, past small ponds and meadows where we can photograph noisy buff-necked ibis, en route to the Laguna Amarga guard station. Our campsite for the next two nights is located beneath the Paine Towers, near the Ascencio River. Camp elevation: 600'. All meals included.
Hiking: Up to 4 miles (2.5 hours), 800' cumulative elevation gain; Driving distance: 280 miles (7-8.5 hours—times will vary depending on the amount of time for processing at the border crossings).
Today, we have the demanding, but highly rewarding hike towards the Paine Towers. We follow a trail that leads across the Ascencio River then climbs uphill along a steep path paralleling the river's right bank. As we gain altitude, we have excellent vistas of the Paine River, winding its way through the surrounding countryside below us. We cross a boulder moraine to reach the high cirque where we find the basecamp from which expert climbers from around the world attempt to scale the towers' walls. Before us lies an awe-inspiring landscape encompassing the impressive granite spires of the near-vertical towers, rocky moraines and hanging glaciers, all surrounding a lovely turquoise-colored tarn. After a picnic lunch beneath Torres Norte, Central, and Sur, we will descend the same trail back to our campsite. All meals included.
Hiking: 12 miles (8-9 hours), 2,700' elevation gain/loss
Rising early, we drive through the park to the boat dock on Pehoé Lake and board a catamaran for the 30-minute ride to the far side. From the arrival dock, we follow a short trail to our campsite and, after setting up, begin hiking through the rolling foothills at the base of Paine Grande peak. We cross the French River on a foot bridge and follow a steep trail along the narrow gorge. Our route takes us through lenga forests on the southeastern slopes of Cerro Paine Grande and crosses a few small creeks. As we gain altitude, we scramble through rocky sections of the mountain's boulder moraines to a breathtaking lookout point. On a clear day, we have fantastic views of the high peaks that surround us from this extraordinarily beautiful cirque. We spend the night at the Pehoé Lake Campsite. Camp elevation: 300'. All meals included.
Hiking: 12.5 miles (8-9 hours), 2,750' cumulative elevation gain; Driving: 1.5 hours; boat: 30 minutes.
This is a big day as we wake early to walk this part of the "W" from Pehoe Lake to Grey Glacier with fabulous views of the lake and the massive Grey Glacier. After lunch we take a short boat ride and then a hike/scramble, to the glacier where we will have the fantastic opportunity to walk on the glacier. Our guides will review best techniques for glacier walking and we'll spend several hours exploring the glacier's cracks, rivers and tunnels. All equipment is provided. We return back the same way we came for dinner and one final night of camping. Camp elevation: 700'.
Note: on this day each hiker will be carrying all their personal items used from Day 9-11 including a sleeping bag for 7 miles from Pehoé Campsite to Grey Camp. A backpack will be provided. All meals included.
Hiking: Pehoé Campsite to Grey Camp: 7 miles (4 hours), 1,400' elevation gain; Glacier walk: 4 miles, 1,300', some scrambling and ladders to get to/from the glacier (5 hours).
This morning we take our final hike inside Torres del Paine National Park where we will trek a bit more of the “W” to Los Guardas camp viewpoint with additional great views of the glacier. We return to camp and boat across Grey Lake, affording us yet more vistas of the impressive Grey Glacier, as we make our way to this evening’s hotel. Tonight, we toast to our final night in this beautiful national park. All meals included.
Hike: 4 miles, 1,000’ gain/loss.
We leave lovely Puerto Natales and continue to Punta Arenas, one of southern Chile's main ports, located on the Straits of Magellan and considered the southernmost city on the continent. After lunch in town we'll board a boat that will take us across the Strait of Magellan to Magdalena Island which is home to up to 40,000 Magellanic penguins. Walking along the path we get to closely observe these strange and comic birds before we sail back to Punta Arenas. Tonight we'll celebrate our amazing adventure at a farewell dinner in a local restaurant and spend the evening in a small, nearby hotel. All meals included.
Penguin excursion: 4 hours (3-hour roundtrip boat ride; 1 hour on the island), Driving distance: 154 miles (3.5 hours).
After breakfast one group transfer to the Punta Arenas airport will be arranged for travelers departing today. Breakfast included.