Tag Archives: Kit

Nancy’s Fast Track W Trek

Nancy’s Fast Track W Trek

Nancy returned in March 2015 from a Trek in Torres del Paine. Here she tells us about her experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

We can’t thank you enough for an excellent and memorable end-to-end experience. This was, by far, my favourite vacation ever and the Torres del Paine hike was certainly the highlight of the trip. Please extend our thanks to the rest of the Swoop team as well as to our guide and your partners in Torres del Paine. Thanks again and we can’t wait to travel to S. America again soon!!

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What did Swoop do well? 

I truly appreciated the extremely quick and thoughtful responses from multiple members of the Swoop team, including the initial correspondence with Luke, the Skype call with Harriet to discuss options, and the follow-up email post trip from Chloe.

Given the wealth of options for activities, trails, transportation, lodging etc in Patagonia, it quickly became overwhelming for us to try to plan this trip on our own while maximising our time in Chile. So we were so glad to find Swoop (and that you accommodated our request just 2 weeks before our trip)!

You can tell that the Swoop team is genuinely invested in working with their clients to tailor their trip to fit their specific needs/interests. The website is  very informative and easy to navigate and we appreciated the pre-trip tools like the packing list and the generous postcard and head scarf gift, mailed internationally! We also felt extremely lucky to be paired with two other hikers who we got along with very well!

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What could we have done differently? 

It might help to assess each hiker’s physical shape, hiking experience, and any concerns they may have about the hike before their trip and to communicate this to the tour guide as this could help improve communication overall between the tour guide and hikers and prevent injuries throughout the hike (see below for more notes on this). Of course, we completely understand that Swoop is not responsible for any injuries but some basic steps towards injury prevention could have been beneficial. In addition, it may be worth setting expectations with your hikers that they will need to share rooms with fellow hikers (this was definitely not an issue at all for us, but I could see where this could be surprising for others).

Would you recommend us to friends, family or colleagues for a trip to Patagonia? 

Absolutely! The Torres del Paine hike was the highlight of my overall trip to S. America and it wouldn’t have been possible without the professional guidance and support from the Swoop team. In addition, the price of the overall package was extremely reasonable considering all of the transfers needed for the 3 days.

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Did you enjoy your itinerary? 

Yes! Based on all the research we did online, it was clear that the 3 key sights to see in Torres del Paine were Base Torres, French Valley, and Grey Glacier but weren’t sure if this would be feasible in just 3 days. The hike to the base of the Torres was definitely the most rigorous (but rewarding!) hike, so we thought the sequencing of the 3 hikes on this Fast Track W Trek was perfect, with a gradual decrease in difficulty level.

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How were your guides? 

We had an amazing, responsible, and knowledgeable guide. He gave us sufficient briefings each night before the next hike. We loved the lunch he packed us on Day 1 (fresh salmon sandwiches) and we were so touched when he carried hot tea for us to enjoy at the top of each hike as well as extra avocado, tomato, and cream cheese to supplement those dry boxed lunch sandwiches from our refugios :-)  We also had an especially long and tiring hike of the French Valley on Day 2, but he made sure we were all settled at Paine Grande right before going to bed and had everything we need before he started pitching his own tent for the evening.

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What was the highlight of your trip? 

The highlight of the trip was visiting the base of the Torres, because of the beautiful, rewarding view after a tough trek! That day started off very foggy and we weren’t sure we’d actually see the view from the top but were incredibly lucky that the weather cooperated with us for the day! The catamaran boat rides were also beautiful – we enjoyed beautiful weather both ways!

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Do you have any tips for other people planning a trip? 

I found Swoop’s packing lists to be particularly useful. Initially, I doubted that we’d really need gear for 4 seasons but am really glad we packed accordingly as it was pretty cold/rainy (especially for the Base Torres and Grey Glacier legs).

You should also pack your own towels (even for Lodge Paine Grande as they ran out of their rentals).

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Did you manage to visit anywhere else in Chile or Argentina? 

Yes, we spent a total of 9 days in South America and our itinerary included 1 day in Buenos Aires, 1 day in El Calafete (to visit the Perito Moreno Glacier), 1 day in Puerto Natales (horse back riding), 3 days in Torres del Paine, and 2 days in Mendoza wine tasting.

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Sisi’s Full Circuit from a Torres del Paine eco camp

Sisi returned in February from a Full Circuit in Torres del Paine, based from one of the eco camps in the park. Here she tells us about her experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

How was your experience of booking with Swoop Patagonia?

I had an excellent time on the 9 day Full Circuit! I thought Swoop did an excellent job in promptly answering my questions and helping me to find a trek that suited my dates and other needs at the very beginning. I would definitely recommend Swoop Patagonia to others.

How did you find Swoop’s partners who ran your trek in Torres del Paine?

The guide I had, Hernan, was fantastic – he really made the trek an enjoyable experience for all 12 members of our group!

The member of staff I dealt with before the trip was fantastic at communicating with me up until the point I committed to making a deposit. Afterwards however, it took him much longer to reply.

I also highly recommend that all future customers be informed that it is not necessary for them to bring their own sleeping bags and mats on this trip unless they wish to, as their guide will be able to help them rent these on the first day in Puerto Natales.

How did you find the trip itself?

On the whole, despite the communication issue with the Torres del Paine partners and the disappointment with the sleeping bag/mat, I had an excellent time doing the circuit.

We were very lucky with the weather – apart from the first day when it was ridiculously windy and rainy, we had fine weather for the rest of our trip. Hernan also came up with the brilliant idea of taking us up to the Torres in time for sunrise on our final day, which made it the perfect end to an exhausting, but rewarding 7 days of walking.

Cecile’s W Trek in Torres del Paine

Cecile’s W Trek in Torres del Paine

Cecile returned in January from a W Trek in Torres del Paine. Here she tells us about her experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

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How was your experience of booking with Swoop?

I was very happy that I planned my trip through Swoop Patagonia and their partners. It was very useful to go through Swoop, as it can be complex booking refugios yourself, particularly when you need certain refugios on certain dates, and in theory there is no availability for 3 consecutive nights (at least I didn’t find any through other companies). Booking with Swoop is also particularly useful for people who have  limited time, it is helpful to have the trip planned by someone else.

How were Swoop’s partners in Chile?

Swoop’s partners who organised my W Trek were very patient leading up to the trip. They answered all of my questions in no time, which was amazing. It was also great that although my plane only landed in Punta Arenas on the 23rd at 5pm, they found a way for me to start the Trek on the 24th at 7am. I didn’t have a guide for this trip, but Johanna waited for me until late in the night to give me my vouchers.

What was the highlight of the trip?

Seeing the sunrise from Chileno on the 25th of December  was my absolute highlight (see picture) although I should have brought my sleeping bag, it was freezing!

Do you have any tips for people planning a trip?

I found it very useful to have an external battery for my camera, a rope to hang my wet clothes on, and waterproof pants and walking sticks. The headband Swoop sent me is also a great item to take with you! Also, the offer of cheap hostels in Puerto Natales is quite wide, so it is fairly easy to go ahead and book these for yourself.

Wallis’ trip to Torres del Paine & Los Glaciares

Wallis’ trip to Torres del Paine & Los Glaciares

Wallis returned in December from a W Trek in Torres del Paine and some hiking in Los Glaciares. Here she tells us about her experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners. As a 75 year old woman who found aspects of this trip challenging but still hugely rewarding, Walli would like to encourage other people of similar ages to consider a trip to Patagonia.

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I have wanted to go to Patagonia to hike for about 20 years and just never could find a way to go until now. When first thinking about it and knowing that I just had 3 weeks it just seemed overwhelming! I did some internet research and wrote some emails to organisations that I found. I said that I wanted to go to Ushuaia, some places to hike in Argentina and then go to Chile to hike and end up in Buenos Aires before coming back to Caracas. I just didn’t know where to start or how to plan… and then I found Swoop Patagonia!

How was your experience of planning your trip with Swoop Patagonia?

I really enjoyed working with your company and all of you. I felt well taken care of and my questions were answered promptly and there was a lot of good advice on the website.

Harriet sent me a very detailed plan of what I could do, mapping out the whole three weeks for me. We adjusted the plan a number of times as she answered lots of questions. She gave me some suggestions for Ushuaia but told me you did not have an operation in that area so I figured that out quite easily and also loved that area.

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 I Wish that you  did trips to more places, but narrowing your regions is probably what makes you so good at planning and arranging people’s trips, and makes you real experts at what you do.

How was your experience with Swoop’s partners in El Chalten?

Harriet put me in touch with Swop’s partners Barbara and Zoe in El Chalten, and they did a wonderful plan for me for Los Glaciares. I liked very much the places in which I stayed, very much enjoyed the hikes I took in the area, and all the logistics went smoothly, I wish I’d had time for more!

How was your Ice Hike?

I am so glad that I was encouraged to do the ice climb and not just the trek and am so glad we found a company that did not have an age limit!IMG_1584

I ended up doing the hike with two guides, a Canadian couple and a Polish couple. The guides really helped me out whenever I was uncomfortable on the glacier (Juan and Carlos) and everyone encouraged me when I was on the walls. I didn’t do great, but well enough to really have had fun.

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Is there anything you would change about your trip?

The only day that I wish I had spent otherwise was the day I went to Lago del Desierto. For me there was too much time spent travelling there and back, and also sitting on the boat (on which I was the only passenger). It was beautiful, but I missed having a more active day. Zoe showed me where to go for a short hike when I got back though, so it all turned out just fine.

How was the weather during your trip?

My only rain to speak of was a for a few hours one morning in Chalten. I could therefore not do Fritz Roy justice as I saw the bottom but never did see the top out of the clouds. Oh well something I’ll have to come back for…

[More about weather in Patagonia]

How was your experience with Swoop’s partners in Torres del Paine on the W Trek?

Everything thing went well for the W Trek (including the wonderful vegetarian cafe the Living in Puerto Natales). I loved our group, and our guide Izzy was amazing; she could not be a better guide. Everyone got along with and supported each other well, and the rest of the group really encouraged me. I particularly loved the first day where we were able to get so close to the animals. The terrain reminded me a lot of Mongolia.

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The refugios were comfortable with good food, and Christmas Eve dinner was perfect!

The Torres were magnificent!!! We had windy days but basically all clear days…I don’t think that the weather could have been better.

By the end of the French Valley I did get a little tired from carrying my pack all day. Everyone went at his or her own rate here, and although I was a little slower, Izzy kindly walked with me.

The last day, which included a hike and boat trip, was also beautiful and Izzy carried some of my things for me so it felt like I had just a day pack. I just could not have gone fast enough. The others in the group were cute about my pace…I felt sort of bad about it and they would say…you are NOT slow, you are just slower then we are! It was great at the end to get dropped off at the hostel!

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Do you have any tips for other people planning a trip?

Firstly, bring ear plugs when you sleep in refugio dorms! Secondly, know your limits – I am just not able to go very far very fast if I am carrying much more than a day pack over a number of days. When I do day hiking I usually take the minimum…so a regular daypack even seems a little heavy to me.

I felt so fortunate to have small groups and great weather. It was just a perfect trip…thank you all for your part in making a dream of mine come true.

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Isabel’s W Trek in Torres del Paine

Isabel returned in November from a W Trek in Torres del Paine. Here she shares with us her experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

‘We had an amazing time in Patagonia and the W Trek was a great experience!’

How were Swoop Patagonia?

I thought that the service you provided was very good – you were helpful with the information you provided and responded quickly to any queries.  I thought that the handover to your partners in Chile was done very well and smoothly and that you were flexible in how you communicate with your clients. I would recommend you to any friends looking to visit Patagonia.

How were our Partners who ran the trek in Chile?

Our W Trek was well-organised and professional.  In addition to organising the trek itself, the company was helpful in booking us bus tickets to/from Puerto Natales.  I thought that the itinerary on the W Trek was great – a good mixture of longer and shorter days and comfortable refuges to stay in. Our guide (Carlos) was excellent – he spoke good English and was friendly and responsible. The only minor comment I have is that we passed by their office in Puerto Natales the day before our trek started as we had not been told where and what time to meet the next day. An email confirming this would have been helpful.

What was the highlight of your trip?

I’m not sure I’m able to pick out a single highlight – we really enjoyed the whole trip.  We were in a group with three others who we got on very well with – we thought that five was a good number for a group.

Did you visit anywhere else on your trip?

We also visited Buenos Aires, an estancia outside Junin (near BA), El Calafate, the Bariloche area and San Martin de los Andes.

Do you have any tips for other people planning a trip to Patagonia?

I would recommend that people planning a trip make sure that they bring all the recommended equipment as it all came in handy!  Also do not carry more that you absolutely need to in your backpacks.

[For some tips on what to pack, see Swoop’s Trekking Kit List]

Milton’s Full Circuit in Torres del Paine

Milton returned in November from a Full Circuit in Torres del Paine. Here he tells us about his experiences on the trip and in booking through Swoop and our partners, and provides some useful tips for future travellers…

It was a great trip and the Full Circuit hike was excellent. I’d have absolutely no hesitation in recommending Swoop or your partners to family & friends for a trip to Patagonia. In fact, I’ve already recommended you to a friend who is thinking about it for next year.

I would recommend ensuring you have the right ‘3 Season’ footwear, particularly if you are going in the Spring as we did. One person in the group had fabric ‘boots’ without a Goretex lining and, after walking through the marshes/mud/snow, her feet were soaking and she developed a blister on her heel. She was just about OK but it could have been a problem. I know a lot of women don’t like leather boots (too heavy/don’t look cool) but you can’t beat them…or at the very least good quality fabric with waterproof lining!

Because of when we went, there was snow on the John Gardner Pass. The day of our climb, the weather was unfortunately warm, so the snow was very soft. I know you don’t want to have to put people off, but I guess it’s being frank about the type of conditions that might be faced, particularly early in the season. Gaiters could also be needed in the event of soft snow (e.g. on JG pass).

[For tips on what to pack, check out Swoop’s Trekking Kit List]

It is customary in Chile to tip the guide and porters for good service. Armando, our guide was excellent, he really went out of his way to be supportive, he gave a lot of help to those who needed it, and made the trek even more interesting by his wide knowledge of wildlife and nature which he shared with us. Some advice on the subject prior to departing could be helpful.

I want to thank Swoop for their advice on the itinerary, and working out what was possible with the time I had available (from getting off the boat in Ushuaia to flight back from Santiago). It all fitted together perfectly, I’m glad I did more than just the ‘W Trek’. Also your advice on accommodation in El Calafate (La Estepa) and Puerto Natales (Amerindia), both were excellent.

Marilyn’s W Trek from a Torres del Paine eco-camp

Marilyn recently returned from a 7 day W Trek in Torres del Paine based from an eco camp in the National Park. Here she tells us about experiences on the trip…

What did you think of the service provided by our partners in Torres del Paine?

They had a good website containing comprehensive information & an efficient payment system.

How was the W Trek itinerary and how were the guides who accompanied you?

The itinerary and guides on the trip were excellent. Porters are provided for you on days 2, 3, & 4 so you don’t have to carry anything except your daypack on any day of the trek. You are provided with a small but adequate dry bag with a weight limit of 4kg for days 2, 3, & 4, and this is more than adequate.

What were your thoughts on the eco camp?

The camp is in an excellent position, with very unobtrusive architecture and wonderful views of the towers, which are particularly impressive at sunrise. Another benefit is that it is above, & well removed from, the zoo of traffic on the road to the park trailhead & Hotel Torres.

How did you find your accommodation?

The basic domes at the eco camp are comfortable, but very hot in the sun & not able to retain heat well when it’s not sunny…and you need to be a hobbit to get in & out of the doors comfortably!

The bedding is cumbersome & heavy (this seems to be a Chilean thing), so I’d say you’re better off in a sleeping bag.

They need to treat the doors of both domes & toilet blocks with a good dose of WD40 – they were really loud & squeaky & therefore disturbing especially during the night.

The showers were good, but there were only 2 washbasins & no laundry basins which seems to be a bit of an oversight

Eco-toilets are an admirable idea, but it is difficult to flush all matter away with a foot pump.

On the nights where we stayed at refugios elsewhere, the sleeping bags were decent, and cotton sleep sheets were available if needed. Refugio Los Cuernos is a bit of a bun fight unless you are put in a cabin. There was blocked plumbing, no soap or loo paper, 3 toilets between over 100 women, and noisy corridors with banging doors.

Did you enjoy the food?

The food at the eco camp and Refugio Paine Grande was great, but the food at Refugio Los Cuernos was awful. The dining and lounge domes at the eco camp were great, and beautifully furnished.

Food at the eco camp is plentiful & very good. You do not need to bring much in the way of additional snacks for any day where lunch is provided by the eco camp (days 1,2, 5,6,7), and you get to make & choose your own lunch items – as much as you like.

How was your trip overall?

Overall a splendid trip but lacking cultural interest cf Himalaya. Stunning scenery – I really lucked in with very good weather.

Do you have any tips for future visitors?

Don’t take too much snack food – Ecocamp is not a weight watchers venue.

In peak season the number of trekkers is out of control for the facilities available- there seems to be no regulation on the number of people camping in every square inch of the campsite areas with little or no hygiene/facilities = defaecating in bush, contamination of water sources.

Watch your knees- I was warned about this by a work colleague who had done the W trek. The pace is fast as not at altitude & 2 of days are long with much of it steep uphill & downhill. In hindsight, I would have been better to go slower & use a trekking pole

What was the highlight of your trip?

Highlights were Mirador Britanico, Glacier Gray, Torres Del Paine, views driving from Lago Gray back to the eco camp via Lago Pahoe in glorious weather.

Did you manage to visit anywhere else in South America on your trip?

I also went to Easter Island – a fascinating but bizarre place.

Incidentally, many thanks for my pre-departure present. It was so hot though that the best use for it would have been to mop up sweat.

Lyndsay’s Trekking holiday in Torres del Paine, Los Glaciares & Tierra del Fuego

Lyndsay and her partner returned in February from a trekking holiday in Patagonia where she first did some day hikes from El Chalten. Next she embarked on a W Trek in Torres del Paine, finished off with a Kayaking trip out of the national park. The final segment of her adventure was a Trek Across Tierra del Fuego, finished off with a visit to a penguin colony. Here she tells us about each part of her trip, and her experiences in booking through Swoop and our partners… 

‘We had an amazing time, it was so much more than we thought it would be, and such a beautiful place to be, it was a privilege to spend time in that part of the world.’

El Chalten: Personalised Trekking Itinerary

The service provided by your partners in El Chalten could not be faulted, they booked great hotels, which suited our needs and were clean, comfortable with welcoming staff.

The personalised itinerary was great as it gave us a good feeling for the area and allowed us to feel comfortable to hike independently. The day we spent with the guide was great as we went to an area outside the national park, somewhere we would have not gone by ourselves, and the guide was very knowledgeable and friendly.

I don’t think we would have changed the itinerary but if we had had more time available a days rest in El Calafate before heading of to Puerto Natales would have been nice.

W Trek & Kayaking in Torres del Paine

The operator who ran our Self Guided W Trek and Kayak trip in Torres del Paine provided an excellent service. The guide for the kayaking part of the trip was very good, and was from the US so language was not a problem, he was very knowledgeable took us to a great campsite. All of the equipment provided was in excellent condition.

The only suggestion we would make about this trip is perhaps to walk the W Trek in the reverse direction, as you would then have a great view of the mountains as you walked.

The only hiccup here (and indeed of the trip as a whole) was that our hotel at the end of the kayaking trip had not been booked (I’m not sure if this was down to the hotel or the operator). The hotel moved us to another hotel, which unfortunately was not great, it had no hot water, or heating, and breakfast was not available early in the morning, and we had to leave early to get the bus to Rio Grande. Although not a major issue, an apology from them would have been nice.

I would recommend taking a padlock with you so that you can store your luggage in the lockers at the refugios. You can leave luggage at Refugio Torre, Refugio Paine Grande and at Campo Italiano whist you walk up the valleys, this is useful as it eases the amount you needed to carry during the day.

We would have loved to spend an extra day in Puerto Natales after this part of the trip, but unfortunately we were on a tight schedule.

Tierra del Fuego Crossing

This was an amazing part of the trip, if somewhat hard work at times, an excellent trek. It may have been good to make the trekking each day more equal in time, but the nature of the terrain and the type of trip it is would make this very difficult to achieve. Nonetheless, it may be something that could be born in mind.

Our guide was knowledgeable, competent, friendly, amusing and inspired confidence when we where in the middle of nowhere and made us feel very comfortable with what we where doing. He looked after us very well and had even brought a Spanish /English dictionary along for times of miscommunication.

It was a great trip, however I do think an extra day after crossing the Beban Pass to camp in the valley would have been brilliant as the mountains where just so wonderful to look at.

Swoop Patagonia

Swoop provided a great service; you were so helpful and knowledgeable. Your partners were very professional and provided the service they said they would- there was no hassle!

The service provided by yourselves was second to none and we could have not asked for anything more, you were always ready and able to help with any query no matter how small. We will recommend you unreservedly.

Overall

I am sure you can gather our highlight was trekking across Tierra del Fuego. However we would say this is trekking and more! No paths, marked routes, climbing over tress, walking across rivers, through bogs, along the sides of valleys on scree for up to 12 hours a day. It was amazing and beautiful and tranquil but anyone undertaking it should realise it is not an easy trek it is serious hard work.

‘Once again thank you so much you made a dream come true and we had the most wonderful time.’

Valerie’s Montes Martial Circuit in Ushuaia

Valerie returned in early February from a 3 day trek in Ushuaia, experiencing the valleys, forests, lagoons and summits of the Montes Martial Circuit. Heres she tells us below about her experiences on the trek, and in booking through Swoop Patagonia…

‘I really enjoyed the 3 days on the trek and the guides helped to make the time special.  I know anyone who decides to join this trek will truly enjoy themselves.’

What was the highlight of your trip?

There were so many highlights, it’s difficult to pick just one, but possibly the camping spot was so beautiful beside the calm lake with the mountains rising above the lake.

Did you manage to visit anywhere else in Chile or Argentina on your trip?

We stayed pretty much around Ushuaia, but did visit more of the Tierra del Fuego park, and took a Beagle Channel cruise to Penguin Island-beautiful!

How well did Swoop Patagonia do helping you plan your holiday, and finding the best trip or operator for you?

Swoop looked after all details, all we had to do was pick up our backpacks, sleeping bags and pads the day before the start of the trek-everything else was taken care of!

Were you well looked after the operator we put you in touch with & their guides on the trip?

The company looked after all the details…and the guides were excellent-they helped us so much while actually trekking and at the camping spot!

Was there anything that you wish had happened differently/or not happened at all?

The trek was great and I can’t think of anything to change!

Do you have any tips for other people who are planning a trip?

Be prepared for the wet weather and mud-makes the trek interesting but when outfitted in wet weather gear, so much more comfortable!

Ali’s Trek and Ice Hike in Los Glaciares National Park

Ali’s Trek and Ice Hike in Los Glaciares National Park

Ali returned at the end of January from a trek in Los Glaciares National Park, where he hiked in and around El Chalten, exploring the many mountains, glaciers, lakes and valleys around the dramatic Mount Fitz Roy. Here he tells us about his trip and his experience of booking with Swoop and our partners, and shares some fantastic photos and videos!

Ali Habbtar Viedma Glacier from Paso Huemul

What was the highlight of your trip?

The highlight of my ‘Complete Chalten’ trip was seeing the Continental Ice Field and trekking between Paso del Viento and Paso Huemul with very few people and amazing scenery.

Video: Viedma Glacier & the Continental Ice Field

Did you manage to visit anywhere else in Chile or Argentina on your trip?

 Not this time, but hopefully next time.

How well did Swoop Patagonia do helping you plan your holiday, and finding the best trip or operator for you?

Swoop did an excellent job, the flexibility in trying to meet my schedule was great and the operator recommendations were fantastic.

Were you well looked after by the operator in El Chalten & their guides on the trip?

Zoe and the crew did an outstanding job in terms of adjusting the trek to get maximum benefit, it helped that I was a one-man group :)

The equipment and food provided was great, the hotels recommended and booked were excellent, and the guide, Gaston did an outstanding job- very professional, knowledgeable, and fun to trek with.

Ali Habbtar Snow-covered peace

Was there anything that you wish had happened differently/or not happened at all?

Hopefully next time I’ll be able to plan further in advance without many changes.

Do you have any tips for other people who are planning a trip?

Be ready physically and mentally, and enjoy nature at its best.