Off the Beaten Track Expedition in Torres del Paine

John returned in February from a 2 week mountaineering, trekking and kayaking trip in two of Patagonia’s most spectacular national parks: Torres del Paine and Los Glaciares. Here he tells us about his trip and his experiences in booking with Swoop and our local partners…

John and his friends returned in February from an off the beaten track trekking and kayaking expedition out of Torres del Paine. Here he tells us about his trip and his experiences in booking with Swoop and our local partners…

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Did the itinerary fit with your plans and aspirations for the trip? 

Yes the itinerary was as I had hoped and fitted our aspirations.

How would you describe the route, and terrain?

The route was manageable in general; we had one hard day of 10 to 12 hours, followed by an easier day of 6 hours. It was demanding overall due to the fact we trekked for 2-3 weeks overall, camping throughout.

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The Oggioni Pass was demanding, but not overly so, and took us about 10 hours. Cristian did say he might change the plan to go to Perros Camp rather than Dickson on coming down the pass but in my opinion it would be a pity to miss Dickson Camp, which is a lovely setting.

How was your guide?

One error from our guides was to try and take us ‘off piste’ to a higher track when going over the John Garner pass. This was a bit much for us on an already long day. He did learn from it but could have discussed it with us beforehand. I think he felt we were going well and were up for a challenge and felt as we had a guide we should make use of him by going off the track. In reality, Perros Camp to Lago Grey Camp is a long enough day without adding a couple of hours detour.

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The Pingo Valley was blissfully quiet although Zapata Camp had lots of mosquitos. Climbing Zapata was a demanding day and we were on the hill for 15 hours (5am to 8pm), partly because we started at Zapata Camp, not the Base Camp, and this did add and hour at the start and end of the day. Personally I think this was sensible and cannot see the sense of moving camp an hour nearer the mountain and taking a day to do so.

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The river crossing was also difficult and the usual crossing point was impassable. The crossing point used was above the lake and involved 2 smaller river crossings. I would have thought this was a more sensible and reliable route to use. Our guide had not used it before himself but I suspect he may do so in the future.

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The day on Zapata was windy and at times it looked doubtful if we could continue. To the credit of Cristian, we did plough on through difficult winds when it may have been tempting to stop and did make the summit.

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The 2 older members of our partly (aged 60) did not do Zapata but did have a long and rewarding day in the Fossil area around the mouth of the Tyndall Glacier. Having done Zapata, I feel their decision was a good one, as they would not have managed to last the day or move fast enough over the ground. To do Zapata you need to be able to sustain a long day in the mountains and move promptly over uneven ground.

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Our 2 guides were both very good and spoke excellent English. Cristian was extremely knowledgeable about the wildlife especially the birds and knew all the English names and their calls. For me that was a real bonus.

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Jamie, the cook, made some excellent food and this was very much appreciated by us all but especially by Richard, who sometimes feels ill on extreme exertion if not fed well but did not at all on this trip.

Jose, our Kayak guide was perhaps the most impressive as he did all of the cooking and guiding himself.

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Did our partners in Torres del Paine do a good job with the planning and logistics?

I could not really fault the operator’s planning and logistics, which was very flexible throughout the trip. For example they managed to get a food dump to Camp Dickson for us to pick up to avoid too much food being carried over the Oggioni Pass and arranged for wine to be carried into Zapata Camp and fresh coffee for the kayaking when we said we found Chilean coffee poor.

The kayak down the river was a lovely way to finish. At times it was windy and the single lady who joined us needed a tow at one point and the two Germans who joined us on the first day fell in, which must have been miserable we had wet suits which were fine the guide had dry suits and I know Cristian was considering dry suits for future multi day trips.

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Would you recommend Swoop for its help in finding the right trekking route, guide and operator for your trip?

The benefit of Swoop from our point of view was a contact in the UK and an ability to arrange a bespoke tour. Most companies just want to sell the W trek and are not interested in any other options.