Harriet from Swoop returned a few weeks ago from a trip to Patagonia during which she hiked the Paso del Viento in just a day! Here she tells us all about her experiences on this exciting adventure!
Paso del Viento had acquired a slightly mythical status with me. I had studied photos and maps of it so I could describe it to Swoop customers and gauge whether they would be strong enough to do it. So when I went to see Adrian, one of the guides we work with in Chalten and he asked if I would like to attempt it in one day then a huge grin spread across my face and my heart beat really fast with excitement. Yeah I wanted to race up to Paso del Viento and back! I love a challenge like that!
Other guides I spoke to in Chalten said it is impossible but I knew it is possible because Adrian has climbed this pass in a day with his daughter who is also a mountain guide. Adrian says it will be 55km, Mauro (another guide) says it is 48km, either way it is a long way and my expectation is that it will be far too far for my unseasoned legs and in addition to that the weather forecast looks terrible.
Paso del Viento had beguiled me…
Having loaded my plate several times from the Senderos Hotel buffet, we set off at 07:15 am from the National Park Visitor Centre.
We climbed through Lenga forest for 1 hour 15 minutes. The weather was good and the mountain pinnacles sneak from behind their cloudy blankets from time to time.
It started to rain and the wind began to blow as we descended into the Tunel Valley. The clouds rolled down the hillsides like the blinds had been pulled down. Our conversation was stopped by the howling wind and our hoods being cinched in around our faces, It was quite clear that if this continued we would not get anywhere. The valley is wide with a meandering river. With so much rain recently waterfalls were slithering down from the steep valley walls. We nearly turned back but decided I might as well go and see the Tyrolean rope crossing…
At 11am we reach the Tyrolean rope over a churning bubbling channel of glaciated water that slices deep through the bed rock.
You cross the steel rope with a harness and pull your body along with your hands…
…and carefully up the other side.
The rain had stopped, the wind was quite calm and it was warm so we tentatively continued towards the pass.
Above the Tyrolean rope crossing the going was much tougher. We were climbing on bedrock covered with loose rocks. The climb went straight up from the rope, crossing a bedrock band……
The glacier tumbled in neat folds ahead…..
….we descended to the glacier
We then climbed up onto the lateral morraine and tentatively eased our way across this loose surface until…..
We reached a flat area where we chomped on an empanada and a sweetcorn flan. The weather was not looking good so this was the end of the road, it started to snow
But then a blue patch appeared, we looked at each other knowingly. “How far is it?”, “About 400m climb”, “so about an hour then” “probably less” “Hmmmm lets do it”. We paced it up to the pass without stopping once, heads down, no conversation.
We lost ground easily on the loose scree slopes and rock hopped quickly back. The weather held out all the way to the Tyrolean rope then fell on our heads. It poured. We reached the crossing at about 1545.
From here we knew the way was easy enough and I was relieved to be back on more stable ground especially with the weather being so terrible. Back at Toro camp….
….we stopped for a hot soup and sandwich.
A woodpecker hammered out a beat. We were quiet with tiredness. The walk back was a sorry soggy affair, I was lifted by the knowledge that we had achieved our goal but so weary. We kept moving swiftly and it was just over 3 hours from camp Toro back to Chalten. I was so glad to take off those wet boots and clamber in the hot shower.
…..one week later I visited Paso del Viento from above and got to see the Ice Cap!!!
I would like to thank Adrian for a wonderful adventure. Adrian is a gentle giant of a man with shy, smiling eyes. He has done 39 ice cap expeditions since he became a guide and he only became a guide at the age of 50. He is passionate about nature, the mountains and especially Chalten.
Check out the 3 day version of Harriet’s Paso del Viento Adventure!