South Patagonian Ice Field Expedition

Test yourself in one of the most difficult environments on Earth on this trek across the Southern Patagonian Ice Cap. Climb up onto Glacier Marconi and camp overnight in the dramatic frozen landscape of the ice field. Hike across the ice field to the base of Cerro Torre and camp at Circo de Los Altares before traversing the Paso del Viento and returning to El Chaltén. Test yourself in one of the most difficult environments on Earth on this trek across the Southern Patagonian Ice Cap. Climb up onto Glacier Marconi and camp overnight in the dramatic frozen landscape of the ice field. Read more...
8 - 10 Days
$2,505

South Patagonian Ice Field Expedition - 8 - 10 - $2,505

Trip Summary and Itinerary Map

Day 1: Transfer from El Calafate Airport to El Chaltén; B&B 

Day 2: Trek along the River Eléctrico; Piedra del Fraile campsite 

Day 3: Trek to the Marconi Pass; Ice field hut 

Day 4: Trek to the foot of Cerro Torre; Circo de Los Altares campsite

Day 5: Trek to Refugio Paso del Viento; Wild camp

Day 6: Trek to the Viento Pass; Lake Toro campsite

Day 7: Trek to Cerro Huemul; El Chaltén

Days 8 & 9: Reserved days

Day 10: Transfer to El Calafate Airport

Start from El Chaltén and end at El Chaltén

Landmarks visited on South Patagonian Ice Field Expedition

Operator's Itinerary

Day 1: Transfer from El Calafate Airport to El Chaltén

On arrival at El Calafate Airport you'll take a minibus directly to El Chaltén on a 2.5hr drive across the Patagonian steppe and through wind-hewn gorges. Once the vehicle turns to the west along the huge glacial Lake Viedma you'll have your first spectacular views of the famous granite peaks and immense hanging glaciers.

This evening you will have time to meet your guide for a briefing on the itinerary, and to ask any questions you may have. Your guide can recommend gear hire shops in town if you require any last-minute additions.

The small town of El Chaltén, nicknamed the 'Argentine capital of trekking', and only established in 1984, is nestled in a small valley between the Patagonian steppe (prairie) and the immense Southern Patagonian Ice Field and very much retains its 'frontier feel'. The gateway to such famous peaks as Mount Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre make this a climbers' and trekkers' paradise and it's also a great town to base yourself for the various day hikes in the region. You should try the locally-brewed beer in the Cerveceria, or perhaps the hot chocolate in the Chocolateria. Either way, this little town will enchant and make you want to stay for longer.

Accommodation: 'No frills' hotel (private room)


Day 2: Trek along the River Eléctrico; Piedra del Fraile campsite

This morning we'll be driven to the bridge over the River Eléctrico, 15km to the north-west of El Chaltén. It is here that our expedition begins. The first two hours of the hike passes through a forest, until you reach the Piedra del Fraile campsite where we will stop briefly.

From here the trail along the River Eléctrico opens up into a wide glacial valley with very little vegetation, from where we'll have fantastic views of Mount Fitz Roy and the Pollone Needle. Next up is a challenging section where we ford the River Pollone and cross the upper River Eléctrico via a zipline before beginning a steep ascent to the Piedra del Fraile campsite, on the path to the Marconi Pass. We will set up our camp at an appropriate location en route to the Marconi Pass.

Length of hike: 8-9hrs, 19km

Meals: Breakfast, box lunch, dinner

Accommodation: Piedra del Fraile campsite


Day 3: Trek to the Marconi Pass; Ice field hut

This is a tough day, but you'll be rewarded with consistently fantastic views. We'll have an almost vertical ascent up onto the Glacier Marconi and ice field for which we'll need to wear crampons and rope together.

Once on the plateau we'll see the vast expanse of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field before us and mountain ranges that are only visible from here. We make our way carefully across the cracks and crevasses of the ice field to reach the Chilean hut at the base of Cerro Gorra Blanca, from where the views are truly stunning.

Length of hike: 6hrs, 9.5km

Meals: Breakfast, box lunch, dinner

Accommodation: Ice field hut


Day 4: Trek to the foot of Cerro Torre; Circo de Los Altares campsite

Today is comparatively short and acts as a pseudo-rest day. We trek along the ice field down to the northern end of Marconi Hill from where the ice flattens out, though there are still cracks and crevasses to negotiate.

Our destination is one of the most beautifully located campsites in Patagonia. It's an area called the Circo de Los Altares at 1250m, by the foot of Cerro Torre's west face. To one side of us is the ice field and to the other soaring mountain views.

Length of hike: 6hrs, 11km 

Meals: Breakfast, box lunch, dinner

Accommodation: Circo de Los Altares campsite


Day 5: Trek to Refugio Paso del Viento; Wild camp

We continue our trek in a southerly direction to begin with, roped together, down the back side of the Fitz Roy range. This is a long day that involves numerous climbs over moraines, crevasses and unstable terrain. The wind can also be extreme on this section.

We'll reach the Refugio Paso del Viento at 900m and then wild camp near Lake Ferrari.

Length of hike: 8hrs, 16km

Meals: Breakfast, box lunch, dinner

Accommodation: Wild camp


Day 6: Trek to the Viento Pass; Lake Toro campsite

Today we'll gain height on a steep trail until we reach the Viento Pass at 1500m from where we'll have our last panoramic views of the ice field before heading downwards to the River Túnel valley. The trail passes between huge glacial moraines, across the Lower Glacier Túnel and back into a vegetated area. There is a zipline over the River Túnel that we'll need to take to reach our campsite on the shores of Lake Toro.

Length of hike: 7hrs, 11km

Meals: Breakfast, box lunch, dinner

Accommodation: Lake Toro campsite


Day 7: Trek to Cerro Huemul; El Chaltén

Today's trails are among the least visited in the park, weaving through forests and fields. In between Cerro Huemul and Lake Viedma, we'll cross Pliegue Tumbado Hill, the final ascent. From the viewpont here, we'll have a magnificent view of Cerro Torre and Mount Fitz Roy and stay as long as the weather allows. Then, we'll start our descent into the River Vueltas valley and return to El Chaltén.

Length of hike: 6hrs, 16km

Meals: Breakfast, box lunch

Accommodation: 'No frills' hotel (private room)


Days 8 & 9: Reserved days

These days are reserved for bad weather, in the event that the group has to spend more than one night at a particular night stop. If there are no weather issues, extra days may be spent at the Marconi Pass or trekking nearby.


Day 10: Transfer to El Calafate Airport

Transfer from El Chaltén to El Calafate Airport for departure or onward travel.

Prices, Departures and Inclusions

The base price of USD $2,505 per person is based on a 4-person group staying in a no frills hotel.

In case a group of 4 is not formed, prices for smaller groups are as follows:

3 people:  USD $2,715 per person

2 people: USD $2,805 per person


Accommodation upgrades for your time in El Chaltén are possible. Please ask us for more details.

All departures are set up on a date of your choice and privately run. Alternatively, please enquire about joining a small group of like-minded travellers on an expedition to reduce the cost.

Please get in touch to enquire for your preferred departure dates.

Additional Notes

Group size – 6 maximum, 2 minimum

9-day option – A 9-day option is available. This allows one extra day reserved for bad weather

Accommodation – An upgrade to the accommodation for the first and last days of the trip is possible. Please ask us for more information.

Optional excursions – Ice climbing training and an ascent to Vespignani Peak

Note – You are expected to carry your own backpack with sleeping bag, insulation mat and other personal items, as well as some group meals. Your backpack may weigh around 18-20kg)

Technical knowledge – No prior technical knowledge is required as your guide will assist you with this, but you should have long-distance hiking experience and a very high level of fitness.

Includes

  • Meals: 7 breakfasts, 8 picnic lunches, 7 dinners
  • Accommodation: 7 nights camping, 2 nights B&B in El Chaltén
  • Bilingual certified mountain guide
  • All technical equipment (crampons, ropes, etc)
  • Satellite phone
  • Assistant guide for every 3 guests
  • Transfer from/to El Calafate airport

Excludes

  • Meals not indicated in itinerary
  • Drinks during lunch or dinner
  • Any extra/optional excursions
  • Personal porters: USD $180 per porter per day (includes their meals and insurance)
  • 75-80ltr backpack
  • Sleeping bag and mat
  • Personal equipment (see our recommended kit list)
  • Personal travel insurance
  • Gratuities/tips
  • International and domestic/in-country flights
  • Any visa, passport and vaccination expenses

Questions about this Trip?