Unless otherwise stated all page numbers are for Lonely Planet's "Trekking in the Patagonian Andes" (2003). Bradt refers to "Chile and Argentina, the Bradt trekking guide" (2001).
I have read through the LP and think that March is better than February, as the winds are somewhat less, as are tourists. We'll meet in Santiago de Chile on March 1 at the Hotel Vegas, Londres 49, tel 562 6322514, firstname.lastname@example.org. In the very unlikely event that we somehow fail to meet at the Vegas Hotel (eg it has been demolished) plan B is to meet at the check-in for the flight to Punta Arenas the next day. Les will be arriving in Santiago on the 1st of March, at 09:40. He will leave Santiago on the 21st of March, at 19:20. Les departs from Punta Arenas at 11:10 am on the 21st of March. Tad is flying AA on 1.3.9 to Santiago, arriving at 18.45 the same day (due to the dateline). Tad's flight to Sydney is on 26.3.9 (at 2.30 am, so effectively the day before) from BA. Tad's ticket was only $1730 AUS. Les and Tad are booked on Sky Airline from Santiago to Punta Arenas on 2.3.9 at 13:00, arriving at 17:10.
Puerto Natales (PN) in Chile is the gateway to Paine. It is 116 km from PN to the Paine park ie 4 1/2 hours (frequent buses) p 220. PN is 3 hours by bus from Punta Arenas, which has 5 daily flights to Santiago (4 1/4 hours). There are frequent flights between Buenos Aires and El Calafate ($80 3 hours).
Assuming we want to do the Paine trek first, the proposed itinerary is: fly to Santiago, fly to Punta Arenas, take the bus to Puerto Natales (Punta Arenas-Puerto Natales, 3 hours, every day, 09:00 - 15:00 - 17:00 - 19:00) and hence to the park. Do the trek. Return to Puerto Natales. Bus to El Calafate (daily, 6 hrs plus time to cross border). Then bus to El Chalten (4 hours). Do the Fitzroy trek, which starts and ends in El Chalten. Bus to El Calafate. Tad flies to Buenos Aires and Les to Santiago. If we want to do Fitz Roy first then we do the same route in reverse ie walk backwards. I prefer to do it this way as I want to finish in BA. Buses Fernandez departs from Punta Arenas for PN at 8, 9, 13, 14:30, 17, 18:30 and 20. It takes 3 hours. From Puerto Natales, buses leave for the park at 7:30 am and 2:30 pm - Buses Gomez at Arturo Prat 234, Buses JB at Arturo Prat 244 or Buses Turismo Maria Jose at Bulnes 386.
That leaves time for a climb and probably one more trek. However, we also need to allow time for bad weather days. Or shall we just ignore the weather?
Plan A1 overview
(1) About 9 days trekking to do the complete Torres del Paine circuit in Chile with side-trips to the Paine lookout and to Campamento Britanico. LP says the circuit takes 8 days without the two side-trips. The circuit plus the two side trips totals 136 km, so we should manage it in 6-7 days. Alex did it in 6, walking all day.
(2) About 7 days trekking near Mt Fitz Roy in Argentina, starting from El Chalten and finishing at Cerro Electrico and/or Paso Marconi. We will also walk to Paso del Viento from El Chalten.
Plan A1 day by day
This is only a trial plan and without a doubt we will modify it, but it provides a framework. Times are those from the JLM Paine map.
March 1 Meeting in Santiago.
March 2 Fly from Santiago to Punta Arenas, bus to Puerto Natales. Hotel eg http://www.casaceciliahostal.com/location.html. Deposit luggage not needed for Paine, eg food.
March 3 Bus to start of Paine trek at Guarderia Laguna Amarga. Walk to Puesto Seron 5 hrs.
March 4 To Los Perros 10 hrs.
March 5 To Refugio Grey 9 hrs.
March 6 Launch to Hosteria Lago Grey (assuming this runs early enough!) Return walk to Mirador Zapata 12 hrs. Camp at Hosteria Lago Grey. If we don't manage to fit it in today then we might do it after the Paine circuit, but it would require more transport.
March 7 Launch back to Refugio Grey. Walk to Campamento Italiano (no food here) 6 hrs.
March 8 Side trip to Campamento Britanico and the mirador (lookout), then back to Campamento Italiano 7 hrs return.
March 9 To Albergue el Chileno (8 hrs) or maybe Campamento Torres/Japones (both without food).
March 10 To the two Paine miradors (end of Valle del Silencio) and back to el Chileno. This is about 12 hours but we can turn back earlier if time looks like running out (or use head torches).
March 11 To Hosteria las Torres 2 1/2 hrs, from where we get a bus to Puerto Natales.
March 12 Bus from Puerto Natales to El Calafate and bus on to El Chalten. Book return bus to Punta Arenas for Les on arrival at El Chalten.
March 13 El Chalten to Campamento Poincenot, with 3 short side trips to the lakes Capri, Sucia and Tres. Climb Cerro Madsen 1806m.
March 14 Campamento Poincenot to Refugio los Troncos, which hires beds and tents. Hot shower and get dinner cooked for us! Return walk to Paso del Cuadrado at 1700m and climb Cerro Electrico 2257m (not to be confused with Cerro Electrico Oeste). This is a long day.
March 15 Go as far west as we can, possibly reaching Paso Marconi and then return to Refugio los Troncos. Only if weather is OK.
March 16 Short side trip to Laguna Piedras Blancas then on to camp at Campamento de Agostini. Return walk to Mirador Maestri.
March 17 From Campamento de Agostini back to El Chalten. Then walk to Laguna Toro and on to Laguna Ferrari. Need a harness for river crossing?
March 18 Westward ho to Vivac de los Esquies and possibly further, right to the icecap. Return to Laguna Ferrari and then back to Laguna Toro.
March 19 Return to El Chalten and catch bus to El Calafate on the same day. Taqsa bus leaves at 6 pm.
March 20 El Calafate bus to Punta Arenas for Les. Tad goes to Perito Moreno Glacier.
March 21 Les flies to Santiago from Punta Arenas at 11 am. Tad flies to BA. Maybe see the penguins first.
This entire document was the plan before we set foot on the continent. In case you want to know what happened when the plan met reality, here is a brief run-down.
The climb of Villaricca and the excursion to the Perito Moreno Glacier are not included. The above schedule assumes a lot of brisk walking and no untoward events or delays. It is rather optimistic ie there is no fat to be trimmed, though days 6, 15 and parts of 17 & 18 can be skipped. However, I think it is a starting point. The itinerary for March 20 needs to be checked too, as it involves going through Puerto Natales and crossing the border again.
(1) As in A1.
(2) Six to 7 days to do the entire circuit of the Fitz Roy massif, which normally takes 6 days, including about 30 km of glacier travel on the Southern Ice Cap. It depends on the condition of the glacier and on the weather. A tent for camping on the ice will be necessary, as well as glacier travel equipment. Also need to buy extra food in El Chalten.
If the above plan proves not viable due to awful weather then the alternative is to go north to seek better conditions. In order of preference:
1) Villaricca Traverse and climb 6 days p100-109. Access through Pucon - flight from Santiago.
2) Nahuel Huapi traverse 5 days p142-150. Only 20 km from Bariloche
3) Volcan Lanin 3 days p118-122. Access from Temuco or Bariloche.
4) Banos de Caulle 4 days p126-131. Access from Osorno - flights from Santiago.
Vamos a la playa.
We should expect about 13 hours of daylight per day. We need to take account of the weather slowing us down, eg strong headwind. As you may remember, I am a mad photographer, so this will slow us down too. I have not taken account of "bad weather days", as we will probably press on regardless. Most days I plan to walk about 8-9 hours. The LP gives 12 days to do all I plan for Paine in 9 days but they are very conservative.
I want to spend 3 days in BA at the end of the trip, as I have family there. Go to the barber too. Maybe I will also stay on in Patagonia to see the Perito Moreno Glacier (ex Calafate) if we can't fit it in together. This is a day trip from El Calafate, where many outfits arrange it. See:
Maps and guidebooks
It seems that good trekking maps are only available in BA and Santiago plus online; see p 48-9. See p 220. I think it is essential to laminate them. See p66 of Bradt guide
I ordered the TdelP and Mt FRoy maps from here on 2.1.9:
They arrived on 8.1.9. The TdelP is 1:100,000, FRoy is 1:75,000. Both are trekking maps made by JLM Mapas.
I also ordered the Mt FRoy trekking map by Zagier & Urruty from here on 2.1.9:
It arrived on 12.1.9. It has Fitz Roy on one side and Lago del Desierto (to the North) on the other. The scale is 1:50,000. Looks good.
Maybe we should also get this TdelP map?
Two Chilean sites: www.igm.cl & www.conaf.cl.
Take photocopied (double-sided) pages from LP and Bradt.
Also: photocopy of passport.
Bradt recommends the booklet "Trekking in El Chalten" by Zagier & Urruty, available in Calafate and Chalten.
Take print-out of the icecap trek from Biggar's book.
Tad bought "Glaciares Nat. Park Travel & Trekking Guide" by C. Henderson.
I'll take the LP guidebook with us and store it while we do the walks.
Also take a print-out of this document.
Many things can be bought in Patagonia but obviously there is more choice and we save time by getting all major equipment before hitting the ground. Hosteria Lago Grey plus all the end of day lodgings on the LP Paine circuit (except LP day 4) offer meals. So we can carry just emergency rations in the Paine. But bear in mind that they can run out of food. In Fitz Roy the only food is at the Refugio los Troncos.
Tad got an Osprey 60 litre, 1.79 kg backpack and Scarpa Escape high altitude trekking boots.
Tad will take 2 pairs of clip-ons, in case of loss or breakage.
Food and food related
Need a hook of some sort to suspend food from roof of tent as mice and rats are a real problem at campsites - they eat through plastic and carry the potentially fatal hantavirus.
Take dried food but beware of Chilean customs, which confiscate all meat. Dehydrated meals are OK.
Vitamin C soluble, to mask iodine for purified water
Tad needs at least 180 gms of dry weight per dinner in the dehydrated food.
We need a tent for Fitz Roy and it is strongly recommended for Paine too. It must be very water-proof, extremely wind-resistant and light. Les got the Terra Nova Superlite Quasar, weighing 2.5 kg.
I need spare batteries for both cameras, as recharging will not be viable on the treks. Charge all batteries. Take both chargers and all memory cards.
EU people and Aussies don't need visas for Chile or Argentina.
All Australians need to pay $100 US as entry fee to Argentina.
Vaccinations are not needed.
Santiago is 14 hours behind Sydney time, Argentina and Chile share the same time zone.
1000 Chilean pesos = $1.66 US, $1 US = 604 pesos.
10 Argentine pesos = $2.70 US, $1 US = 3.7 pesos.
Power plugs are the same in Chile and Argentina and are compatible with European sockets.
It seems wise to purify the water at campsites at Paine and Fitz Roy. We will use tablets.
Top up my Visa card.
Laminate the maps.
Confirm Punta Arenas flight (AA is OK)
Check SLR for dust
Check permissions needed in Paine and more so in Fitz Roy - border crossings
Take financial information plus a few addresses for postcards.
How long are the days? It looks like we will have days of about 13 hours.
Take wide-angle and super-wide lenses?
I have two concerns regarding this trip:
1) Weight: I am hoping that we can avoid carrying a tent, sleepingbags, stove, and food, but this may not be feasible. I have no doubt that you can carry 20 kg for 8 days or more. I can probably do it too, but I would feel like a pack animal, as I did in Nepal when I was 34 years younger. There are refuges and campsites where you can hire a tent for the night on the Paine circuit, so in theory one can avoid carrying a tent. I am hoping to keep the weight down to about 10 kg, preferably less, for the Paine circuit. We don't need to carry more than a day's water. I carried about 10 kg when I walked for two days to cross from Italy to Zermatt below the Matterhorn last year. My weight included climbing gear, so I hope that exchanging this for minimal camping gear might keep the weight the same.
2) The winds. It's going to be windy for sure, the question is how bad. If it is really awful or dangerous then we should execute Plan B.