|Southernmost Trekking / Getting Here
Expeditions to the Antarctic Peninsula, South Georgia,
On this virtual tour you may see: Majestic mountains dipped
Cape Horn, Falklands & Tierra Del Fuego
Crystalline waterways... Whales, seals, Soaring Andes condors...
Ice-blue Glaciers that shimmer like jewels..
If you want to walk and camp on the Southernmost trekking routes the world has to offer then read on:
Here, south of even Tierra del Fuego, Patagonia is the Isla (Island) of Navarino, Chile. The main town Puerto Williams is a Chilean Navy base and brief stop off point for yachts and ships on their way to Cape Horn or Antarctica. The town is small with about 2,500 people. Further south are only the tiny islands of Cape Horn and the Antarctic proper. The little visited interior of Navarino is a real wilderness. There are no buildings of any kind, no houses, no farms, no roads. The only habitations south of here are the scientific research stations of the Antarctic. Its as close to unaltered nature as you can get on the planet this century.
An area of craggy mountain ranges and lakes with views of the Beagle channel to the North and Cape Horn islands to the South. In particular are a range of jagged pinnacles called the Dientes de Navarino, being the highest on the island - at the top summit -1306m. The longest trek goes through and around these. There are several treks of shorter length to suit your requirements and time.
Puerto Williams is often fully booked during the summer period. You are recommended to pre-booking a Hostel . A friendly, simple hostel with large common area, kitchen can be booked. Linen is supplied (with towel) if needed, constant hot water and a welcoming fire every evening (needed even in summer!). Breakfast included and evening meals can be provided. Expect to pay around Chilean Peso 8,500 for B&B or Peso 12,000 to include a filling three course evening meal. Equivalent USD, GBP or Euro accepted. Next day laundry service available. Pick up from the airport or ferry available. There are public phone shops and Internet available.
Your guide is there to help and advise you, with your safety a principle concern. He will offer advice on equipment and supplies if you wish. Mostly, he will show you the best routes through the island indicating interesting features, nature, camp sites, etc.
Standard With a combination of severe weather and remoteness the treks on Navarino should never be undertaken lightly. The winds can be completely debilitating at any time, with snow far from unknown even in mid summer. Above the tree line you will be fully exposed to the elements and higher up there is no vegetation at all. There is some protection from the mountains to the West. There are no buildings whatsoever so we will need to carry tents, camping equipment and food for all the multi day treks. This means packs will be heavy. Although the highest peaks are just over 1000m we will start from sea level but would not normally expect to walk uphill more than 800m in any one day. With the remoteness and difficulty of terrain you should be fit and capable of carrying a pack of up to 18kg all day. Paths are generally good, either from work done by the municipality or guanacos trails.
General Your tent should be suitable for mountain use. It can and does get windy. Camp sites are always chosen to minimize exposure but your tent must be suitable for windy and sometimes wet conditions.Your sleeping bag should keep you comfortable down to zero (Centigrade) at least. If you have down filling you must keep it dry. A sleeping mat will insulate from the ground and improves comfort as well. Camping gas is NOT generally available in Puerto Williams and of course you must NOT bring it on the plane! Wood can generally be found at the camp sites but may be wet and a fire will not always be possible or desirable. Unleaded car petrol (Auto gas) and paraffin (kerosene) can be purchased locally so an MSR multi fuel type stove is suggested. Food for camping (including fresh and dried) is available every day from the supermarket in P. Williams (small shop with bakery really).You must have walking boots, warm clothes, full waterproofs, hat, gloves, sun glasses, sun cream (the ozone layer sometimes opens completely over this area in early summer). Specialized snow gear such as ice axes and crampons are not required. There is a small glacier and some permanent snow patches but not on the normal trekking routes.
Rescue Rescue in the event of an serious injury will be coordinated with the voluntary assistance of the Chilean Navy. You MUST have adequate accident insurance. Simple medical costs are usually free within Chile due to the excellent public service but rescue (should it be required - is not). You should expect to make a donation to the public service and the Navy will expect a considerable fee for helicopter rescue or support as required. Your guide will carry a comprehensive first aid kit with knowledge of emergency first aid. You should carry a personal first aid kit to cover blisters, minor cuts etc. Due to no mobile phone or radio coverage we should expect up to a day or more for rescue, if required - subject always to weather conditions.You will be asked to sign a document containing this information and limit of liability before setting off on any trek.
There really is no way around it, trekking requires loads of equipment.
Expensive fancy stuff that ones sees in flash adverts in outdoor magazines,
or in those exclusive outdoor shops. One could spend a lifetime, and a life's
fortune in such shops and still not have everything that some people would
have you think is needed to go trekking. However, if one build up a collection
of carefully chosen gear, you can be suitable equipped at a reasonable cost.
One of the great secrets to buying gear is borrowing gear. Trekking with
borrowed gear, or with people who have a range of gear will give you a much
better idea of what's available and how well it works. The only items that
one needs purchase reasonably soon are a sleeping bag, backpack and gaper
mat. Other items can follow, and indeed a lot of people who do a fair amount
of trekking never see the need to buy something like a tent themselves.
One could spend hours going in great detail about various technical aspects
of all the bits of gear, but unless one is a bit of a gear guru, it all
become rather dull and filled with long fancy brand and patent names. But
if you remember that as far back as the 1920's some mad men had almost climbed
Everest and been to the poles in little more than hobnailed boots, tweeds
and canvas backpacks and tents. Admittedly they were very hardy individuals,
but then conditions on Everest are more severe than anything you will ever
encounter in Tierra Del Fuego. So, if you can't afford goretex, super down,
pertex and 7000 series aluminium, fear not. Just draw inspiration from those
earlier adventurers and make do with what you can afford. It may not be
next years K2 fashions, but Mallory, Irvine and Scott would no doubt have
given an arm and a leg for such simple things as Nylon rip stop, propane
gas canisters and hollow fibre. Indeed, perhaps with such technological
marvels they may well have formally replaced Hillary and Tensing and the
like in history (who, by modern standards were also woefully under equipped)
What follows is a breakdown of some of the more important things that one
should know when looking to buy some outdoor gear, as well as an idea of
what will suffice.
Sleeping bags No matter where you trek or what outdoor activity you pursue,
your comfort at night depends mostly on the choice of sleeping bag you use.
It will become a constant companion, and a welcome refuge at night. Like
many other items, a shrewd choice will greatly appreciate your enjoyment
of trekking, so that while others shiver the night away, you can wake warm
and refreshed in the morning. Nothing beats snuggling down inside a trusty
bag as the splash of rain or the patter of snow beats a rhythm on your tent's
Types of materials
A sleeping bag is made of three things. An inner bag take makes sleeping
comfortable, an outer bag that gives some form of protection from wind,
and sometimes rain, and some insulating stuff between the two. Inner materials
are either cotton or some man made fibre. Cotton is comfortable, but a bit
heavier. Nylon or other fibres are lighter, but can be a bit uncomfortable.
If one uses an inner bag, the type of inner fabric is not very important.
The outers are almost always a man made derivative, mainly nylon. More expensive
bags may have breathable water resistant fabrics, that make the bag a little
more weather proof, but not water proof. Filling (the insulating stuff)
will be either a hollow fibre material, or down. Hollow fibre is cheaper,
more abusable, but has a shorter life and is bulkier and heavier. Down is
expensive, lighter and needs special care, but should last 3 or 4 times
as long as hollow fibre. There are various types of both down and hollow
fibre. Generally you pay more for more loft in both. Loft is the amount
that the stuff expands to create an insulating layer. The more loft the
fill has, the less is needed to create a layer of given thickness and warmth.
Down has more loft than hollow fibre. People often point out that hollow
fibre is warmer when wet, which isn't exactly true. Both hollow fibre and
down are miserable when wet, but a hollow fibre bag retains its structure
when wet, and dries infinitely quicker However, what separates the horses
from the mules in sleeping bags is how the whole package is put together.
The insulation material needs to be held in place so as not to allow it
to slip and form cold spots. There are various ways of doing this, but as
always, the better ways to do it are more complicated, and thus expensive.
Shapes and sizes
The standard sleeping bag most people are familiar with is the rectangular
bag that zips out to form a duvet type thing. Great for the kids in Kruger,
but not the most weight or warmth efficient way of designing things. The
extra space around the feet area is another space to warm up, and extra
material to carry. Hence the semi-mummy bag. This tapers to the feet, making
it a little lighter and warmer than a similar rectangular bag. Full mummy
bags go the whole hog, tapering the feet and narrowing the whole bag. The
idea begin that any free space is space that you have to needlessly heat
and extra bulk that you have to needlessly carry. Hoods are also found on
more advanced bags and are well worth having to keep cold drafts off your
head. Drawstrings and baffles around the entrance further add warmth by
keeping the warm air in and the cold air out. All these features, unfortunately
are a little more costly to make and hence cost extra. It is also important
to have a bag of the right length. Short men and many women often have standard
length sleeping bags. This can mean that up to the last quarter of the bag
is useless, merely extra weight and bulk to lug around and cold air to heat
up at night. Tall people often have to pull the bag taut to get right down
in it, and this results in inefficient insulation. The bag should be pretty
much as long as you plus a little bit. Inside you should be able to get
right in, including your head. A hooded bag can be slightly shorter, but
the hood must totally cover your head.
A very useful accessory to your sleeping bag. The main function of an inner
is to collect all the grim that the inside of you sleeping bag would other
wise be fouled with. As sleeping bags, especially down ones, are difficult
to wash and it does them little good this simple measure will greatly lengthen
the life of your bag. In addition, it can provide a little extra warmth,
and on those balmy evenings, can be used instead of the sleeping bag itself.
Although you can buy inners purpose made, out of such exotic materials as
pertex or silk, an old sheet sown in half to mirror the size of you sleeping
bag works just fine. It does help if the inner is 20 or 30cm longer than
the sleeping bag, especially if you have a hood.
Sleeping bags are often the bulkiest thing to go into a backpack. Most come
with their own stuff-sack, but often this doesn't have compression straps.
A good compression sac can reduced the volume you sleeping bag takes to
as little as half, and hence is well worth considering. Just remember not
to store your bag in its stuff sack, and hence never leave it in a compression
sac other than whilst trekking.
Essentially a bivy is an outer shell made of a breathable waterproof material
such as Goretex. They are mainly used by weight fanatic trekkers and backpackers
to replace a tent. The only use one can see for them would be in shallow
caves or as an emergency measure on treks done without a tent. However the
cost of a decent one is utterly absurd, and non breathable ones are badly
prone to condensation.
There is much that could be could be written on the virtues of closed cell
foam pads, what we often call gaper mats, versus the luxury of self-inflating
mats (thermarest) In the end it all boils down to cost and weight versus
comfort. Thermarests are definitely more comfortable, but not as much as
your bed at home. However, they weigh more, cost a lot more, and can't be
conveniently strapped to the exterior of the backpack. If you visit a good
outdoor store, they will probably have a selection of various lengths, thickness'
and densities of both types of sleeping mat. In caves with straw and camping
on lush grass in summer one can get away with almost anything. Come winter
and a gravely site on the high berg, extra length, thickness and density
will be well rewarded with addition warmth.
With the myriad of packs out there, the choice is rather difficult. Like
everything else, there is no one bag that is perfect for everything. So
get something that does most things well. You will need at least 65 liters
for anything more than weekend trips. You have to fit a tent, stove, clothes,
sleeping bag, food and fuel into the bag, which is a fair amount. If it's
hard to find good external frame packs, go the internal frame route. Remember,
that a pack is the one item that you need to wear all day trekking, and
most last a very long time. So cutting costs at expense of quality and comfort
will be a compromise that your shoulders may have to bear for a while. Some
people find one harness system better than others do. Those external pockets
and great trails of webbing can be useful, but are not always necessary.
Don't get talked into buying something not purposely made for walking. Many
supposed travel bags, are in fact hopeless to trek with, and you'd do almost
as well carrying a suitcase into the mountains. Top trekking bags, however,
are great for travel, so if you want to do both uses, get a good trekking
bag. For group walking, the convenience of having someone pull a snack or
lip ice from a side pocket is great, but when soloing you need to drop the
pack anyway. For durability buy the best materials you can in the pack.
The cheaper materials tend to work fine, but abrade quicker, which shortens
the pack's life.
Stoves Environmentally sound and convenient, the trekking stove is an absolute
necessity. Fortunately, like tents, one can often share with others, and
although it is really useful to have your own, as long as your trekking
partners have a stove, the purchase of this relatively costly item can be
delayed. It certainly would be useful to watch the various types in action,
for the choice of stove is a personal thing, and each has its drawbacks
and advantages. There are essential three types of stove, un-pressurized
liquid fuel, pressurized liquid fuel and gas. Alcohol cookers are the cheapest,
most reliable, but slowest of the three. They work well in all conditions. They burn meths in liquid
form, but are quite dependant on the quality of the fuel. Some countries
suffer poor quality fuels, which blackens pots and increases cook times.
If you have the chance, get your hands on some ethanol to seriously increase
performance. Various companies make benzene/paraffin/petrol stoves. Gas,
the last option is easy to use and convenient, and often the best choice
for weekend easy getaways. Fuel can be costly, but gas provides the most
controllable flame and burns as quick as anything. Most gas stoves are durable,
although when they stop working, that's pretty much it. All stoves need
a good set of pots. Only the alcohol ones come with pots. Otherwise you'll
need to invest some money. Rumors abound as regards Altzimers disease and
aluminum and Cr6+ poisoning from stainless steel.Such scaremongering can
safely be ignored. Still, buying good quality pots can negate a lot of these
fears. Stainless steel cleans up nice, and is less prone to buckling. It
loses out to Al as regards weight though. If you only go on shorts trips,
and get the chance to clean gear properly between them, cheap pots will
do the trick. The longer you spend away, the more the reward for good pots.
If weight is an issue, and money flows like water, get a titanium cook set,
which offers little in the way of cooking advantages other than brag value.
Glissade, which is, simply put, the world best pack. Sleeping Bags: A First Ascent hollow fibre bag, which is short but great
they are compact, a Rab down bag, which is not
bad either. Tents: A Sunseeker Isotec, which is the one bit of South African
kit is good. Simply great,it stand through any weather,
pitches on sloping ground and is bombproof, except it weighs 4 kg, so. A Macpac Microlight, which is a 1.7kg 4 season one man wonder.
Stoves: An Old
Camping Gaz 206. Unstable bulky and expensive to run, it still is the easiest
stove to cook on (provided you don't knock it over) A no name brand alcohol
burner. A trangia
alcohol burner with gas adaptor, which is better than the no name brand
version, uses less fuel and is more stable. A great product for average
trekking and an MSR Whisperlite which is MSR's
Hi tec's (uppers cave) plus Power boots, Backpackers, Hikers, Crispi's,
Asolo's, Salamon's, Karrimor's,
Scarpa's.Best boot so far is Karrimor KSB Munro's (the full
leather version with Goretex membranes) They last a full year, Asolo's (4 season boots, not the cheap ones)
for layering and Columbia and Rab. Insulation comes from
A First Ascent fleece and Mountain Equipment down jacket.
It's above is only for your possible help and may be used only as a reference.
We can't give recommendations on any equipment.
Capt. Ben Garrett
Simple, just contact us with a rough outline of your requirements and let me, Captain Ben, and my Crew to do the rest for you.
Finally there isn't much we cannot cope with. Individuals or larger parties. Just let us know. "Navigating the Beagle Channel since 1990."
Ring us direct by Telephone at 5661-621010
Or, for further information on expeditions or flights Patagonia, Antarctica, South Georgia, Cape Horn, and Tierra Del Fuego, please Email me at CaptainBen@victory-cruises.com
For more Information:
Your Cruise Specialists at the "ends of the earth"
Box 70, Teniente Munoz 118, Puerto Williams,
Tierra Del Fuego, Chile ,
'The Gateway To Antarctica'
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