Hiking in South America

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of August 27 — September 2, 1998
Hiking in South America
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Hiking in South America
Question: I am going to South America from November to January, and have done some research into tours, solo traveling, etc. However, I can’t seem to find any good tours for about three to six weeks that focus on Peru and Chile and begin in mid-November. I really want to do a lot of hiking with not too big of a group. They all seem to start too late. Any suggestions?

Anna Gerstenberg

Patagonia Wilderness trip includes the breathtaking Moreno Glacier
Adventure Adviser: Budgetary restraints aside, I’ve found five options that loosely fit your requirements, if you’re willing to add Ecuador and Argentina to the list of possibilities. Two countries, I might add, that are high on the list of “must-sees” in my book. The first two treks are offered by Geographic Expeditions (415-922-0448), a classy and time-tested outfitter based in San Francisco. The company’s “Into Patagonia” trip is touted as a moderate tour with day hikes. Centered around the famous Helsingfors ranch, you’ll foray from there into two of the world’s most spectacular mountain ranges, the Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre in Argentina’s Glacier National Park. The 16-day trip costs $3,590.

A similar, yet more rugged option with Geographic Expeditions is their “Patagonia Wilderness” trip, very similar to their “Into Patagonia” trip, however you’ll spend more time camping and less, if any, time luxuriating at a private hacienda. The trip highlight is five days camping and hiking in Paine National Park, and then traveling to the Moreno Glacier and Glacier National Park to pitch your tents in view of the breathtaking peaks of Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre. The trip starts November 27 and costs $3,290.

Veteran outfitter Mountain Travel-Sobek’s 10-day Andean Explorer trip to Peru is a “grand introduction” to the three Andean wonders: Cuzco, the former capital of the Inca empire, the Sacred Valley’s ruins and riverside inns of the Río Urubamba, and the ancient stone temples of Machu Picchu. The trip is labeled two on a scale of five in terms of difficulty, and includes day hikes and one day of class II rafting. On the second-to-last day, you’ll hike the final leg of the traditional Inca Trail into Machu Picchu. The cost starts at $1,895. Call 888-687-6235 for more details.

Normally associated with the Himalayas, Aspen-based high-alpine trekking and climbing outfitter KE Adventure Travel is expanding their focus and now offers a “Volcanoes of Ecuador” itinerary. The 19-day trip that starts November 3, is a challenging overview of Ecuadorian volcanoes. You’ll start by climbing 4,250 meter Fuya Fuya and then graduate to the Valley of the Volcanoes where you’ll climb Cerro Chica, a hefty 4,600 meters. Last but not least, you’ll drive up to the Edward Whymper Hut at 5,000 meters on the slopes of Chimborazo, where you’ll do a strenuous but straightforward climb to the top of Ecuador’s highest peak, that offers views to the Pacific ocean and all the volcanoes in between. The cost of the trip is $2,695. Call KE at 800-497-9675 for more details.

Last but not least, let me direct you to Esprit-founder Doug Tompkins’ private Chilean sanctuary, Pumalín Park. The 617,500 acre park is very undeveloped and Tompkins intends to keep it that way. However, the park does offer some very elegant, yet rugged cabanas that cost $60 per night or campsites with toilets and shower facilities for $1.50 per night. Whichever reservation you opt for, you can find out more about Tompkins’ private park and its hiking trails by calling the office in Puerto Montt at 011-56-65-25-00-79.

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