Descending the rim of Volcan Chaitén, Prov. de Palena, X Región de Los Lagos, Patagonia, Chile.
Parque Pumalín was Chile’s largest private nature reserve and operated as a public-access park, with an extensive infrastructure of trails, campgrounds, and visitor centers. By an accord announced on 18 March 2017, the park was gifted to the Chilean state and consolidated with another 4,000,000 ha (9,884,215 acres) to become part of South America’s largest national park, X Región de Los Lagos, Patagonia, Chile.
Puyuhuapi (Puyuguapi) is a village located on Route 7, the Carretera Austral, where the Rio Pascal enters the head of the Puyuhuapi fjord, a small fjord off the Ventisquero Sound, XI Aysén Region, Patagonia, Chile.
The Carretera Austral (CH-7, in english: Southern Way) is the name given to Chile’s Route 7. The highway runs about 1240 kilometers (770 mi) from Puerto Montt to Villa O’Higgins through rural Patagonia. These areas are sparsely populated and despite its length, Carretera Austral provides access to only about 100.000 people. The highway began as almost entirely unpaved, but more sections are becoming paved each year. As of January 2017, the paved road ends at Villa Cerro Castillo, with roadworks going on just south of there.
A day hike in the Queulat National Park along the Carretera Austral, XI Aysén Region, Patagonia, Chile.
Starting our trek on a rancho at the gates of The Cerro Castillo National Reserve, where the melting of glaciers, gives life to the trails and valleys that today make up this reserve. Its untamed nature reflects the natural, geological and volcanological changes that this region has experienced for centuries, XI Aysén Region, Patagonia, Chile.
Through the lenga forrest of The Cerro Castillo National Reserve, Aysén Region, Patagonia, Chile.
Peek through towards the castles of Cerro Castillo National Reserve, Aysén Region, Patagonia, Chile.
Setting up camp at campamento Neozelandés in Cerro Castillo National Reserve, Aysén Region, Patagonia, Chile.
Breakfast in sub-zero degrees at campamento Neozelandés in Cerro Castillo National Reserve, Aysén Region, Patagonia, Chile.
Hiding from a chilly breeze at some tarns high above the campamento Neozelandés in Cerro Castillo National Reserve, Aysén Region, Patagonia, Chile.
Retracing towards the campamento Neozelandés in Cerro Castillo National Reserve, Aysén Region, Patagonia, Chile.
Enjoying the waving trees in Cerro Castillo National Reserve, Aysén Region, Patagonia, Chile.
Pitstop along the Carratera Austral in Puerto Rio Tranquilo, Aysén Region, Patagonia, Chile.
Enchanting colors on the General Carrera Lake (Chilean side) or Lake Buenos Aires (Argentine side). This lake is shared by Argentina and Chile. The lake has a surface of 1,850 km² of which 970 km² are in the Chilean Aysén Region, and 880 km² in the Argentine Santa Cruz Province, making it the biggest lake in Chile, and the fourth largest in Argentina. In December 2015, Doug Tompkins died on a kayaking accident when strong waves caused their kayaks to capsize in this lake. In the 1990s Tompkins and his second wife, Kris McDivitt Tompkins bought and conserved over 2 million acres (810,000 ha) of wilderness in Chile and Argentina, more than any other private individuals in the region, thus becoming among the largest private land-owners in the world.The Tompkinses were focused on park creation, wildlife recovery, ecological agriculture, and activism, with the goal of saving biodiversity.
Valle Chacabuco, heart of the future Patagonia National Park, is locally known as the “light” of the region. Why? Its unusual landscapes—expansive grasslands in a largely forested region—have shaped a rich human history, which informs and enriches the conservation work of Conservacion Patagonica. Prior to the 1800s, Valle Chacabuco (like most of the Aysen Region) was unknown except to the handful of nomadic native communities from Northern Patagonia. Expeditions south in the late 19th century discovered the rich grasslands of Valle Chacabuco, leading to the valley’s transformation into a vast sheep estancia. For decades, amidst land reform and shifting ownership, tens of thousands of animals grazed throughout this ecologically sensitive valley. Although ranching damaged native grasslands, in the current transition from estancia to park, Valle Chacabucois rapidly recovering.
We were invited to stay for 2 nights at the lodge in Valle Chacabuco by Conservacion Patagonica in exchange for photographic work from our previous explorations in the park. An invitation that we could not refuse. Future Patagonia National Park. Aysén Region, Patagonia, Chile.
Patagonia Park contains and protects the highest levels of biodiversity found in Chile’s Aysen region. As the park’s endemic plants restore in number, the repopulation of wildlife has followed closely behind. Home to many endangered species, such as the nationally treasured huemul deer, puma, and Andean condor, the park provides scientists and wildlife lovers alike the chance to experience these rare species first hand.
The dry steppe grasslands of Argentine Patagonia are characterized by minimal rainfall (less than 150 millimeters annually), cold, dry winds, and sandy soil. The Andes Mountains block moisture from flowing west, creating this arid area region. A number of tough plants have been able to adapted to this harsh environment, including shrubs like calafate, quilembay and yaoyín, and tuft grasses like flechilla and coirón poa. These grasslands support hardy animals such as the burrowing owl, the gray fox, tuco-tuco, mara, armadillos, various eagle and hawk species, and keystone predators like the puma. A wide range of animals thrive in the more habitable outskirts of the desert and around ephemeral lakes formed from the Andes’ runoff, where trees and more nutritious aqueous grasses can grow.
Members of the camelid family, guanacos are the southern relative of the llama—and both of them are South American cousins to true camels. These animals live in arid, mountainous regions of Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. The name guanaco comes from the Quechua word wanaku. Although far more difficult to domesticate than llamas, guanacos have been hunted for meat, wool, and skins for centuries. Today, their population has dropped to around 500,000, with of 90% of that in the steppes of Argentina.
In the eastern sector of the Chacabuco Valley, the Lago Chico area has spectacular views of Lago Cochrane and Mt. San Lorenzo. So we decided to explore the area on an overnight trek. We would not be dissapointed!
Emerging from the lenga forrest, with Mt. San Lorenzo hiding in the clouds. Patagonia Park. Aysén Region, Patagonia, Chile.
Lago Chico is something of a legend, with unusual lake-to-lake views down to the immense Lago Cochrane, across to Cerro San Lorenzo, and out into Argentina. This spot eluded many a hiker who set out in search of the mysterious lake—until now, with the completion of a new loop trail sponsored by Patagonia Inc. Beware anyway that the trail is not signposted and sometimes you need good sight to find the trail in the high grasses! Patagonia Park. Aysén Region, Patagonia, Chile.
Alpen glow on Mt. San Lorenzo from our bivaouc spot besides Lago Chico. Patagonia Park. Aysén Region, Patagonia, Chile.
Our bivaouc spot in the canes besides Lago Chico. Patagonia Park. Aysén Region, Patagonia, Chile.
Retracing through the high grasses towards Lago Cochrane. Patagonia Park. Aysén Region, Patagonia, Chile.
It’s been a while. Parenting. Time consuming. Free moments are spend together and outdoors. Our girl is 7 months young now. She grows on sight. We’re enjoying the best times of our lives so far. When she was 20 weeks old, we took her on a extremely rewarding backcountry backpacking trip into Chilean and Argentine Patagonia. 45 days. Ice-caked mountains, evergreen virgin rainforrests, eye-blurring blue and green rivers, golden rolling pampa, abundant wildlife, rare humans, vitamin D spitting sun, howling wind, freshes ever air and senses running overtime. Contrary to gut feeling, it turned our baby way more relaxed then when put between four walls.
This is the video impression which will consume 6 minutes of your life.
A more extensive report in word and photos might follow somewhere in time.
Scree descent after summiting active volcano Chaitén, Parque Pumalin, Palena province, Patagonia, Chile. March 10th, 2016.
Last stressy weeks at work. Nightly gear, logistics and route check-ups. Preperations got accelared. Hectic at times. Eventually the day arrives you shake hands with your colleageus. “See you in 400 days” with a deadpan grimace.
Walking on a ridge on the wild northeast coast of Tenerife
2 weeks before we leave on our expeditions to Lapland we go on a close-to-home farewell weekend-trip with Katrijn’s family. Eat, drink, bike, walk, laugh, fun. Immediatly followed by a 10 day family trip to the volcanic island of Tenerife with Steve’s family. A trip to a holiday resort island, which attracts 5 million tourists a year? Not our kind of destination you’ll think. But the island had more to offer then what we came for, watch the video impression…
What do you take on such a 55-day packrafthike in the subarctic?
Well, here is our gearlist for download, or click on the picture below. This is our full skin packlist, calculated with 10-day food ratio stretches. Is this ultra lightweight? Not in a distance. It’s lightweight in our mind with subarctic, mosquito-laden, summer-autumn climate conditions in mind. And some comfort too. Andrew Skurka’s blogpost on Stupid Light, just came in time to stop us from gram hunting 😉 I could write a full blogpost on our gear. Can you wait for a year?
Gear List Packrafthike Lapland – 1100km
Adventure and science
Not working for a year. You lazy horse. Why not combining all this with some voluntary usefulness for society. That’s why we shaked hands with Adventure and Science. This NGO facilitates partnerships between adventure athletes and the researchers who need them to collect data all around the world. From Mt. Everest to the Ocean, they have asked hundreds of athletes to make their time outside more meaningful. All of them become volunteers and make the decision to become adventurer-scientists because they have a strong desire to make more of their expeditions.
Adventure and Science
On our 1100km subarctic Lapland expedition we will be working for the Evolutionary Biology department from the Uppsala University in Sweden. We will do field data collection on Lichens, which are symbiotic organisms between a fungus and algae. Even if they are very important members of an ecosystem, their life cycle and biology is very little understood. Thamnolia vermicularis lichen grows all over the world in alpine and artic environments. It was not discovered yet in Africa or Antarctica but there is o reason it should no grow there. Because is an asexual species its wide distribution is quit a mistery among biologists. Some consider this lichen a very old species dating from Permian-Triassic when the Pangea continent still existed. Other think is spreading by birds, or by air currents. In lichen world this dispute is quit intense. By using a genetic approach (extracting DNA from it) scientists will be able to make a phylogenetic tree and solve its mistery. More then that the answers of this investigation will also help scientists and nature conservation people to understand the lichens migration patterns and their biology.
We are choosen as the first adventurers who will collect these species on such an expedition. It’s an honour.
Packrafting Grensmaas, last rehearsal before Lapland expedition. Click on picture for report and video on Joery’s blog
Oooh, before I forget, on the last weekend of June, we got a very nice, last minute, 24-hour packrafting trip wit Yves, Michael “Andreas” Jackson and Joery. Please visit his blog for a report with a nice vid. Joery is leaving in August for a 5 week wilderness packrafthike into the Mackenzie Mountains. Allready looking forward to his report!
After weeks of paddling in our living room, struggling with lines, straps and bulky fake packs we finally found some sort of configuration to fit it all in and around the packraft. Yes, we are kind off ready to pull out the “2 person – full gear – 1 boat” – packrafting theme. For upcoming backpacking – packrafting expeditions we not only have to learn how to comfortable fit it all in the raft, we also have to have the skill to do a fluid change-over from backpacker to packrafter and back, because the get in and get out theme could be quite some hassle if you don’t figure out a good procedure. A lot of cursing would follow during the next 48 hours. Wicked! Our first float on a real river, with packs on the go.
GoLite Pinnacles strapped on the Packraft
A misty weekend at the end of february. The serpentine Semois River winds its way on a slow pace trough the thawing Belgian Ardennes. Winter is the best time to go paddling in the Ardennes, because over spring and summer water levels drop dramaticly, which would do no good to a packraft, rubbing the rocky river bed.
It’s amazing how stable the Unrigged Explorer floats the water. We have a 4-piece kayak paddle, which we split over the 2 of us, each paddling a part canoe style, with an added T-piece to the tail. Thanks to the techniques described in Roman’s bible we quickly get the hang of it. You have no idea on how fast this beast can make a turn. On one strong stroke you’re turned perpendicular against the current if you want to.
Lightning fast water navigation, that’s what a packraft can do for you, even if you’re 2 in 1 boat and loaded with 2 packs! There’s not much space left in the boat, so Katrijn sits between my legs, with her knees bend in front. The Kamasutra of Packrafing calls this the Honeymoon Position. Word! Katrijn does the scouting for rocks, potholes, trees,… shouting all kind of strange noises to atract my attention on quickly action – reaction. With 2 in 1 packraft, you can not add a spray deck, so we’ll have water in the boat when we reach the PR2-3 class. That’s gonna mean a lot of in and outs.
Bivouac along the Semois
Did you know that swans do not like (yellow) packrafts? They fly over in herds just 30cms above our heads almost picking our caps. Heart pounding. They are extremely aggressive if you come too close by. And the comfort zone is easy reached. One moment I really tought a swan would slaughter our beast, wich gave the sleepy valley an early wake up call when I openend my panic throat.
The nice thing with the meandering Semois, is that we can test out a bunch of times the backpacking – packrafting change-over. Floating some curves. Get out. Hiking over the hills and put the boat back in the river. We had quite some attention from the locals in the small villages. Are you walking around with paddles? So you kayak? No we packraft. Look at my back. An inflatable boat? You guys are nuts! It’s winter! Kayak season is summer. Probably.
A pit stop at the local pub of Alle - refilling on La Chouffe