Patagonia – baby Lotta’s 7 week backpacking adventure (part 2)

Wow. Another year flashed by. The blog is slowly burning, but still alive. So I continue where I left you readers 5 months ago. This is another visual blog. There is little time to write a lot of prose, so here we go…

Descending the rim of Volcan Chaitén, Prov. de Palena, X Región de Los Lagos, Patagonia, Chile.

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.

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.

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 Queulat Hanging Glacier along the Carretera Austral, XI Aysén Region, Patagonia, Chile.

The Queulat Hanging Glacier along the Carretera Austral, 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Pitstop along the Carratera Austral in Puerto Rio Tranquilo, Aysén Region, Patagonia, Chile.

Enchanting colors of the General Carrera Lake (Chilean side) or Lake Buenos Aires (Argentine side) is a lake located in Patagonia and 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.

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.


A ground drop on the watercourse, of over 10 meters high, creates a huge waterfall and a sharp contrast between the turquoise waters of Baker River and the milky waters of Nef River. Nef river has an extension of approximately 30 kilometers, from its birth at Campos de Hielo Norte (Northern Ice Fields) to its mouth at Baker River. Through its course, the river is fed by inflows from the glaciers and snowy mountains, which gives its waters a particularly milky color. Baker River, in turn, stands out for its 200 kilometers of turquoise waters that are born at the drainage of Bertrand Lake, and flow into the sea, next to Caleta Tortel. It is the most abundant river in Chile, with an average flow of 870 cubic meters per second. Aysén Region, Patagonia, Chile.

A ground drop on the watercourse, of over 10 meters high, creates a huge waterfall and a sharp contrast between the turquoise waters of Baker River and the milky waters of Nef River. Nef river has an extension of approximately 30 kilometers, from its birth at Campos de Hielo Norte (Northern Ice Fields) to its mouth at Baker River. Through its course, the river is fed by inflows from the glaciers and snowy mountains, which gives its waters a particularly milky color. Baker River, in turn, stands out for its 200 kilometers of turquoise waters that are born at the drainage of Bertrand Lake, and flow into the sea, next to Caleta Tortel. It is the most abundant river in Chile, with an average flow of 870 cubic meters per second. Aysén Region, Patagonia, Chile.

Some of our neighbors call Valle Chacabuco, heart of the future Patagonia National Park, 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 our conservation work. 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.

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 photos from our previous explorations of the park. An invitation that we could not refuse. Future Patagonia National Park. Aysén Region, Patagonia, Chile.

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.

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 only 200 miles from the ocean. 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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Retracing through the high grasses towards Lago Cochrane. Patagonia Park. Aysén Region, Patagonia, Chile.

The mighty Lago Cochrane. Patagonia Park. Aysén Region, Patagonia, Chile.

The mighty Lago Cochrane. Patagonia Park. Aysén Region, Patagonia, Chile.

The dusty backroads of the Patagonian Andes, where we drove for hours without encountering any oncoming traffic. From the Chilean border it took us 3 hours to reach the Ruta 40. Santa Cruz. Argentina.

The dusty backroads of the Patagonian Andes, where we drove for hours without encountering any oncoming traffic. From the Chilean border it took us 3 hours to reach the Ruta 40. Santa Cruz. Argentina.

On the next, and last episode we will take you south to the jagged peaks of Cerro Fitz Roy.

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Baby Lotta goes backpacking in Patagonia – video

Everything you can imagine is real. – Picasso

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

Scree descent after summiting active volcano Chaitén, Parque Pumalin, Palena province, Patagonia, Chile. March 10th, 2016.

This is your life! Do what you love and do it often.

Packrafthike gapyear – family farewell, gear list, adventure and science

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

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…

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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

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

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.

Click for report and video on Joery's blog

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!

We are ready. This is it. Let’s get the heck out of here. See you in September, when we are home for 3 days before leaving for the Great Himalayan Trail in Nepal.

Click here for live updates from our SPOT GPS Satellite Messenger

Click here for live updates from our SPOT GPS Satellite Messenger

Overnight trippin’ with a packraft

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

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

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

A pit stop at the local pub of Alle - refilling on La Chouffe

We had quite some new gear to field test out, like Katrijn’s fresh pair of Inov 8 Terroc’s and our new RAB Photon Jackets. But I’ll put that in a future blog. The packraft may take a rest now, coming up is the Marathon of Rome and a 16-day Sarek winter trip.

More pics of our trip you will find here in our online album.

Packrafts are now official for sale in Europe in the Packrafting Store through Sven and Marc from packrafting.de.

Packrafting Store

Packrafting Store

Patagonia Chile – Torres del Paine (video)

When going trough the pictures for my recent blog on winter hiking in Patagonia, I discovered some vids I shot with a point-and-shoot camera. I didn’t remember shooting most of this vids, but I was quite surprised I had a total of 45mins of footage only on Torres del Paine from 2 seperate visits in 2008 and 2010. I stripped the footage down to a 5 minute impression of what you can expect when walking Chile’s world reknown Torres del Paine Circuit. I messed a bit with moviemaker and this was the result.

Music in the vid is copyrighted and from the fabolous Belgian indie band Tomàn. You can buy their music trough indie label Zeal Records.