The Gaucho Way - Glacier Hike

3-Day Guided Backpacking in Patagonia, Chile

Explore an untouched and largely unknown part of wild Patagonia.  The Gaucho Way is our signature route.  It follows traditional routes used by the Gauchos, Chilean cowboys who are friends and neighbors.  On horseback, they herd cattle to market and return to their homesteads with flour, sugar, yerba mate and other sundries.  The Gaucho Way denotes both their passage through the mountain landscape and their distinctive, gracious culture.   We trek through beautiful valleys, lush forests, craggy mountain trails, and sandy beaches all with the Northern Patagonia Icefield rising 10,000 feet above you

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Day by Day at a Glance:

  • Day 1: Boat shuttle from Puerto Bertrand to Patagonia Frontiers Main Ranch. Orientation and begin multi-day guided backpacking. 12 km. (7 mi.). Overnight Tent Camp at Cacho Ranch.

  • Day 2: Trek to view Northern Patagonia Icefield. 12-18 km. (7-11 mi.). Overnight at Tent Camp at Cacho Ranch

  • Day 3: Complete guided backpacking trip. 12-16 km. (7-10 mi.) Boat shuttle to Puerto Bertrand.

Detailed Itinerary:

Day 1: Puerto Bertrand is your departure point for Patagonia Frontiers.  You board a boat and travel 16 kilometers (10 mi.) across two connected lakes to reach our dock and main ranch.  There are no roads here.  Once you’ve met your guides and staff and had a look around you’ll prepare for our trek up the Solér Valley, toward the icefield. There are several short creek crossings so don’t forget those sandals or water shoes. 

The long valleys, lush temperate forests and mountain peaks offer a wide variety of terrain in which to trek and it’s not uncommon to see soaring condors or even the elusive huemul, a small endangered deer that appears on the Chilean coat of arms.  The varied terrain means that you’ll be able to experience everything from craggy mountain trails to long, sandy beaches, and always with a backdrop of the majestic mountain panorama.

Tonight’s destination is situated on the banks of the Cacho River. This tent camp is located just beyond the intersection of two large valleys facing each other, across the Solér Valley floor.  This is one of our favorite spots and we always sense energy here, be it from the massive peaks, the open space, the flowing water, or the pristine landscape. There’s contentment here in an evening fire, while enjoying good company, and watching the horses graze against a slowly darkening backdrop that reveals southern stars above white, jagged peaks.

One-hour boat shuttle. Trekking distance is approximately 12 kilometers (7 mi.).

Day 2:  Mate and breakfast are served around a campfire as you watch the long, creeping approach of the morning’s sun slip down from the peak tops to the valley floor.  Today, you will hike and explore an untouched depth of wild Patagonia that is seldom revealed. 

If the day is clear your views will encompass the immediately surrounding peaks and glaciers, five and six thousand feet in elevation above you, as well as the awe-inspiring and formidable Northern Patagonia Icefield with Cerro Hyades standing firm at the head of the Cacho Valley.  The difference in elevation between the valley floor at the far end of our Cacho Ranch and the summit of this monumental peak is 10,000 feet!

Along the way is the old-growth forest of Coigüe, or Dombey’s beech, with its elegant branches and thick, lustrous evergreen leaves.  The large Magellanic woodpecker is frequently seen or heard here, with its resoundingly deep echo reverberating through the air as it searches for grubs in the ruin of aged trunks.  This is also home to the endangered huemul, or South Andean Deer, as well as predators such as the Geoffroy’s Cat, Patagonian Fox, and Puma.  Hidden in plain view, inconspicuous amongst the grandeur of the landscape, is a marble mountainside.

Weather, river levels,  and the group’s pace and energy will ultimately influence the furthest point of the trek. If conditions permit, it is possible to reach as far as the massive glacier’s edge before returning to the tent camp for the night.

Trekking distance may vary and is approximately 12-18 kilometers (7-11 mi.).

Day 3:  As the morning sunlight edges toward camp, you’ll sip yerba mate around a fire, and marvel as the light plays over the peaks of snow, ice and rock.  There’s plenty of time to take in the beauty before packing up camp, and heading back home down valley. Upon departing we will travel one of several routes back down the valley to the main ranch.

Take a walk in the pasture and share a moment with the horses, or simply relax as you prepare to say goodbye to the ranch before departing by boat to Puerto Bertrand. 

Trekking distance is approximately 12-16 kilometers (7-10 mi.). One hour boat ride.

We hope that this sample itinerary highlights what this trip offers.  Ideally, each trip is best crafted by working together with our guests to best meet their needs. Each trip’s length, activity types, and skill level may be adapted to meet each party's goals and desires.

Whether you choose an established itinerary or create one of your own, our commitment is to accommodate your interests and to provide you with a thoroughly enjoyable, safe and memorable experience. We look forward to hosting you at our wilderness ranch home.

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