6 Day/5 Night Trekking Sample Itinerary
Day 1: We will meet you at the Balmaceda airport where we begin our journey. We’ll travel south on the Austral Highway on pavement and improved gravel surfaces. In nearly 300 kilometers of driving we’ll pass by only two small villages, Villa Cerro Castillo, a short distance south of the airport, and Puerto Río Tranquilo, a village on the shores of Lago General Carrera, Chile’s largest lake and South America’s second largest lake. From Tranquilo we continue south, poised between the profound blue waters of the lake and the sharp, snowy peaks flanking the Northern Patagonia Icefield.
Our destination is the small hamlet of Puerto Bertrand, located at the headwaters of the Baker River, Chile’s largest volume river, a world-class fishery and the centerpiece of a contentious dam-building project by the Spanish energy consortium Endesa. After checking in at the waterfront hostel where you’ll spend the night, we’ll continue by road further south to view the mighty Confluencia, junction of the Baker and Nef rivers and a thundering cataract whose majesty would be lost if the dam ever becomes reality. The evening can be spent relaxing over a glass of wine or a stroll about the hamlet.
Driving time is approximately six hours.
Day 2: After breakfast and final preparations for the day's trek, we’ll take a boat shuttle and meet our guides. After introductions and orientation, our route takes us along the shoreline of Bertrand Lake to where the trail follows a long, narrow peninsula created by a remnant glacial moraine. This is the traditional route used by gauchos living in the Solér Valley. The gauchos, our neighbors, follow this trail with herds of cattle on their way to market, or in years past, before more frequent boat travel, for purchasing their supplies of flour, sugar, yerba mate, and other sundries.
As our trek continues, the way rises up intermittently forested slopes to a high shoulder overlooking the joining of waters between Bertrand and Plomo lakes. The narrow, contiguous gap between the lakes is clearly demarcated where the deep blue waters of Lago Bertrand change to the jade green of Lago Plomo.
We trek along rocky outcroppings, across high alpine valleys, and through enchanted forests of moss-covered beech trees. We’ll have glaciated peaks at our shoulder, and the water’s of the lake below our feet. As we near the lake’s end we’ll view far up the wide Solér Valley floor and beyond to where the afternoon sun stands watch over the enormous expanse of the Patagonia Icefield summits.
To finish the day we descend a broad shoulder and ride across forested pasture to the dock, boats, houses and barns of our main ranch, all of which we’ve been glimpsing from a distance. It will be a long, satisfying day finished with a wholesome meal, a glass of fine Chilean wine, and falling asleep in the guest house while listening to the horses soft grazing on their home pasture.
Trekking distance is approximately seven miles of mountainous terrain.
Day 3: After sipping rounds of yerba mate, a bitter tea sipped from a gourd through a metal straw, a traditional start to any Patagonian day and an important social custom, we'll eat a hearty breakfast, load our gear, food, and camping equipment onto the pilcherlos, or packhorses, and continue our trek.
Today’s trek takes us past the end of our first wilderness ranch, up the main Solér Valley, and to the beginning of our other ranch on the Cacho River. Our camp is located just beyond the intersection of two large valleys facing each other across the Solér Valley floor and is one of our favorite spots. We always sense energy here, be it from the massive peaks, the open space, the flowing water, or the pristine landscape.
The days trek is approximately seven miles long and we'll tent camp for the night.
Day 4: Yerba mate and breakfast will be around a campfire this morning as we watch the long, creeping approach of the morning’s sun slip down from the peak tops to the valley floor.
Our trek today takes us through the rest of our wilderness ranch to an untouched, largely unknown and untamed part of Patagonia. If the day is clear we’ll have views not only of the immediately surrounding peaks and glaciers, five and six thousand feet in elevation above us, but also of the Northern Patagonia Icefield and of Cerro Hyades standing firm at the head of the Cacho Valley. The difference in elevation between the valley floor and the summit of Cerro Hyades is 10,000 feet!
While weather conditions, river levels and our own energy influence the furthest point of our trek, we often reach the massive glacier's edge before returning to our tent camp for the night.
Today's hike is approximately 7 to 11 miles long.
Day 5: There’s plenty of time today to enjoy our morning routine around the fire before breaking down camp, saddling and loading the horses, and heading back home down valley. Perhaps we’ll have an opportunity to pass by one of our few neighbor’s homes across the other side of the Solér Valley, subsistence ranches deep in the wilderness and enclaves of human presence and affable hospitality.
After we arrive back to the facilities of our main ranch you can take a stroll along the lakeshore, pick cherries in the orchard or simply enjoy the ranching its surroundings. In the evening we'll plan for a meal around a campfire, sharing stories over a glass of wine, listening to the horses nickering close by as well as perhaps a soft Spanish melody strumming in the background.
Day 6: After saying our goodbyes we head by boat back to Puerto Bertrand and begin our drive north directly to the Balmaceda airport for your domestic flight to Santiago and onward.