Like most (probably all) mountain climates, the weather along and within the circuit is extremely temperamental. Sight lines within in the valleys are short and massive systems can jump in unexpectedly. That said, the weather during our four days was generally fantastic. This is contrast to other online accounts of the trek and of Tierra del Fuego in general. With cool temperatures and plenty of tasty water, this is about the best trekking conditions one can hope for.
BC Ministry of Forests mug which I obtained from my friends in Fort Nelson before I left in November. It served me well in Patagonia, although it was mostly filled with garbage Nescafe. Actually, in the case of this particular trek, I made the mistake of buying the sweetened version of the venerable Nescafe. Be advised. Not all Nescafe is the same. I should have known this after five years of drinking the stuff in China. When in doubt, always get the original stuff (if possible).
Just above the previous nights camp. I found day two to be much easier in terms of navigation to day one. As with yesterday, there is a rudimentary trail with cairns and the odd piece of flagging tape, but more importantly, you are now blessed with alpine sight lines which makes it quite easy to forecast a route.
This is about halfway up Paso Benban One, the first of two passes you will need to navigate to reach suitable places to camp on the second night. It’s quite steep hike up a scree slope and would be very difficult to pass in wet conditions (poor slope stability). The ascent is about 1.5 hours from the first night camps which are in the foreground of the above photo. The trail runs on the right of the river. Make sure you load up on water before making the ascent as there will not be any sources until you get through to the other side of Paso Benban Two.
It is a very tight fit and certainly much steeper than the photo implies.
Paso Benban One & Paso Benban Two.
Looking south from Paso Benban Two. Ushuaia is through the valley and over the next range.
From Paso Benban Two down into the next valley. About three to four hours of trekking down through this valley (stay to the right of the river until the valley narrows, then cross to the left) you come to some good spots to spend your second night. Apparently one can continue down to the end of this valley to Lago Fagnano, a 98KM long lake where a weekly ferry will shuttle you back to Route 3.
Canadian beavers were introduced to Tierra del Fuego in the early 20th century to kick start a fur industry. While the fur industry has faded into history, the beaver hasn’t. With no natural predators, it is wrecking havoc on the sensitive and slow growing forest valleys. These are some of the largest dams I’ve ever seen. Some operators in Ushuaia offer beaver watching tours and apparently it is possible to eat beaver, if one is so inclined.
A forest fire raged through the valley in 2010, well after the latest Lonely Planet was released. It unfortunately destroyed the recommended camping spot. That said, it’s still fairly decent spot to spend the night with a good sized stream/waterfall draining out of Paso Mariposa. This was where we encountered the only other trekkers…from a distance. Another group was packing down on the far side of the river (above photo) on their way to Lago Fagnano. Other than that, we didn’t see anyone else.
Forest fire damage.