GPT36P (Rio Baker)
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* Start Date to Finish Date (use Format YYYY-MMM-DD) / Duration in Days / Hiking or Packrafting / Travel Direction (SOBO for Southbound or NOBO Northbound) / Chosen Route and/or Option Name (RR for Regular Route) / Names or Alias
Summary with remarks to route that are considered useful for other hikers and packrafters. Include alerts, suggestions and personal perception of attractiveness and difficulties.
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- 1 Section Log, Alerts and Suggestions
- 2 Resupply and Accommodation
- 3 Transport to and from Route
- 4 Permits, Entry Fees and Right-of-Way Issues
- 5 Links to other Resources
- 6 Images
Section Log, Alerts and Suggestions
- GPT36H Regular Packrafting Route / Southern End: Laguna Clara to Villa O‘Higgins
2020-Jan-08 1.5 days Meylin Ubilla & Jan Dudeck
The Ruta de los Pioneros“ is one of the historic routes that was created and used by the first settlers in the last century. This route connected Villa O’Higgins with Cochrane long before the Carreta Austral was completed in the year 2000.
The northern and the southern terminus; approx. 50 km on each end; are now upgraded to gravel roads. Only the roughly 100 km in the middle remain a classic animal trail made and created by people on horses to drive cattle.
To bypass as much as feasible of these gravel roads we have investigated in recent years multiple alternatives on both ends of GPT36H. Especially with a packraft most of these gravel road kilometers can be bypassed on a very attractive combination of lakes and rivers with shorter portages in between.
We now investigated and verified a route that first crosses the 2 km wide Lago Claro and than connects on an excellent 2 km trail to Rio Meyer. To continue either only cross Rio Meyer (like we did) or float downstream o. this river up to 4 km (alternative river exit to be scouted first!). An perfectly maintained trail leads then to Lago Biceño (2 to 6 km depending on only crossing Rio Meyer or floating downstream up to 4 km on Rio Mayer). Here a decision needs to be made depending on wind: either paddle a part of Lago Briceño or or continue walking 8 km to Salto on an scenic very well maintained trail (Alternatively a 6 km long trail connects from Lago Briceño to Lago Salto on a different route). After traversing 4 km on Lago Salto a 1 km short animal trail leads to Lago Cines. Once you reach Lago Cisnes it’s 13 km on a combination of lakes and rivers that gets you very close to Villa O’Higgins. Only the last 3 km into the village must be walked on a gravel road.
We travelled this route in 1.5 days and really enjoyed the landscape, the excellent trails and the scenic paddling. Even in suboptimal weather this route is feasible and offers plenty of alternatives and escape routes. Therefore I will re-route the regular packrafting route of GPT36H to this route.
Between Lago Claro and Lago Salto we discovered the best maintained trails of the entire Aysen region. Bridges cross even the smallest streams and all muddy areas are crossed on wooden passages. After years of hiking in this region this came as a surprise. But we also know why. These trails were not created to serve the public but a single family: los “Luksic”, the richest clan of Chile (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrónico_Luksic_Abaroa). They buy up huge plots of land in this region to create family resorts and as investments. The land between Lago Claro and Lago Salto is owned to my knowledge by this family. And they have the money to contract a large stuff to i.e. create and maintain trails on their properties. What was nice: when a group of 3 employees passed us on a trail on quarts they did not challenge us but gave use useful recommendations how to continue. Legally, access to lakes, rivers and the coast must be given in Chile even if the private property i.e. surrounds a lake but landlords can make it difficult anyway. To my knowledge all access routes from public roads a locked but since we accessed this area on water we did not have to climb over locked gates. Therefore this route seams to me suitable for packrafters.
Multiple route variations are feasible that link in further lakes. Short bushwhacking portages might be required in this case but the landscape and vegetation seams generally more open than the Valdivian rain forrest on the Aysen coast. Someone can easily spend up to 5 days discovering other packrafting routes in this area.
- 2019-Dec-28 / 6 days / Option 3: Lago Quetru, Rio Pascua, Lago & Glaciar Bergues, Fiordo Buzeta / Meylin Ubilla & Jan Dudeck
This 5 to 7 day round-trip is an fascinating hidden gemstone that combines some of the finest packrafting on lakes, rivers and fjords in touching distance to the Southern Patagonian Icefield with some demanding bushwhacking and visits of remotely living settlers. It’s South-Western Patagonia in a nutshell. The entire route traverses an area that is practically never visited by tourists and this not because of lack of attraction but because it is simply off the trotted path and requires a packraft.
Its needs a window of decent weather to make it an enjoyable adventure. Thanks to the remaining two homesteads of settlers that offer food and accommodation someone can sit out unsuitable weather with comfort.
Rio Bravo to Lago Quetru: The first 14 km are an annoying road walk that might be shortened by hitchhiking the first 9 km from ferry landing point Point Rio Bravo to the crossing where the road to Rio Pascua starts. From there its 5 more km on a gravel road to the 4 km long Lago Negro that may be packrafted. If you are in a rush or want to use a window of good weather to advance faster better keep walking directly to the northern terminus of Lago Quetru. This avoids packing you packraft for the 2 km portage from Lago Negro to Lago Quetru.
Lago Quetru to Rio Pascua: Lago Quetru is a nice 6 km paddle followed by a 2 km long very calm drainage river. Just before this river flows into Rio Pascua you find the home of Don Hernan Huelet to you left. His family offers accommodation and food.
Rio Pascua: Rio Pascua is to my knowledge the 3rd largest river of Chile in volume (discharge flow rate, after Rio Bio Bio and Rio Baker). This river is the drainage of Lago O’Higgins and descents on the first 30 km from 250 m altitude to about 20 m altitude in numerous rapids and cascades. After the last rapid the river continues for 30 more km as a powerful fast flowing river before discharging his turquoise water into the Pacific. This lower part of Rio Pascua is free of rapids but powerful eddies and trees in the water require the full attention.
Homestead of Amelia: About 5 km before the discharge into the Pacific you find the homestead of Amelia and here family to you right next to the river. Amelia walked in autumn 1967 with here family including three little kids, cattle and horses in about 35 days from Rio Salto near Cochrane through the mountains to this location to take the land to settle (no maps, no compass, partly no trails, no ultra-light gear, no GPS, no satellite communication). She happily opens here home for visitors and offers accommodation and food. Being here guest and listening to here adventures was a highlight of the trip.
Lago Bergues and Campo de Hielo de Sur: This highly recommendable side trip gets you in two days from the homestead of Amelia to the edge of the Southern Patagonian Icefield and back. You can leave not needed food and gear with Amelia. Cross Rio Pascua and follow the gravel road to the bridge of Rio Borgues. Before crossing the river start walking 6 km through the wetland and glacier sediments to Lago Bergues. This rather easy bushwhacking and cross-country took us only 3 hours. Inflate you packraft and paddle the 8 km to the glacier that flows down from the Southern Patagonian Icefield. Keep the required safety distance to the glacier and the floating blocks of ice that may disintegrate anytime. You may camp one night on one of the beaches in this area but try to camp as high as possible. Return on the same route. Experienced whitewater packrafters may consider to paddle down the drainage river after a careful analysis of satellite images and scouting the river. We did not dear.
Fiordo Buzeta: On a very calm early morning float down from the homestead of Amelia the last 5 km of Rio Pascua into Pacific. While crossing the bay we observed a whale blowing fountains of water into air when breathing. Be aware that the sea in the bay Bahia Baja Pascua can be very rough if the wind enters from the north or the east. Better wait if conditions are not suitable. From the river mouth paddle 25 km to the northern terminus of Fiordo Buzeta.
Fiordo Buzeta to Rio Bravo: Walking the 5 km from the northern terminus of Fiordo Buzeta to the Carretera Austral took us 8 hours; much more than expected and described by locals. Especially the first 2.5 km to Lago Cypress halfway were demanding. We again and again lost the faint trail but the rocky terrain makes it advisable to follow the established route and not to try to bushwhack your way. This would k lead again and again to cliffs with no safe continuation. Occasional trail marks (red pieces of fabric, blue pieces of plastic and machete tree marks and cuts) were extremely helpful but the distance between these marks increased and countless animal tracks divert in all directions. We have now a full GPS record what should facilitate further traverses. I will share this GPS record only if the next hiker promises to carry a machete (to clean the established route and make fresh tree marks) and lots of material to better mark the trail (i.e. yellow fabric strips).Especially from the highest point to Lago Cypress halfway we lost several hours in search of the established route. The second half of the portage (another 2.5 km) through the wetland was a lot easier and took us only 2 hours.
Carretera Austral to Villa O’Higgins: Once you hit the Carretera Austral consider to backtrack to the refuge at the ferry landing point Rio Bravo. There you may sleep sheltered and it is the best point to hitchhike or catch a bus towards Villa O’Higgins. Diehard Thru-Hikers need to get prepared for 60 to 70 km of road walking. The regular packrafting route of this section becomes attractive again at Rio Colorado about 30 km before Villa O’Higgins.
For Rio Colorado to Villa O’Higgins see post: m.facebook.com/story/graphql_permalink/?graphql_id=UzpfSTY3ODk3MzQ4OTpWSzo1Mzg1NDI0OTMzMTgzMDg%3D
- 2019-Dec-27 / 1 day (40km) / Regular Packrafting Route / SOBO from Tortel to Rio Bravo via Canal Montalva and Fiordo Mitchell / Meylin Ubilla & Jan Dudeck
After packrafting Rio Baker from Cochrane to Tortel last season we verified now the continuation from Tortel to Rio Bravo in the fjords.
For Rio Baker see: m.facebook.com/story/graphql_permalink/?graphql_id=UzpfSTY3ODk3MzQ4OTpWSzo1MzM3MDUyMTcxMzUzNjk%3D
We timed our travel to Tortel to arrive just before a series of low-wind day. The yr.no page predicted wind between 1 and 3 m/s during the entire next day which is exceptionally calm for this region (we had actually gusts of wind exceeding 10 m/s). We left Tortel paddling at sunrise to use the normally calmer morning to advance as much as possible and to cross in particular the most wind exposed area called by locals “quatro viento” as early as possible. “Quatro viento” means “four winds” and refers to a 2 km wide area where 4 fjords join and where often strong wind and high waves make paddling with a small raft unsafe.
Between 6 am and noon the sea was exceptionally calm. Then the wind picked then up during some heavy showers forcing us out of the water at one of the few small beaches along the route in Fiordo Mitchell. Luckily the sea calmed down after a hour and we could continue all the way to the point where the Carretera Austral continues at ferry landing point Rio Bravo at the end of the fjord.
At this ferry port a spacious refuge was build for the people that wait for the ferry that connects two parts of the Carretera Austral (during high season the ferry runs 4 times per day). During the summer this refuge is frequently used by bikers that travel the Carretera Austral on bicycle. If you plan to sleep in the refuge (recommendable) you will therefore probably share it with bikers.
To continue towards Villa O’Higgins I recommend hitchhiking or taking a bus. Diehard Thru-Hikers need to get prepared for 60 to 70 km of road walking. The regular packrafting route of this section becomes attractive again at Rio Colorado.
For Rio Colorado to Villa O’Higgins see: m.facebook.com/story/graphql_permalink/?graphql_id=UzpfSTY3ODk3MzQ4OTpWSzo1Mzg1NDI0OTMzMTgzMDg%3D
This packrafting route should only be attempted on two consecutive calm days. Don’t plan to complete the entire fjord route in one day. This is only feasible if the afternoon remains reasonable calm.
Overcasted days with no or light rain are normally the best days for paddling fjords and lakes as the wind on sunny days normally increases in the late morning or around noon and remains strong till the late afternoon.
Tortel is a village where waiting several days for suitable weather is feasible. Alternatively you may take a bus towards Villa O’Higgins to continue paddling on Rio Colorado about 30 km before Villa O’Higgins.
This route is only recommended in southbound direction due to the predominant wind direction in Fiordo Mitchell.
When packrafting these fjords be prepared to bail out at one of the few beaches and carry enough food and sweet water for several days in case you get stuck.
We did not see any other boat in these fjords until reaching ferry. We were told about one settler that lives a bit of the route near “quatro viento”.
We paddled Fiordo Mitchell during rising tide and noticed a slight favorable tidal flow. During falling tide the tidal flow may get annoying in some parts of the fjord.
- Route description by Kara Davis after Season 2017/18:
Walk through town and join Highway 7, a moderately trafficked dirt road. The Regular Hiking Route follows X-901, a beautiful but fenced dirt road that culminates in the view of a stunning glacier, for about 28 km until it ends at a blockade just after the Mirador Calluqueo. Along X-901 there are few residences but extensive fence line on both sides. At the end of the road, the route transitions into a braided single track trail that may be confusing to follow.
Comment by Jan Dudeck: I recently changed the regular packrafting route of GPT36H. This change avoids 35 km of gravel and adds around 70 km of paddling on the two lakes and one river. It’s a big detour but adds impressive beauty. Note that paddling Lago Cochrane is very challenging as wind can be firce. Follow the regular packrafting route only if you are willing and prepared to possibly wait several days on the shore of Lago Cochrane if wind makes paddling this lake unsafe.
The trail, called La Ruta de Los Pioneros since it is frequently used by the local people, occasionally passes run down refugios as it winds through the forest. At the beginning of the climb to the highest pass, the trail joins a glacial river. Eventually the trail leaves the river to the west and follows a higher route above the valley that is occasionally marked by stone cairns. The top of the pass is at approximate elevation 1.300 m. From this point, there are several kilometers of very exposed hiking among rolling hills.
The track descends down to treeline at a small, unnamed lake which is the source of the Río Bravo. Join the river and cross it as necessary. There are some stone cairns that mark the way, but they can be hard to spot. When the route is unclear, just follow the river bed. Where the trail deviates from the river bed to the east, it becomes easier to follow. The trail soon climbs about 80 m and remains above Río Bravo. Here there is the occasional small area to camp. To reach Lago Alegre, the trail leaves Río Bravo and travels through an open forest.
Packrafters put in for Lago Alegre at a red sand beach. In general, both banks are very steep and heavily vegetated, but there are some flat areas near the shore where it may be possible to camp. Take-out is located at a rocky beach on the southeast end. 100 m from the Lago Alegre shoreline is an intact refugio; if you look closely inside, you may spot the etchings of GPT trail blazers, Jan and Meylin.
From the refugio, there is a well-formed track to Lago Christie. The Regular Hiking route around the east side of Lago Christie is generally easy to follow, but be aware of the occasional spurs that leads away from the main route. The track climbs and descends frequently as it makes its way around the lake and offers a beautiful view of several glaciers. Watch for the occasional stone cairn or red spray-painted arrow to indicate the way. Camping is possible in the forest.
The route exits onto X-911, a well formed and lightly trafficked gravel road. X-911 ends at X-905, and hikers continue to follow this road for around 20 km towards VIlla O’Higgins. X-905 is fence lined most of the way with the occasional residence.
Río Mayer is a big, no-nonsense river that is swift at higher flows. It does however mellow out where the GPS route indicates packrafters should put in (a small beach on the other side of the fence).
The Regular Hiking Route follows the Carretera Austral into Villa O’Higgins.
Resupply and Accommodation
Resupply and Accommodation in nearby Towns
Resupply and Accommodation along the Route
Transport to and from Route
Permits, Entry Fees and Right-of-Way Issues
Links to other Resources
Retired Section Article GPT36P - Río Baker
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Elevation Profile of Regular Packrafting Route
|GPT36P: Río Baker||Hiking||Packrafting|
|Group||H: Aysen Sur||Total||-||-||293.6 km||68 h|
|Region||Chile: Aysén (XI)||Trails (TL)||-||-||3.7 km||1.3%|
|Start||Cochrane||Minor Roads (MR)||-||-||1.6 km||0.5%|
|Finish||Villa O'Higgins||Primary Roads (PR)||-||-||70.7 km||24.1%|
|Status||Published & Verified||Cross-Country (CC)||-||-||-||-|
|Traversable||(Maybe: Sep - May)||Bush-Bashing (BB)||-||-||-||-|
|Connects to||GPT35, GPT36H, GPT37H, GPT37P||Investigation (I)||-||-||(1.9 km)||(0.7%)|
|Options||345 km (3 Options & Variants)||Exploration (EXP)||-||-||(49.7 km)||(16.9%)|
|Hiking||Packrafting||Total on Water||217.6 km||74.1%|
|Attraction||-||5 (of 5)||River (RI)||165.7 km||56.4%|
|Difficulty||-||6 (of 5)||Lake (LK)||8.4 km||2.9%|
|Direction||None||Only ↓||Fjord (FJ)||43.5 km||14.8%|
|Comment||Hiking: Hiking not feasible|
|Character||Valdivian Rain Forest, Farmland, Settlers, River Packrafting, Lake Packrafting, Road Walking|
|Challenges||Resupply Distance, Possibly Impassable, Exploration Required|