Greater Patagonian Trail

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GPT16: Volcán Mocho on the background.

Contenido

GPT SAMPLE Minimized (NOT FOR HIKING AND PACKRAFTING)

__ Trail.
__ Packraft.
__ Packraft.


Instructions to follow the track in your smartphone
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Summary (editar)
Activity Trekking
Location Argentina, Chile, El Bolsón-Santiago
Scenery Impresionante
Atractions Vistas panorámicas, Glaciar, Bosque, Flora atractiva, Fauna atractiva, Lago, Laguna, Río, Fiordos, Formación Geológica, Cascada, Parque Nacional
Duration más de 90 días
Effort 971.3 dopihoras
Trail Tramos sin sendero
Signage Insuficiente
Infraestructure Inexistente
Topology Cruce
Gain/Loss (meters) +116000, -116000
Distance (k) 3035
(*) Regular Route (Hiking Option and Packrafting Option without Exploration Sections)
Mean altitude 900
Original creator Jan Dudeck
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GPT06: The volcanos Descabezado Grande and Cerro Azul with the Laguna Caracol to their feet. Image: Jan Dudeck
GPT11: Araucaria trees in the Pehuenche homeland. Image: Jan Dudeck
GPT18: Cross Country walking on volcanic ash at Cordon Caulle after recent eruption. File: Jan Dudeck

Prolog

The Greater Patagonian Trail (GPT) is a long-distance route network in the southern Andes that spans from the outskirts of Santiago all the way to southern Patagonia.

It’s a stunningly beautiful and diverse trail system that guides you in the first part from the semi-desert of the Precordillera into scenic Andes valleys. The trails cross numerous dormant and active volcanos with partially healed volcanic scars and fresh open wounds from eruptions as recent as 2011. You can take a dip in more than a dozen hot springs along the way to draw from this energy.

Continuing, you will dive into the twilight of lush green tempered rain forest lined by snow covered mountains. Numerous passes and high plains get you above the tree line into barren terrain with broad views. Crystal clear rivers descend from these mountains and feed deep blue lake along the way. If you packraft you can paddle over these lakes and float down these rivers all the way into the Patagonian fjords where the Pacific Ocean hits the ragged coast.

Eventually you reach the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, one of the world's largest extra-polar ice field. Here giant rock towers stab into the sky and enormous glaciers calve colossal blocks of ice into wind battered lakes.

On the northern part of the route you will meet solitary cowboys (In Chile called arrieros or puesteros) with their animals that move every spring after the snow melts on higher ground to let their livestock feed on the mountain pastures. The trail later crosses the homeland of the indigenous Pehuenche (one of the Mapuche tribes) where majestic Araucaria trees tower above the tribal land and provide the traditional food for these sometimes shy and sometimes proud people. When going further south you will meet courageous settlers that have ventured into the challenging back-country of Patagonia. If you are interested, you can listen to their stories while sitting around the warm stove and sharing the traditional drink of this region: Mate. These authentic encounters are part of the beauty of this trail.

In countless locations the trail branches into different routes creating a wide network of tracks that give you many choices. You may either walk the entire distance or you can bring a packraft to float down rivers and to paddle and sail over lakes and fjords. There are also various volcanoes and other summits along the route that can be ascended without rock climbing gear. I have also included optional tracks that get you into literally the last valley in the border between Chile and Argentina. These remote corners of the southern Andes are of particular interest to hikers that love to venture into remote back-country.

The main route currently spans approximately 3'000 km and the entire route network including all options contains more than 15'000 km of tracks.

If this introduction quickened your appetite to explore this network of trails then don't stop reading here and don't pack your backpack yet. The GPT is quite different from what you expect. Especially if you have thru-hiked the famous long-distance trails in the US (i.e. the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail or the Continental Divide Trail) or if you walked on the European pilgrimage trails (i.e. the Camino de Santiago) then don't assume that the GPT will be a similar experience and that you are prepared for it. This region and this route network is unequal in nature. Some best practices and habits that are key for thru-hiking in the US would be foolish in Patagonia and other skills and aptitudes are essential to truly appreciate the Greater Patagonian Trail.

Since I started publishing the GPT I have seen around one hundred people attempting to walk major parts of the trail and I was in contact with many of the them. The majority was absolutely amazed by the land and the people and their experience on the trail. But some hikers quickly aborted or changed their plans and missed the best parts of the trail in consequence. Interestingly, these were partly experienced hikers and athletic walkers.

In the following section of this Hiker’s Manual I try to rectify potentially incorrect assumptions and outline the essentials for hiking and packrafting on this trail network. You should also watch the feature documentary “Unbounded” and read the publications of other hikers and packrafters to learn from the diverse experiences of others on the Greater Patagonian Trail.

Introduction and General Information

GPT28: Packrafting the Río Palena. Image: Jan Dudeck
GPT38: Glaciar O'Higgins coming down from the Southern Icefield. Image: Jan Dudeck
GPT22: Discussing route options with settlers at the Río Puelo. Image: Jan Dudeck
GPT09: Arriero at the base of the Vulcano Antuco. Image: Jan Dudeck
GPT09: Being guest at a Pehuenche family: Fresh milk, fresh cheese, fresh meat! Image: Jan Dudeck
GPT07: Horse riding with Danilo and Jito (the founder and horse riding guide of www.chile-horseriding.com) at the dormant Supervolcano Laguna del Maule. Image: Jan Dudeck
GPT09: Circling the volcano Antuco. Image: Jan Dudeck
GPT18: Camping at the shore of Lago Pirihueco. Image: Jan Dudeck
GPT28P: Patagonian fjords seen from the ferry on the way from Raul Marin Balmaceda to Puerto Chacabuco. Image: Jan Dudeck
GPT Hiker's Manual

Statements about the GPT by Hikers and Packrafters

Bethany Hughes and Lauren Reed (Fidgit and Neon): "This trail has been the most punishing and the most magical experience of my hiking career to date.”

Burkhard Rose: "To walk the Greater Patagonian trial was one of the best thinks in my live. Every day I enjoyed the wonderful, all the time changing landscape. (...) The volcano areas where the most impressive stage for me!"

Piia Kortsalo and Oliver Barker: "We’re filled with incredible memories of our time on the GPT, and the landscape and culture of the Chilean Andes will stay with us forever. While hiking the GPT was an incredible experience for us, we don't imagine this as the right trail for everyone. The GPT is closer to an idea of a route than an established trail; hikers setting out expecting a well-organized, continuous, marked hiking trail will inevitably be disappointed. The GPT really is a route for a very specific sort of hiker, one who's as interested in natural history and cultural experience as they are in trail miles."

Brian Tanzman (Buck-30): "Honestly, I wouldn't recommend hiking the GPT to any of my thru hiking friends."

Garrett Martin: "This trail is unlike any other trail in the world and requires detailed planning, determination, physical and mental strength and most importantly - respect for the people and environment along the trail. Throughout our 4 month journey, we discovered the beauty of the Andes Mountain range and the incredibly generous people that call this place their home. If you are considering hiking the GPT, please do so with extreme care for the land and the utmost respect for the locals living in this area."

Carla Lange: "The GPT is not a hiking trail, it's an adventure and words do not do my experience on it justice. Travelling on the GPT was everything but easy (or necessarily fun all the time) but it returned it all and more. Essential pieces of equipment to bring on the GPT are your brain and intuition as well as humbleness, respect and openness for the land and people."

Matgorzata (Gosia) Gmerek and Paul Bostelmann: “The Greater Patagonian Trail Network is a challeng¬ing and rewarding adventure that leads one through diverse and breathtaking scenery. Far from crowds and often without seeing other people for days this experience was without a doubt the highlight of our hiking career. Packrafting and exploring the beautiful lakes and rivers allows to reach even deeper into these wonderful and wild ecosystems. This is no ordinary hike and absolute self-reliance and wilderness experience is a must.”

Information to the GPT

The GPT is an informal route network therefore you will not find any “official” information. In the following I list all relevant resources that help to understand the GPT and to get prepared for an adventure on this route network.

The GPT Wikiexplora Article

This Wikiexplora article to the GPT is the internet gateway to this trail system. It is the first semi-official landing point for anyone searching information online and provides an introduction to the GPT. Wikiexplora is the cradle where the GPT publication started in 2014 and remains the “online home”.

The Wikiexplora article comes with one weakness: offline access while being on the GPT. Therefore the GPT Hiker’s Manual was created in 2017. With this the Wikiexplora article is now neither the only nor the best resource to the GPT but Wikiexplora provides an introduction to anyone “just browsing around” and gives access to the Hiker’s Manual and other relevant documentations.

The GPT Hiker’s Manual

This Hiker’s Manual is the primary source of information to the GPT. The Hiker’s Manual consists of three parts:

  • 1 Introduction and General Information: Chapter 1 provides a general overview and a good understanding of the nature of the GPT. You should be read the entire chapter 1 thoroughly if you consider hiking on this route network because this part of the Hiker’s Manual guides you through your preparation.
  • 2 Terrain and Section Information: Chapter 2 familiarizes you with the geography of the southern Andes and dives deep into each section of the GPT. This local knowledge is essential to thoughtfully select your route on this vast network and to prepare yourself for each section when actually hiking on the GPT. Therefore, parts of chapter 2 are important to read during the preparation phase while other parts will become your guide when hiking on the GPT.
  • 3 Appendix and Indices: Chapter 3 goes deep into specific topics. You will require this expertise for specific tasks i.e. when setting up your GPS or when calculating distances and estimated travel times. The Appendix also contains valuable additional information that benefit a profounder and ampler understanding of the GPT and the region that this this route network traverses.

The Hiker’s Manual is currently not available on paper but only as a PDF document. It is designed to be read on a computer or on a smartphone while being online or offline. Therefore, it is issued in the screen-friendly 9:16 page format with letters large enough to be still reasonable readable on a small smart phone screen. When reading this document best use full screen slide mode in landscape orienta¬tion. Normal vertical scrolling is less practical. Install a suitable app on your smartphone if needed.

To navigate within the Hiker’s Manual, click on the blue links i.e. the “Table of Contents” link in the right upper corner to jump directly to the main directory on page 7. From there you can jump in two steps to any chapter in this document. These blue document internal links work also offline. Hyperlinks to resources in the internet are also blue but have a globe sign after the link. Such internet hyperlinks open only while being connected to the internet.

The Greater Patagonian Trail is an informal trail network that grows and changes regularly. And the documentation of this evolving trail network relies on the voluntary work of one author with a full-time job supported by a few collaborators. Therefore, this Hiker’s Manual is not expected to be completed in the foreseeable future and will remain a growing and evolving document. This unfinished nature is intentionally made visible to readers by displaying empty chapters with red “To be issued.” remarks, similar comments in red and not hiding immature texts in the making. This shows what topics are planned to be covered with future updates and where contributions and reviews are welcome. Anyone who feels uncomfortable preparing his hike with such an unfinished documentation should rethink if he wants to travel on an unfinished and informal route network.

Updates and additions are now made first in the Hiker’s Manual and not in the Wikiexplora article. Therefore, the last published version of the Hiker’s Manual is the most current and comprehensive document available to the GPT. Note the publish date on the cover page in the right bottom corner and check occasionally for updates.

You can download the GPT Hiker's Manual on Dropbox: Hikers Manual on Dropbox

The GPT Track Files

The Greater Patagonian Trail is composed out of existing routes that were mainly made by the local settlers to serve their purposes. Hikers are unexpected guests on many of these trails. Only smaller parts of these routes have some kind of trail markers.

A good part the trails and cross-country routes remained undocumented until recorded and published digitally for the GPT. Therefore, suitable paper maps are often not available, and the few existing maps are incon¬sis¬tent, of variable quality and insufficient to follow major parts the GPT.

The only reliable way to navigate on the GPT is therefore a GPS with the digital track and waypoint documentation that was specifically created for the GPT. This digital documentation with all relevant geographic information consists of mul¬tiple files in different file types and is called in the following “GPT track files” or in short “track files”.

The track files are provided on personal request by the author free of charge but not unconditionally. Read in the Hiker's Manual chapter 1.15 Terms and Conditions for Using the Hiker’s Manual and the Trail Files on page 139 to review these conditions and to understand why these conditions were put in place.

Hiker’s that feel uncomfortable being guided by a GPS need to learn and adapt to this form of navigation or discard the idea of hiking the Greater Patagonian Trail. Such hikers may resort to the established public trails in Patagonia that are better signposted and more suitable for classic navigation with paper maps.

See chapter 3.6 Digital Documentation of the GPT on page 499 in the Hiker's Manual for more information.

The GPT Facebook Group

The informal and provisional nature of the GPT makes it relevant that hikers quickly exchange updates and recommendations while travelling on this evolving route network. For this pur¬pose the GPT Facebook Group was created. Here all hikers can post brief summaries after completing a section and leave notes that might be beneficial for others that are en route. This can be information to temporary unpassable trail sections, volcano alerts, river conditions or anything that makes you think in hindsight: “I should have known this before!”.

The GPT Facebook Group may also be useful for individual hikers that plan to walk on this trail network and that seek others to join into small groups. Here you can post your hiking plans before you depart and link up with other hikers.The GPT Facebook Group is also the location where I now notify hikers when updated track files are available and where I share other significant news to the GPT. To become member of the GPT Facebook Group you need a Facebook account and request access with the following this link:

GPT Facebook Group

The Feature Film “Unbounded”

In the hiking season 2016/17 four novice hikers from North America and Europe walked parts of GPT to create a travel documen¬tary. The result of this endeavour is the 74-minute feature docu¬mentary “Unbounded” by Garrett Martin. This work of art displays fascinating impressions from the trail and highlights their cultural experience with the settlers and the natives along the route. I highly recommend watching this film to all prospective hikers as part of their preparation. You can download or stream this film from iTunes, Amazon or Vimeo. This film focuses on the individual experience of these four hikers and does not aim to provide a comprehensive introduction to the GPT. Starting under-prepared and over-loaded they learned their lessons and gradually adopted to this challenging trail network. To draw the right conclusions for your hike read my comments to this film either before or better after watching.

Publications to the GPT by other Hikers and Packrafters

With this Hiker’s Manual and the article on Wikiexplora I aim to create a systematical introduction and a comprehensive documen¬tation of the GPT. I intentionally try not to overload these documents with personal stories from the trail.

There is another reason why my writing is rather technical. I’m an Engineer by trade, I work as an inspector and issue inspection reports on a regular base. For this I need to carefully choose my words to be factual and precise, well descriptive but also legally sound. Story-telling is neither needed nor welcome in my inspection reports. And when numbers are available or when information can be structured into tables or charts than this is always preferred over well phrased verbal descriptions. You will notice that these writing habits also shape the Hiker’s Manual and Wikiexplora article.

Keeping my personal stories mostly out and maintaining this documentation rather technical benefits a systematic preparation but makes the Hiker’s Manual and the article on Wikiexplora a bit pale. But for most hikers, and this includes me, the personal experience of the land and with the people are the dominating motives for such an endeavor. Therefore, to get a more personal insight to this trail read as part of your preparation some blogs written by hikers that travelled the GPT in recent years. In these blogs you find a much more personal account that shows the individual perception of the trail. Listening to other voices also illustrates how diverse the trail experience can be. Some blogs are very useful to participate on lessons learned by others to not repeat frustrating mistakes.

In the Hiker's Manual in chapter 3.1 Other Publications to the GPT on page 474 you find a selection of blogs that I consider particular useful. I would love to share our personal stories from the trail in such a story-telling blog but writing and updating the GPT documentation is already an overwhelming task that consumes virtually all my available time.


Update in Progress

I have written most of this trail description in 2015. Since then we returned twice to Patagonia to hike and paddle the southern extension all the way to the Southern Patagonian Ice Field and we investigated various alternative routes in the northern and central area of this trail. Other hikers have walked the northern extension to Santiago and contributed with GPS records to refine the regular route and numerous optional side tracks. With this the GPT has doubled in length to approximately 3000 km and the number and length of all the additional options has growing exponentially.

I'm now updating the entire trail documentation to incorporate all these extensions, trail corrections and additional options. Due to the northern extension the section numbering is changing completely and I'm also improving the track nomenclature to facilitate a better understanding and documentation of the countless options. This ongoing update currently results in inconsistencies of this trail documentation. Please have this in mind when reading this article and downloading files.

If you have questions that are not answered in this trail descriptions then you may send me an email. Also your feedbacks are very welcome. Please report any changes or errors to correct the trail description and the trail file. All GPS records and waypoints along the route network are very helpful to update and maintain the trail file. If you have change and extension proposals please send the proposal ideally with a GPS record to the author. Alternative routes that are attractive for hiking or packrafting will be included as a trail option or result in a change of the regular route.

Email of author: gpt.jan.dudeck@gmail.com

GPT19: On the crater rim of the volcano Puyehue. Image: Jan Dudeck


Understanding the Trail

GPT36H: Poorly maintained historic horse trail "Ruta de los Pioneros". Image: Jan Dudeck
GPT16: Circling the volcano Quetrupillan with the volcano Villarica in the background. Image: Jan Dudeck
GPT28: Reaching the sea after paddling down the Río Palena. Image: Jan Dudeck

The Greater Patagonian Trail is not a hiking trail.

Yes, you read correctly so let me repeat one more time:

The GPT is not a hiking trail.

So, what is it then?

The GPT is an informal route network that consists mostly of trails, roads and cross country routes that were not created with hikers in mind. Most of the trails were made by the local population to serve their purposes, i.e. to drive animals to summer pastures, to get to remote settlements and outposts or to extract wood from the forest. The routes that the GPT is composed of include:

  • well maintained horse trails that are regularly used by the local cowboys (in Chile called "arrieros" and in Argentina "gauchos"),
  • poorly maintained and neglected trails that are washed out, trenched and blocked by fallen logs,
  • minor roads and simple car tracks that are occasionally used by all-terrain vehicles,
  • trail-less cross country routes in barren open terrain,
  • a few short stretches of bush bashing through thick growth,
  • and where no more adventurous route was found also public roads with moderate transit traffic.
  • Additionally, packrafters can cross mountain lakes, float down generally calm rivers and even paddle on the Patagonian fjords.

For more information to the trail types and the trail type composition of the GPT see section Trail Length and Trail Types.

This diversity is what makes the GPT so authentic but also so inconsistent and, in some sections, challenging.

Since the GPT is an informal route network practically no signposts and only few trail markers facilitate route finding. The locals that regularly use these trails don't need them as they know their trails inside out and nobody else is expected to come. In some national parks so there is signage and markers, though these are often unmaintained and inconsistent. Outside of parks, in terms of trail markers, you may see sporadically sun faded strips of plastic, beer cans, or even tea pots hanging in a tree.

On many of these trails a customary right-of-way applies but some routes cross private land and you often can’t know what is where the case. Therefore when you venture onto the GPT you are mostly an unexpected guest on trails that were not made for you and you will trespass over private properties. So be at least a respectful and friendly trespasser that can explain in Spanish what he is doing there.

What also distinguishes the GPT from many other long distance hiking trails is that it is not a single trail but a wide network of tracks with many options. For some hikers this is confusing as you cannot just follow one trail; rather you need to make many choices along the way. But because the GPT is an informal trail network these choices are sometimes essential to continue your journey when you find one route not passable or closed. For safety reasons I have also included bad weather options and exit routes that get you out of the mountains to the next village or at least to the next road. These additional tracks are not recommended for hiking since they are often not particularly attractive but having these tracks on your GPS can save you in adverse conditions.

The GPT is not a trail that can be hiked efficiently. The trail will change you plans without asking and inevitably stop you from time to time and turn you around. Also the period of normally suitable hiking weather is in parts quite short. In particular in the north you need to wait until December for the snow to melt and the rivers to fall to be forded safely. And fierce snow storms may make the route again impassable in late March or during April.

The appropriate pace on this trail network is the "appreciation pace". This pace might vary substantially between hikers but gives you the time to make an attractive detour, i.e. to climb a summit next to the trail without worrying about your schedule. This adequate rate of advance permits you to accept the invitation of a settler to share some cups of mate or to sit out a day of torrential rain in shelter (here called "puesto") with an arriero. This adapted velocity allows you to wait in front of a pass if the weather is too volatile to climb up or to spend a day or two waiting at a lake if it is too windy to paddle with your packraft.

This trail is therefore not suitable for hikers who are out to race a clock, that need to have full control and who measure their success in kilometers or miles. Its a trail for thoughtful discoverers who can accept being just guests. It's for hikers for whom completion or distance covered is irrelevant or at least secondary but that count their enjoyable and eventful days in a pristine and diverse nature instead.

All this makes the GPT a discovery network with a good portion of unpredictability but impressive authenticity.

Trail Length and Trail Type Composition

The Greater Patagonian Trail is not a normal single line long distance trail but a wide discovery trail network with countless options and alternatives. Therefore the actual length that someone may walk and paddle depends highly on the selected sections, the chosen route and the method of travel (hiking only, packrafting wherever possible or a balanced combination of both). Also a further extension of the trail towards the southern tip of the continent is in preparation. For this reason there is no precise number for the trail length and only examples can be provided.

The below overview shows two example based on the current regular hiking route and the current regular packraft route. The packraft example does not include all possible packrafting but considers a packraft use only on the selected sections where this equipment is clearly more benefit than burden and is therefore highly recommended to be carried and used (Sections GPT17P to GPT39). This example also excludes the not yet verified and very challenging exploration sections.

Trail Type Code Hiking Packrafting Comment
Distance Percent Distance Percent
Trails TL 1415 km 46.6% 1088 km 37.0% Mostly visible trail on any terrain i.e. in open landscape or in forest. Trails are primarily used by animals (horse, cattle).
Minor Roads MR 912 km 30.1% 735 km 25.0% Any route that could be used or can be used by a vehicle regardless if this road or car track is open for public use or not. Includes also abandoned roads that are not any more passable by vehicles. Minor roads are without transit traffic therefore hitch-hiking is rarely feasible.
Cross Country CC 256 km 8.4% 268 km 9.1% Route that passes through open landscape without a visible continuous trail but also without dense vegetation.
Primary Roads PR 443 km 14.6% 168 km 5.7% Public gravel or paved road with moderate transit traffic. Hitch-hiking is generally feasible.
Bush Bashing BB 10 km 0.3% 12 km 0.4% Route that passes through overgrown terrain. Demanding and very slow advance.
River RI - 338 km 11.5% River downstream float with a packraft. One-way only!
Lake LK 290 km 9.9% Lake crossing with a packraft.
Fjord FJ 39 km 1.3% Fjord paddling with a packraft.
Ferry FY (145 km) (0.0%) (427 km) (0.0%) Lake, river or fjord crossing with a ferry or a boat. Distance covered with a motorized boat is NOT included in the trail length.
Land to water ratio on the selected sections where carrying and using a packraft is highly recommended
(Regular Packrafting Route of Sections GPT17P to GPT39 excluding the exploration sections GPT29P and GPT30P)
Hiking on Land - 955 km 58.9% Combined hiking distance on land on the selected sections where carrying a packraft is highly recommended. This is the actual distance where the packrafting gear is "death weight" in your backpack.
Packrafting on Water 667 km 41.1% Combined packrafting distance on water (Rivers, Lakes, Fjords) on the selected sections where using a packraft is highly recommended. This is the distance where the actual weight of your backpack is zero because your packraft carries you and your backpack.
Length of Complete Trail 3036 km 2938 km Complete regular route without optional side trips and ascents to summits. Some short cuts and many optional side trip i.e. up to 8 ascents to summits may substantially alter the actual distance and ascent and descent. Distance traveled by ferry not included.
Elevation Gain and Loss on Complete Trail Approx. 116'000 m Approx. 91'000 m
Greater Patagonian Trail: Trail Type Composition (Hiking Only)
Greater Patagonian Trail: Trail Type Composition (Hiking and Packrafting where most beneficial)


GPT09: The summer outpost ("puesto") of the Pehuenche family Carrileo near Guallalí. Image: Jan Dudeck
GPT09: Being guest of the family Carrileo. Image: Jan Dudeck

Advice for Thru-Hikers

This trail was not created to thru-hike Patagonia, it's a route network for "immersion-hiking". The GPT does not get you through Patagonia but gets you deep into Patagonia.

With the recently added extensions to the north (that extends the trail all the way to Santiago) and in the south (that stretches the trail all the way to edge of the Southern Icefield) the trail now spans about 3000 km in often difficult and slow terrain. With this extension the trail became too long to be safely thru-hiked in one season. An experienced thru-hiker may disagree as 3000 km is a bit shorter than the Appalachian Trail (AT) but the varied and unpredictable terrain makes this comparison inadequate.

I know, sooner or later someone will try to thru-hike the trail in one season and may even succeed if he is lucky with the weather. But attempting this seems foolish, especially this early in the development of the trail and the lack of a support system along and around the trail. This focus will mean needing to rush and take less attractive short cuts, i.e. walk more on gravel roads instead of hiking on horse trails. It inhibits slowing down to fully appreciate the land and share time with the people along the route. And more important: someone who tries to thru-hike the GPT in one season needs to take unreasonable risks by throwing himself in torrential rivers and climbing to high elevations when fierce blizzards can kill. And remember, when you walk on these trails you are a guest on the land of someone else. Just the idea of racing through strangers' backyards is regarded a rude in these remote regions.

From a thru-hiking perspective the GPT is less than a long distance trail. There is no clearly defined and well-marked single trail to blaze along, there is no thru-hiking community to trail talk and there are no trail angles providing trail magic. On the GPT hikers have no domiciliary rights; they are just unexpected guests. And what might be the biggest disappointment for some thru-hikers on the GPT: thru-hikers do not receive any special admiration because nobody along the trail distinguishes between thru-hikers, section-hikers, day-hikers, or tourists in general.


For respectful explorers the GPT is much more than a long distance trail. It’s a wide network of routes with many hiking options in a diverse landscape. A unique blend of people live along the trails and makes the hike more of a cultural experience. If approached with respect and interest then these welcoming people will share with you much more than just the right-of-way regardless where you are coming from and where you are walking to. On this trail your willingness and capability to immerse yourself in this culture will be more relevant than the weight of your backpack.


If you find an actual Triple Crown Thru-Hiker more credible to speak about thru-hiking than read how Lauren "Neon" Reed's experienced the GPT in comparison with the renowned US long distance trails (see Appendix).


GPT19: Cordon Caulle where a major volcanic eruption occurred in 2011. Image: Jan Dudeck


Limits of Patagonia. Image: Wikipedia
Historic map of Patagonia. Image: Wikipedia

Understanding the Terrain

If you are considering exploring the Greater Patagonian Trail and wish to enjoy the experience, you must be open to experiencing the unknown diversity of this region. If your expectation of Patagonia is based on a brief Google search and a few articles about Patagonia than you probably have seen primarily these three heavily hyped tourist magnets:

  • the national park Torres del Paine
  • the glacier Perito Moreno and
  • the surrounding of El Chalten with Mount Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre.

These are three truly amazing spots on the eastern edge of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field and are internationally known highlights of Patagonia. But these three frequently pictured attractions do not represent the Patagonian variety. If your primary interest is visiting the heavily trod, famous places of Patagonia then stick to the national parks and bus in between. Don't assume that the Greater Patagonian Trail is more of the same. Only towards the finish, near the southern ends in El Chalten and on the last three sections (GPT38, GPT39 and GPT40) will you walk through this kind landscape of glaciers and skyscraper mountains. The GPT is much more than this. The Greater Patagonian Trail is rather rather like a gourmet menu of different courses that allow you to experience different tastes and textures. The menu contains some world famous dishes, but mainly courses of unknown exotic ingredients in unexpected combinations. So this gourmet menu is nothing for someone who just wants to eat a burger or a steak.

Limits of Patagonia

The Greater Patagonian Trail crosses most of Patagonia and the adjacent regions to the north. For this reason I named the trail “Greater Patagonian Trail” when I started publish¬ing it in 2014. I coined the term "Greater Patagonia" to combine Patagonia in its traditional limits with the adjacent regions like "Greater London" includes the city of London and the surroundings. The limits of Patagonia are as fuzzy as the imaginations of many when they hear “Pata¬gonia”. There are some core ideas that most people connect with “Patagonia” like vast¬ness, wilderness and solitude but few have precise knowledge.

So are the limits of this region and this makes it impractical to state where the GPT actually gets into Patagonia. If taking the administrative limits of Argentina than you gets in casting distance of Patagonia at the end of section GPT05 where you can view for the first time over the border into Argentina into the province Neuquén. But with a different understanding you enter Patagonia on section GPT13 where you ford the Río Biobío or on section GPT16 where you walk into the Chilean administrative region XIV (Región de los Ríos). You can be certain to have reached Patagonia on section GPT22 where you arrive at the first Patagonian fjord: the Estuarió de Reloncaví. For more information to this subject see [#Remark to the Limits of Patagonia|Remark to the Limits of Patagonia] in the Appendix.

For me this discussion about the limits of Patagonia is irrelevant as long as I can walk and paddle through pristine and varied terrain. Actually the little known region north of Patagonia is for me the one most attractive for hiking. Here you walk more distance high up in the mountains with broad views, here you find the more attractive trails and cross country routes and here you meet the arrieros and native Pehuenche people. Also the climate is more favorable for hiking. During summer rain is infrequent and short and you can mostly enjoy sunny weather. In contrast when reaching "real Patagonia" get ready for frequent and enduring rain. Also don't expect to walk high up in the mountains as there are simply no continuously high mountain ranges. In Patagonia high mountains are rather like islands that rise out of a wild sea of dense tempered rain forest. These island-like mountains are separated by wide valleys that were carved by giant glaciers during past glacial periods. Therefore "real Patagonia" is best traveled by packraft. You find more to this subject in chapter [#Packrafting on the GPT|Packrafting on the GPT].

Diversity of Greater Patagonia

East to West

Patagonia consists of surprisingly disparate zones. There are vast open plains in the east of Patagonia with a dry and wind battered steppe that spans from the eastern edge of the Andes to the Atlantic coast. The western part of Patagonia, due to the rain shadow caused by the Andes, is in some regards the opposite. In the west you have the rugged and rainy Pacific coast with countless fjords and islands. An impenetrable forest covers most of this land to the west of the Andes. And in between these two unlike areas – in between the dry plains in the east and the humid fjords in the west - tower the Patagonian Andes. Dormant and recently active volcanoes rise into the sky and glaciers cover all higher summits. During previous glacial periods these glaciers grew to a formidable size and carved deep wide valleys into the Patagonian Andes. These valleys are now partly filled by lakes and get drained by powerful rivers. All this is Patagonia and this diversity creates the mystery and magic of this region.

The Greater Patagonian Trail snakes mostly through the southern Andes but also diverts to the west into the Patagonian fjords and descents in to east where the vast plains and the Patagonian steppe begins. Therefore you can sample the full variety of Patagonia when walking the length of the GPT.

North to South

GPT01 to GPT04: From Santiago to latitude 35° S

In the northern part of the trail the Andes are very high with some summits exceeding 6000 m. Here passes typically exceed 4000 m altitude and steep rocky terrain and glaciers impede walking along the main mountain chain close to the continental divide which also forms the border between Chile and Argentina. Therefore the trail climbs through the Precordillera (foothills) mainly along the first mountain range next to the Chilean Central Valley. But don’t misunderstand Precordillera as low; here the regular route reaches the highest point with 3300 m. To an altitude of approximately 1500 m to 2000 m you find a semi-desert-like vegetation; above this altitude vegetation is scarce. In summer expect a generally hot and dry climate but be prepared for chilly nights higher up. When starting early in the hiking season (November and December) expect large snow fields in higher areas; when getting there late heavy blizzards become a hazard (April and May).

GPT05 to GPT12: From latitude 35° S to 39° S South of Curicó the Andes drop in altitude but remain a continuous high mountain range. Summits rarely exceed 4000 m but most passes are still above 2000 m. Here the Andes are much more suitable for hiking. Therefore the trail follows the main mountain range close to the continental divide. Also here the continental divide constitute the border between Chile and Argentina so the trail is mostly close to the international limit but remains on the Chilean side. In this area a large number of route options provide many hiking choices. You can often opt between lower trails and higher more demanding routes that get you in very remote areas of the Andes. Climate during summer is still quite hot and dry but provides sufficient precipitation to maintain a relatively open forest in the valleys. In spring while the snow is melting torrential rivers make this area nearly impassable.

GPT13 to GPT40: South of latitude 39° S South of Temuco you do not find any more a continuous high mountain chain. Numerous valleys and depressions break partly deep breaches into the main mountains range creating natural low passes between Chile and Argentina. These depressions and valleys were created by immense glaciers during past ice ages and remain partly filled by lakes. Many of these breaches are lower than 1000 m, some are just 200 m above sea level.

These deep gaps in the cordillera (Spanish for mountain range) shift the continental divide in some areas far to the east and cause a partly significant offset between the main mountain range and the continent divide. This offset was one reason for more than a century of border disputes between Chile and Argentina that are still not fully resolved.

The mountains of the Patagonian Andes are like large islands that are separated by these "channels" of lowland. The higher summits reach mostly an altitude of 2000 m to 3000 m. Only few peeks exceed the 3000 m mark. Below the tree line frequent rain maintains a very dense, nearly impenetrable, forest that is also called Valdivian temperate rain forest. Due to this geography the GPT goes up and down between the depressions and the island-like mountains and provides a very attractive and varied hiking at least to the finish of section GPT22. Here having a packraft becomes very beneficial in particular from section GPT17P to GPT39 where you can use your inflatable boat on 40% of the distance.

GPT22 to GPT40: South of latitude 41° 30’ S South of Puerto Montt the Chilean Central Valley "sinks" below sea level and the Patagonian fjords begin. These fjords and channels form a vast network of waterways with countless islands and peninsulas. In this rugged region hardly any road or trail was built along the coast. The mountains rise directly out of the sea and rarely leave sufficient suitable space for a land connection and the impenetrable tempered rain forest amplifies this challenge.

In this region of Chile even the most important road; the Carretera Austral; has a 50 km wide gap that can only be crossed by ferry. There is not even a horse trail or a foot path that bridges this gap; just impenetrable dense forest and cragged mountains. Here most land routes are further inland in the valleys and depressions that cut through the Patagonian Andes. Due to this geography the GPT crosses on section GPT22 into Argentina and does not return to Chile until section GPT26. Only passionate and highly experienced packrafters may try the very challenging investigation routes GPT30P, GPT76P and GPT77P that provide a water connection through the fjords and channels on the Chilean side. In Central Patagonia in particular from GPT28H to GPT31H hiking is less attractive because several historic horse trails have been upgraded to dirt roads. But packrafting in this area is just stunning. Here you can paddle over crystal clear mountain lakes and float down long mostly calm rivers with impressive mountains on either side of your inflatable raft until reaching on these rivers the Patagonian fjords.

GPT35 to GPT40: South of latitude 46° 30’ S At the latitude of Lago General Carrera and south of it are two large ice fields, the Northern Patagonian Ice Field and the Southern Patagonian Ice Fields. Here ice completely fills the depressions between the island-like mountains to an altitude of about 1500 m. These are the two remnant parts of the much larger Patagonian Ice Sheet that covered most of Patagonia during previous ice ages. In this area the GPT guides you first though the mountains about 100 km east of the Northern Patagonian Ice Field. Here you can opt between attractive hiking and attractive packrafting routes but weather is volatile and distances between settlements are substantial. Towards the current southern terminus of the GPT you reach the eastern edge of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field what makes an impressive finish. From GPT38 to GPT40 you can walk and paddle through a rough wind battered land full of milky glacier lakes that get constantly refilled by immense streams of ice that flows from the Southern Patagonian Ice Field.

Future Extensions of the GPT

Northbound

Santiago de Chile is a suitable northern start (or finish) point and I’m not contemplating a further northern extension. The last metro/subway station Puente Alto provides an easy access and minimizes walking through an overcrowded mega-city. Santiago de Chile as the northern terminus is the point that provides the best possible contrast to the southern terminus of the GPT. It’s from metropolis to the back of beyond; it’s from semi-desert to ice fields.

I leave it to others to create a new trail that may start in Santiago and explores the Andes northbound. The Precordillera in the vicinity of Santiago offers some very attractive trails. There are even passes to cross the Andes from Chile into Argentina but creating a longer northbound trail that starts at Santiago or on a similar latitude in Argentina seems a bigger challenge than creating the GPT; at least if based on the same principles that I applied to the GPT: feasible and attractive for hiking and minimal road walking on routes with transit traffic. North of Santiago the Andes are very high and you either need to climb into really thin air and rocky terrain or you evade to the east or the west into the deserts on either side of the Andes. In my research I could simply not find similar suitable trails and the existing gravel roads are no option for me. North of Santiago water deficiency becomes an enormous challenge. Therefore most hikers that set themselves the goal to cross Chile or Argentina took primarily roads and this is what cautions me. But the challenge is out. You may go for it!

Southbound

The southern terminus of the GPT stands at the shore of Lago Viedma on the eastern edge of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. There are attractive and suitable trails and packraft routes south of Lago Viedma but there are three logistical challenges that currently impede a feasible and continuous southern extension of the GPT without significant road walking:

  • There is no ferry service over Lago Viedma. This lake is also far too wind-exposed and therefore to my current knowledge too dangerous to be packrafted.
  • There is no legal border crossing between Argentina and Chile on the prospective routes (between Lago Argentino and Torres del Paine). There seems to be a legal way to apply for a special expedition permit but this seems utterly complicated and I know nobody who received such a permit.
  • Hiking in Torres del Paine became very restrictive and requires i.e. reservations for camp sites that must be made several months in advance which is not practical for such an unpredictable long distance hike.

Overcoming these challenges is not impossible but attempting a continuous southbound extension makes out of an already very challenging long distance hike a bureaucratic and probably quite expensive expedition. An alternative is giving up continuity and bus around these obstacles without connecting footsteps.

I have an approximate route in my mind and I already reserved section numbers (GPT41 to GPT50) for this southbound extension to the most southern continental point of Americas: Cabo Froward. An extension of the GPT to Tierra del Fuego and Isla Navarino is also under consideration but crossing Tierra del Fuego will probably require substantial road walking. But for now this southbound extension is not on the top of my agenda. Before personally focusing on it I wish to consolidate the GPT between Santiago and Lago Viedma by investigating relevant optional routes and updating the trail documentation.

Become a Contributor to the GPT

If you want to become a collaborator on this amazing project you are very welcome. Don’t just be a beneficiary; become a contributor. If you walk on the GPT please continuously record your hike by GPS and share these records with me. Save useful waypoints on your GPS and highlight where you got lost or struggled with the trail. This is essential to keep the tracks updated.

Email of author: gpt.jan.dudeck@gmail.com

A best practice of contributors is to keep notes as you go. When you save i.e. a new useful waypoint record your considerations soon after together with the waypoint identifying number. Keeping notes as you go is important as the length and variety of this trail can muddy specifics and details if you wait until the end of the hike to document observations. One successful method is to document observations into an email draft and arrange according to sections.

If you wish to investigate some of the numerous options, please do so with the necessary preparation and care. The entire network of tracks (currently more than 12’000 km) is more than four times the length of the trail (approx. 3’000 km) so there are plenty of alternatives to the regular route. Some of these optional routes are just exit and escape routes and not particularly attractive for hiking but numerous options will get into more remote and challenging back-country. Some of these optional routes may even replace the regular route if proven to be feasible and more attractive. Other hikes already contributed heavily making the creation and consolidation of the Greater Patagonian Trail a joint project of the hiking community.

If you consider exploring the prospective southern extension or parts of it please contact me. I can share my knowledge about this area and suggest approximate routes. But such an expedition should only be considered by highly skilled hikers or packrafters that already know Patagonia very well and that are humbled by experience. Proud heros are not wanted.

Packrafting on the GPT

When I started planning my first long hike through Patagonia in 2013 I could not find a continuous hiking route south of Coñaripe (GPT16) because dense forest hides most of the trails on satellite images. But I could see calm rivers and lakes that bridged the gaps and wondered if there exists a light enough boat to be carried in a backpack to traverse these waters. I googled and found the packraft. This is the cause for all the packrafting options of the GPT: insufficient planning information. It was not until after our first hike that I could add additional hiking routes that render a packraft expendable but not less beneficial.

In retrospect I’m so happy that I had such insufficient planning information at that time. Otherwise I would probably not have discovered the packraft as the ideal hiking partner for Patagonia. A packraft does not carry only your backpack but it carries you! What matters in this “partnership” is a good balance; you don’t want to carry your packraft most of the time but benefit from it as much as possible. And this is the case on sections GPT17 to GPT39. Here the packraft carries you on up to 40% of the distance and this makes it a brilliant deal. Further north on sections GPT01 to GPT16 a packraft is more burden than benefit and I would only recommend packrafting if you specifically plan to explore a certain lake and the surrounding area.

When packrafting on lakes and rivers we normally do not exceed hiking speed so the packraft does not make us faster. In contrast, all the packing and unpacking and the extra weight slows us down. But speed is not our objective. What we seek is diversity and a packraft opens up some of the most epic routes through Patagonia.

The required packrafting gear adds about 5 kg to a solo hiker’s pack or 4 kg if shared in between two. You need a boat, paddles, a dry suite, a PFD (personal flotation devise), an inflation bag and repair gear. A sail is optional. For an ultra-light hiker this is an unimaginable extra weight but if considering that the backpack weight drops on 40% of the distance to zero then this extra weight on 60% of the distance is a fair deal. What you need when packrafting is a dry suite; not only for comfort but as a life insurance. In Patagonia weather is volatile and water temperatures are normally low. Hypothermia can cause complete exhaustion and unconsciousness in less then 15 minutes if you get into a glacier lake with a water temperature at the freezing point. A dry suite can help protecting you in such situations. We were several times surprised by heavy wind, rain and even snow during lake crossings and the dry suite was our layer of defense till we reached a suitable landing shore. Without a dry suite your body temperature drops in minutes in such an adverse situation and with this you loose your capability to act properly. Chill makes dumb and numb and transforms you into silly zombie regardless how experienced and prudent you are at normal "operation temperature".

The extra weight of a dry suite is not that much if you replace your normal rain gear with it. And a dry suite is so much better than any rain gear, also when hiking. It keeps you completely dry and warm even when fording glacier rivers. No rain gear does this. When we need to walk in cold rain or snow we put on our dry suite and we don't take it off until we have cooked our dinner and can slide in our sleeping bag or quilt.

If I can choose on a rainy day between hiking or packrafting than I do not need a blink of an eye to make my choice. Sitting in my boat protected by my dry suite make out of a nasty rainy day an enjoyable day on the water. Without a backpack on my back and with only moderate exertion I’m not sweating nor freezing, provided that I wear appropriate cloth below my dry suite. Protected with proper gloves and a cap only the face is exposed to the elements. What stops us packrafting is only too strong wind, but not rain.

When we started investigating the GPT we had no pre-experience with packrafting or kayaking; we were complete novices. Looking back now I would probably have taken some packrafting or kayak lessons, just to get some practice and a better feel for such a water activity. While we lacked experience at the beginning we were very careful even with small rapids and did not paddle larger lakes. But we grew with every river and lake and gained slowly confidence.

What is essential when packrafting is knowledge and respect of the hazards of water and good judgment. Great care must be taken to leave a river latest at the last recommended exit point because mortal rapids are often downstream even if you don’t see or hear them at the last exit point. Streams change constantly with rising and falling water levels, riverbeds alter over time and the weather in Patagonia is volatile. The fact that someone took a particular water route before does not mean that it is safe anytime later. Therefore the track file for GPS is only an approximate guide and each packrafter needs to assess the situation himself; i.e. judge wind, waves and weather before attempting a lake or fjord crossing or scout a river rapid to decide if to paddle or porter around.

Packrafting gear is not cheap. If you don't have it expect to spend at least 2000 EUR or USD to buy the full set. That's a considerable investment but it's a lasting one if you treat it with care. Before attempting to hike on the GPT evaluate careful what sections to travel and if carrying a packraft or not. For this you need to study in detail the sections evaluation and trail type composition to make a smart choice that fits your capabilities and expectations. Thanks to the length of the GPT it is easy to fill an entire hiking season either with pure hiking or with a balanced combination of packrafting and hiking.

Understanding the Host Nations

Chile and Argentina

The Greater Patagonian Trail is located in South America in Chile and Argentina. These two countries are sometimes referred to as the “Southern Cone”. About 86% of the current trail is located on Chilean territory and 14% is on Argentine soil.

People that are not familiar with this continent often mingle all their associations of Latin America into one scary-lovely medley. If they listen a news report about unrest in Venezuela it also stains their mental record of Chile and Argentina – “It’s next door! Or?”. And when they listen Chile; they instantly think that they must eat spicy food like the Mexicans – “Come on, it’s called Chile!”. But like any other continent – maybe with the exception of Antarctica – it’s a socially, politically and economically diverse continent with quite different nations.

If you are interested in hiking the GPT but you never have been to Chile or Argentina than start with getting a good understanding and knowledge of these two countries. I’m not attempting to provide a comprehensive introduction to the Chile and Argentina with the following paragraphs. I mainly focus on a few trail specific aspects that you probably will not find in guide books.

Chile and Argentina are not developing countries like their neighbor Bolivia. Chile and Argentina are very much like western countries but with a high inequality of wealth and income. Both countries are on a global scale reasonably stable and healthy democracies, Argentina may be with a bit more populism and corruption than Chile. Both countries have reasonable good working institutions i.e. a police that keeps most of the country reasonable safe. And both nations have their social struggles, economic challenges and political scandals like many others.

Being an Guest in Chile and Argentina

Chile and Argentina receive a lot of tourists and there is not much xenophobia. Quite the opposite tourists are welcome and received with hospitality as long as they don’t pretend to belong to a superior race. After three centuries of colonization and two centuries with sometimes heavy outside interference people have a fine sense for any form arrogance. And if they sense it they will often not speak up (especially Chileans learned to swallow their objections during 17 years of a military dictatorship) but expect to receive reservation and poor service in turn. And that’s a pity because Argentines and Chileans are normal open and interested people that treat guests with honest geniality.

If you are a tourist from outside of Latin America accept that you are called a “Gringo” in particular if you are from Europe or North America. In the Southern Cone this term has no negative intonation (unlike in Mexico and Central America). The label "Gringo" may only imply that this person is bit ignorant of the local customs who needs to be treated with leniency. Try to surprise your counterpart with with good Spanish skills and knowledge about his country!

Remarks to the Society

This generalization of people from far away (all are "Gringos") is contrasted by a classist thinking about their own nation, especially in Chile. A few super-rich own and control most of the country, a stressed middle class (living mainly in the cities) tries hard to keep up and many simple living people (which make the majority in rural areas) learned to live a tranquil life with rather little. The different groups and social classes distinct between each other and rarely mingle; they live in different quarters; send their children to different schools and vacation in different places.

What you do not see much more is extreme poverty. Since the end of the military dictatorship in 1990 a center-left government runs Chile for most of the time. This government was quite successful in fighting extreme poverty and improving the infrastructure in rural areas. And hikers benefit from it in several ways. When hiking in Chile and Argentina you will not experience begging as this is the case in the neighboring countries of Bolivia and Peru. Also roads are built in rural areas, which is a mixed blessing from a hikers perspective. On one side these roads greatly facilitate resupplying and getting to the trail heads but on the other side they also replace horse trails that are nicer to walk. The government also subsidizes public transport into particular remote places that are not served be profit-oriented private bus and ferry companies.

Along the trail you will primarily meet people with a small and often irregular income but this does not constrain their hospitality. In contrast, where the rich fence off their properties there the modest living open their doors and invite strangers to literally share their bread. When you experience such hospitality be generous. Even if they don’t ask for money and seems to reject it be a happy giver. Insist if necessary! Consider that more hikers will come after you and that it would be unreasonable to drain their small income to feed tourists.

The middle class from the cities starts to discover the mountains in their vacation. A growing number of Chileans and Argentines begin to hike, mainly in national parks. Many of this novice hikers still lack experience and appropriate gear. Where the GPT passes national parks you will meet such less experience and sometimes inadequately equipped hikers. Please don't look down on them but when asked share your experience and knowledge in a positive manner. The growing number of inexperienced hikers results in normally concerned park rangers especially when you plan to walk off the standard trail. You might need to show your GPS and your satellite tracker to park rangers to convince them to let you pass and follow the remote routes of the GPT.

Owning large plots of land is a status symbol of the rich and super-rich. And this is where the right-of-way trouble often culminates. The rich owners (Spanish: "patron") of these properties (Chile: often "fundo", Argentina: often "hacienda") are rarely there themselves but hire caretakers (Spanish: "cuidador") to maintain their property. Sometimes the "patron" instructs the "cuidador" to not let anyone pass. How to deal with such a situation I will explain later.

The potent overseas immigration into Chile and Argentina and the continuous land grab made the native first nations to a minority in their own homeland. In the area that the GPT traverses only one of the numerous pre-colonial indigenous cultures holds still significance: the Pehuenche that are considered part of the Mapuche group. Most other native cultures that you see in adjacent maps are lost and extinct. Starting from section GPT09 to about GPT15 you will meet the Pehuenche. But don't expect intact indigenous communities that celebrate their traditional way of live with unity and pride. Centuries of disrespect, economic and social pressure, the forceful formation of a new Chilean identity after the independence from Spain and missionary efforts of various Christian sects have caused deep divides in their communities and resulted in a fractured identity.

You may read the Wikipedia articles to the demographics of Chile and Argentina to learn more about the native tribes and ethnic groups that settle this land for thousands of years and the 500 years of post-Columbian immigration into these countries.


Indigenous peoples in Chile before the European colonization of the Americas. Image: Wikipedia


GPT07: Forward Police Post "Carrisales". Image: Jan Dudeck
GPT07: Invited at the Forward Police Post "El Dial" near the border to Argentina. Image: Jan Dudeck
Police farewell picture with Piia and Oliver. Image: Piia Kortsalo and Oliver Barker

Security, Police and Borders

In the b

Understanding the Hosts

In this section I want to share some of our experiences with the people that we meet along the trail. I will distinct between four groups despite recognizing hat you sometimes cannot clearly distinct between them. An indigenous Pehuenche may work and act like an arriero and many settlers have indigenous roots.

Arrieros

From section GPT01 to section GPT09 you will frequently meet men on horses that in late spring drive livestock up in the mountains and watch over it till they drive the animals back down in autumn. These men (but never woman!) get normally employed by the landowner that holds a large plot of land in the mountains. The animals that they watch over are normally owned by several farmers that pay for the service to fatten their animals during the mountain grazing period. These caretakers call themselves "arriero" or "postero" and live during the summer in improvised shelters that are called "puesto". From this base they make regular tours on horseback to the cattle, goats and horses that remain under their responsibility.

These rough men are normally happy to get a visit. If you speak Spanish and engage in a conversation you will often be offered a seat next to the fire and it will not take long till you are offered to share some Mate with them. If you are lucky they have some fresh bread or "tortas" (the shortened word for "tortas fritas" which is bread baked in hot fat).

When we pass a puesto we share at least some words; we explain what we are doing, ask for the trail condition and exchange some friendly gossip i.e. whom we meet before and ask whom we will meet further down our way. Knowing the names is always a benefit and very useful when asking for permission to pass. If it is late and time to camp we try to sense if we are welcome to stay a night what is normally the case. If yes, then we pitch our tent in the vicinity of the puesto.

Nobody knows the area around the puesto better than they do. They do not move only along the trails but to any place where their animals are grazing. But their expertise often reaches only to certain point. They might go for 20 years to the same puesto and know every tree and boulder on the entrusted land but they might not know what is behind a certain pass in the next valley. So asking them for directions can very revealing and exceptional helpful but it requires purposeful questions and a wise interpretation of the answers. Don't ask for the walking time, but always ask how long it takes them on horse. Then double the value to estimate your walking time.

Only if the person is trunk than better move on quickly. Filled with alcohols these normally friendly men can become pretty annoying and even harassing with women.

Indigenous Pehuenche Population

The tribal land of the Pehuenche starts were the first Araucaria trees grow what is two third into section GPT09 and ends somewhere around section GPT19. The Pehuenche (Pewenche, people of pewen in Mapudungun) are an indigenous people who are part of the Mapuche peoples. They live in the Andes in south central Chile and Argentina. Their name derives from their habit of harvesting piñones, the seeds of the Araucaria tree that is called in Mapudungun "pewen". In the 14th century, the Pehuenche lived in the mountainous territory between the Maule River and the volcano Lonquimay. Later they became Araucanized and partially merged with the Mapuche tribes. The difficult living conditions higher up in the mountains with the less fertile land protected the Pehuenche to some degree during the main wave of European immigration in the 19th and 20th century. For a long time their land was simply not attractive enough to be taken away.

The Pehuenche took over agricultural techniques from the European invaders i.e. the breeding livestock and the farming of cereals and other crops. Therefore you will meet along the trail Pehuenche in puestos that herd cattle, goats and horses like the "arrieros" further north. But in contrast to the "arrieros" you will meet women and entire families, sometimes three generations living together in small shelters. This is a nice change! Some milk their cows and make cheese. In summer and autumn they harvest the seeds of the Araucaria pines called "piñones".

But be aware that two centuries of disrespect and oppression made them distrustful and distant. We were occasionally asked if we are researching geologists fearing that we are looking for minerals and taking their land away if we find something precious. But explaining carefully that we are just walking guests that come to admire the land that they own broke often the ice.

With these people we had some of the most moving encounters along the entire trail. We spoke about their history, their way of life, their connection with the land and what they desire for their next generation. They bear an identity that torn between tradition and living a modern life. Christian sects have caused deep divisions within their communities and even within families. These tensions make them guarded to speak about their identity and convictions. So we listen carefully and act cautious to not make them feel uncomfortable. But we had wonderful times with these people, staying a night or even an entire day with them. They taught us how to down and open Araucaria pines and how to prepare "piñones" for eating. We several times purchased a goat from them to prepare it and eat it together.

Once we stepped by accident into their annual religious gathering called "Guillatún". We were approached by one of their leaders who kindly asked us to move on and so we did.

Settlers

With the term settler I refer to the people that call themselves “pobladores” and who’s ancestors moved into Patagonia at the end of the 19th century and during the 20th century. “Hacer patria”, or in English: “creating homeland” was and is the motive that drove them into this challenging land and makes them stay despite the continued hardship. When walking on the GPT you will regularly meet the third and fourth generation of these settlers all the way from section GPT15 to GPT38.


In the second half of the 19th century, around 50 years after gaining independence from Spain, the Chilean and Argentine government breached the agreements with the native population and forcefully took control of Patagonia that the Spanish colonizers did not conquer during the three centuries of their rule before. It was simply the political mindset of this time that each nation takes the land that they have the power to grab. After the native population was decimated and driven out the governments looked for white settlers to “cultivate” the land. Racism dominated the thinking at this time and the ruling class where mostly decedents of white Europeans and they were looking for people of their kind to repopulate the land. Announcements were placed in European newspapers promising free land to everyone who is able to make a living off the land that he picked. But also Chilean and Argentine citizens were seeking their luck by moving out of the established settling areas into the seemingly virgin land of Patagonia. Laws were created to promote settling this vast region. Whoever “cultivates” a piece of land could apply for a land ownership title after a couple of years. But just living off the land without transforming it like the native nations did not count.

The harsh climate and the remote location of Patagonia means that “cultivating” is generally understood as growing livestock for sale and having some homestead farming to produce the majority of your food themselves. Grazing land was often created with fire. Prospective settler made expeditions in search for promising patches of land, they incinerated the forest and quickly left hoping that the fire takes down a good part of the forest. In the following years they came back, seeded grass and lighted more forest. Once sufficient patches of grazing land had formed they moved in with cattle, sheep and horses and build basic houses to create their personal piece of homeland.

From today’s perspective this is a brute violation of the native nations and their homeland. But I’m not writing this to question the legitimacy of their decedent’s to life on this land. History can’t be turned back and this past injustice can neither be undone without new injustice nor can it be plausibly justified. I’m writing this to create a more factual understanding of the actual sequence of events that is less blurred by the romantic imagination of homestead farming. I want to outline the ambivalent history that permits you now to personally discover this land on trails that these settlers created and that are now part of the GPT. I hope to open the eyes of prospective hikers for this courageous people to not walk by with ignorance.

If you consider yourself a tough and enduring hiker then imagine the hardship and persistence of these settlers in comparison. They moved in without being guided by maps and GPS and without your functional ultra-light gear. There were no trails, there were no shops on the route to occasionally resupply and their stay was not limited to the few more months with more suitable weather. They had to make a living by producing more than they consumed to have something to sell with a profit. Therefore if you meet these settlers don’t seek admiration for what you are doing because it’s just hilarious. What we hikers do nowadays is just “a stroll in the woods” compared to the challenges that these settlers faced. Therefore be a humble guest that admires the endurance of these settlers.

Many of these settlers are proud of their heritage and enjoy sharing their history. That’s an opportunity that we rarely miss. We enjoy listening to them before we speak about our own adventure and trail recording project. If you are also open for this opportunity than hiking on the GPT will become a uniquely authentic experience that shows you much more than just a trail.

Hospitality and a fair cooperation between settlers is part of the culture and it’s your responsibility to maintain this attitude by not abusing it. Keep in mind that they face the continued challenge to make a living and if you receive something, like food or accommodation then don’t take it for granted but pay what is reasonable even if you are not asked for money. These settlers are no trail angels that live along the route for your comfort; you are the unexpected guest that hugely benefits from their trail building efforts.

It’s a culture in decline. Few of their children continue this way of live and you will often meet people above 50. For the younger generation moving into a town seems more promising than the burden of making a living on the “campo” (English: cultivated land). Therefore pay respect to each settler because their continued endurance keeps the trails open for you. If you have the opportunity outline how a sustainable form of tourism can supplement essential elements of their culture, especially show this perspective to the few younger settlers that you can still meet along the trail. The future of the Greater Patagonian Trail is linked with the future of these settlers.

If the children of these settlers move out than sooner or later the land will be sold to the biter with the highest offer. And the interest in this land is constantly growing, regardless how remote it is; rich Chileans and foreigners will buy it. And this gets us to the forth category of “hosts”.

Large Estate Land Holders

To be issued.

Guiding Principles, Appropriate Attitude and Required Skills

In the last years I had numerous profound talks about the essence of hiking and what it takes to appreciate such an endeavor in a sustainable manner. What you will now read is the résumé of this exchange of ideas with hikers that walked on the GPT or did other long distance hikes. In particular Piia Kortsalo, Oliver Barker, Bethany Hughes and Lauren Reed were instrumental in putting these advises together.

The following two guiding principles summarize this combined expertise and apply it to the GPT:

  1. Before you depart understand the GPT to make appropriate choices and get properly prepared.
  2. When being on the GPT adopt to the land and learn from the people to become a sustaining and contributing guest.

In the following section I will outline what following these guiding principles practically means.

Before you depart: Understand

One of the most important skills before you depart is your capability to read. In particular experienced hikers are at risk to make incorrect assumptions and rely on a false sense of expertise because the GPT is so different compared to other long distance trails. That’s one of the reasons why some highly experienced thru-hiker failed to enjoy this trail: They did not understand the GPT and as a consequence made inappropriate choices and departed unprepared.

Therefore read this entire article and maybe read it again. Follow the links to additional sources of information i.e. on Wikipedia and read blogs of other hikers that walked on the GPT. These blogs are essential to get a wider and more personal perspective of the trail. Read about Chile and Argentina and learn more about Patagonia. This article does not intent to be a sufficient source of information; it’s just an introduction and a general guide how to get prepared.

Download the trail file and virtually hike on the GPT by reviewing the tracks in detail in Google Earth. That’s essential to better understand the landscape and the nature of this trail network. Get road maps and guide books for Chile and Argentina in particular if have not been to one of these countries before. There will be more than enough surprises along the trail so eliminate the avoidable once by understanding what you are considering to do.

If you find this article to long, to repetitive and to confusing then be assured that the GPT is much worse. If your curiosity and patience runs out while reading this text then your patience and interest will run out rather quickly on the trail. If you don’t make it to the end of this article than better don’t start with the GPT.

Understand your motives and objectives and be honest with yourself. The GPT is quite special and only a specific sort of hiker will appreciate this route network. If you have seen images of Patagonia and you are now looking to get to these places then the GPT is probably not the right choice. Someone who looks for an athletic walking challenge or a thru-hike will quickly be driven into frustration by this weird route compilation. It’s a discovery network and only hikers that wish to discover Patagonia and the adjacent regions should contemplate with hiking and packrafting on the GPT.

If you have specific questions to the GPT that are not answered in this article then ask. I have provided my email in this article and with the current volume of requests I can normally arrange a Skype call if I see genuine interest and that the available information is being read and digested.

Before you depart: Choose

The GPT or something else?

Don’t take it for granted that the GPT is your trail. If you look for some “normal” hikes in Patagonia with limited time available then I suggest visiting the national parks and bus in between. There are good guide books available that describe numerous established hiking routes in detail. In particular if you don’t speak Spanish stick to these better known and more visited places where you get along with a combination of rudimentary Spanish and English.

There a couple of questions that quickly indicate if the GPT is a suitable choice for you or not. If you answer any of the below questions with a “No” than better consider other trails:

  1. Do you have some reasonable good conversational Spanish skills?
    Could you explain to a local resident in Spanish what you are doing there on his land and keep up in a more confrontational conversation if necessary? Can you discuss with arrieros and settler route options? Can you ask for bus times and bus stops, buy tickets, navigate through towns, inquire prices and this with people that do not speak any English?
  2. Do you have extensive Outdoor experience?
    Long distance hiking experience is not required but being competent in moving and living under the sky in different landscapes is crucial on this trail (desert-like landscapes, forest, steppe, tundra).
  3. Do you really look for a demanding unpredictable discovery hike?
    Can you deal with being unable to plan your trip in detail? Are you willing to backtrack if a route turns out impassible? If you have very specific expectations than this indicates that you probably don’t want to discover.
  4. Do you have at least six weeks in Chile and Argentina available?
    If you have less time available than taking some of the established hiking routes is more appropriate and effective to see several parts of Patagonia.
  5. Do you have a monthly budget of 1000 USD after having paid your gear and the airfare?
    Don’t undermine the cost of living in Chile and Argentina. With some cost saving strategies you may get along with a little less but 800 USD per month per person is the bare minimum.

Be honest with yourself! If you answer any of these questions with “No” than this trail might disappoint you, drive you into frustration or put you in harm’s way. But coming to the conclusion that the GPT is not (yet?) the right choice for you does not mean that you can't explore parts of it.

If choosing something else: If the GPT is not (yet?) the right choice for you then can opt for the more established trails in the national parks. Check out the available trekking guide books i.e. the lonely planet guide "Trekking in the Patagonian Andes" from Carolyn McCarthy. This is how I started and what was the foundation to investigate and publish the GPT years later. I can recommend the following more established hiking areas in Patagonia:

  1. Villarica Traverse
    Comment: Read the Wikiexplora article in English for more information.
  2. Puyehue Ascent
    Comment: The ascent of this volcano from Anticura starting at the international road "Ruta 215" is an rather established summit route that is taken by several hundred hikers each year. Return on the same path! DO NOT attempt a traverse without a GPS, precise tracks, good weather and sufficient reserves. If you do not find the trail head on the other side of the plateau you will get stuck in an extremely dense forest. In this area people went missing and were never found again.
  3. Cochamó
    Comment: This is a relatively young hiking area that has grown in popularity in recent years. Most people walk from the town of Cochamó to the camp site "La Junta" and make day trips from this location.
  4. Cerro Castillo
    Comment: Read the Wikiexplora article in English for more information.
  5. El Chaltén (Monte Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre)
    Comment: This is a small but one of the most visited hiking areas in Patagonia. Hikers either camp in one of the official camp ground or make day trips from the town of El Chaltén to the very popular lookouts to Monte Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre. Expect lots of hikers and stunning views.
  6. Torres del Paine
    Comment: This is for good reasons the most popular hiking area in Patagonia. The number of visors has risen to level that restrictions are now in place. You need to make advance reservations month ahead. Read the Wikiexplora article in English for more information.
GPT07: Our horse riding guide Danilo the founder of www.chile-horseriding.com who was instrumental to explore and record GPT07. Image: Meylin Ubilla

An other excellent option to explore parts of the GPT in a more controlled manner is a horse riding trip. This gives you an excellent insight into the arriero culture. I can actually recommend you the horse riding guides that opened our eyes for the fascinating Maule region and section GPT07 of the Greater Patagonian Trail. We made four extended horse riding tours with Danilo and Llito and the GPT would not exist in the current form without them. You can get in contract with them on: www.chile-horseriding.com.

Another village where you can arrange stunning horse riding tours is Vilches Alto. You can easily reach this village by bus from Talca. Vilches Alto is located 30 km west of the volcano Descabezado Grande in the vicinity of section GPT06. Several years ago we did an impressive 6 day tour which was for us an essential eyeopener to pay more attention to the region north of Patagonia. A good part of the trails we took at this time on horseback are now part of section GPT06.

There are several other locations in the vicinity of the GPT where horse riding tours can be done. You may pre-arrange horse riding tours either with an international travel agency or search locally once in the country. If arranging your tour with an international travel agency than you pay a substantial premium but you have a more predictable travel experience based on a standard offer. With limited time and sufficient funds this is normally a good choice. Google will guide you to several such agencies with multiple offers.

With sufficient time and some more appetite for adventure you may try to organize a horse riding tour locally. This requires good Spanish knowledge and good judgment to discuss in detail what can be done and what you wish to do. The advantage of arranging a tour locally is that you can agree on the timing and routing. But be careful; some guides that offers a horse riding tours ("cabalgata") may promise more than they are prepared to execute just to secure a paying customer.

Also if you plan to hike on the GPT and you look for a variation to the hiking routine or if you simply love horse riding than consider to combine your hike on the GPT with a horse riding trip.

If choosing the GPT: If you opt to hike on the GPT than you must take several decision while you prepare your hike.

  1. Do you want to hike only or do you want to packraft as well?
    The answer to this question will determine the equipment you need and what zones to tackle. You can easily fill an entire season with hiking on sections that are very attractive for walking but where carrying a packraft is not beneficial. The same applies to packrafting: you can fill a four to five month period packrafting in areas where carrying such a light-weight boat really pays off. I suggest opting for the one or the other and not mingling both choices into one season except if you have a trustworthy place in Chile to leave your packrafting gear while hiking without your (loved) boat.
  2. Do you want to hike a continuous part of the GPT with connecting footsteps or do you want to visit several separated parts?
    For some hikers connecting footsteps are an essential concept and motivator to stay on track while others don’t mind to bridge a less attractive part by public transportation or hitchhiking. Choose what is appropriate for you. And please do not look down on others but respect individual choices. Hike your hike.
  3. Do you want to follow the regular route or will you attempt in some areas more remote investigation options?
    The answer to this question is really a matter of personal interest and capability. I have intentionally created the GPT as a wide network with as many options as feasible because I’m fully aware that my way of walking with my personal preferences is not everyone’s best choice. For hikes that are accustomed to follow a single trail this might be irritating but for such hikers the GPT is probably not right trail anyway. You will finally need to take these decisions on the trial but you need to get prepared before you leave. Therefore start your hike in Google Earth by looking at these options to make educated choices later on the trail. One hiker summarized this variety with these words: “The GPT is a mosaic out of which everyone needs to assemble his trail.”
  4. What sections do you want to hike or packraft?
    Select the sections that you plan to hike carefully. But don’t fill your plate with more than what you can reasonably eat. Get prepared and plan your route but leave it open end.
  5. When and for how long do you want to travel?
    Understand the suitable timing of the different sections and align your travel plans accordingly. Certain sections became passable relatively early in the season while others can only be hiked safely after most of the snow is molten and the river levels normalized. Don’t assume wrongly that you will face more restrictions in the south. It’s the opposite; the more mountainous northern sections have the smaller seasonal window while the generally lower southern section’s permit an earlier start or later finish even if the climate is generally more volatile in the south. If you have an entire season then plan sections for the end that are less restricted by the climate.
  6. In what direction do you want to travel?
    If you packraft than several key sections are only floatable southbound what determines the generally recommended packrafting orientation. But some optional packrafting routes can only be taken northbound. Verify your choices carefully otherwise you may reach a river that just flows in the “wrong” direction! If you are hiking you are freer to choose and change your direction of travel. Only at certain section you might run into permit and permission issue if have made a wrong choice.

Before you depart: Prepare

It should be obvious to every reader that this trail requires extensive outdoor experience and quite good navigational skills in the different kinds of landscapes. It’s no trail for outdoor novices. Therefore I will not go into detail and will not attempt to write a general outdoor guidebook. Someone who would need this does not need (yet) a trail like the GPT. Be honest with yourself and review if you have the required skills and experience for such a demanding and unpredictable trail.

If you opt to hike or packraft along the GPT and your Spanish is still insufficient, than learn and improve your Spanish. Since you are just a guest on an informal trail network you need to explain to herdsmen, indigenous Pehuenche, settlers and police what you are doing and ask for permission to pass. You need to ask also for direction, organize your resupply by either figuring out what is available on the route or taking public transportation to resupply towns off the trail. For this you need to ask locals for bus schedules and bus routes. I’m not planning to include such detailed information in wikiexplora because bus schedules change too often. You need to ask the locals along the trial when you get close to a section end. In particular rural buses have rarely published time tables but local residents know when to wait where for a bus. Don’t expect anyone along the trail to speak English. Only in the tourist town and national parks with an international profile you will somehow get along with English.

Study the route network that is relevant for you including the optional side trips and escape or exit routes. Get prepared to wisely apply the following principles during your hike: Select and Skip, Combine and Flip. For this you need to know and understand the route network before you leave. In Google Earth you may add your personal notes in form of waypoints and transfer them with the GPS trail files to your GPS.

Become an expert in setting up the GPS trail files on your GPS devise and your backup systems i.e. a smart phone and an InReach satellite pager. Exercise how to follow a track on your GPS if you never done it before. It’s not as simple as it seems. Test the battery running times of your GPS and your emergency satellite communicator to plan your recharging on the trail. Test also the record function of your GPS to create tracks and waypoints. This is essential to become a contributor.

Don’t undermine this tech stuff and don’t postpone it to the end! A good proportion of the hikers that attempted walking on the GPT experienced substantial struggles because they lacked these “nerdy” skills. Some hikers were stopped by issues as simple as not being able to make an already uploaded route visible on the GPS devise. Others got stuck on overgrown trails and had to backtrack several days because they did not load the last update before they departed. The irony was I send them greatly improved routes several weeks before they departed for exactly the area where they got stuck.

If you opt to packraft then get familiar and exercise packrafting before you start. Ideal would be a training course that provides instructions and practice for whitewater with rapids up to Class III. To my understanding the minor rapids that we paddled on the regular route of the GPT were up to Class II and we were able to porter all rapids to appeared more challenging to us. To have a safety margin you should be able to manage rapids that are one Class higher than what you will probably face. In this remote area you should simply not go to your limit. If you do not find a good packrafting course then a kayak course will be equally helpful to gain the required knowledge and experience. Test how to pack and prepare your packraft to not start experimenting on the first lake or river that your will reach in Patagonia.

Do you know how to cook your meals in the outdoors? You certainly do if you are reading this article but do you know how to prepare a filling and delicious meal with the different supplies available in mountains in Chile and Argentina? Being a creative cook is a very useful skill on the GPT and getting prepared for the GPT means also widen your food range and cooking methods. Did you ever try “Harina Tostada”? Do you know how to harvest, open and prepare Araucaria pines (Spanish: “piñones”)? Do you bake bread while hiking? Flour is i.e. something more readily available on the trail because people normally bake their own bread in remote areas. The herdsmen and settlers often carry large sags of flour on horses or mules to their outposts (Spanish: “puesto”) and taught us that making your own bread in the wild is quite simple. It is a skill that we regularly appreciate to stretch our food reserves to stay longer on the trail. So is cooking over fire. These herdsmen hardly ever carry a camping stove and cook normally on camp fires. Where permitted we also do this and all our cocking gear is selected to be suitable for cocking on fire. But be very careful; wild fires are a severe danger and in most national parks open fires are strictly banned.

I’m not providing and I’m also not planning to provide a specific and detailed gear list with my personal equipment choices and recommendations. What I plan to issue is some general guidance and examples of what other hikers used with success. Suitable gear is essential but it must be suitable for you and what you are comfortable and skilled to use. So far appreciation and disappointment on the trail was rarely linked to gear but primarily to attitude. Being light is good and important but not all aspects of the ultra-light philosophy are suitable for this trail. Therefore if you have not read yet about ultra-light equipment and ultra-light strategies read about it as part of your preparation but don't take it as sole source of instructions.

Before you depart: Be careful doing this ...

There is one thing you should be very careful with: Public announcements before you depart!

So far I observed one tendency: As more ambitious the announcement was as less was actually archived. There are a few positive exceptions to this generalization but "low noise" hikers covered often more ground and appreciated the trail more compared to ambitious people that published challenging plans before they left.

Let me share the most hilarious example: One loud-mouth and would-be thru-hiker grabbed the name "Greater Patagonia" that I coined in 2014 for the trail and used it without asking to create a web domain and name a web page. He actually had the cockiness to introduce himself to me as the "founder of Greater Patagonia", seemingly proud that he just plagiarized the name that I created and filled with content two years earlier. On his attention-grabbing web page he loudly and proudly announced a "1500 mile thru-hike of the Greater Patagonian Trail". He used this page to ask for donations, seek sponsors and candidates to join his team ("... applications accepted!"). He even got T-shirts printed proclaiming this ambitious plan. But after he started his journey it took precisely 7 days till he aborted the would-be thru-hike. He then took buses to travel primarily from national park to national park to visit a couple of the more established trails in order to take the much-needed selfies. This change of plans was actually a wise decision. What is ridiculous so, is that he still makes it appear as he actually hiked and paddled 1500 miles through Patagonia because he is haunted by his overconfident annunciation. This claim of having hiked and paddled 1500 miles is not just an exaggeration; it's a blunt lie. Retrospectively I can only conclude: Too proud to be prudent, too vain to be honest!

In the same season at the same time several other hikers and packrafters started in the same area without having loudly proclaimed their intentions. These "low-key" hikers covered more distance and really immersed into the land along the GPT what made it such an stunning experience for most of them. They were open to learn and free to adapt to the trail while each of them hiked his hike. They could find their pace without being chased by a public proclamation that they set free before they departed and that constantly lurked in their backs.

If you really believe that you need to publish your plans before you depart then do it in an humble manner and as an tentative plan. Don't pose as a winner before you start and share your lessons learned while being on the trail but latest after you concluded your journey. Don't build ruins of pride by publishing your mission without having the courage to honestly write how it developed and terminated. And don't worry if you aren't a flawless hero in your endeavor; glossy braggers are rarely loved for their self-display. Most people admire authenticity and you are authentic if you openly share your misses, struggles and lessons learned.

A personal note: I published my first word about my hikes in Patagonia after I have traveled this area 9 times and more than a decade after my first visit. What you find now in this article is the result of a deepening relationship with this unique region that started back in 2002.

When being on the GPT: Learn and Adopt

The GPT requires a detailed preparation but refuses to be planned in detail. Therefore regardless how well prepared you depart your hike will become a disaster if you are not ready to learn and if you are unwilling to adapt to the trail. It’s a trail for the humble; not for the proud.

Apply the following principles to the various sections during your hike: Select and Skip, Combine and Flip.

Select and Skip: Readjust your plans while hiking. Sometimes you may be forced to skip sections. There might be a river that is too high and to powerful to be forded safely or a land owner that does not want to let pass anyone. A raging wild fire might force you to wait or to skip a part of the trail. But also the numerous volcanoes along the route can change your plans without asking for your consent. In the last 10 years there were 3 major eruptions on or close to the route and numerous alarming hiccups of not so dormant volcanoes. If you advocate connecting footsteps get emotionally prepared that you may need to make compromises. If you need to leave a gap in your line of steps don’t take it as a defeat but as adapting to this land.

Combine: If you want to spend more time on the trail and less time in buses and towns than add several sections into longer hiking legs without leaving the trail to resupply. Especially in the northern half of the GPT resupplying at a “full range supermarket” requires leaving the trail. (And in the south you will have even less such “full range supermarkets”.) Such a resupply trip might easily take between one and three days but a section end is no obligation to resupply; it’s just an option. We combined up to four sections into a long hiking stretch without getting off the trail. Other hikers did the same for equal reasons.

Staying two to three weeks on the trail is an excellent immersive experience that becomes even more eye-opening if you resupply with what you can source on the trail. In the Pehuenche region we sometimes filled our stomach with Araucaria seeds (Spanish: “piñones”) that are the traditional staple food of the indigenous people. If you are there at the right time you have an unlimited supply of free food on the trail. We sometimes buy a goat or lamb and ask the seller to prepare it with us and share an extended dinner. We then carry plenty of cooked meat for the following days. Sometimes you can buy freshly baked bread or even cheese from the locals along the trail. That’s why our food rations last often much longer than originally planned.

Flip: Most sections can be hiked southbound and northbound and also the packrafting on lakes and fjords is often feasible in both directions. Use these choices when suitable. If you was forced to skip attractive sections you may come back later and attempt them in the oposite direction if it suites more from a logistical point of view. Also some of the exploration options are better investigated in a particular direction that might be oposite to your general direction of travel. Therefore be open-minded to change the direction of travel if favorable.

The learning and adopting applies to other aspects of your hike i.e. your resupply strategy, your gear and how to interact with the people along the trail. What really matters on this trail is your openness to learn and willingness to change. This requires questioning yourself and scrutinizing your best practices that served you so well on other trails in other regions. Especially experienced hikers may struggle to do this. This is one reason why seemingly less prepared hikers enjoyed the trail more and covered more ground than some highly experienced hikers. A healthy portion of self-doubt enables to learn and adapt while being on the trail.

When being on the GPT: Be a Sustainable Guest

To be issued.

When being on the GPT: Contribute

To be issued.

Appropriate Attitude

This trail rewards the humble and humiliates the proud. And this trail does this with an surprising reliability.

... to be continued ...

Understanding your Motives

To be issued.

Code of Conduct

Greater Patagonian Trail Section 2: Closing a gate after passing. File: Jan Dudeck

The trail leads mostly through unspoiled wilderness with little human intervention. And where you meet some settlers or herdsmen you are welcome and get treated as honourable guest. To maintain this I plead all hikers to follow this code of conduct:

  • Leave no trace and in particular no litter. All packings that can be carried with content can be returned when empty.
  • Make camp fires only where permitted and where and when it is safe to do so. Don't light a fire in dried out areas or when wind can carry sparks that may ignite nearby vegetation. Use only death wood and put the fire out with plenty of water. Don't leave the fire or go to sleep before having it put out completely.
  • Don't abuse the hospitality of the people along the trail and pay fairly for what they share with you. Using a trail or camping in a not maintained place should be free of charge but if you get invited to a meal or use a camping ground that was installed by a local settler pay what you are asked for or what you would get charged in other places. Don't ruin the hiker's reputation by misusing the generosity of humble people. They sometimes might refuse to take your money but insist because they need it; it's part of the hospitality.
  • Near a puesto you find often a good camp spot because the grazing animals create and maintain nice patches of grass. If the puesto is inhabited always introduce yourself and ask first for permission before pitching your tent. This also calms down the dogs.
  • If you are caught by bad weather feel free to knock on doors and ask kindly for shelter. Helping in such situations is part of the ethics in the mountains.
  • Don't enter locked puestos except in emergencies. This is also for your safety since poorly ventilated and maintained puestos pose a Hanta virus infection risk. See also Deseases.
  • Leave all gates in the condition as you found them. If a gate was closed, close it after you. If a gate was open, leave it open.
  • If you meet people on horses on a narrow trail step to the side and let them pass. It's for your own safety.
  • Respect the rights of the land owners. Don't dispute over rights of way but ask kindly for permission to pass.
Greater Patagonian Trail Section 7: Puesto. File: Jan Dudeck


Dangers and Annoyances

Greater Patagonian Trail Section 1: Poor trail condition. File: Jan Dudeck
Greater Patagonian Trail Section 2: River Crossing. File: Jan Dudeck
Greater Patagonian Trail Section 4: Near Laguna de Las Lajas where 45 soldiers died in 2005 during a snow storm. File: Jan Dudeck

Trail Condition

The Greater Patagonian trail is not an official trail that is set up and managed by a government agency. Is simply a compilation of horse trails, minor roads and some cross country sections over private properties and state owned land. This means that large parts of the route are not monitored or maintained by public authorities. Most of the horse trails were created by local herdsman to drive livestock to their pastures and other parts of the route are current or disused wood logging roads. Therefore the maintenance depends on the needs and initiative of these locals users.

Severe weather, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes can destroy or alter a route and if not maintained vegetation can completely close a trail within a few years in particular in the tempered rain forest. Therefore attention and good judgment are needed when hiking the Greater Patagonian Trail because some trail sections may become impassable or change. Check your GPS regularly but don’t follow blindly the GPS track.

Check also the recent feedback and updates to the trail shortly before starting your hike and during your adventure whenever you have the opportunity i.e. during the resupply stops. This table will be used to share updates provided by hikers. All hikers are encouraged to open an account on wikiexplora to enter updates to the trail in this table them self. In worst case you need to turn around and seek an alternative route. A GPS with sufficient backup power and a detailed electronic map is essential in such a situation.

River Crossings

River Crossings are possibly the greatest hazard on this route in particular if attempted during inappropriate times or at not suitable locations. Snowmelt or heavy rain can raise the water level substantially and make a rivers crossing impassable that during other times is easily forded. Also the bed of a river can change and a location that once was suitable for crossing can became too deep or rapid. Therefore do no rely on the GPS waypoint for river crossings but always judge the situation yourself before attempting to ford a river. You may seek an alternative location along the river or turn around and take an alternative route if a river crossing is hazardous.

Rivers should only be crossed with shoes and hiking poles for added stability. If hiking together cross the river in pairs with arms firmly joint together. If the ford is wide enough you may cross the river not perpendicular to the flow direction but inclined in the flow direction. Some even recommend to carry and use a rope for difficult river crossings.

Isolation

Some parts of the Greater Patagonian Trail cross rather isolated areas. In some areas you can walk for days without seeing another human being. Therefore be prepared to help yourself in case of an accident. Always carry a sufficient first aid set.

If you are unable to continue it might take weeks or more for someone else to pass and mobile phone coverage is very limited along the trail. Therefore a satellite based emergency communication devise may contribute to your survival. SPOT offers a light weight emergency beacon that when pushing an emergency button submits a distress signal via satellite with your GPS position to a rescue centre. For further information see the recommended Satellite Tracker.

Weather

Storms with heavy rain may arise on all parts of the trail anytime and in elevated areas heavy snowfall may occur even in midsummer. Therefore be always prepared and equipped for sudden weather changes.

In bad or instable weather do not climb a pass or venture into exposed terrain above the tree line. Rather wait or return and seek shelter if the weather changes in a concerning manner. Carry at least a poncho to protect yourself and your backpack if rain or snow closes in. In instable weather keep your eyes open and memorize potential protected camp sites and puestos if you are forced to turn around to seek shelter. Selected suitable locations are documented with waypoints in the KMZ file for trekking.

While hiking we were told about several incidents along the trail where local inhabitants and outside tourists got lost, disappeared without trace or froze to death in bad weather. Don’t add another story!

Sun

Don’t undermine the sun, in particular when crossing large snow fields or large camps of bright volcanic ash. A proper head cover, sun cream and sun glasses are essential to prevent sun-burns and snow-blindness. Don’t just carry this stuff but use it preventively.

Snow-blindness can disable you for a few days if you did not wear sun glasses while crossing large snow fields in bright sunlight. The effect of snow-blindness are normally not felt until several hours after exposure when the symptoms (pain, intense tears, eyelid twitching, discomfort) become evident. See also the wikipedia article to Photokeratitis.

Heat

to be issued.

Volcanic Eruptions

The Greater Patagonian Trail snakes through the Southern Volcanic Zone and passes and crosses numerous volcanos. The trail is therefore plastered with signs of volcanic activities. Hot springs and beautiful mountain lakes that were dammed up by lava flows are the "sunny side" of these volcanic activities; widespread devastating destruction is the other. Several major eruptions occurred in the vicinity of the trail in recent years and parts of the trail were temporarily closed due to increased volcanic activities.

Therefore hikers should be aware how to act in case of a volcanic eruption:

  • Respect the volcano alerts and do not venture into areas that were closed by local authorities.
  • Some volcanos show an increased seismic activity shortly before an eruption therefore series of smaller earthquakes may announce an imminent eruption. If you are close to a volcano get ready to run!
  • Know your possible escape routes in case of a surprising eruption. Be aware that small streams and rivers that origin at the flanks of a volcano often rise immediately and become instantly impassable during an eruption. Therefore seek higher ground if you are next to such a swelling river.
  • In case of an eruption get distance between you and the volcano. If you have more than one option try to get out of the ash rain. Consider that the predominant wind direction is from west to east.
  • Try to get to a settlement since local authorities will do their best to evacuate the affected population.

Earthquakes

Two of the ten heaviest earthquakes in the 20th and 21st century had their epicentre near the Greater Patagonian Trail. The 1960 Valdivia earthquake had a magnitude of 9.5 and the 2010 Bio-Bio earthquake had magnitude of 8.8. In the first 15 years of this century more than 300 earthquakes with a magnitude of 5.0 or more occurred in the area of the trail. Therefore don't be too surprised if the ground below you starts to move. (Data retrieved from USGS for the area from -35°S to -45°S and -75°W to -70°W, the large majority are aftershocks of the major Bio-Bio earthquake in 2010)

An earthquake may lose rocks, trigger landslides and cause tsunamis. Therefore be cautious when selecting your place to camp. Avoid pitching your tent in areas where scree and rubble indicates a hazard zone below rocks and cliffs. If you get hit by an earthquake while walking look up to check the area above you for liberated material that comes towards you and seek shelter. If a heavy earthquake occurs while walking or camping next to a fjord or a lake get on higher ground in case of a tsunami. Be aware that a landslide into a lake may cause a tsunami on a lake shore.

Wild Animals

There are no bears in South America. This makes hiking more relaxed if compared with North America. You can cook at your tent and store all you food in your tent without fearing a visit of a hungry bear.

The largest living predator in Patagonia (apart from humans) is the Puma, also called Cougar or Mountain Lion. They normally hide and avoid contact with humans. Wikipedia states: “Attacks on humans are very rare, as cougar prey recognition is a learned behaviour and they do not generally recognize humans as prey. (…) As with many predators, a cougar may attack if cornered, if a fleeing human stimulates their instinct to chase, or if a person "plays dead". Standing still however may cause the cougar to consider a person easy prey. Exaggerating the threat to the animal through intense eye contact, loud but calm shouting, and any other action to appear larger and more menacing, may make the animal retreat. Fighting back with sticks and rocks, or even bare hands, is often effective in persuading an attacking cougar to disengage.”.

For more information see: Cougar attacks on humans on wikipedia.

Wild boar: Are other potentially dangerous animals. They were introduced by humans and became an invasive species. These omnivores range in particular the Araucania and love Araucaria "piñones". Wikipedia states: “Although wild boars do not generally pose a threat to people, they occasionally attack humans. (…) Male boars become most aggressive during the mating season and may charge at humans at such times. Occasionally, female boars will attack if they feel their piglets are threatened, especially if a human physically comes between them and their young. Although a majority of boar attack victims recover with medical treatment, fatalities do occasionally occur.”

For more information see: Wild boar aggression towards humans on wikipedia.

Chilla or Grey Fox. File: Meylin Ubilla

Fox: The Chilla or Grey Fox populates the southern cone of South America and can be found on both sides of the Andes in Chile and Argentina. Their diet is varied and includes small and medium mammals, carrion, birds, reptiles and fruits. They sometimes attack small livestock in particular young goats and sheep but there are no records of attacks on humans. Foxes do not always show fear of humans and sometimes approach camp sites at night in search of food. Therefore do not leave any food outside of your tent but also not your smelly boots. In one camp site a fellow hiker missed one of his shoes in the morning. The park ranger later told us that this was not the first time that a fox has stolen a stinking shoe because foxes find intensive smell attractive.

Domesticated Animals

Dogs: Most settlers and herdsmen have several dogs to protect their home and their animal. They often show an aggressive behaviour when approaching a home or a puesto but calm down when the owner shows up and talks with you. Therefore keep distance to the dogs as long as the owner is not in sight. Many settler and herdsmen discipline theirs dogs by throwing stones after them. Therefore collecting stones and get ready to throw them keeps dogs often in distance.

Cattle: Cattle are normally rather peaceful but bulls and cows with calves may become aggressive and attack if they feel threatened. Therefore keep distance and do not try to pet them.

Insects

Horse-Flyes or Tabanos will form an annoying aerial escort on some parts of the trail. They are abundant in December and January in humid parts of the River- and Lake District. These rather noisy flyers get attracted by dark moving objects in bright sunlight. So avoid dark cloth and do not try to chase them off with rapid movements, otherwise your will attract the attention of more of them. They inflict painful bites but do not leave an itching stitch.

Cenchrus plant. File: Jan Dudeck
Cenchrus plant. File: Jan Dudeck

Spine and Bur-Bearing Plants

Along the entire trail you will encounter again and again anoying Cenchrus plants with spine-covered seeds, that use bypassing animals to spread their seeds (and now also hikers). Common names include buffelgrass, sandburs and sand spur. When the seeds of these leg-high plants ripen then the very sharp spines harden and the seed easily detaches from the stem.

The ripe seeds stick to most fabrics and can penetrate deep into the skin therefore be very careful when removing these thorny tiny balls from your cloth with your fingers. You can minimize "your collection" by wearing trousers made of a hard dense fabric. I had several times a not visible broken off spin in a fingertip that resulted in a small wound that did not heal for days until I removed the spine by cutting into the skin and removing the remaining spine tip manually.

Other less bothersome but still anoying plants have bur-bearing seeds that stick to soft cloth like fleece but do not penetrate into the skin.

Deseases

The most dangerous animal for humans in Patagonia is a quite small one: the long-tailed pygmy rice rat (Oligoryzomys longicaudatus) and the long-haired grass mouse (Abrothrix longipilis). These two species are known to carry and transmit a particular aggressive strain of Hantaviruses with a mortality rate of 30% to 40%.

The typical incubation time is 1 to 3 weeks but also cases with 3 to 45 days between the suspected exposure and the disease outbreak have been reported. Early symptoms are similar to a flu and include fatigue, fever and muscle aches. Other possible symptoms are headaches, dizziness, chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal pain. Seek medical attention if you experience such symptoms.

Wikipedia states: “There is no known antiviral treatment, but natural recovery from the virus is possible with supportive treatment. Patients with suspected hantavirus are usually admitted to the hospital and given oxygen and mechanical ventilation support to help them breathe during the acute pulmonary stage. As the virus can be transmitted by rodent saliva, excretia, and bites, control of rats and mice in areas frequented by humans is key for disease prevention.”

For more information see: Hantavirus on wikipedia.

The main source of infection are inhaled aerosols of mice droppings. Therefore the recommended preventive measures are:

  • Avoid any contact with mice and mice dropping.
  • Do no use any shelters that are not well ventilated or where you can see any traces of mice.
  • Keep your food protect and away from mice in particular during the night. The same applies to your pots, dishes and waste to not attract mice.
  • Camp in clean, open area that do not provide hideouts for mice. Avoid shrubbery.
  • Use a tent with a closed floor and a fully concealed inner tent.
  • Drink only secure water and disinfect or boil it if necessary.
  • Do not eat wild fruits that may attract mice as well.


Critics and Concerns

To be issued.

Blogs about the GPT by Hikers and Packrafters

With this wikiexplora article I aim to provide a comprehensive introduction with a systematical description of the trail network. I intentionally try not to overload this wikiexplora article with my personal stories from the trail. This way of writing simply feels more appropriate to me when providing such a trail documentation to the general public. Given the length and the complexity of this trail network this is already an overwhelming task for me. Therefore I do not maintain an additional more personal travel blog.

My way of writing might remind in parts in a “technical operation manual” and if you sense it this way I can tell you why. I’m an Engineer by trade, I work as an inspector and I issues inspection reports on regular base. For this I need to carefully choose my words to be factual and precise, well descriptive but also legally sound. Lingual flowers are neither needed nor welcome in my inspection reports. And when numbers are available or when information can be structured into tables or charts than this is always preferred over a well phrased verbal description. I do not need to point out that these writing habits also shape this article.

Both, keeping personal stories mostly out of this trail description and maintaining the trail documentation more technical makes this article a bit pale. But for most hikers, including me, the personal experience of the land and the people is the main motive for going for such an endeavor. Therefore to get a better personal feel for this trail you should read as part of your preparation some blogs written by hikers that walked the GPT in recent years. In these blogs you find a much more personal account that shows the individual perception of the trail. These blogs often contain also a more detailed description of specific trail sections and supplement my more general introduction in an important way. Therefore, to get a better personal insight to the trail I happily refer to other hikers and their blogs and make them speak instead of me. Listening to other voices also illustrates how diverse the trail experience can be. Some blogs are also very useful to extract lessons learned by others to not start hiking with similar incorrect assumptions and repeat frustrating mistakes.


GPT13: Bethany and Lauren with the Pehuenche family of Olga and Geronimo near Icalma. Image: www.her-odyssey.org

Bethany Hughes and Lauren Reed

  • Hiked: Ushuaia to Uyuni (Bolivia) and still going ...
  • Hiked on the GPT: Northbound GPT39 to GPT01 (other routes instead of GPT26, GPT22 to GPT20)
  • Packrafting: No
  • Link: her-odyssey.org

Bethany and Lauren are on their way to traverse the length of the Americas by non-motorized means to connect stories of the land and its inhabitants. They started in December 2015 in Ushuaia on the southern tip of the continent and were the first to walk the entire length of the GPT. We got in touch before they commenced their endeavor and while they walked northbound I developed the trail southbound. This resulted in a very fertile exchange of ideas and routes. Bethany and Lauren “gound-truthed” and recorded several of the hiking sections of the GPT in central Patagonia based on my drafts. This was a very important support since I traveled with my wife primarily the packraft options in central Patagonia. The following year, around October 2016, they asked me for my advice how to continue their journey north which led me to develop the fife northern section of the GPT extending the trail all the way to Santiago. Independently from Gerald Klamer they investigated and recorded these fife sections in the Precordillera (GPT01 to GPT05).

I’m deeply grateful for their contributions. They did not only provide important GPS records to get the tracks updated. Both were essential to get the message to prospective hikers right on how to approach this trail. Bethany and Lauren continue to support me in updating this wikiexplora article. I strongly recommend to read first Bethany's general advise to the GPT: Blog: so-you-wanna-hike-the-GPT. In addition you should read the blogs of Bethany and Lauren to the sections that you are planning to walk. Just browse their blogs to find what is relevant for you: Blog of her-odyssey.org


GPT05: Gerald Klamer investigating and recording the route around Laguna del Maule. Image: Gerald Klamer

Gerald Klamer

Gerald is a highly experienced hiker who walked in many remote areas around the world. He learned about this trail though a common friend (Christine Thürmer, the German author of the book “Laufen, Essen, Schlafen”). When we got in touch I told him about the newly drafted but unverified fife northern sections (GPT01 to GPT05). He loved the idea to be the first to investigate and record them and so he did! When he reached the already verified part of the GPT he did not continue on the “path of least resistance” by following the already well documented regular route but instead he kept investigating and recording the more remote and mountainous options that I drafted mainly based on satellite images and descriptions from local arrieros. He liked it so much that he now prepares the continuation of his hike on the GPT in the coming season.

He hikes without making a self-promotion-show out of it and this is a pleasant contrast to some others (that I’m not citing here!). His careful and humble attitude is key to appreciate the GPT. If you plan to walk the northern sections then I highly recommend reading his blog. He provides a very detailed account of the route and Gerald’s blog tells you in a personal and exemplary way what to expect when walking the GPT.


GPT23: Piia and Oliver after a tough bush bashing part towards the end of their trip. Image: Oliver Barker

Piia Kortsalo and Oliver Barker

  • Hiked on the GPT: Southbound all sections from GPT06 to GPT22
  • Packrafting: No
  • Link: nothingtwowrite.com

Piia and Oliver, a Finnish-Canadian couple, walked sections GPT06 to GPT22 in about two month. Like Gerald Klamer they maximized their time on the trail by minimizing resupply stops, a strategy that we also apply and suggest. Combining several sections into longer legs is beneficial where you do not have a village with a shop at the section end but where you need to take a bus to a town far off the trail. Such a resupply bus trip can easily cost you two or three days until you are back on the trail. To efficiently cover longer multi-section legs Piia and Oliver paid a great deal of attention to gear weight and function. They applied a lot of the ultra-light principals but not so much to go fast but to get far. They normally got food for about 10 days each time they resupplied and then walked as far as feasible.I’m impressed how they moved on even when they got in overgrown terrain and how they managed the sometimes unpredictable nature of the GPT. Where others turned around they just kept going but in a respectful and humble manner; a key attitude on the GPT.


Robyn, Aljoscha and Anthony. Image: Garrett Martin

Garrett, Robyn, Aljoscha and Anthony

  • Hiked on the GPT: GPT06 (partly), GPT07, GPT10-GPT12, GPT17, GPT18 (partly), GPT19, GPT22 (partly)
  • Packrafting: Yes
  • Link: unboundedthefilm.com

Garrett Martin, together with three other hikers came with the intention to create a documentary along the trail. Badly overloaded with camera gear, recording equipment and packrafts they started on section GPT06 but did not make it very far. But in contrast to others that started with similar intentions they did not give up but learned their lessons and adapted slowly to the trail. They downscaled but did not scrap their plans and picked the most attractive sections along the northern half of the GPT. In this way they still record several of the highlights of the GPT and took the time to meet the people along the trail. I have not seen yet the documentary but I’m looking forward to watch their work.There is one lesson that I learned from Garrett (and also others that are not cited here). If someone intents to make a documentary or film along the trail then I will strongly recommend to first come one season without much camera gear to simply get to know the trail, the region and in particular the people. Be a silent observer first before speaking up to others!


Terms and Conditions for Using the Hiker’s Manual and the Trail Files

I provide this Hiker’s Manual and the Trail Files free of charge but this does not mean that you can do with it what you want. This is proprietary and copyright protected material and comes with conditions. In order to download and use this material you must read and agree with these conditions.

Use At Your Own Risk

Condition 1: The author does not make any warranties about the completeness, reliability and accuracy of this document and the related trail files. Any action taken upon this information is strictly at your own risk. By using this documentation you agree that the author is not liable for any injuries, losses and damages in connection with the use of this information.

Comment: While investigating and hiking the Greater Patagonian Trail we learned about numerous people that died in bad weather or accidents on these trails or that simply disappeared without a trace; arrieros, indigenous people, settlers, tourists, soldiers. Some of these death are remembered with memorial stones or plaque that an attentive hiker can see along the trail. Of other death only memories are left and locals tell visitors to warn them. So this trail network does not only provide unforgettable memories; this trail also takes lives.

The tragedy of Antuco is one example. In 2005 a company of about 400 soldiers were ordered to march 20 km along a gravel road of section GPT09; 45 soldiers never made it to the finish and died in a snow storm. When walking this road on a sunny day it appears hardly conceivable that at the very same spot someone froze to death but the memorials witness it.

Just a few kilometers up the same road is the “Piedra del Indio”. When asking locals about the origin of this name we were told that some years ago two Pehuenche families were surprised by bad weather and seeked some protection at this boulder. Later they were found death. During our recent investigation of GPT32 in the area of Lago Caro we were surprised by a search team. A local settler feel in a river while trying to get to his home on horseback. When we left the area the body was not found yet.

Before crossing Cordon Caulle on section GPT19 settler told us about a girl that some years ago disappeared without a trace. The Cordon Caulle is a vast open volcanic field next to the volcano Puyehue that you can be roomed freely. But this plateau is surrounded by extremely dense Valdivian rain forest. Crossing this forest without a trail is an extremely demanding ordeal and you barely advance a few hundred meters per hour. It is assumed that this hiker got disoriented while trying to walk back down but did not found the trail head into forest. Stacked in this engulfing forest a disabling accident is enough to be never seen again.

So fatal accident are not just a hypothetical hazards on these trails; they happen more frequently than you might assume. Therefore I outlined in chapter 3.16 on page 82 numerous hazards and risks that hikers of the GPT are exposed to. This listing is not exhaustive and the recommendations suggested to reduce the risk are not complete nor always applicable.

Condition can deteriorate quickly and the fact that a route was hiked or paddled safely in the past does not mean that this is save in the future. Each hiker must constantly assess conditions himself and must not on rely on this this documentation or the trail files for his safety.

Respect the Copyright

Condition 2: You may view, copy, edit and print this document and the related trail files for personal non-commercial use only. You must not republish this document and the related trail files neither in parts nor completely. Both, non-commercial and commercial republications are not permitted without prior written consent by the author and copyright owner.

Comment: You are very welcome to share and publish your experience of this trail. When you do so, please refer to the wikiexplora article and this documentation in your personal publication.

What is not permitted is republishing this manual and the trail files. I have published these documents for personal use only and not for redistribution. For most readers this is obvious but unfortunately not for all. This manual and the trail files is proprietary material and the copyright remains with the author.

With this condition I want to prevent that outdated versions remain in circulation and that this material is published in an inappropriate context. A republication i.e. of the trail files without sufficiently emphasizing the Code of Conduct and Best Practices jeopardizes the protection and preservation of this region and endangers the currently generally positive relationship between the residents along this trail and hiking guests.

Non-Commercial Use Only

Condition 3: This document and the related trail files are made available for personal non-commercial use only. Any commercial use requires a prior written authorization by the author and copyright owner. The following are examples of a commercial use that require such a prior written consent:

  • Fundraising while using the name “Greater Patagonian Trail”
  • Using this document and the related trail files to create maps for sale or to organize guided commercial tours and for-profit expeditions

Comment: I’m creating and publishing this document and the related trail files to be used by respectful hikers to appreciate this region in a sustainable manner and to contribute to the protection and preservation of this land.

At the same time I’m concerned that this publication may contribute to destruction, both ecological and socially. Especially in this early stage of the development of this trail even an occasional inappropriate behavior by an individual hiker can cause lasting damage. It can upset land owner and cause distrust with settlers who may deny the right of way to future hikers.

Therefore I support only a cautious publication of this trail that stresses the fragility of this region and clearly outlines the Code of Conduct and Best Practices for this trail. To not get into a conflict of interests myself I decided to publish this material free of charge and not pursue a commercial use, neither by selling this book and the trail files nor by fundraising. This choice frees me to not aim to maximal publicity but to also discourage potential hikers that might not visit this area with the appropriate attitude.

A commercial use including fundraising naturally aims for maximal publicity to make it a success. And aiming for maximal publicity contradicts normally with an appropriate presentation that highlights also the constrictions and limitations. I have observed this in the past therefore I became much more cautious in this respect.

Guided commercial tours and for-profit expeditions that cross private properties can quickly change the acceptance and the relationship with the land owners. Imagine a group of people crosses unasked a private property and the owner recognizes that someone is earning money with it. He will quickly try to get his share by demanding a “trail-toll” or if he is not interested in earning some extra cash may feel abused and may deny the right-of-way to all hikers in the future. Therefore such commercial tours must be particular sensible and selective in choosing the appropriate area and route for their endeavor.


If you believe you have a legitimate reason to commercially use this material or to fundraise with the name “Greater Patagonian Trail” than please contact me first. The above explanation shows that I’m not in principle against any commercial use but that this must be carefully done to not harm the land and the relationship between local population and the visitors. I actually support some people that fundraise while hiking the GPT because they are excellent contributors and promote a sustainable use of this trail network. Bethany and Lauren from www.her-odyssey.org are such mindful hikers that I admire and support.

You are of cause free to fundraise for your adventure in this region or to develop your commercial project without asking anybody. Chile and Argentina are free countries. But if you do so than don’t use this document and the trail files and don’t use the name “Greater Patagonian Trail” without the authors prior written consent.

Fair Use Notice

Condition 4: This document and the related trail files contain copyrighted material. The use of this material has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Such material is made available in the believe that this constitutes a “fair use” of any such copyrighted material. This document and the related trail files are distributed without profit.

Additional Remark to these Terms and Conditions

By publishing this trail network that partially leads over private properties I practically invited hikers to other people’s homes. Please understand that this is an immense responsibility that I want to live up to. Therefore I try what is in my power that this invitation does not get abused.

Also the recent development on other long distance trails in particular in the US is a warning. A growing number of people use these trails and some believe they have special privileges because they i.e. attempt a Thru-Hike. This attitude is annoying on a public trail. On an informal trail that relies on the consent of the local population such an attitude can be destructive.

From 2014 till the hiking season 2016/17 I published earlier versions of the trail description and the trail files on wikiexplora without explicitly making such conditions. I assumed that hikers that intend a long demanding walk will be respectful and considerate visitors and will use this material and the trail name appropriately. Most were respectful and considerate; a small number not. One seize the trail name for a hilarious self-display-page that ended with a blunt lie. Others lacked respect when interacting with the local population because they acted as this is a public trail. This experience makes me more careful now.

Of cause, by publishing this document and the trail files under the above conditions I can’t prevent inappropriate use. But it gives me as the author at least the possibility to denounce unauthorized and inappropriate use as such. I can i.e. inform sponsors and comment a fund¬raising campaign critically if it contradicts with the nature of this trail.

The GPT is a trail still in its infancy. His fate and future is in the hands of the hikers that walk it in the coming years.

Hiker's Manual for the GPT

After reading the quite detailed introcution "The Art of Walking on the GPT" you should have a better understanding of the Greater Patagonian Trail and in particular that the GPT is not a "normal trail". It should be clear by now why I write about "walking ON the GPT" and not "walking THE GPT" and that the colloquial frase "make the GPT" is completely inappropriate. In the introduction I aim to outline all relevant reasons why NOT to hike on the GPT and I hope that a good part of the readers came to the conclusion: "That's not the right trail for me!" or at least think: "Not now!". My intention is not to advertise the GPT but provide a candid description.

Therefore I did not keep the introduction as short as possible because I want to shake off readers that are not fit for this trail. If the attention span was too short to read to this passage than the GPT is certainly to long and incosistent. If a reader does not make it to the end of this introduction than he better don’t start with the GPT.

Should you still be reading and interested to hike on the GPT than the following will amaze you. In the recent months I started issuing the "Greater Patagonian Trail Hiker's Manual" for offline use that contains also this introduction but much, much more. This currently 500 page electronic manual or handbook facilitates a detailed preparation of a hike and makes relevant information available during a hike.

In the manual you find also detailed information to the GPS trail files that are absolutely essential to navigate on this complex and demanding trail network.

The Hiker's Manual is a PDF file optimized for reading on a computer screen or smart phone. The page size ratio is 16 to 9 like the screen on most smart phones and many computer screens. The PDF file is best reviewed in "full screen slide mode" (one page filling the entire screen, no scrolling but flipping entire pages).

You can download the currently still incomplete version of the Hikers Manual here: Hikers Manual on Dropbox

Facebook Group for GPT Hikers

A Facebook group was created for past, current and future GPT hikers. The objective of this group is sharing updates and providing feedbacks to the trail. Here you can request to join this Facebook group.

Zones of the GPT

See the GPT Hiker's Manual.

Sections of the GPT

See the GPT Hiker's Manual.

Tracks and Waypoints of the GPT

See the GPT Hiker's Manual.

Trail Files of the GPT for Google Earth and GPS

I plan to publish updated trail files in November 2017. I plan to provide:

  • KMZ file for review in Google Earth
  • IMG Files for handheld Garmin GPS devises (Digital maps)

In the Hiker's Manual you will find further instructions how to obtain these files. I will not publish a link in this wikiexplora article as only the Hiker's Manual provides the required information to understand and correctly use these files.

Status of the GPT per trail

Some of the parts of the GPT are already included in Wikiexplora as shorter and trails. In this table you can find them, with instruction regarding access and exit points.

Code Name Code Country Region/Province Planning Status of Regular Route Link to self-published route in Wikiexplora's website (probably in spanish)
GPT01 Cerro Purgatorio A Chile Region Metropolitano (V) Published and Verified
GPT02 Mina El Teniente A Chile Region Metropolitano (V) O'Higgins (VI) Published and Verified
GPT03 Ríos Claros A Chile Region O'Higgins (VI) Published and Verified
GPT04 Alto Huemul A Chile Region O'Higgins (VI) Maule (VII) Published and Verified Alto_Huemul
GPT05 Río Colorado B Chile Maule (VII) Published and Verified Travesía de los Volcanes
GPT06 Volcán Descabezado B Chile Maule (VII) Published and Verified Sendero del Cóndor extendido and Travesía de los Volcanes
GPT07 Laguna Dial B Chile Maule (VII) Bío Bío (VIII) Published and Verified
GPT08 Volcán Chillan B Chile Bío Bío (VIII) Published and Verified Río Ñuble and Cordillera de Polcura
GPT09 Volcán Antuco B Chile Bío Bío (VIII) Published and Verified Volcán Antuco - Trapa Trapa
GPT10 Laguna El Barco C Chile Bío Bío (VIII) Published and Verified
GPT11 Cerro Dedos C Chile Bío Bío (VIII) Araucanía (IX) Published and Verified
GPT12 Río Rahue C Chile Araucanía (IX) Published and Verified
GPT13 Laguna Icalma C Chile Araucanía (IX) Published and Verified
GPT14 Volcán Sollipulli C Chile Araucanía (IX) Published and Verified
GPT15 Curarrehue C Chile Araucanía (IX) Published and Verified
GPT16 Volcán Quetrupillan C Chile Araucanía (IX) Los Ríos (XIV) Published and Verified
GPT17H Liquiñe D Chile Los Ríos (XIV) Published and Verified
GPT17P Neltume D Chile Los Ríos (XIV) Published and Verified
GPT18 Lago Pirihueico D Chile Los Ríos (XIV) Published and Verified
GPT19 Volcán Puyehue D Chile Los Ríos (XIV) Los Lagos (X) Published and Verified
GPT20 Volcán Antillanca D Chile Los Lagos (X) Published and Verified
GPT21 Lago Todos Los Santos D Chile Los Lagos (X) Published and Verified
GPT22 Cochamó D Chile Argentina Los Lagos (X) Chubut Published and Verified
GPT23 PN Lago Puelo E Argentina Chubut Published and Verified
GPT24H PN Los Alerces Tierra E Argentina Chubut Published and Verified
GPT24P PN Los Alerces Agua E Argentina Chubut Published and Verified
GPT25H Aldea Escolar E Argentina Chubut Published and Verified
GPT25P Lago Amutui Quimei E Argentina Chubut Published and Verified To be Recorded by GPS BY EXPERTS ONLY
GPT26 Carrenleufú E Argentina Chile Chubut Los Lagos (X) Published and Verified
GPT27H Lago Palena F Chile Los Lagos (X) Aysén (XI) Published and Verified To be Recorded by GPS
GPT27P Alto Río Palena F Chile Los Lagos (X) Aysén (XI) Published and Verified
GPT28H La Tapera G Chile Aysén (XI) Published and Verified
GPT28P Bajo Río Palena F Chile Aysén (XI) Published and Verified
GPT29H Rio Cisnes G Chile Aysén (XI) Published and Verified
GPT29P Valle Picacho G Chile Aysén (XI) Published and Verified
GPT30H Coyhaique G Chile Aysén (XI) Published and Verified Travesia Correntoso - El Rosado
GPT30P Canal Puyuhuapi F Chile Aysén (XI) Published and Verified
GPT31H Valle Simpson G Chile Aysén (XI) Published and Verified
GPT31P Lagos de Aysen G Chile Aysén (XI) Published and Verified
GPT32 Cerro Castillo H Chile Aysén (XI) Published and Verified Trekking Cerro Castillo
GPT33H Puerto Ibañez H Chile Aysén (XI) Published and Verified
GPT33P Río Ibañez H Chile Aysén (XI) Published and Verified
GPT34 Lago General Carrera H Chile Aysén (XI) Published and Verified
GPT35 RN Lago Jenimeni H Chile (Argentina) Aysén (XI) Published and Verified Valle del Avilés, PN Patagonia
GPT36H Ruta De Los Pioneros H Chile (Argentina) Aysén (XI) Published and Verified Ruta de los Pioneros
GPT36P Río Baker H Chile Aysén (XI) To be Planned To be Verified BY EXPERTS ONLY
GPT37H Lago O'Higgins I Chile Aysén (XI) Published and Verified
GPT37P Penunsila La Florida I Chile Aysén (XI) To be Planned To be Verified BY EXPERTS ONLY
GPT38 Glaciar Chico I Chile Argentina Aysén (XI) Rio Negro Published and Verified
GPT39 Monte Fitz Roy I Argentina Rio Negro Published and Verified
GPT40 Glaciar Viedma I Argentina Rio Negro Published and Verified
GPT41 Lago Viedma J Argentina Rio Negro To be Planned
GPT42 Glaciar Upsala J Argentina Rio Negro To be Planned
GPT43 Lago Argentina J Argentina Rio Negro To be Planned
GPT44 Peninsula Perito Moreno J Argentina Rio Negro To be Planned
GPT45 Torres Del Paine J Chile Magellanes (XII) To be Planned
GPT46 Seno Ultima Esperanza J Chile Magellanes (XII) To be Planned
GPT47 Seno Skyring K Chile Magellanes (XII) To be Planned
GPT48 Seno Otway K Chile Magellanes (XII) To be Planned
GPT49 Penunsila Brunswick K Chile Magellanes (XII) To be Planned
GPT50 Cabo Forward K Chile Magellanes (XII) To be Planned
GPT60 Estrecho de Magellanes L Chile Magellanes (XII) In Consideration (Exploration)
GPT60+X Tierra del Fuego L Chile Argentina Magellanes (XII) Rio Negro In Consideration (Exploration)
GPT60+Y Canal Beagle L Argentina Chile Rio Negro Magellanes (XII) In Consideration (Exploration)
GPT60+Z Isla Navarino L Chile Magellanes (XII) In Consideration (Exploration)
GPT70P Alto Rio Futaleufú M Argentina Chile Chubut Los Lagos (X) Published To be Verified
GPT71P Espolón M Chile Los Lagos (X) Published To be Verified
GPT72P Bajo Rio Futaleufú M Chile Los Lagos (X) Published To be Verified
GPT73P Lago Yelcho M Chile Los Lagos (X) Published To be Verified BY EXPERTS ONLY
GPT74P Río Yelcho M Chile Los Lagos (X) Published To be Verified
GPT75P Río Frio M Chile Los Lagos (X) Published and Verified To be Recorded by GPS
GPT76P Chaitén N Chile Los Lagos (X) Published To be Verified BY EXPERTS ONLY
GPT77P Hornopirén N Chile Los Lagos (X) Published To be Verified BY EXPERTS ONLY
GPT78P Lago Pinto Concha N Chile Los Lagos (X) Published To be Verified BY EXPERTS ONLY
GPT80P+X Zona Campo de Hielo Norte Sector Monte O Chile Aysén (XI) In Consideration (Exploration)
GPT90P+X Zona Campo de Hielo Norte Sector Mar P Chile Aysén (XI) In Consideration (Exploration)
HA01+X Zona Huella Andina Q Argentina Neuquen, Rio Negro, Chubut Published and Verified but currently unmaintained by Argentine government. Additional connections with GPT to be planned. Huella Andina

Appendix

Lauren "Neon" Reed comparing the GPT with the US Long Distance Trails (CDT, PCT, AT)

Lauren "Neon" Reed thru-hiked the AT (2008), the PCT (2010) and the CDT (2013). She also thru-hiked the Colorado Trail (2012) and made many unmapped cross-country hikes in the wilderness of Utah before she thru-hiked the GPT in two seasons (2015 to 2017). This makes Lauren the best person to compare the GPT with the famous US long distance trails. She writes:

"Having thru-hiked about 8,000 miles​ in the US​ before beginning our trek across South America, I would still find myself in over my head at times​ along the Greater Patagonia Trail. This included terrain as well as​ culture. The places I've been along the GPT, as a generality, seem more remote than most distance trails I've experienced in the US- think central/northern Montana along the CDT, minus the bears and plus a few more passes. As you walk along the GPT, you will go through many diverse ecosystems, as opposed to desert/mountains which you experience on many trails in the US. The GPT takes you from the glaciated southern ice field of Chile up through pine trees, lush dense deciduous forest, alti-planos, valleys teeming with animals wild and farmed, along/through rivers and lakes (also wild and farmed), volcanoes, to the more arid environments south of Santiago, as well as a few border crossings into Argentina. It is by far the hardest trail I have done due to remoteness as well as terrain- yes, there are times you follow valleys, there are also times along this trail where you will go up, across and down 1,000 meter passes each day (sometimes multiple times in a day), following overgrown horse and animal paths. There are no trail markers or blazes, sometimes there isn't even a 'trail'- just a cross-country route. Do not expect anyone to know what you are doing or why you just walked down their driveway/out of their shrub/over their fence/through their gate (which you closed behind you, right?)

This trail definitely has easier sections, but I cannot remember a day where I didn't look at my compass and/or GPS along the entirety of the GPT. Because of the options we were given and Jan requesting us to investigate some options he had yet to check out personally, I began calling certain sections "Choose your own Adventure", meaning go whichever way you want, as long as you're near the route labeled as the GPT on your GPS. We also tried to not do anything stupid, though there were times I nearly was swept away trying to cross a strong-flowing river or nearly slid down a steep scree field along the GPT. This is not a trail for someone who doesn't know how to use a GPS or Compass. This is not a trail for someone who doesn't know how to properly read a river to know where the best place to cross is. This is not a trail for anyone who doesn't at least have a basic understanding of topography as well as map and compass skills. Jan has a great route mapped so you can download it onto a GPS, but when you come across an area that's swept away by last years snowmelt or on fire, do you have a plan or any idea what to do? What if you're not paying attention to your battery life and your GPS dies? Don't go up shit creek without a paddle, as the saying goes.

There won't always be what you may want in town to eat or even a place to stay with hot water. Knowing at least basic Spanish language skills is a must if you want to feel connected or informed in any of the areas you go through. Any effort of understanding the culture and land goes a long way. Thankfully, I have a basic understanding which has grown over our trek and my hiking partner is fluent in cultural sensitivities as well as the Spanish language. ​As Jan states, you are an uninvited guest on others' land at times- tread respectfully and carefully- Most of the time, they will respond in kind."

Return to: An Advise for Thru-Hikers.

Remark to the Limits of Patagonia

There is no doubt that Patagonia is part of the Southern Cone but opinions deviate where it exactly starts and ends. The northern limit of Patagonia on the Chilean side can be seen as south as the Estuarió de Reloncaví (latitude 41° 30’ South) or as north as the river Río Biobío (about latitude 37° South if taking the mouth at Concepcion as reference). That’s a difference of about 500 km. On the Argentine side the understanding of the limits can be equally different. Some take the Río Negro with the tributary Río Limay as the northern limit (about latitude 39° South) others the Río Barrancas and the Río Colorado (Latitude 36° South). Also the southern limit is fuzzy. Some consider Tierra del Fuego as part of Patagonia others not.

If you try to align Patagonia with the current administrative divisions of Chile and Argentina than the following provinces (Argentina) and regions (Chile) are typically considered to be Patagonia:

In Argentina:

  • Neuquén
  • Río Negro
  • Chubut
  • Santa Cruz
  • Tierra del Fuego

In Chile:

  • XIV. Region (Región de los Ríos with the provinces Valdivia and Ranco)
  • X. Region (Región de los Lagos with the provinces Chiloé, Llanquihue, Osorno and Palena)
  • XI. Region (Región de Aysén del General Carlos Ibáñez del Campo with the provinces Aisén, Capitán Prat, Coihaique and General Carrera)
  • XII. Region (Región de Magallanes y de la Antártica Chilena with the provinces Magallanes, Tierra del Fuego, Última Esperanza and Antártica Chilena)

For more information to this subject read the Spanish Wikipedia article to Patagonia.

Remark to "Before you depart: Be careful doing this ..."

If you expect me to name this person or to place a link to the mentioned web page then you misjudged my intention. I do not want to publicly denounce this person but I want to share an important lesson learned with future hikers that can benefit from this experience.

After an displeasing exchange of emails he actually started to exchange names to stop the inappropriate use of the trail name. Therefore you can refrain from googling this person and simply learn from this "case study" as described here.

Remark to Best Practices and Hiking Recommendations

It is standard to whistle as you approach a remote homestead, this alerts both humans and animals that someone is passing and can avoid a great deal of unpleasantness. You will encounter a large number of loose animals along some of the sections. Regarding livestock, always leave a gate as you found it. Be sure to note how the gates are held as some of the techniques are unique. Never cut a fence line. Around towns, be prepared to encounter and often peaceably followed by loose dogs. Some are pets, others are ferrel.

If you are charged by a dog or a pack of dogs, a phrase they commonly recognize is if you shout “vete pa ya” (go over there) or stoop down and pick up (or even just simulate picking up) a rock and they usually turn tail. The action of lowering your face to a charging dog’s level is counter intuitive but can spare you some nasty scars or a scare. In extreme situations (such as if the dogs you encounter are herding dogs who will continue to pursue and nip at your ankles), you may have to actually throw a rock at them.

One must also consider the rhythm of Patagonia in neither rushed nor focused on efficiency. One significant way hikers will encounter this is with siesta, strictly observed in almost every small and many of the larger towns throughout the region. Businesses close (roughly) between 1-4 pm, though even those hours are subject to whim. Shops rarely have posted hours and even if they do, these are not observed. You may note on some a small white buzzer which you must press to call attention. Do not be shy in these circumstances, ring the bell and be prepared to wait patiently. If you bustle in brusquely, expect for services to be rendered even more slowly.

For profit buses, like businesses, operate at their leisure. If there is a schedule posted online, it is often inaccurate or incomplete. For bus schedules, ask at the kiosks or other local shops. Do not expect bus stops to have signs posted. Here again, communicating with locals will play an integral role to your experience and that will be defined by how you approach and treat them.

(...) For these reasons it is advisable to carry at least an extra day worth of food on many sections of the GPT.

Trail Planning Sources and Contributors

Section
Number
Contributor Contribution
GPT01 Cristian from Vilches Alto Christian a friend of Eladio Gajardo was our horseback guide in February 2011 and he took us by horse from Vilches Alto to the Basecamp Descabezado Grande, on to the Termas de Azufre and via El Bolson back to Vilches Alto. We later reviewed this tour in Google Earth and noticed that most of the trail is clearly visible on the satellite images. This impressive horseback tour was the main motive to incorporate this area into the GPT. For horseback tours with Eladio Gajardo or Cristian try calling +56-9-78433122 or +56-9-93418064.
Google Earth, Bing Maps I discovered in Google Earth and Bing Maps the trail from the Basecamp Descabezado to the Laguna Caracol and the volcano and lake Hornitos. With this southbound connection we could integrate this mind-blowing area in the GPT.
Manuel Hevia The Panoramio images of Manuel Hevia confirmed that a trail from the volcano and lake Hornitos to the Hydro Power Station Cipreces exists and is accessible.
Franz Schubert and Malte Sieber The authors of "Adventure Handbook Central Chile" describe several hikes in the Descabezado region. This book was good secondary source.
trekkingchile.com The trekking map "Condor Cicuit" issued by trekkingchile.com was very useful second source. This map indicates an alternative more direct trail from the basecamp Descabezado to the volcano and lake Hornitos but we opted for the slightly longer route around the Laguna Caracol because this route seams more attractive and more convinient for camping.
GPT02 Danilo Contreras Sepulveda Danilo and his freelance collaborator "Gito" were our horseback guides for several amazing week-long trips in and around the valley Melado, Laguna del Maule and Achibueno. This tours helped us to define the route along the river Melado to the Laguna Dial. For horseback tours with Danilo write to info@cabalgatas-contreras.com or call +56-9-9313 3504 or +56-9-73917717.
Locals from Pichirincon In 2011 my girlfriend and I planned to do the hike to the Laguna las Truchas that is recommended in the "Adventure Handbook Central Chile". But before we set out we were told by locals that the landlord does not let pass any backpackers. The locals recommended a different trail to the Laguna Dial which we found by following the mostly well-visible horse trails along the river Gonzalez. This hike teached us that in most valleys are horse trails even if maps do not show these tracks and helped us to define the trail from the Laguna Dial to the end of section 2.
Google Earth, Bing Maps The trail around the southern side of the Laguna Dial is partly visible in Google Earth and Bing Maps and was essential to plan this part the route.
GPT02-03 "Don Choi" Floridor Sandoval On our hike to the Laguna Dial we met Don Choi with a group on horseback. With his advise we found later the alternative route to the Laguna Las Truchas comming from the north via "Las Tragedias" and "Palo Seco".
GPT03 Juan Pablo Ortega Juan Pablo Ortega published on wikiexplora the rather hidden trail from from El Roble to the volcano Chillan along the rivers Ñuble, Estero El Quebrado and Las Minas. This track was very useful to find well-hikable route through the rather dense forest in this area.
trekkingchile.com The trekking map "Nevados de Chillán" issued by trekkingchile.com shows the trail from the hot spings at the volcano Chillan via Coihuería to the hot spings Los Peucos. Before findings this trail on this map I considered a challanging cross-country traverse to the river Polcura because I could not find any suitable trail on the Google Earth satellite images due to the dense forest.
Google Earth, Bing Maps Google Earth and Bing Maps was very helpful to plan the trail from the river Polcura to the northern end of the Laguna de Las Lajas and over the ridge to the hydro power station El Toro. On the satellite images the "bad weather escape route" well visible. This gave use a save and easy exit from the wether exposed ridge while a snow storm closed in.
GPT04 Pablo Azua Garcia Pablo Azua Garcia published on trekking.com a route from the "Piedra del Indio" to Trapa Trapa. This verbral description provided a useful hint to search this trail on the satellite images of Google Earth were most of the track can be seen quite well.
Google Earth, Bing Maps Most of this section was planned using Google Earth and Bing Maps. The trails and minor roads are generally well visible on satellite images and the few not visible parts were easy to find when hiking this trail.
Lonely Planet The trekking guide book "Trekking in the Patagonian Andes" describes the trail around the volcano Antuco. The entire cicuit is incorporated into the GPT either a regular or optional route. We hiked this route in 2007.
GPT05 Juan Francisco Bustos The Panoramio images of of Juan Francisco Bustos indicate a trail in the valley Cochico. This images together with bits and pieces of trails visible on satellite images in Google Earth helped us to find a good traverse from Trapa Trapa to Laguna del Barco.
Google Earth, Bing Maps A good part of this section was planned using Google Earth and Bing Maps. The trails and minor roads are partly visible on satellite images. The not visible parts were searched when hiking this trail.
GPT06 Google Earth, Bing Maps Most of this section was planned using Google Earth and Bing Maps. The satellite images show parts of a trail in a rather hidden and rarely visited valley next to the border with argentina.
Don Gregorio Alegria In February 2012 we made a one day horseback tour with Don Gregorio from Ranquil to the hot spring Pelehue. These hot springs are located high up on the mountain Moncol and offer an impressive view to the volcano Lonquimay. The trail we took at this time on horseback is now part of the GPT.
GPT07 Google Earth, Bing Maps Two years before planning the GPT I "dicovered" the valley Polul in Google Earth and we did one of our first hikes without a trekking map to this valley and lake Marinanqui relying solely on satellite images. It was an wounderful hike and a crucial experience to start with the planning of a long distance trail though the Patagonian Andes. Trails are also visible on and Bing Maps.
Mono Andes The panoramio images of Mono Andes indicate a possible traverse over the Meseta de Malonehue which we incorporated into the GPT.
GPT08 Luis Toro A wikiloc track published by Luis Toro shows a hiking and horse trail that avoids walking on the main road. This route is now incorporated as an hiking option and will probably alter the regular route once this track is confirmed by another hiker.
Google Earth, Bing Maps Most of this section was planned using Google Earth and Bing Maps. The trails and minor roads are generally well visible on satellite images.
GPT09 Andes Mountain Expediciones A wikiloc track published by Andes Mountain Expediciones shows the rather hidden trail via the Laguna Hualalafquén.
Google Earth, Bing Maps Most of this section was planned using Google Earth and Bing Maps. The trails and minor roads are generally well visible on satellite images.
GPT10 Lonely Planet The trekking guide book "Trekking in the Patagonian Andes" describes the Villarica Traverse. A part of this route is incorporated into the GPT. I hiked this route in 2003.
Fundo Huililco The Fundo Huililco is located on a potentially more attractive route that leads directly from Currarehue to the Laguna Blanca on the base of the volcano Quetrupillan. The owners of the Fundo Huililco permit hikers to pass as long they do not leave trash.
Locals from Huichahue When searching for an alternative route from the Laguna Azul to Liquiñe a local resident mentioned a direct trail but unfortunately describes the route incorrectly. After a long detour we finally found the trail which makes now a much nicer and shorter connections and avoids the main road from the Termas del Rincon to Coñaripe.
GPT11H huilohuilo The wikiloc user huilohuilo published a series of tracks that provide a suitable connection from the Liquiñe to Puerto Fuy.
GPT11P Google Earth, Bing Maps The regular packrafting route of section 11 was planned entirely with Google Earth and Bing Maps. The river Cuacuá from Reyehueico to the lake Neltume appers calm and easy navigable on the satellite images which could be confirmed when floating down this river.
GPT12 Gabriel González The images published by Gabriel González on panoramio indicate a possible trail along the river Curringue that is partly hidden by the dense forest on the satellite images. These panoramio pictures convinced me to attempt this route along the river Curringue and not at the river Río Blanco further west.
Google Earth, Bing Maps The forest roads visible on Google Earth and Bing Maps provided the rest of the route for this section.
GPT13 Lonely Planet The trekking guide book "Trekking in the Patagonian Andes" describes the Puyehue Traverse. A good part of this route is incorporated into the GPT. I hiked this route in 2003, 2007 and 2009 before the erruption of the Cordon Caulle which change landscape and consequently also the route. A part of the trail was destroyed by the erruption and is not passable any more.
Google Earth, Bing Maps When we did the first hike of the GPT in 2013/14 we took a quite demanding detour around the eatern side of the lava field. After reviewing our acutal GPS record I could draw a more suitable route around the western side of the fresh lava field that is similar impressive, contains less ascents and decents and gets hikers close to a hidden hot springs.
Pinot The wikiloc user Pinto published the GPS record of a horseback trip to a hidden hot spring on the Cordon Caulle about 7 km off the regular route. Before the erruption of the Cordon Caulle I visited 3 times other hot springs that are now covered by a 7 square kilometer large lava field.
GPT14 Eran When searching the trail from the volcano Antillanca to the lake Rupanco we got stack in inpassable forest. I took this trail 10 years earlier but it seems that that this route was given up and became overgrown. When reaching the nearby ski hotel Antillanca we were recommended a guide to show us the new trail that connects the open volcanic pleteau at the volcano Antillanca with the lake Rupanco. Eran came by horse to guide us to Las Gaviotas at eastern shore of the lake Rupanco.
GPT15 Lonely Planet The trekking guide book "Trekking in the Patagonian Andes" describes the trail to the Termas de Callao. This route is now incorporated into the GPT. I hiked this route in 2003.
Maricel Arias A wikiloc track from Maricel Arias shows the trail from the lake Cayetue which is not visible on satellite images.
GPT16 Municipalidad de Cochamo The municipal administration of Cochamo published a hiking map showing the horse trail that are used and maintained by the local population that lives in the remote back-country. We found this map during our hike in an accommodation and changed our preliminary route to incorporate additional lakes and trails. This change of plan turned out to be an excellent choice.
GPT17 Estefania Chereguini and Walter Oszust When I started to work on the southern extension of the GPT I struggled with finding a route from Lago Puelo to Lago Cholila. Due to the dense forest possible trails are well hidden and another hiker had to return half-way because he got stack in inpassable forest. It was Estefania Chereguini and Walter Oszust, the initiators and authors of the Huella Andina, who guided us most of the way. Due to a wild fire we could not walk the entire trail but the most challanging part of it. Thanks to Estefania and Walter the GPT could be extended further south avoiding long walks on roads with substantial transit traffic.
Google Earth, Bing Maps The regular packrafting route was planned with Google Earth and Bing Maps. The river Carrileufu from the Lago Cholila to the Lago Rivadavia appers calm and easy navigable on the satellite images which could be confirmed when floating down this river.
GPT18 Estefania Chereguini and Walter Oszust Estefania Chereguini and Walter Oszust initiated and developed the Huella Andina which is the recommended route for hikers in this section.
Google Earth, Bing Maps The regular packrafting route was planned with Google Earth and Bing Maps. The rivers that connect the Lago Rivadavia with Lago Verde Lago Futalaufquen appers mostly calm with a few smaller rapids. This could be confirmed when floating down this river.

Questions and Feedbacks

If you have questions that are not answered in this trail descriptions then you may send an email to the author of this article. Also your feedbacks are very welcome. Please report any changes or errors to correct the trail description and the trail file. Your GPS records are very helpful to update the not yet confirmed parts of the trail. If you have change and extension proposals please send the proposal ideally with a GPS record to the author. Alternative routes, that are more attractive for hiking will be included as a trail option or result in a change of the regular route.

Email of author: gpt.jan.dudeck@gmail.com

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