Time  2 days 4 hours 15 minutes

Coordinates 4721

Uploaded February 9, 2017

Recorded March 2014

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2,360 f
785 f
0
20
40
79.04 mi

Viewed 1087 times, downloaded 18 times

near El Chaltén, Santa Cruz (Argentina)

When some years ago I first studied this route, it seemed to be a pioneering endeavour. Now it seems to have become folklore in the so called "adventure-cycling" arena.
Actually, this crossing between El Chaltén and Villa O'Higgins allows to link the classical tours of southern Patagonia (Paine, Calafate, El Chaltén) to the Carretera Austral. To be honest, it does not involve that much of cycling, since most is done by pushing and by boat. Specifically, one can distinguish the following stretches:
1) unpaved road from El Chaltén to Lago del Desierto;
2) boat through all the whole Lago del Desierto;
3) pushing from the Lago to the Portezuelo;
4) cycling from the Portezuelo down to Candelario Mansilla;
5) boat from Candelario to Puerto Bahamondez;
6) unpaved but nearly perfect road from Bahamondez to Villa O'Higgins.

1) is straightforward, and may be very spectacular in a clear sun day. I had this while coming back from Piedra del Fraile, see for example my track Marconi - Pollone - Cuadrado.
2) marks the main difference with respect to what I had studied years ago. Namely, at the time one was expected to push on a bushy path throughout the whole side of the lake, an operation accounting for several demanding hours. Now the availability of a boat connection makes all very simple. The boat was cheap, I guess that with increasing popularity the prices will readily rise!
3) is perhaps the most peculiar stretch. Allow for it a whole afternoon, because with loaded bicycles it is hard work. The photos demonstrate well the nature of the terrain
4) is also scenic, you have the rare experience to cycle on a little airport - the little one of Laguna Redonda. Consider, however, that this is a rule in southern Chile, and you can do the same also in Caleta Tortel or similar isolated spots. You end up in Candelario Mansilla, a truly unique place, connected to civilization only by a boat running twice a week - this, at least, in summer. Here you find only the station of Carabineros and the house inhabited by Justa Mansilla, a descendant of Candelario.
5) is the most spectacular phase, due to the unique colour of the lake, and to its oceanic waves, which can also forbid navigation at all. We needed to wait one day in Candelario, camping in the meadow above Justa's house, and because of the high waves the boat ferried us directly to Puerto Bahamondez, without the usual detour to the glacier. In spite of this, I guess, they make us pay the whole price, which incidentally is totally disproportioned to the standards of the region. To be honest, I guess that even high waves were also an excuse, probably they wait that both in Villa O'Higgins and in Candelario there be plenty of waiting tourists (nearly all cyclists), such to maximize the income... Namely, we navigated with such powerful waves that I cannot figure out how the previous day they could be expected to be higher.
Finally, 6) accounts only for seven kilometres, not many in comparison to the 1240 more that are waiting for you on the Carretera Austral!

View more external

View on the popular waterfall.
Pushing is mandatory here.
With the Fitzroy looming in the background, this is perhaps a great moment fro people coming in the reverse direction.
Here we camped.
Orographic saddle and border crossing. One of the most original in the world!
Larger version on Google
Larger version on Google
Explanation on PPH
Actual south end of the Carretera Austral.
Farthest village of the Carretera Austral.

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