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Hiking Cerro Guanaco – Tierra del Fuego

Given my very limited time in Ushuaia before I headed off to Antarctica, I really wanted to get out for 1 day to the Tierra del Fuego National Park to do some hiking.  There are quite a few trails but after reading some descriptions I decided to do the Cerro Guanaco trail, that promised an “outstanding view of the Fuegian mountain range and its peatbogs”.   Given the day was absolutely perfect (no clouds, sun shining, no wind!), how could I pass up the opportunity!

Tierra del Fuego National Park Map

Got let out of the park transfer bus at the Lago Roca visitors centre, and started walking along the the edge of the lake to get to the trailhead.  Spectacular views and almost perfect reflections!

Lago Roca - Tierra del Fuego National Park - Argentina

The description I’d read initially also promised that this was a “strenuous” hike, and signage at the trailhead suggested 4hrs one way.  For 4km?  I hope not!

Cerro Guanaco trail - Tierra del Fuego National Park - Argentina

Turns out, they aren’t fibbing about the strenuous part!  Reminiscent of the Brewster’s Hut trek in New Zealand – the first part is a bit of a scramble up through the shade of beech trees, using their roots as stairs and following yellow poles and red dots.  

Cerro Guanaco trail - Tierra del Fuego National Park - Argentina

After about 3/4 hour I reached a bit of a clearing which I thought might be the first viewpoint indicated on my very rough map, but a little further along there was a yellow marker that said “3km”.    Hmmmm…. now does that mean that I’ve walked 3km and have 1km to go (it sure felt like it!) or that I’ve walked 1km and have 3km to go?     

I was hoping for the former, but unfortunately it turned out to be the latter 🙁

The next 1.5km actually wasn’t too difficult until I hit the peat bogs.   There had been a fair bit of rain a few days prior so it got very muddy on the trail, and this eventually spilled out into the bog itself.  Having not done too badly getting through the mud while remaining essentially clean and dry, I had to give it up as a bad joke trying to get through the bog.   My hiking shoes have long since lost their waterproof protection (turns out that Keens hiking shoes last about 8 months when you wear them continuously and do a fair bit of hiking – even the tread is coming off now), and by the time I’d managed to cross, my feet were soaked.  Oh well.

The bog! Cerro Guanaco trail - Tierra del Fuego National Park - Argentina

The peat bog!

Once across the peat bog, the terrain changed absolutely, from beech forest to scree slope, and yes, the last 1.5km was bloody hard work as well!    Walking up a slope of 45-60 degrees is not easy, especially with arthritic toes – it’s just the wrong angle it turns out…

The scree-slope! Cerro Guanaco trail - Tierra del Fuego National Park - Argentina

But the view from the top – absolutely stunning!   From there you can see the entire Cordillera Darwin, which forms the final part of the South American continent.   And such a perfect day to sit up there for an hour or so admiring the view – it’s extremely rare to not have wind!  

The incredible view! Cerro Guanaco trail - Tierra del Fuego National Park - Argentina

You also get a nice bird’s eye view of Ushuaia and the Beagle Channel.

The view to Ushuaia and the Beagle Channel - Cerro Guanaco trail - Tierra del Fuego National Park - Argentina

And more spectacular views down into the valley behind.

The view to valley behind - Cerro Guanaco trail - Tierra del Fuego National Park - Argentina

Turns out it only took 2.5 hours to reach the summit and, just like Brewster’s hut, it took almost as long to get back down (2 hours).   Those 60 degree scree slopes without hiking poles are kinda tricky!   

 

Recommendation:  If you have a gorgeous day – this is definitely the hike to do!   But, it is tough and probably not great if you suffer from vertigo, so be prepared.

Cost:  There are transfers from Ushuaia to the National Park each day that cost 400 Argentinean Pesos round trip.  It’s expensive (captive audience) but cheaper than hiring a car or taxi.   210 Argentinean Pesos for the entrance to the National Park.

Time:  It took me 2.5 hours to reach the summit and 2 hours to descend.  Add on about 40 minutes to walk from the Information Centre to the trailhead and back.

 

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