Backpack the Peaks, Lakes and Glaciers of Aysén, Patagonia


Global Adventure - Backpack the Peaks, Lakes and Glaciers of Aysén, Patagonia

Backpack the central Patagonian Andes through the unspoiled heart of Chile’s glacier country, deep into the wilderness of Laguna San Rafael National Park next to the North Patagonian Icefield. We’ll pass craggy peaks, cross high passes from lake to remote lake and valley to remote valley, visiting otherwise unreachable glacier fronts by zodiac, and ending at a panoramic mountaintop camp with views to 13,310’ Cerro San Valentin. Before and after we'll stay at the luxurious Terra Luna Lodge on General Carrera Lake where we’ll have rooms and full board. Experienced local guides will accompany us throughout. Carry a backpack and camp – a support team will carry our food and cooking gear. NOTE: Fee shown below is the final trip payment.

  • Mon, Mar 4, 2019 — Tue, Mar 12, 2019
  • Global Adventures Committee
  • Global Adventures, Backpacking
  • Adults
  • Strenuous
  • Challenging
  • Mileage: 50.0 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 8,600 ft
  • High Point Elevation: 4,340 ft
  • Pace: 1.5-2 mph

Arrive no later than Monday March 4, 2019 in Balmaceda, Chile, and be met by our private transfer which will take us 5.5 hours south to Terra Luna Lodge on Lago General Carrera, meeting the group from the Cerro Castillo/San Lorenzo backpack extension to visit the Marble Caverns along the way.  At the end of the trek we will have a private transfer back to Balmaceda for flights home on March 12, 2019.  Depart Balmaceda no earlier than late afternoon on the 12th.

Itinerary Highlights:    

After meeting at the Balmaceda airport we’ll drive the famed Carretera Austral through some of the most isolated terrain in Chile to Lago General Carrera, the largest lake in Chile.  Here we’ll stop and take a ferry to the famed Marble Caverns where waves have sculpted the calcium carbonate rock formations along the shore to produce brilliant multicolored swirls in the sunlight against the lake water.  Then we’ll proceed on to the luxurious Terra Luna lodge on the southeast shore of the lake, where we'll spend two nights before our trek begins.  The next day we’ll dayhike from Terra Luna to “Veranada’s fossil deposits” on a nearby hill with a breathtaking view over the lake and the mountains San Valentin (13,310’) and San Lorenzo (12,156’), returning to Terra Luna for a last night of pampering before setting off into the wilds.  Early on day 3 we will set out by jetboat across Lago General Carrera and up Rio Leones, then disembark and shoulder our packs to trek into the Andes toward the North Patagonian icefield.  We’ll camp first at Lagunas Mellizas, then climb La Picada pass and drop into Valle Olvidado “Forgotten Valley” for our next camp.  Then we’ll trek to Lago Fiero where a zodiac will take us across along the front of the glacier, and then we will trek down to Lago Leones and camp.  The following day is a free day where we can take a zodiac to reach Glacier Leones and walk on the flat glacier, and trek 45 mins to Cachorro Lake where we can enjoy an afternoon of optional guided kayaking before heading back to camp. On the penultimate day of our trek, we will cross Lago Leones in a zodiac, getting a good look at its glacier, before starting a long climb through rain forest, and then along rocky ridges to get to the top of Mount Putagonia (4330’) from where we will set up camp with a 360-degree view of several glaciers, peaks and lakes as well as Mt San Valentin out in the middle of the Icefield.   After awakening to sunset on this incredible panorama, we’ll trek down to meet our jetboat back to Terra Luna for our last night.    49.5 miles, 9400’ total gain.   

Click here for a detailed itinerary, and find the daily distance-elevation profile here.  (NOTE:  This area is known for its unpredictable weather, with rain, snow and wind possible at any time of year, so our itinerary can change without notice and sections may be modified or dropped.  The priority will always be on safety for all participants. )

 Time of Year:     We’ll be visiting during Patagonia’s high summer, when the likelihood of clear skies and warm temperatures are highest (though foul weather can be common here even in mid summer).

Lodging:    Before and after our trek we will stay in the 4-star Terra Luna lodge with full board and a splendid restaurant and bar overlooking the Andes across Lago General Carrera.    During our trek we will sleep in remote  camps without facilities.  

Food:    During our trek, hearty but basic breakfasts, lunches and dinners will be supplied and prepared by our support crew.  At Terra Luna, a full array of gourmet meals and refreshments will be available, with food included in the trip price.

Leader’s Experience:   Cheryl Talbert has led many Mountaineers hikes and several Mountaineers and private backpacks, treks and cultural trips around the U.S. west and worldwide, including 3 group trips to south Patagonia in 2012, 2015 and 2018 and a group trip to the Lakes District of northern Patagonia in 2016. (

Strenuousness or Difficulty rating:   This itinerary is rated strenuous and challenging, because of sometimes very rugged conditions including steep moraine and boulder field ascents and descents, swift water crossings, and remoteness (we will be more than two days at the furthest from any medical facilities).

Participant Requirements:   Must be a current Mountaineers member with an up-to-date waiver on file. This outing includes strenuous hiking on rugged terrain (including some steep moraine and scree slopes) for multiple successive days without such amenities as showers or laundry.  The weather can change suddenly to high winds, snow or heavy rain.  For these reasons, participants need to be in excellent condition with good balance and confidence traveling on rough trail with a pack, and with the experience and willingness to pack appropriately and to deal with some discomfort, cold and inclement weather for extended periods.  Recent experience with multi-day strenuous backpacking, scrambling or hiking, plus a positive attitude and a demonstrated ability to get along well with groups under demanding conditions, will be very important.   NOTE:  As a Mountaineers group we will operate as interdependent, capable travelers making our way together and helping one another succeed and be safe.  You must have the ability to navigate on trails with a map and compass.

Trip Price Detail:    $2600 including all lodging, transportation, guides, camp support and most meals.  Your airfare (~$2000), travel insurance ($75-350) and a few meals in town (<$100) are not included.  

Registration Instructions:   First please submit the application form which will automatically be sent to the leader.   After the leader’s approval, go to the trip listing and click the REGISTER button to pay the 50% deposit and hold your space on the roster. Registration will close on July 1, 2018 or whenever the roster fills. A place on the roster can only be held with payment of the deposit. The balance of the trip payment is due by September 1, 2018. 

As soon as you receive notice of approval, please complete and submit the Trip Agreement and Liability Release Form.  These forms are required for you to go on the trip!

application     trip agreement    release

Cancellation Policy: If you cancel because of an emergency, you may receive a refund less expenses incurred and a $100 administrative fee.


Backpack the Peaks, Lakes and Glaciers of Aysén, Patagonia

Required Equipment

Required Equipment

After receiving your deposit, the leader will send out a series of letters or emails providing information to help participants succeed on the trip, including recommended and required gear, recommended maps and guidebooks.


Trip Reports