HIKING IN USHUAIA – DOs & definite DON’Ts - BlueMarble Vagabonds

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Hiking in Ushuiai cover photo - the river, muddy meadow and snowy mountains in the distance
Adventures Argentina Travel Stories

HIKING IN USHUAIA – DOs & definite DON’Ts

By
on
February 18, 2020
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Now, this article may as well be called: Hiking in Ushuaia – all the things that went wrong. 

If you have read our yearlong honeymoon article (and if not, what are you waiting for, grab a coffee and do it now! 😛 ) then you already know, that we aren’t perhaps the keenest hikers ever.

Yeah yeah, we spend a lot of time outside, but preferably on our bikes (bikes over hikes bro!), where we can use two wheels to go downhill instead of our legs (with our poor 30-something knees that are beginning to complain about such adventures).

But, traveling for months in scenic Patagonia, hiking is obviously high on the “to do list”.

We did discover a bunch of unique towns in Patagonia with tons of things to do, but mountains were calling us as well. (jeez, always wanted to use that half poetic-half corny expression). Not gently calling, but practically screaming at us from all around.

And when we arrived in Ushuaia, the city at the end of the world, we were determined to hike there as well.

Hiking at the end of the world? C’mon, admit it, there’s a super cool edge to it.

And besides, we Slovenians are known to be a “hiking nation”, so when our new friends from the USA invited us to go hiking in Ushuaia together, saying “nope” was not an option. No matter the circumstances.

And that’s perhaps where things started to go wrong.

 

 

Mountains with a glacier (hiking in Ushuaia)

Do you see the glacier?! I admit those shiny blue things make me wanna climb the damn mountain for a close look.

 

A STORY ABOUT OUR  HILARIOUS HIKING IN USHUAIA

 

WHERE DID WE GO

Around Ushuaia there are numerous options for hiking (I listed them at the end of the article), the most known being Tierra del Fuego National Park. Since we were in Ushuaia in April, when winter starts to creep in, the weather forecast wasn’t particularly good and therefore we didn’t want to spend extra bucks on the National Park entrance fee, as we probably couldn’t go there anyway.

Our USA friends – let’s call them Sam and Amy for the purposes of this story (you know, cuz otherwise they are called…Sam and Amy) – proposed a hike to the Laguna de Los Tempanos. This was supposed to be an under two-hour hike (one way) with a beautiful glacial lake at the top.

500 m of altitude difference and 3-4 hour hike? Ok, that sounded quite reasonable even to me.

 

IT WAS A WET BEGINNING

When we parked our vans and started preparing for the hike that morning, the weather was… Well,  proper for the end of the world.

Oh, what’s the weather at the end of the world in Autumn like?

Umm, basically, it is cold. And it’s unpredictable. The rays of sunshine can peek through the clouds now and then, drizzle and rain are common and strong Patagonian winds are mercilessly sweeping around.

So, the conversation went somewhat like this (while scrutinizing dark clouds):

“Well, at least the wind is not too strong today.”

“Yeah, and it’s only drizzling.”

“And look up there! It seems like the sky is almost clear.”

“Shall we?”

“Ok, let’s do this, it’s gonna be great!”

 

Three people on the muddy meadow, each showing to other direction. Snowy mountains in the distance

See, the weather was almost perfect!

 

And so we went.

Straight into the swamp.

You see, the road to the Laguna de Los Tempanos starts at an enormous flat meadow before it takes you up through the forest.

This meadow would be lovely in summer circumstances, I guess. Now, our adventure looked more like walking through a minefield – luckily we stayed alive, but every wrong step sent us into the mud up to our ankles. Or into the creek that seemed to appear out of nowhere.

We were jumping from one bush to the other, searching for solid ground and every few yards we changed turns in who would be the test bunny for the next part.

So much fun, right?!

When we reached the forest line half an hour later, we were wet up to the knees and looked like we had held a “who can jump into more sh**” competition.

Going back wasn’t an option. Aa-aah, we weren’t keen on doing it all over again. At least not immediately.

 

Three people trying to find the best way through the swamp

Will I sink in if I step here?” “Dunno, try, it’s your turn!” Btw, the meadow looks lovely in this picture. No water and mud at all. It has perfected the camouflage, apparently.

 

The thing is, the situation in the forest wasn’t much better. But at least there were stones and roots to step on. So instead of sinking, we were sliding while catching our balance. A clear improvement, one would say.

 

The drizzle slowly turned into rain (“Don’t worry, it’s surely sunshine on the top”, I was told) and after 15 minutes of steep ascent (mind you, I was the only one huffing and puffing) we reached a sign pointing in two directions – Laguna de Los Témpanos and Laguna Encantada. The first was 2 hours away, the second 40 min.

Wait, what? You told me it was 2 hours from the van and now we’ve been walking already for 45 minutes!

“This is wrong, right?” I asked hopefully. “Can someone check Google Maps, please? It HAS to be wrong!”

It wasn’t wrong, of course. Two hours to the top, from where we were standing.

 

I pointed to the other sign and asked in a small voice. “Couldn’t we just – er – change direction? You know, Laguna Encantada sounds wonderful. Enchanting, even!”

The others turned away and started to move slowly in the other direction.

“Um…anybody??” I called after them.

I was being utterly ignored.

Ugh, there was only one option left – I unpacked my hiking poles and followed them gloomily while muttering, “What did I get myself into”.

 

WINTER IS COMING HAS COME

Winter is coming? Wrong Jon Snow, you’re wrong! The winter HAS COME – and quite early apparently.

(I do hope you know who Jon Snow is. Especially ladies.)

At first, a few snowflakes swirled around gently in the rain.  Then there were less and less raindrops and eventually, they were completely replaced by snowflakes (Oooh, how wonderful, the first snow of the year! Hey, that’s better than rain, it’s at least less muddy! I need Christmas lights! Do you think they sell mulled wine along the path?!)

Soon it was snowing. Like, for real. We put our gloves on, pulled hats down to the nose and walked further.

“No need to panic”, Amy said. “My phone says it will stop in 20 minutes”.

After 20 minutes, large clumps of spattered snow were falling from the sky.

After one hour, we were in a snowstorm.

 

As if things weren’t looking well enough already, the last part of the trek was waiting for us.

Just below the summit, there was a clearing with a muddy meadow and for the last 100m of ascent, the trail continued upward next to the riverbed.

Strong winds were blasting while we were trying to maintain our balance on the slippery stones and the roaring of the cold, glacial river wasn’t too comforting, as you can imagine.  Besides, the path was long covered with snow so we were left guessing for the right way.

At this point, I wasn’t the only one with the “Perhaps this wasn’t the best idea ever” expression all over the face. The little voice in my head was tutting patronizingly: “I knew we should have gone to the other Laguna…”

But, stubbornness prevailed.

At last, we reached the top (guess who was far behind others), completely soaked and tired.

And on the top….

We were surprised by lovely sunny weather and a mesmerizing view opened in front of us with a dazzling turquoise lake, surrounded by the glittering granite mountain tips.

…YEAH, RIGHT. You wish.

The only things we were able to see were our shiny hiking jackets as visibility was awful due to the heavy snow and mist in the air.

Bojan even went as far as to change his t-shirt right up there with the new, dry one. The others didn’t share the enthusiasm. No thanks, I don’t fancy freezing during the process.

 

Us in the middle of the snowstorm, at the top of the mountain next to the glacial lake. (Hiking in Ushuaia)

Now, you don’t want to know how much editing this photo needed (like – maximizing “clarity “ & “ dehaze” buttons) that I was even able to bring the lagoon into view 😀 )

 

We stayed on the top for a few minutes (enough to make a “ proof” photo) and then headed straight back down the path that had already become a snowy slippery slide. By the time we reached the meadow, there was at least 10 cm of snow on the ground so avoiding little creeks that were scattered around was no longer an option. Just straight ahead to the forest, and hoping for the best. 😀

 

SERIOUSLY, ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

There’s no hike without a proper sandwich, duh! So, as soon as we reached the forest where trees provided a little shelter, we squeezed under a big tree and chewed down our meal with trembling fingers.

Hot tea from the thermos flask felt like heaven.

It was then when two hikers approached us. From the direction where we came.

Where the hell have you been?, I was wondering. Why didn’t we see you on the top?

“Hi, are you going to the Laguna de Los Tempanos? It’s pretty snowy up there”, one of them said.

“Yeah, but luckily those ice caves provide good shelter so we stayed there for a while”, added the other.

Our confused expressions told them we had no idea what they were talking about and when we told them we were already on the top they exclaimed: “Oh, what a shame, those ice caves are quite stunning”.

They were indeed. They showed us photos.

Isn’t this just perfect? We were walking 3 hours uphill in these horrendous conditions only to miss the best attraction that was just 10 min further away along the lake?! That is, because we failed to check in advance what’s up there at all.

You gotta be kidding me.

Now I really felt devastated and just wanted to go somewhere warm at once.

Of course, “somewhere warm” was at that moment quite far away since we needed to walk another hour and a half downhill along a slippery forest path and then once again across that wonderful meadow. Halfway down snow turned back into heavy rain (and the slippery grounds were perfect for the involuntary dancing in the rain), but at least it got considerably warmer.

For the grand finale, we threw ourselves into another battle with the now-even-more-muddy swamp.

Ah, and let’s not forget, when we were approaching our vans during what seemed an endless last mile, I suddenly felt something warm on my back.

The sun started to shine and when I turned around, I realized the clouds above the mountain (where there was a snowstorm just an hour ago) disappeared, and the clear blue sky was looking upon us.

 

A brown and a black horse on the same meadow (now sunny), clear sky in the distance

Sun after the hike. Lovely. Thanks a lot, mother nature.

 

It wasn’t until hours later, after a tasty beer in one of the Ushuaia pubs, a hearty dinner in a cosy warm cottage and a lengthy hot shower that I was finally able to say without the grimace: That was one heck of an adventure we had today! 😀

 

Bojan and both vans in front of the wooden cottage where we spent the night after hiking in Ushuaia.

Pisco the Van & Furgonito the Van (Pisco’s brother from another mother) were left alone that night for the first time. Sleeping in the freezing van was out of the question after such a day.

 

HIKING IN USHUAIA – THE DOs & DON’Ts

 

Our hike to Laguna de Los Tempanos wasn’t the worse hike ever. After all, we still had fun despite the mud and the snowstorm. But, it wasn’t completely disaster-free either. However, the greater the adversity the more lessons learned, right? RIGHT?

And we did learn a few things about hiking (or more precisely, we were reminded, since we were already supposed to know all this):

DON’T forget to check how long the hike is

“I’ve heard it is about 3-4 hours” is just not good enough. This way you won’t end up walking 6+ hours, wondering if this is EVER gonna end.

DON’T forget to read about what to expect on a hike and what not to miss

Like, how steep it is. Or if there’s a gorgeous one-of-a-kind ice cave somewhere along the way.

DON’T trust “Google says it’s gonna be sunny in 20 min” exclamations

Like Bojan usually says when I am checking the weather on the phone while sitting inside in front of the window: Would you please just f***ing look through the window darling??

DO bring the right equipment with you

While we didn’t read much (er – at all) about the hike itself, at least we weren’t so careless about what to bring with us (proudly nodding to myself). Do keep in mind weather is rapidly changing in the mountains and you don’t want to be caught off guard.   Hiking poles, warm clothes, rainproof jacket,… in short, all hiking essentials.

 

3 people walking by the river, dark clouds in the sky

Now, along with all bad decisions, at least we had proper equipment with us! 🙂

 

DO bring enough food and warm drinks

Because of…obvious reasons, that’s why.

If the clouds are gathering, DO re-think your decision about hiking

Now, this one is to be taken seriously. At least there were 4 of us, but mountains are unpredictable (and this is not a joke) and looking back at that day – it is a fun story to tell, but if something had gone wrong …well, it would be far from fun.

DO have an “It’s such lovely weather today” (in an English accent) attitude

You know, so besides the YouTube video where it will all seem like a joyful easy walk, you’ll actually enjoy the day itself as well.

So, a positive attitude is the key!

Another favorite saying from Bojan: There is no such thing as bad weather. Only the equipment is bad.

Yeah right.

😀


Watch the video about our hike! (it start around 3:30, but be a doll and watch it all! 😛 )


 

HIKING IN USHUAIA: WHERE TO

Now that you know all the dos and the don’ts, you are ready for exploring Ushuaia’s nature! There are numerous options for hiking around here as was explained by a lovely lady at the tourist office who didn’t seem to mind the harsh weather at all.

This is the list of hikes she recommended:

Inside National Park Tierra del Fuego (check Turismo Ushuaia for latest prices)

Senda Costera – easy 2-3 hour hike that follows the shoreline

Senda Pampa Alta – another easy hike, that passes waterfalls and offers beautiful views over the Beagle Channel

Cerro Guanaco – the most demanding hike in the national park (3-4 hours one way)

 

Outside National Park

Laguna de Los Tempanos (& Glacier Vinciguerra as we know now) – you know a lot about this one by now 😀 It can get extremely muddy, takes almost 7 hours if it’s snowing (and probably a bit less otherwise) and has a supposedly stunning shimmering lake on the top. Oh, and ice caves, lets not forget about the ice caves.

As mentioned before, somewhere along the way to Laguna de Los Tempanos there is a crossroad with a path that leads to another lagoon, Laguna Encantada.

Laguna Esmeralda – a relatively easy hike (I checked later – this one is really supposed to be only 4 hours, ha!) that takes you to the glacier lagoon. We didn’t go to this one because we heard it can get really muddy after the rain. Instead, we chose Laguna de Los Tempanos. Lol. #facepalm 😀

Glacier Martial – another hike we were looking forward to, but we skipped it due to extreme winds. It’s an easy hike that starts at the ski resort above Ushuaia and takes you all the way up to the glacier (you can even walk on it!).

 

A wide road throgh the woods, mountain with Glacier Martial in the back.

A hike to the Glacier Martial is an easy one. If the day isn’t windy, that is.

 

Have any of you experienced a semi-horrendous hike? Please, do share your hiking stories with us, we’d love to laugh at someone else other than ourselves for once! 😀

Oh, and pin this for later …in case you forget about the DOs and definite DON’Ts!

Pin for hiking in Ushuaia, Argentina

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2 Comments
  1. Reply

    Dan & Beck

    May 29, 2020

    Hola Sandra,

    We hope you’re well during the pandemic. It was great to read your blog about Laguna Esmeralda. We had a good laugh and really enjoyed your relaxed persona which shines through in your work.

    We also really enjoyed the Tierra del Fuego National Park. I think our favourite hike in Ushuaia was combining the Senda Costera trail with the Cerro Guanaco trail. Although Laguna Esmeralda wasn’t too far behind in terms of enjoyment!

    Cheers, Dan & Beck from Travel Made Me Do It

    • Reply

      Sandra

      June 1, 2020

      Hi Dan & Beck!
      Thank you for the kind words, just made my day! (can I go now and show this review to every friend and stranger who will want to listen to me, pleaseeee? :D)
      I think those two trails that you went to are a great choice as well! We kinda regret the weather was bad and we couldn’t hike more in Ushuaia.

      Happy future vagabonding! (when possible again, of course 😉 )

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