Patagonia vs. Inca Trail difficulty level

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Patagonia vs. Inca Trail difficulty level

Postby carmstrong » Wed Sep 14, 2011 10:38 pm

My wife and I (both 60) did the Inca Trail 2 years ago, and are now considering one of GAP's Patagonia trips. We did the Inca Trail with no huge difficulty (middle of the pack?), but not sure we'd be up to anything more strenuous. How do the two compare in terms of difficulty and required fitness level? And did you love Patagonia? Any useful comparisons?

Thanks in advance.
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Re: Patagonia vs. Inca Trail difficulty level

Postby thecakeisalie » Thu Sep 15, 2011 10:04 am

There are so many different hikes to take in Patagonia that no matter what your skill or fitness level you will be able to find something that suits you. One of the major advantages over the Inca Trail is the fact that Patagonia is all lower elevation hiking, no need to acclimatise and fight altitude sickness.

The only hike I did in Patagonia that I found to be more difficult than the Inca trail was the W in Torres del Paine. But this might have been partly because I was carrying all of my belongings on my back (which included a lot of winter clothes and camera gear). Still, you don't necessarily have to do this hike in order to enjoy the park, there are plenty of other opportunities.

Another place is El Chalten, where there is a fantastic hike to the lakes at the base of Fitz Roy. This hike is no more difficult than Day 2 of the Inca Trail, but the best part is it starts from the edge of the town (as do the rest of the hikes), which means you can leave all of your gear behind if you like and you can turn around at any time. Or you can camp for free out on the trail and make it a multi-day hike.

You will not regret going to Patagonia, the scenery is unbelievable! A few examples on my flickr page, here.
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Re: Patagonia vs. Inca Trail difficulty level

Postby carol.e17 » Thu Sep 15, 2011 5:42 pm

I can't tell you the answer because I'm doing it the other way round - Patagonia last year and Inca Trail booked for this year, but I did love Patagonia! It was with a different tour company, but in Torres del Paine we stayed in the Grande Refugio (?) and did two day hikes which essentially covered half of the W route (but without having to carry our backpacks) and we also did 2 day hikes in Chalten, with a trip to Perito Moreno glacier in between. Both are stunning locations, and within our small group were a couple of a similar age to yourselves, so I'm sure you'll have no problems. enjoy !
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Re: Patagonia vs. Inca Trail difficulty level

Postby mleen » Sat Nov 19, 2011 3:46 pm

Someone told me that the W trek in Torres Del Paine is difficult because of the weather conditions. Is this true?

M.
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Re: Patagonia vs. Inca Trail difficulty level

Postby thecakeisalie » Sun Nov 20, 2011 4:57 pm

mleen wrote:Someone told me that the W trek in Torres Del Paine is difficult because of the weather conditions. Is this true?


It's certainly possible, but there's no way to guarantee if weather will be a factor. Best to plan for it, especially with waterproof hiking gear. There's not much you can do to plan for wind, unfortunately, the other big factor. Some of the inclines/declines can be tricky when wet, and the wind can knock you off balance. But what adventure would be complete without some additional challenges? :P

On our five day trek we had brutal wind on Day 1, generous sun with occasional gusts on Day 2, steady drizzle all day on Day 3 clearing at night, rain while sunny (!) on Day 4 with more wind, and picture perfect conditions on Day 5. To be honest, we think we were very lucky. It only really rained the one day, and if you can keep your feet dry even that is manageable. But the weather is not reliable, and you can experience many conditions in one day, no way around this.
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Re: Patagonia vs. Inca Trail difficulty level

Postby zigmar » Sun Dec 11, 2011 3:34 pm

Hi
I'm curious for those who have done the "W" route, I'm off in 2 weeks and am wondering 2 main questions:
A: how cold does it get at night
B: would hiking shoes be OK or are hiking boots a necessity?

Trying to pack light as I've got Santiago, Buenos Aires and Easter Island in as well and one 60 litre pack.Add sleeping bag, therma rest, camera and other odds n ends and it's getting trickly.

If I don't need my boots and just bring my merrils approach shoes then i can wear them on the rest of the trip without being too hot. Suggestions?

Also concerned how cold it is at night, and how thick/warm layers I need for this trek. Rain gear is covered, poles etc. just not sure on layers/warmth.

Thanks for any and all advice!
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Re: Patagonia vs. Inca Trail difficulty level

Postby thecakeisalie » Tue Dec 13, 2011 10:27 am

It gets cold at night, not necessarily freezing (though possible), but your lodging will dictate how cold you'll be. Are you staying in a tent? If you're staying at the refugios they are typically heated with small wood burning stoves and the cumulative heat of dozens of smelly travelers... A good set of long underwear and thick socks should suffice for keeping warm, in addition to your sleeping bag.

As for hiking shoes, you could get away with your Merrils, but it depends on your comfort with ankle support, grip, and waterproofing. My hiking boots have better insulation and waterproofing (Goretex layer) than my shoes, so that was the clear choice for me. And while most of the path is manageable in any kind of shoe, there are a few sections of steep/muddy/slippery/rocky that a boot may be preferred. The last stretch up to the Torres is mostly a scramble over sharp boulders, a section of the French Valley was perpetually wet and slippery, and if/when it rains on you, mud will be prevalent. Also, how's the toe coverage? I tend to kick things when I'm hiking, so a reinforced toe is my weapon of choice.

Layering is the key in TdP. Often hiked in short sleeves during the day and through on a light fleece or windbreaker when stopped. I didn't feel it was that cold during the hike, but the wind can make it seem worse, especially if you're sweating. Have a good trip!
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