Camp Los Perros – Camp El Paso

The Facts

Short Outline of Hike

  • Distance: 8km
  • Duration: 3h, no breaks due to weather
  • It’s about 620m of elevation gain within 5km up to Paso John Gardner. From there you drop by 700m of elevation within the final 3km down to Camp Paso. Next to day 7, which included the Británico lookout for us, this will be the steepest it gets throughout the whole circuit.
  • If you’re lucky with the weather, you will have some mesmerizing views all day.
  • This section is well-marked. But, from personal experience, during a snow storm, the markers won’t be as visible.
  • Camp Paso only has basics: a kitchen area that is half open and a hole in the ground as toilet. 
  • Just a few minutes from Camp Paso on the way towards Camp Grey, there is a viewpoint. If you have a night at Paso, make sure to check this one out for sunset or sunrise 🙂

Grading

Following is my personal grading of the hike including some key points. If you have no idea what the SB scale is, have a quick look here.

The overall grade regarding difficulty is SB-5.6. The grade is made up of the following categories:

Category A – General – SB-5

  • Distance: 8km, duration: 3h
  • Elevation gain/loss: There’s an elevation gain of 620m within 5km to the highest point of the pass and an elevation loss of 700m within the final 3km to Camp Paso.

Category B – Terrain – SB-6

The first couple kilometers of this day’s hike started out with forest, more or less muddy. Once we reached the end of the treeline the weather changed from fall to winter. Above the treeline the terrain was mostly rocks and gravel. The snow got heavier with each minute. There were no trees for protection anymore, so everything was covered in snow with more and more coming down. We somehow try to find our way from path marker to path marker. Despite the usually bright color, this also gets harder. That’s why I have no idea if there usually is an obvious path. We just went over the rocks. With the snow we had to be careful because the underground was slippery. On the way down it’s the same as up, just the other way around: Once you reach the treeline winter turns to fall. What’s coming from the sky changes from snow to rain. The ground gets muddy. We leave the snow behind us.

Category C – Weather – SB-8

As mentioned above, just a little bit after we’ve started walking, it started raining. While walking through the forest we were more or less protected by trees. As we came closer to the treeline, rain changed into snow. The weather became worse by the minute. The closer we came to the top, the windier it became. But to be frank, Christian and I didn’t even recognize the pass. It only hit us when we started to loose elevation again. We could barely see anything above the treeline. Only every other marker was still visible because everything was covered by snow. More than once we probably went off path without knowing. Darryn, who started after us this day, told us later that he was trying to follow our footpaths because he barely found any markers. The videos give a glimpse of what it was like. It was a bit like the first day but less wind, more snow, colder. Once we reached the treeline on the other side of the pass, snow turned into rain again.

Category D – Special Conditions – SB-5

Backpacks are getting lighter and our backs stronger by the day. Still, heavy backpacks in combination with the sight made the trek a bit harder.

Category E – Individual Conditions – SB-4

In general, we both were fit, getting used to the load we are carrying every day. Christian had quite some trouble with his ankle this day. A small break here and there would’ve improved his pain by a lot. Due to weather we just weren’t able to have any breaks. The second we stopped we would get cold. So, we pushed through.

The Story behind the hike

Part of day 4 of the circuit is reaching the highest point of the whole trek, Paso John Gardner. When we leave camp, it’s raining slightly. Not too much but enough to get soaked when walking for a while.

The higher we get the more this rain turns into snow. Once we reach the treeline, everything around us turns white with more and more coming from the sky. The markers for the path are barely visible anymore. Darryn later tells us that he followed our footprints because he could hardly see any markers.

We must’ve picked the perfect day to cross this pass. We will later find out, that the hikers who crossed a day before, as well as the ones who did the crossing the day after us had super nice sunny weather. Mesmerizing views inclusive.

Well…the kind of views we’ve had you can see in the videos. We can see for 50m ahead, at the most. We only recognized that we’ve crossed the pass already because we felt that it’s going downhill instead of up. We kept walking without any breaks because as soon as we came to a halt we’d get cold really quickly.

Again, once we reach the treeline on the other side, this snow changes into rain. All the white around us disappears into a rainy, green fall forest scenery. Through the trees we can soon see a huge blue mass shining through. The closer we get, we realize that this is a glacier, the Grey glacier, part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. It’s the first time I’ve seen something like this. It leaves me speechless.

Usually one would see this spectacular site already from the John Gardner pass, including beautiful mountain ranges surrounding it. We saw nothing from the top. But since we had absolutely no idea what was around us, we also had no idea that it would even be possible to see the glacier from up there.

Until the hikers we meet in Camp Paso show us pictures from their crossing the day prior to this one. Even though it feels a bit like a slap in the face looking at their pictures, the crossing was still kind of cool. It reminded me very much of the first day. This time without our ridiculous mistakes and, believe it or not, a bit of fun 🙂