Tips for hiking in Patagonia

Tips for hiking in Patagonia
Aysén Information

In this article, we offer some suggestions to help make sure your hikes within the mountains and forests of Patagonia are both fun and safe.

The Binational Circuit "There are no borders between gauchos" is chock-full of mountains and forests where opportunities for hiking abound!  As you are planning, be sure to explore the hiking possibilities in the following sectors:
- Tamango National Reserve
- Patagonia Park
- Perito Moreno National Park
- Los Glaciares National Park
- Los Huemules Estancia Nature Reserve
- The Crossing between Laguna/Lago del Desierto and Candelario Mansilla
- Laguna Caiquenes Conservation Area
- Villa O’Higgins and its Surroundings 
- Areas Surrounding Caleta Tortel
- Monte San Lorenzo
Before heading out, we suggest a little risk management planning and preparation. Hiking in natural and remote locations involves risks that can effect your travels.   Frequently the effects produce inconveniences and unexpected changes, however, hiking also involves risks that could lead to accidents with serious consequences. It is important for you to understand and accept the responsibility for managing these risks. 
First, consider the dangers of the activity and environment.  Dangers are environmental conditions and circumstances, which increase the likelihood of harm to people. There are two types of dangers: objective and subjective.  Objective dangers are those associated with nature; e.g., ice on the road. Subjective dangers are associated with actions taken by people; e.g.,, driving a car at a high speed along this icy road. 
The objective dangers associated with hiking in forests and mountainous areas include the presence of forests, canyons, cliffs, snow or ice, avalanches, mud slides, loose rocks, rotten logs, holes, meadows, slippery surfaces, weather conditions, and rivers. Subjective dangers include inexperience, inadequate physical condition or sense of balance, fatigue or illness, lack of knowledge, inadequate equipment, or a bad attempt at crossing a river.  
Identification and analysis of risk is the second component of your preparation.  When you enter the mountains and forests of Patagonia, you mix the objective dangers present in the environment with the subjective dangers you and others add.  This combination increases the risk, or probability, of an event that could be damaging to people, equipment, or the environment. 
When hiking in Patagonia, some of the risks include the possibility of getting lost, falling from a height, being hit by a falling object, spending the night in the back-country, or being carried down-river.  You may think of others, as you consider your plans.
The third dimension involves consideration of the possible consequences associated with the risks you have identified.  Some of the consequences related with the risks we’ve presented include damage or loss of your equipment, personal injury, including severe injury or even fatal consequences, delays, changes or an early end of the trip, and even the possibility of drowning.  These things are not fun to consider, especially when you are planning a vacation.  
The good news is risk can be anticipated and managed! Once you've taken the time to identify the dangers, risks, and possible consequences, you can decide on, and implement, strategies to minimize the chances of their occurrence.  There are a multitude of simple measures for planning, prevention and management of risk associated with hiking in the forests and mountains of Patagonia.
Here's a list to get you started with your safe hiking strategy:
- Hike at a calm pace, without rushing. Plan your distances and routes, with ample time to hike at a relaxed pace.
- Examine rocks and logs before stepping on them. Make sure they are firm and not slippery.
- Use trails where they exist and pay attention to markers and cairns. 
- Do not enter forests in high winds. 
40 Km/h is a suggested threshold.
- Use a GPS to mark your car, point of departure from established trails, landmarks, etc.
- Do not cross rivers on foot if you are alone, do not have experience, or are not with an experienced guide.
- Carry a trail map.  If possible, we suggest having a topographic map that includes contour lines to show the shape and elevation of the area.  
One of the possible strategies you can implement is to shift some of the responsibility to an expert! Consider using a professional guide or support service; they will take charge of the logistics and risk management, making your experience more relaxed and enjoyable.  Normally, they are experienced with the areas you will be hiking and can provide great information about the resources and history, along with technical skills. 
Match appropriate knowledge and equipment with the activity and environment.  For example, if you plan on being in the back-country for multiple days, you should have someone in your group with knowledge of weather forecasting.  Whether you will be back-packing or day-hiking, always bring appropriate clothing for the changing weather conditions in Patagonia.  Some of the equipment you should consider includes a GPS, food, and versions of the kits mentioned in the article about self-sufficient traveling. 

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