Oct 17, 2010 at 12:41 pm #1264487
Looking for ideas. Being lazy and hoping to piggyback on the research/experience of others. Info about logistics, food, and camping… or just a kernel of an idea.. appreciated.
I have over a month of vacation coming up end of January. And can usually get 10-14 days off other months. If airfare isn't a problem where would you go for an epic backpacking adventure this winter.
I"d prefer a nice long trail with either camp anywhere or actual (vs stealth) camping areas. High places, epic views a bonus, and unless otherwise told, I'm probably too much of a wuss to camp in Africa.
Off the top of my head, I'm thinking Patagonia, New Zealand, or SW United States.
Thanks in advance.Oct 17, 2010 at 1:24 pm #1655372
I'd go back to Colombia with the supplies and intent to actually give el Parque Nacional los Nevados a better exploring. This past January on a more general backpacking trip my companion and I made an overnight foray up la Valle de Cocora from the little town of Salento, through a tropical valley up into the cloud forests. It was beautiful. In the morning I set off on a short solo hike to a viewpoint… took a wrong turn and after an extra kilometer found the cloud forest opening up into this fantastic environment of ground-level clouds and subdued light; I had entered the Paramo Romarales. Sadly, at that point I had to turn back so that we could get going.
Someday I will see where that trail leads from there.Oct 17, 2010 at 10:08 pm #1655494
@dools009Locale: Pacific Northwest
Love the pic mate.
I've actually hiked 6 hours or so beyond that point and DEFINITELY recommend it. My fiance and I were there 2 years ago, we ended up at the Plantation House having beers with one of the workers. We told him that we were trying to get up into the backcountry above the Valle de Cocoro and he told me that he had a friend that lived up there.
Anyways, we ended up hiking to the abandoned farc destroyed ruins were we met a young boy who was to be our guide through the paramo. UNREAL experience. That place is viscious. Unrelenting cold, wet semi-frozen ground. The moment we hit the Valle de los Perdidos/Muertos (Valley of the Lost/Dead not sure which haha) the clouds set in and you couldn't see more than a few meters ahead.
After 5-6 hours we reached Finca Primavera (this would be what you want to ask for if you go back). We stayed with the boy's family on a paramo/tundra plain at the base of a spectacular mountain. From there you can do day/multiday treks out to the mountain.
My fiance says that she is 80 percent certain that the boy's name was Hernan.
Go do it!
BrendanOct 18, 2010 at 6:54 am #1655558
I also consulted the Plantation House for advice on a trek up there, but the proprieter was both a bit busy and a bit tipsy, so the info I managed to get from him was spotty. He did say something about how he would normally call up a friend at Finca Primavera to send a kid down to Estrellas as a guide, but due to the timing he was unable to do so (she was on a weekly trip to the city or something). So we settled for Estrellas de Aguas.
I didn't know the camp there was destroyed by FARC. When we were there they were working on rebuilding it. It was nice that they had a toilet working already.
That sounds like a fantastic trip, though. Continuing my experience there is definitely on my life-list (as well as mount Roraima in Venezuela, which we sadly had to cut out of our itinerary).Oct 21, 2010 at 4:15 pm #1656759
@retropumpLocale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
New Zealand. Why not have another summer?Oct 22, 2010 at 7:44 am #1656927
I had thought of Columbia actually. Haven't been to South America and sounds like now is a good time to visit. Just concerned about the camping bit and I have to admit, as much as I hate to, the safety of being out in the wilderness there. Been watching too much, "Banged Up Abroad" on National Geograhic…just kidding.
New Zealand is very high on my list. I'm sure there is a lot of reference material out there. I'll have to do some research. Just wondering if it's like North America where you can camp anywhere, or would I have to use huts etc.Oct 22, 2010 at 8:42 am #1656941
@drongobirdLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
These ideas don't match your "high places with epic views", but I'm in the process of researching ideas for February, so I thought I'd share…
The southern and eastern Mediterranean areas of Spain might be good in winter. Although I'd probably lean toward Feb or Mar instead of Dec/Jan.
There is a guidebook for the GR7 in Andalucia Spain (~700 km).
We hiked for 10 days on the GR92 (~600 km) in Catalunya (northeast Spain) in August (after finishing the HRP) and it was too bloody hot. I thought it would make a nice winter hike.
The GR7 and the GR92 are both part of the longer (10450 km) E4 route:
We enjoyed the Basque country parts of the HRP, and there is a well developed trail network in the Spanish Basque country:
I don't know about the official policy about camping in Spain, but we camped openly in the Pyrenees and it seemed like everybody else was doing the same. Maybe it's different at lower elevations. The GR routes in Spain (at least in Basque country and Catalunya) are extensive, very well marked and hiking is popular.
We are seriously considering hiking in Turkey next spring on the Lycian Way and the St Paul Trail (~500 km each trail). It should be good in Feb and March, at least on the coastal Lycian Way, based on the weather information I've seen. We got the guidebook a week ago and are actively studying it now. I believe in Turkey you are free to camp anywhere, but I haven't been there yet.
So many options :)Oct 22, 2010 at 12:51 pm #1657039
I'm not familiar with "banged up abroad" but Colombia's become quite a lot safer in the last decade, especially for travelers. I honestly felt safer in Colombia, generally, than in Bolivia, Peru, or Ecuador. There's a lot more domestic tourism in Colombia and the people are diverse enough that you can blend right in without too much effort, if you wish. With flights from Miami to Bogota coming in under $200 if you book at the right times (and probably available for less through priceline etc.) now may be an excellent time to go.
The lure of New Zealand is hard to deny as well.Oct 24, 2010 at 11:29 am #1657478
If money was no object, I'd check out New Zealand or Tanzania.
Otherwise I'd go back to South America, and specifically the Andes.
Some things to know about South America,
1. Microclimates! Terrain is rugged and highly variable, so wherever you find sweet warm and sunshine in February, 100 miles away you might find winter cold, or torrential rain. Personally if I were planning to revisit S.A. I'd pick a few treks I want to do and then find out which of those locations happens to have great weather in February.
The Lonely Planet online forum might be a place to ask which hiking locations might have great weather in February:
Besides Patagonia, some of the epic/amazing treks of South America are
* Macchu Piccu
* Cordillera Blanca or Cordillera Huayhuash, in Peru
* Cordillera Real, in Bolivia
* Colombia (not sure where)
* The plateau around Angel Falls in Venezuela
However, I'm reluctant to recommend any one of these in particular because February may or may not work. Angel Falls, for instance, is said to be miserable when it's too rainy, but disappointing when it's too dry (water level is down so you can't boat close enough to the falls).
That said, Macchu Piccu and Bolivia's Cordillera Real are easy to combine in a month-long trip. They are fairly adjacent, and everything between them, nature and culture, is amazing.
2. Politics. Be sure you are up to date on which areas might be easygoing to travel to; versus which ones might have some political tension (and border-crossing hassles to go with that). North Americans tend to think Peru or Colombia are dangerous. That is very old information. Everything changes. Ecuador was extremely peaceful when I was there in 1995, but it probably wouldn't be my choice now. I'd love to go to Colombia – everybody raves about it. Sometimes, political problems in a country are confined to just one small region to avoid. Again, ask somewhere where people know what's going on locally.
3. Picking a trekking route. We've always gone alone, with no guide. (Sometimes we've had to hire someone with a jeep to get us to the trailhead, though.) We bought trekking guidebooks in advance and chose a route. Invariably, the experience on South American "trails" was exponentially more challenging than any North American trails. On routes claimed by the trekking books to be quite ordinary, we've: Encountered non-existent trails and ended up following mazes of livestock paths; gotten utterly lost; had comical conversations in bad Spanish with shepherds at 15,000 feet in our effort to get unlost; taken 7 days to do a "3-day" route; were required to do Class 3 and Class 4 climbing along the route. All that is not to mention altitude challenges (with some of our trails *starting* at 14,500 feet) and some very cold nights. Plus the challenge of finding a reasonable topo map before you head out.
So, if you are considering trekking without a guide, just be prepared for some big adventures and misadventures. Allow yourself a ton of time. Never trust a guidebook's ratings for the hike; I think a lot of the S.A. backpacking books are written by British expats who have gone so hard-core, they forget how hard these hikes are for an average or even a very well-trained person. Be a good orienteer, able to use a compass and read a topo map.
Personally my next trip will probably be to Cordilleras Blanca/Huayhuash. Joe Simpson, author of Touching the Void, writes in the epilogue that that particular mountain range, in his estimation, is the most beautiful in the world – and he has been mountaineering on nearly every continent. Plus, I love the Peruvians.
– ElizabethOct 24, 2010 at 4:15 pm #1657561
Thanks for the detailed info. everyone. I think I will have to check out Columbia soon either BPing or not. I'll just bring along my gear and see how it goes. I'll look into the other areas of SA too.
Looks like I have some reading to do in the next month or so. It's really airfare that isn't much of a problem. Everything else, inexpensive is better, especially accommodations and transportation. I forgot how much things in general cost down under (only ever been to Australia).Oct 24, 2010 at 5:17 pm #1657594
If daily costs are the issue, the least expensive Andes countries will be Bolivia, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador.
Venezuela is somewhat more expensive than that.
Chile is more expensive than Venezuela.
Argentina is the most expensive of them all.
At least, that's how I remember it.
As for airfare from North America, most likely flights to Lima will be the cheapest.
– ElizabethOct 24, 2010 at 5:45 pm #1657616
K2 … be the first ;)Oct 24, 2010 at 6:39 pm #1657635
When I was there this past december-february, Bolivia was by far the cheapest but peru wasn't too far behind. Ecuador next, then Colombia. My comparison points were usually lodging prices, food prices, and the cost of bottled water. Venezuela was darn expensive unless you were using the right ATM: venezuela has two economies, essentially, one of which has a bad exchange rate for the US dollar and one of which has a fantastic exchange rate for the US dollar. Even though the US-favoring economy is "unnoficial," we ran into quite a few ATMs that gave us ~5 Bolivar Fuertes to the Dollar rather than the official 1.5. So Venezuela is effectively either about as cheap as peru or just as pricey as home depending on your exchanges.
Dunno about Chile and Argentina, though I wish I did.
Cheapest South American airfare I've seen has been to Bogota, Colombia, from Miami at under $200 depending on when you book. I haven't seen any below $400 for Lima (if you have, I wouldn't mind some more info about it!) and for some reason us silly folks flew to La Paz for about $600 each. Airfare for Venezuela is ridiculous, just fly to Bogota and take a bus if you want to go there, saves about $400 over flying to Caracas (!).Oct 24, 2010 at 7:32 pm #1657652
haha.. K2, I'll give you the honors Eric, no ego here.
Well it's been a while since I backpacked Europe, so looks like SA is a good idea.
What are the temp extremes like in SA (rough range) round that time? I know that is a tough question, just a rough idea.
I should be able to handle short time around freezing without a problem.
I have a Hexamid solo, Tarptent DB or should I invest in a hammock? If I'm going solo, I'd like to take the Hexamid but is that appropriate (high winds)?
Maybe I can do 3 weeks there and scooch over to New Zealand for two, get straight to a track and start walking.
I can pretty much get over to anywhere in the world for around $150-200, standby though. So I guess that helps a bit. Though I think I'm done with dorm beds.Oct 24, 2010 at 7:55 pm #1657658
On my trip (december/january), in the mountains temperatures were never over 90 or so. Usually between 85 and 60, most likely. In coastal peru and ecuador it probably got up above 100, and the coldest nights camping in the mountains were probably in the low 40s. You should be well-served with typical 3-season gear.
Unless you plan to stick to the rainforest, I'd advise against a hammock. It's usually easier to find ground to pitch a shelter on than proper trees to string up to, particularly up in the mountains where the only trees in many areas are very small and thin, if there are any. I wouldn't expect terribly high winds either, the hexamid would probably suffice. Though if you have some of the more rugged high-altitude treks like the cordillera blanca in mind the tarptent may be better suited.Oct 24, 2010 at 10:37 pm #1657688
Here's an article about international backpacking/equipment, came out a few months ago right here on BPL:Oct 25, 2010 at 12:02 am #1657702
Nice, money saved.
The Hexamid is oh so light and small, but I often look at the Double Rainbow first because it's so darn easy to use.
Elizabeth: I read that article. It is excellent.Oct 28, 2010 at 10:15 am #1658919
Check out the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal.
I did this a dozen years ago with my sister and it was absolutely great. You won't even need to bring a tent. Each day you'll travel through a couple small villages that have places for you to sleep and provide food. You only need to bring a sleeping bag and clothing. I spent 17 days doing the circuit. Amazing views of the tallest peaks in the world. You'll run into a few others hiking the same direction as yourself (counterclockwise). You'll also run into the locals wlaking the same trail with thier supplis for us trekkers. Great time!Oct 28, 2010 at 11:17 am #1658943
@sbhikesLocale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
If it's a dry February, you could attempt the Condor Trail. Most of the southern portion is hikable now (i.e. there are trails). See http://www.condortrail.org. Click on the map on the home page.Oct 28, 2010 at 12:24 pm #1658977
Next winter (2011-2012) I and two friends of mine plan to do the Annapurna circuit, and I'm pretty excited about it. One should be aware, though, that it's in the process of being paved. This is a bit of a bummer for us trekkers, but it will admittedly be a good thing for the rural villages to whom the Annapurna circuit has always been first and foremost a trade route. 2012 is expected to be one of the last years before they complete the paving, so we're hoping to get there just in time to hike at least some of the trail in its classic non-paved state.Oct 29, 2010 at 10:13 am #1659273
just finished up the AC this week, and it is far from "being paved." i can't imagine that road ever getting paved, maybe in 10 years or so.
from bhulbule to muktinath, you can stay off the road the whole time. from muktinath to tatopani, the road has to be used but only intermittently. certainly doesn't detract from the trek, anymore than the thousand other tourists already trekking with you.
that said, it's a lovely trek, especially when combined with the sanctuary. i spent right about $600 for 26 days out there. It can be done cheaper if you carry some of your own stuff (like a stove and tea, muesli, etc…)
highly recommended. if you really want to get off the beaten path in nepal though, it's not hard. you can do the kanchenjunga circuit, you could do manaslu circuit, you could do the dhaulagiri base camp circuit, or do nar-phu. all of those are essentially on the annapurna circuit at some point (except kanchenjunga), but they get off the track. if you are willing to self support, and carry the weight, they are not very expensive.
i posted some photos and a small write up here – http://www.danransom.com/TripReports/?p=356Oct 29, 2010 at 11:26 am #1659301
That is wonderful to hear. I've seen articles stating the circuit is supposed to be paved by 2012, which were a little discouraging.
My other two traveling companions only have a short window of time due to classes, but if I've got the available time I'll definitely check out some of the other treks you've mentioned and consider lingering in Nepal a while longer.
A question: how exactly did you go about getting there? We're trying to determine the most economical means of transport. Some Nepal tourism center gave me a quote of about $1500 round-trip from JFK to Kathmandu, but I've also read that flying to Delhi and taking a cheap train north is possible, which sounds appealing given that tickets to Delhi are as low as $500. Any tips or recommendations?Oct 29, 2010 at 2:51 pm #1659342
@b-g-2-2Locale: Silicon Valley
"the kanchenjunga circuit"
The last time that I checked, that was not in Nepal.
For years, the two major trekking routes were 1.Mt Everest Base Camp, and 2.the Annapurna Circuit. So, those two are the most heavily used.
For different treks, you can head out to Manaslu and the other big peaks, just as Dan suggested.
–B.G.–Oct 29, 2010 at 3:01 pm #1659350
@b-g-2-2Locale: Silicon Valley
If you are flying from the West Coast of U.S.A., it is often cheaper to fly LA>Seoul>Bangkok>Kathmandu. From the East Coast, it might be better to head across Europe.
At the last time that I flew it, the price was about $1500 RT.
–B.G.–Oct 29, 2010 at 4:14 pm #1659371
East coast (the wild tundra of the buffalo, NY area). Most of the flights I've been looking at in the 1500 RT range to kathmandu have at least one (more often a couple) layovers in europe/west asia, same with the 500 RT flights to Delhi.
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