What's more ultralight than not carrying any pack at all? Such was my experience in Los Glaciares National Park in southern Argentina.

Our bus to El Chaltén, the village inside the park, made a mandatory stop at park headquarters. After a briefing in English given by eloquent park rangers, which highlighted safety and Leave No Trace practices, we were already impressed. Yet afternoon storm clouds had covered all of the towering peaks in the distance, and we we were unable to see the legendary Fitz Roy.

In the park office Danny and I studied the many detailed maps in different colors, dimensions, and resolutions. There was one large loop in the park, but one-fourth of the terrain crossed over the Patagonian Ice Field. We were not equipped for such an expedition. The rest of the trails mostly emanated from the main trailhead that started in town. We decided to make a base camp an hour hike from El Chaltén. From there, we would do day trips to the many glaciers. Additionally, resupplying from town would be quick and easy.

As it turned out, this was a smart decision. Patagonia weather can be unpredictable, so camping at a low elevation and in the trees helped seclude us from high winds and cold temperatures. We took advantage of the long Patagonia summer days, and never ran out of day light. Instead, sheer exhaustion sent us to bed. Because we traveled light, with a few extra warm clothes, a small med kit, and plenty of calories, we could travel fast and cover long distances.

We passed through several crowded camps on our day hikes, yet most of those hikers we did not see on the trails. Our hypothesis was that moving camps and carrying heavier packs discouraged trekkers from exploring beyond the main routes.

With one backpack, carried often by my personal sherpa, my husband Danny, I was able to backpack in one of the most beautiful parks in the world, without actually carrying a pack.

ARTICLE OUTLINE

  • Introduction
  • Photo Essay

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