Adventures on the Greater Patagonian Trail / El Sendero 5 Sur

Update: 20th May 2019

Words and photos from all the adventures below on the Greater Patagonian Trail, published today at Outside Magazine

I’ve got a new nasty habit.

It’s called the Greater Patagonian Trail – a 3000K+ network of animal tracks, arriero cowboy paths, indigenous peoples’ trails as well good ol’ deep-backcountry bushwacking.

It crosses mountains, swirls down rivers and cuts across lakes in its journey from my backdoor in Santiago, to deepest Patagonia in El Chalten. 

The GPT  is spearheaded by Jan Dudeck, a German explorer who imagined most of the route by studying satellite imagery, before 11+ summers on the ground discovering what he had seen from space. Today it continues to be fashioned by the feet of only a handful of crazy thru hikers.

Below are some of my section-hiking encounters below, with what is set to become one of the most classic long distance hiking routes on the planet. 

If you are interested in content from the GPT trail – send me an email

On January 21st 2018 the Royal Geographical Society’s magazine ran my first story from the trail – “The 3000km Trespass” in the February issue of Geographical.

Trip Four

– Popeta to Coya via Paso Coligues – 

 O’Higgins Region April 28th – 30th 2018

Before the snow came and antipodean winter set in properly, I wanted to try and push my end-point from trip three further south. Hopping a few tubes, trains and buses, I slept just outside the village of Popeta. 

From here I set out to have poke around an “investigation” section of the GPT that Jan Dudeck had yet to explore, but had observed animal and arrriero horse tracks via satellite image.

Day one took me high into the Rio Claro valley before camping at 1700m in the tight-cleft of a canyon which is referred to in some places as the Quebrada de Cepillo (or Little-brush Valley).

Day two and three I pushed over the pass I believe to be called “Paso Coligues” (due to a small lake on the northern side with a similar name,) and continued pushing my way down the precipitous Rio Claro de Cauquenes valley, under the watchful eye of condors and the ferocious Chilean sun.

It will be a few months now before I get back out there. When the snowline lowers once again, I hope to explore the magical Volcán Descabezado region in Maule.

(I’ve still got an outstanding “type-two fun” bushwacking + road-walking section to go back to in order to fully link these sections)

Trip Three

– Cerro Castillo and Parque Patagonia – 

 Aysén Region Feb 15th-March 2nd 2018

At the end of Feb, I headed to the deep south to the Aysén region. In 12 days we hiked the opal-laked Parque Patagonia trek, and the glacier drenched Cerro Castillo circuit. 

Aysén access

-sleeper bus from Santiago (14hours) to Puerto Montt + fiord ferry trip to Puerto Chacabuco (24hours) 


-high carbon footprint option of flight from Santiago to Balmaceda (2hr 15mins)

Trip Two

– Northern Trailhead from Parque Nacional Rio Clarillo to mine above Coya –

 Region Metropolitana and O’Higgins Jan 31st to Feb 2nd 2018

At the end of January, I gave myself a few days off. (These freelancers, ey…) With a 30litre bag, I spent three days and two nights on a solo fastpack trip, tackling the first 80km south from Santiago. 

Trip One

– Reserva Nacional China Muerte to Curarrahue –

 Araucanía Región April 2018

Back in 2016 my pal Alan and I set off on an ambitious 450K autumn bikepacking trip into the Arauacanía region of Chile – home to the indigenous Mapuche people.

We didn’t know at the time, but for a good 150K we were on Jan Dudeck’s nascent Greater Patagonian Trail route. Most of the photos above are from after we left the equally wild Reserva Nacional China Muerte, and cycled on the GPT trail past Volcano Solipulli down to Curarrehue.  

We sure did have a blast riding for five days between volcanoes, through monkey puzzle trees and beside this mystical region’s charging rivers.