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HUNTING FOR FOSSILS

Overview

Trek back in time to Torres del Paine’s hidden valleys and canyons, where paleontology is very much alive and evidence of Patagonia’s prehistoric life lies in wait. Pour over Ichthyosaurus fossils, hike the Zapata Valley and explore steppe dotted with the fossils of ancient leaves. This trek through ancient history weaves through secluded valleys, steppe and canyons far from the Park’s more crowded trails.

Trip highlights

• Visit Torres del Paine’s most remote locations
• Wild, remote trekking and camping experience
• Hike the Zapata Valley
• Get close to the Southern Patagonian Ice Field
• Trek to the summit of Cerro Zapata
• See impressive Ichthyosaurus fossils
• Search for fossils in the Sierra Baguales
• Visit Tyndall Glacier
• Stay at a Patagonian estancia

Itinerary

Day 1

Transfer to Torres del Paine - Full-day Trek through the Zapata Valley

2 hours by private transfer

6 hours hike, 14 KM

Night at Zapata Campsite (BL-D)

An early morning transfer will pick you up from your Puerto Natales hotel and take you to Torres del Paine National Park. After entering the National Park, we’ll drive to the post at Grey Lake and begin our 6-hour hike to the Zapata Valley, the most ancient one in Torres del Paine. This is an extremely unfrequented valley and your group will experience the peace of trekking alone, accompanied only by stirring scenery, and (if we’re lucky) the watchful gaze of the foxes, guanacos, woodpeckers and huemuls (Andean deer) that live here. Hikers will share the weight of common equipment, carrying food and tents between them. A group porter and cook will carry the portable toilet and cook meals during your time at the Zapata campsite. This is a remote camping experience, staying at a basic campsite without access to hot water - but with the transcendent backdrop of Torres del Paine’s (truly) untamed landscapes on all sides. Upon arrival, we’ll set up camp, settle in and recharge with a nourishing evening meal.

Day 2

Explore the Ichthyosaurus Graveyard

12 hour round-trip/hike, 8 km

Night at Zapata Campsite (B-BL-D)

Today you’ll hike to rocky slopes near Tyndall Glacier to the site of a precious paleontological discovery. Here, 46 examples of Ichthyosaurus fossils, a dolphin-like “fish lizard” that lived 245 million to 90 million years ago in the Mesozoic Era, are seen as if etched into the rock itself. Adult and embryo specimens are present, showing us the remains of a what is likely a pack that was entombed by catastrophic mudflow that rushed into the underwater canyons they hunted. We’ll make our way back to our campsite via the same route and settle in to share a good meal. Tonight take time to stretch and rest: tomorrow’s hike is our most challenging.

Day 3

Full-day Hike to the Summit of Cerro Zapata

12-14 hour round-trip/hike, 26 km

Night at Zapata Campsite (B-BL-D)

This morning we’ll begin at around 4:00 am. Our destination is the Cerro Zapata (1590 m). This is a non-technical hike, but one that is long and requires hikers to interact closely with the landscape: weaving through forests of native trees, crossing snow and bouldering across huge rocks carved out by the glaciers’ ancient movements. The summit of Cerro Zapata has 360° views of fantastic Patagonian scenery, being surrounded by lakes, glaciers, mountain ranges and the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. Its peak is a particularly wonderful lookout for glaciers and the lakes they give birth to: from the summit, Glaciers Grey, Tyndall, Geike, Pingo, Olguín (and others still unexplored) will be laid out below you. Our return hike to camp will be along the same route.

Day 4

Return hike, Transfer to Estancia Las Cumbres

6 hour hike, 14 km

2 hours by private transfer

Night at Estancia La Cumbre (B-BL-D)

This morning we’ll break camp and begin our return hike across the grassy steppe and undulating slopes of the valley, with energy-boosting views of the Paine Massif along the way. Back at the post at Grey Lake we’ll board a private transfer service to Estancia La Cumbre, where we’ll stay for the next two nights. The drive crosses the National Park, giving you a chance to catch extra glimpses of its most famous peaks and landscapes, such as Paine Grande, Los Cuernos and its intensely-colored lakes. After settling in at Estancia La Cumbre, we’ll share dinner together and enjoy a good night’s rest.

Day 5

Full-day Fossil Hunt in Sierra Baguales

7 hour round-trip hike, 12 km

Night at Estancia La Cumbre (B-BL-D)

A meditative day’s hike in the wild open steppe of the Sierra Baguales, exploring the region’s paleontologic past through the intricate fossils left from when the Atlantic Ocean’s waters flowed here. Throughout the day your guide will show you natural relics - fossilized leaves, tree trunks, shellfish and shark teeth - left as souvenirs from Patagonia’s changing landscapes. We’ll explore remote lakes, follow guanaco tracks, be introduced to unique flora and fauna and hike to a viewpoint (1200 m) to see the Tetas de las Chinas rock formation. You’ll spend the night once again at the Estancia and enjoy a Patagonian style lamb barbecue for dinner.

Day 6

Full-day expedition to Rodas Lagoon and Fossil Canyon, Return to Puerto Natales

6 hours round-trip, 12 km

2 hours by private transfer (B-BL)

With ragged peaks as our backdrop, today’s trek takes us through vast landscapes that have beared witness to important moments of Patagonia’s prehistoric and modern history. Following the wild waters of the Baguales River, this gentle, 2-hour hike passes the crumbling remains of abandoned estancias once owned by the region’s first fearless inhabitants. We’ll visit Rodas Lagoon, see wild trout surfing its waters, and have lunch beneath the red-hued cliffs and lava-sculpted peaks (some up to 2000m high) that surround the lagoon. Afterwards, you’ll visit Fossil Canyon where a rocky outcrop is studded with fossils of mollusks, oysters and other marine life that flourished here in the ancient waters of the Atlantic some 18-23 million years ago. Later, we’ll follow a gentle path back to the Visitor’s Center and prepare to transfer back to Puerto Natales.

INCLUDED

  • All private transportation indicated in the schedule
  • Entrance fee to Torres del Paine National Park
  • Entrance fee to Torres del Paine National Park
  • Accommodation as listed in the itinerary
  • Three nights at Zapata Campsite
  • One night at Estancia La Cumbre (Shared room)
  • All meals indicated in the schedule (B: breakfast, BL: picnic lunch, L: Lunch, D: dinner, BBQ: Chilean Asado)
  • Professional Hiking and Paleontology Guides (English-Spanish)

NOT INCLUDED

  • Any international and domestic flights
  • Any additional nights
  • Medical expenses
  • Travel insurance (air medical rescue service - first aid and/or evacuation - insurance included)
  • Personal expenses
  • Breakfast on Day 1, Dinner on Day 6
  • Alcoholic and non alcoholic drinks
  • Gratuities for Guide & Driver

Lodgings

Chile Nativo Wild Camping

When we go off the beaten path, we have to camp in places with no facilities, so we provide all the camping gear necessary for the most comfortable experience.
Each participant will have to carry the camping gear we provide, which includes tents (sharing between two), compact cooking utensils, portable camp chair and we will divide with all the participants the common camping gear such as food and cooking utensils. Each person will carry in total between 17 and 20 kgs (34 and 44 pounds).We will have a porter with the group that will carry a portable toilet.

Dates & Prices

PRICES FOR SEASON 2018/2019: (valid until April 2019)

2 pax USD$ 2.895 p.p.
3 pax USD$ 2.395 p.p.
4 – 8 pax USD$ 2.095 p.p.

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