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Where would you go this winter (anywhere in the world)?
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Scott Truong

Locale: Vancouver, BC
more responses here on 10/17/2010 13:41:36 MDT Print View

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.

Edited by elf773 on 10/22/2010 08:34:33 MDT.

Erik Danielsen
(er1kksen) - F

Locale: The Western Door
Colombia on 10/17/2010 14:24:45 MDT Print View

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.
Paramo Romarales

Someday I will see where that trail leads from there.

Brendan Mulholland
(dools009) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
where the trail leads on 10/17/2010 23:08:55 MDT Print View

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!


Erik Danielsen
(er1kksen) - F

Locale: The Western Door
RE: where the trail leads on 10/18/2010 07:54:38 MDT Print View

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).

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: No text/moved on 10/21/2010 17:15:13 MDT Print View

New Zealand. Why not have another summer?

Scott Truong

Locale: Vancouver, BC
RE: on 10/22/2010 08:44:33 MDT Print View

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.

Amy Lauterbach
(drongobird) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Where would you go this winter on 10/22/2010 09:42:53 MDT Print View


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 :)

Edited by drongobird on 10/22/2010 10:02:13 MDT.

Erik Danielsen
(er1kksen) - F

Locale: The Western Door
Re: RE: on 10/22/2010 13:51:23 MDT Print View

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.

Elizabeth Tracy
(mariposa) - M

Locale: Outside
Ideas on 10/24/2010 12:29:13 MDT Print View

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.

- Elizabeth

Scott Truong

Locale: Vancouver, BC
Re: on 10/24/2010 17:15:25 MDT Print View

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).

Edited by elf773 on 10/24/2010 17:18:13 MDT.

Elizabeth Tracy
(mariposa) - M

Locale: Outside
cheapest in the Andes on 10/24/2010 18:17:41 MDT Print View

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.

- Elizabeth

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
K2 on 10/24/2010 18:45:00 MDT Print View

K2 ... be the first ;)

Erik Danielsen
(er1kksen) - F

Locale: The Western Door
Re: cheapest in the Andes on 10/24/2010 19:39:43 MDT Print View

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 (!).

Scott Truong

Locale: Vancouver, BC
RE: SA on 10/24/2010 20:32:05 MDT Print View

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.

Erik Danielsen
(er1kksen) - F

Locale: The Western Door
Re: RE: SA on 10/24/2010 20:55:06 MDT Print View

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.

Elizabeth Tracy
(mariposa) - M

Locale: Outside
Resource on 10/24/2010 23:37:19 MDT Print View

Here's an article about international backpacking/equipment, came out a few months ago right here on BPL:

Scott Truong

Locale: Vancouver, BC
RE: gear on 10/25/2010 01:02:37 MDT Print View

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.

John McAlpine
(HairlessApe) - M

Locale: PNW
Annapurna Circuit in Nepal on 10/28/2010 11:15:48 MDT Print View

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!

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: more responses here on 10/28/2010 12:17:03 MDT Print View

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 Click on the map on the home page.

Erik Danielsen
(er1kksen) - F

Locale: The Western Door
Re: Annapurna Circuit in Nepal on 10/28/2010 13:24:45 MDT Print View

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.