Ushuaia to El Chaten, Argentina Road Trip Report: Day #1 = Torres Del Paine, Chile | Flamingos & Mummified Guanacos…

Miles Clark | | Conditions ReportConditions Report
Torres del Paine, Chile. image: snowbrains

Report from 11/18/22

After getting back from ski guiding in Antarctica on November 15, 2022, we weren’t sure what to do with the 11-days before our next Antarctica ski trip…

As we glided through the Beagle Channel on our way back to Ushuaia, I came up with a plan in the first sunshine in a while on the back deck of the Ocean Adventurer.

Road trip day #1: Ushuaia, Argentina to Torres Del Paine, Chile.
  • Ski 2 days in Ushuaia
  • Drive 1000km to Torres Del Paine, Chile, and check out the towers
  • Drive another 500km to El Chalten, Argentina to check out the Fitzroy and Cerro Torre towers and go for a ski
  • Drive 1000km straight back to Ushuaia
  • One big loop…
Torres del Paine, Chile. image: snowbrains

Gabe Monroe, owner of Pulseline Adventures (Valdez, AK heliskiing) was down for the adventure and honestly, it was his idea to drive… 

I was just gonna do the 1 hour and 20-minute flight.

On November 18, 2022, we left Ushuaia on a windy, high-cloud day.

Ushuaia. image: snowbrains

The mountains of Ushuaia were gorgeous with dense green forests down low and spaghetti strings of snow up high.

We soon hit the flats of La Isla Grande de Tierra Del Fuego.

The trees were caked in hanging moss and Guanacos (llamas) were everywhere.

Chile. image: snowbrains

As we approached the ferry to cross the Straights of Magellan, we couldn’t believe the number of sheep out there.

Lambs everywhere.

Crossing the Straits of Magellan by ferry was very cool.

Miles crossing the Straits of Magellan. image: snowbrains

Something I’ve always wanted to do given its heavy history.

The Strait of Magellan (Spanish: Estrecho de Magallanes), also called the Straits of Magellan, is a navigable sea route in southern Chile separating mainland South America to the north and Tierra del Fuego to the south. The strait is considered the most important natural passage between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. It was discovered and first traversed by the Spanish expedition of Ferdinand Magellan in 1520, after whom it is named. Prior to this, the strait had been navigated by canoe-faring indigenous peoples including the Kawésqar.

Magellan’s original name for the strait was Estrecho de Todos los Santos (“Strait of All Saints”). The King of Spain, Emperor Charles V, who sponsored the Magellan-Elcano expedition, changed the name to the Strait of Magellan in honor of Magellan.[1]

The route is difficult to navigate due to frequent narrows and unpredictable winds and currents. Maritime piloting is now compulsory. The strait is shorter and more sheltered than the Drake Passage, the often stormy open sea route around Cape Horn, which is beset by frequent gale-force winds and icebergs.[2] Along with the Beagle Channel, the strait was one of the few sea routes between the Atlantic and Pacific before the construction of the Panama Canal.

Magallan. image: snowbrains

Once across the straits, we crossed the border into Chile.

More sheep, more guanacos.

As we approached Torres del Paine, the landscape changed.

Torres del Paine, Chile. image: snowbrains

Rolling hills, jagged mountains in the distance, brilliant green grass with granite boulders, and wind-bent trees.

The landscape was stunning and we were almost out of gas…

We passed a gas station at 3/4 tank – mistake.

Torres del Paine, Chile. image: snowbrains

There was no gas anywhere.

It looked like we’d have just enough gas, maybe, to get to Puerto Natales.

It was a nail-biter and we ended up tailgating a big truck to get a draft for the last hour or so.

Hanging moss-caked trees on Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego. image: snowbrains

We pulled into the gas station in Puerto Natales, Chile on empty with the dash saying we had 0kms left.

It felt great to leave Natales with a full tank of gas and drive North to Torres del Paine national park.

Then we started seeing Flamingos…

Flamingos in Torres del Paine, Chile. image: snowbrains

We just hadn’t expected that…

We were blown away and after driving up to the towers of Torres del Paine we stumbled on 27 flamingos in a lake overlooking the towers.

We talked down to check them out and found 2 mummified guanacos on the shoreline.

Torres del Paine, Chile. image: snowbrains

They must have drowned in the alkaline lake and been preserved?

This all was happening during a piercing sunset and we couldn’t believe our luck.

We chilled by the flamingos for about an hour just watching them battle the ferocious winds and listening to them squawk.

Torres del Paine, Chile. image: snowbrains

We were quiet, we were stunned.

The towers lacerated by the wind, the lake rolled in the wind, and the flamingos bent to the wind.

We were mere observers sheltered from the life and death and elemental battle taking place before us.


Respect is what I felt.

Respect and reverie.



Tierra Del Fuego


Mt. Olivia as we leave Ushuaia, Argentia. image: snowbrains
El Castor ski resort in Ushuaia, Argentina. image: snowbrains
Straits of Magellan ferry. image: snowbrains
Puerto Natales, Chile. image: snowbrains
Torres del Paine, Chile. image: snowbrains
Torres del Paine, Chile. image: snowbrains
Torres del Paine, Chile. image: snowbrains
Miles, guanaco, flamingos, and Torres del Paine, Chile. image: snowbrains
Torres del Paine, Chile. image: snowbrains
Torres del Paine, Chile. image: snowbrains
Torres del Paine, Chile. image: snowbrains
Sunset in Torres del Paine, Chile. image: snowbrains

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