On the morning of January 30th, over 100 hikers met at the Patagonia Park headquarters to start the annual Ruta de Huemul, a 28 km hike from Patagonia Park through the Tamango Reserve and into the neighboring town of Cochrane. Participants came from all over the Aysen region, and from as far as Argentina, to experience the renowned scenic hike. This year was the 10th anniversary of the Ruta de Huemul, and was so popular organizers had to divide the crowd into eight groups, each led by an expert local guide. Created by Conservacion Patagonica, CONAF, and the Municipality of Cochrane, the hike aims to bring awareness and protection to the region’s dwindling number of Huemul deer. Participants proudly wore their Ruta de Huemul t-shirts, decorated with the delicate outline of the emblematic deer.
Combined, the Tamango National Reserve (south of the park) and Patagonia Park protect almost 140 Huemul, which unfortunately accounts for nearly 10% of the world’s population. Daniel Velasquez, a park warden for Conservacion Patagonica, lives year round in a house by Lake Cochrane in the heart of Huemul territory. Daniel is responsible for monitoring the park’s Huemul population, which is constantly under threat from feral dogs, poachers, and declining habitat. The Huemul remain a top priority for Conservacion Patagonica’s wildlife recovery team.
The group started their hike on the La Vega Trail (2.8 km), which connects the park administration to the West Winds Campground. The La Vega Trail connects to the base of the Lagunas Altas Trail, which leads hikers up switchbacks to the base of Mount Tamanguito.
After a windy lunch at the saddle near Tamanguito, the group continued west, winding around high alpine lakes as they dropped into the Tamango Reserve.
After hours of uphill, hikers were happy to descend through the lenga forests in Tamango. The lenga forests are a favorite of the Huemul, as they provide shelter as well as plenty of delicious leafy plants.
The group set up tents along Lake Tamanguito while the guides built a fire and for the grand asado. Hungry hikers gobbled down bread, meat, and mate while relaxing and making new friends.
The next morning hikers set off to complete the remainder of the hike. The trail continued along the edge of Lago Tamanguito before dropping into the wetlands. The highlight of the day was the incredible lookout point over Cochrane and the neighboring lakes and mountains.
The group finally descended into town and was met by an enthusiastic welcome party in Cochrane’s main plaza. Each participant was awarded a medal, and we were sure to thank our guides and organizers for all of their hard work. Congratulations to everyone for a job well done!