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Teaching Trail Restoration in Patagonia

Posted on: November 13th, 2009 by admin

Causeway Work

Working on a trail causeway in Los Glaciares National Park, Patagonia. Photo by Rolando Garibotti

The second year of the AAC’s Patagonia Sustainable Trails Project has kicked off with a trail-restoration educational course for 17 Argentinean rangers from eight national parks across Patagonia. The course, held October 24 to November 1, was organized by AAC member Rolando Garibotti, directed by Max Ludington, a National Park Service (NPS) seasonal trail crew leader based out of Jackson Hole, and coordinated by Claudio Chehebar, director of the regional office for all Argentinean Patagonia national parks.

The nine-day course included more than 76 hours of fieldwork in Los Glaciares National Park, home of Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre. Instructors focused on a number of techniques to help mitigate erosion on heavily damaged trails. This included building drains, water bars, causeways, wood steps, and rock steps. Only materials available in the area (logs and rocks) were used, and special importance was given to the longevity of the “structures” and sustainability of the trails. While the focus of the course was learning, a number of erosion-prevention structures were built along the trail leading to De Agostini base camp, on the approach to Cerro Torre. These included 14 water bars, 45 drains, 50 wood steps, 19 rock steps, 15 meters of causeway, 19 meters of fill, and 6.5 square meters of retention walls.

For this unique American-Argentinean collaboration, the instructors were James Bouknight, Nick Guillespie, Cullen Kirk, and Mark Loseth, all seasonal NPS trail crew leaders. Also helping during the course were Juanjo Landucci and Diego Oyarzun, both from El Chalten. With the exception of Oyarzun, these leaders also participated in the first cycle of the Patagonia Sustainable Trails Project, in late 2008.

Special thanks go to Carlos Zoratti, chief ranger for Seccional Lago Viedma, for all the help provided during the course. Also, special thanks to the El Chalten Chamber of Commerce, which kindly secured free lodging for all the participants in a number of generous local hotels: Albergue Rancho Grande, Cabañas Aires del Fitz, Hotel Inlandsis, Hosteria Senderos and Posada Lunajuin.

Following the course, work has continued on the Laguna de los Tres Trail, the approach to Fitz Roy’s east face. Weather permitting, this work will continue until early December. The projects completed last year have held up very well, despite powerful forces of erosion in the area—in one area, several cubic meters of dirt and rocks had moved off the trail during the winter. A full report on this year’s trail work will appear at this blog in mid-December.

This project has been made possible by a generous grant from Patagonia Inc. A report on the project’s first year can be found at the AAC website. You can watch a short video about the trail work at Patagonia’s Tin Shed web page.

—Rolando Garibotti

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