Exploring with the Trail Hunter in Patagonia
Above: the familiar profile of the Matt Hunter cutting another turn; this time with the almost unbelievable Chilean landscape as a backdrop.
Trail Hunter in the rugged Torres Del Paine, Patagonia, Chile
Exploration, adventure, getting lost… trail hunting with the Trail Hunter. Call it what you want, it’s all at the heart of the sport that we love and live – mountain biking.
It’s mid January and I’m heading down to southern Chile and Patagonia on an exploration mission, trail hunting with the ‘Trail Hunter’ Matt Hunter, along with Matty Miles, Dan Milner and Rene Wildhaber. H+I Adventures have been in Patagonia a few times over the past two years, trying to gain access to the singletrack trails that exist there, particularly within the Torres del Paine National Park, famed for its impressive granite towers.
So, after much work we have been granted access to some private land and also government trails, to test and explore the possibilities for mountain bike tourism in Chilean Patagonia and to show that mountain bikers are not the bad new kid on the block, but a valuable asset to the trails and area.
Hitting play on the video link above will transport you into a mountain bike dream world. The most fantastic sights, sounds, trails and riding you can hope to encounter. Classic Trail Hunting.
Singletrack mountain biking in Patagonia
As I am sitting waiting on the crew to arrive – and throughout the duration of our time in Patagonia – I don’t see another mountain bike. One touring bike, but the rest are hikers. This area is truly an untapped mountain bike paradise that has to be respected and managed carefully to enable our integration with this precious environment.
When the team arrives, it’s hugs all around, as we all know each other from one adventure or another from the past. Our H+I Adventures local guide Javier is on hand to sort accommodation and soon has the map out on the table alongside a cup of coffee explaining the options available to us. The backdrop to Javier’s briefing is the towers of the Torres del Paine massif. Not a bad office for the next few days.
“The views into the Torres are incredible and continually evolving as the wind keeps the weather changing at an alarming rate.”
We waste no time; building bikes from our EVOC bike bags takes minutes, then we’re getting changed and hitting the first trail of our adventure. The weather is good today so we head for the high ground of Cerro Paine, a lovely jagged looking mountain that is directly across a narrow valley to the Torres del Paine themselves.
The trail in the forest on the lower parts of the mountain is loamy and fast, but as we go above the tree line the terrain soon becomes rocky and loose, which does make for a fun descent later in the day when we turn around after our long hike-a-bike. The views into the Torres are incredible and continually evolving as the wind keeps the weather changing at an alarming rate. This would turn out to be the nature of the game down here: be prepared for all weather, all the time.
Above and below: a quick snapshot into our shoot. Wonderful memories of riding with friends in the most fantastic of locations.
Unknown Patagonia mountain biking
Riding within the Torres del Paine National Park is only part of what we are trying to achieve here, we want to reach out to the surrounding land that looks on to the world famous landmarks. These ranches – estancias – are where real life still exists within touching distance of the tourism hustle of the park itself. Gauchos in traditional dress, working the land in this harsh environment, with generations still on horseback each and every day are common place here. They know their land like the back of their hands and are willing to open up their trails to the Trail Hunter.
As we arrive at our estancia we are greeted by turquoise waters being whipped up by the winds that are ever present in one form or another, with a backdrop of the entire Torres del Paine massif in all of its glory. We chat with the land owner and he gives us some suggestions on which horse and hiking trails he thinks could work for mountain biking, but he is ok with us exploring anything we see out there on his mountains and forests.
We are soon on our bikes again, and off onto the hillside in search of a good singletrack trail, which we get. First we are working our way up through a forest of twisted trees, with lots of fallen branches littering the underside of the forest canopy, all due to high winds and snowfall in the winter. The trail looks like they have had mountain bike trail builders in, it’s perfect – gradient, surface, corners, everything! So we continue to climb excitedly up to a vantage point, where we take five to enjoy the view before us. We can see the hillside clearly now and plot our route out before us, still some climbing to be done here.
When we crest out at our high point it’s around 6pm, so the evening light is really enhancing the colours of the mountain views in front of us, with the golden dust being kicked up by our tyres and the Torres massif in the background. We have to stop for a photograph before we start our descent down what can only be described as an animal track.
“As we arrive at our estancia we are greeted by turquoise waters being whipped up by the winds that are ever present in one form or another, with a backdrop of the entire Torres del Paine massif in all of its glory.”
Riding behind Matt and Rene is a blast and enlightening, I feel my line choices improving and confidence in the bike’s ability growing with every corner and bunnyhop through a trail that is only improving with every metre that we ride. We blast out onto a dirt access road at the bottom of the singletrack laughing and smiling. Successful trail? You can be sure it was!
We spent five days in total riding in the Torres del Paine region of Patagonia, exploring trails and finding a solution to getting the H+I Adventures Clan riding there, which we’re pleased to say we achieved, and have updated the itinerary for our Chile + Patagonia adventure to include these amazing trails!
After leaving Patagonia, we headed for the Volcano region of Chile, for a second scouting mission. Read all about it in part two of ‘Trail hunting with the Trail Hunter,’