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Trail Restoration Project

Los Glaciares National Park Argentina

Description in Spanish here.

This American Alpine Club (AAC) project supported by a generous grant from Patagonia Inc. spanned two seasons, October to December 2008, and November to December 2009 and involved over 4,400 man hours of work inside the park.

The goal of the project was to help restore heavily eroded trails in the area of Seccional Lago Viedma, around El Chalten, in the northern part of Los Glaciares National Park (LGNP) a
UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The park is renowned for its iconic mountains and glaciers. It is an area of great interest to climbers and hikers alike. In the northern area of the park lie the Cerro Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre massifs. During the past 30 years Seccional Lago Viedma has witnessed a dramatic increase in the number of visitors, from a few hundred in the early 1980s to more than 90,000 in 2010.

Although 99% of the visitors are hikers this is a very popular destination for climbers and between 200 to 400 visit it every year. This increase in tourist pressure has resulted in accelerated trail erosion. Park authorities have made notable efforts to minimize these impacts particularly by banning horse travel recently.

Some of the conservation and restoration programs within the park have been constrained by limited funding. There has been no help from the many commercial operators who in spite of paying ridiculously low permit fees to move hundreds of tourist a year inside the park are less than eager to help mitigate environmental impact.

This AAC project hoped to set a precedent of stewardship and was carried out by climbers, an amateur –non commercial- user group. The project was conceived and spearheaded by local climber Rolando Garibotti.


The planning was done in March 2008 with the help of Brian Bergsma - Trail Supervisor for Grand Teton National Park (GTNP) with over 20 years of experience in trail restoration projects - and the Director of the Regional Delegation for the Asociacion de Parques Nacionales (APN), Claudio Chehebar.


The work was carried out by a team composed by a number of local climbers and by seasonal trail crew employees of various US National Parks, Grand Teton, Glacier, Zion and Grand Canyon, who kindly agreed to volunteer for this project providing much needed expertise. A biologist specialized in high altitude plant ecology, led the revegetation part of the project.

The second work cycle also involved a nine-day trail restoration nd erosion prevention course for park rangers of various patagonian national parks. Seventeen rangers from Parque Nacional Lago Puelo, PN Perito Moreno, PN Monte León, PN Los Alerces, PN Bosques Petrificados, PN Tierra del Fuego, PN Nahuel Huapi, PNLG zona sur y norte attended.


The project was a resounding success.

We focused our energy on building structures with the best techniques available to ensure their longevity. This is a key point in trail restoration because if badly built structures can last as little as one season and are more of a waste of time and resources than anything else. “Our” structures should help as examples for future work crews, as examples of the techniques that must be used to build sustainable trail restoration and erosion prevention structures.

In spite of working in some of the harshest weather conditions one could ever encounter we managed to build the following erosion prevention structures:

121 wood steps 
310 rock steps
190 drains
33 rock water bars
32 wood water bars
350 meters of "new" trail
28 feet of bridge
50 square meters of retaining wall
15 meters of causeway
45 feet of causeway
7 checks
19 meters of fill

Read the 2008 work report here.

Read the 2009 work report here.

The revegetation reports can be found in the menu bar to the right of this page.

Special thanks go to Patagonia Inc for the very generous grant that has made this project possible, to Patagonia Footwear for providing their exceptional shoes and to MSR for the generous donation of a number of tents. Special thanks also to all the volunteers who have kindly donated their time to this project.

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Related articles Project description Work reportsReport 2008Report 2009 Revegetation reports Revegetation 2/09 (pdf) Revegetation 4/09 (pdf)Revegetation 12/2009 (pdf)
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