For the 2018-2019 academic year, I was on sabbatical. While I was still working, I had a lot more flexibility in when I could travel. New Zealand had been on our to-visit list for a while, but seasons and distance make it hard to visit during a normal year. We took advantage of my flexibility by planning a three-week trip to New Zealand for February and March — late summer / early fall.
Over the years of wanting to visit New Zealand, we had accumulated an extensive list of places we wanted to hike and explore. As we got into planning the details, we narrowed our trip to focus on hiking in the mountains of the South Island. Just that easily filled three weeks.
While tempted to return to some of the excellent hikes from our previous trip to Scotland, we instead decided to explore new parts of the Highlands before returning to prior hikes. After researching hikes in Scotland, we settled on four days of hiking the peaks of Torridonian sandstone running through Sutherland, Assynt, and Wester Ross.
In May 2019, we had the opportunity to return to Scotland for a week of hiking and whisky. Starting in Inverness, we spent the first half of the trip hiking in the northwest Highlands. We then drove down the west coast, took a ferry to Islay, and spend three days visiting distilleries, trying whisky and exploring the island.
Over the past few summers, my family has settled into a bit of a rotation between a week hiking in the Northwest and a week at Cold River Camp in the White Mountains. For 2018, we decided on a week of day hikes in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains. Despite smokey skies from wildfires, we had a wonderful time.
After a rainy couple of days, we were fortunate to wake up to a beautiful clear morning at Refuge de La Croix du Bonhomme. We took advantage of that with side trips to Tête Nord des Fours and Lacs Jovet on our way to Les Contamines. From there, we returned to our origin in Les Houches via Refuge de Miage and Col du Tricot to complete our Tour du Mont Blanc.
From Rifugio Bonatti, we followed a variant of the TMB over Mont de la Saxe and then down into Courmayeur. We hiked back up out of Courmayeur on a stormy morning, reaching Rifugio Elisabetta under broken clouds. Clouds and rain obscured the views for our hike from Elisabetta to Croix du Bonhomme.
Days 3-5 of our Tour du Mont Blanc hike. From Trient, we followed the Bovine route to the lakeside town of Champex. The next day, we walked an interpretive mushroom trail and through the Swiss Val Ferret to La Fouly. From La Fouly, we crossed the Grand Col de Ferret and followed the Italian Val Ferret to Rifugio Bonatti. Continue reading
Before starting the Tour du Mont Blanc, we spent a day hiking from Chamonix. After that, we started the TMB at Les Houches, following it clockwise over Le Brévent to our first night at La Flégère. On our second day, we visited the Lacs des Chéserys, crossed Aiguillette des Posettes, and passed over Col de Balme to reach Trient.
Part 2 of our March 2018 return to Patagonia to explore and hike the Aysén region between Coyhaique and Cochrane in Chile. This part covers our brief stop in Puerto Rio Tranquilo, time spent in Villa Cerro Castillo, and an overnight backpacking trip in Cerro Castillo National Park. Follow along as we recount our trek to famous Laguna Cerro Castillo and the beautiful New Zealand camp.