Patagonia is outdoors: Desafío Aysén

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Driving the Carretera Austral south from Coyhaique, Cerro Castillo (2318m) barges into view, a massive, dagger-topped fortress of ice and snow that lords over the landscape. You’re giddy. Dazzled. It’s a drooling postcard. 
One problem. You can get out of the car and snap photos. But true to Patagonian form, these roadside marvels have no marker, no indication of how to get there, if you even could.
That is, until now.
This January 13-16, 2011, Cerro Castillo and parts north will be the site of Desafío Aysén, an adventure race introducing the wild beauty of the Sendero de Chile in pristine Aysén. The event coincides with live music in Villa Cerro Castillo, an artisan fair in Coyhaique and an entrepeneurial workshop in Puerto Ibáñez.
For those unfamiliar with Sendero de Chile, it’s a recreational route linking the entire country via trails and backroads. In the competition, teams of four will follow the route on horseback, bicycle, trekking and in rafts. The award-winning nonprofit Escuela de Guias de la Patagonia, which trains local youth as professional guides, custom designed the event to showcase the region’s most ripping nature spots and bolster the growing culture of outdoor sports in Patagonia.
But you don’t have to be a competitor to take advantage of Desafio Aysen´s excellent website, which provides ready-made trip planning information for those headed south this summer. Download topo maps, find detailed route descriptions and look under ‘Tips’ for a guide to the best rural b&bs, locally guided horse trips and treks.
For independent hiking information, check out my book Trekking in the Patagonian Andes, available from Lonely Planet´s website in book form or as downloadable chapters.
Happy trails. 

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