Shuswap trail experts helping to save Torres del Paine in Chile

"That was interesting to see our faces in the Chilean national newspaper," says the Shuswap Trail Alliance's Veda Roberge who is helping to turn the Torres del Paine's washed out cattle paths into sustainable trails.

B.C. duo spent 2 weeks in iconic national park assessing trails used by up to 1,000 people a day

The Shuswap's Jacob Brett, left and Veda Roberge, middle, spent two weeks in Torres Del Paine National Park in Chile helping assess the future of one of the most popular trails in the world. (Veda Roberge)

The Shuswap Trail Alliance's Veda Roberge and Jacob (Sutra) Brett have been featured in Chile's national newspaper for lending their expertise to help make the famous trails in Torres del Paine National Park more sustainable.

"That was interesting to see our faces in the Chilean national newspaper," said Roberge after spending two weeks in the Patagonia region of Chile assessing trails in the park.

Veda Roberge and Jacob Brett made national headlines in Chile for their work on the trails in Torres del Paine National Park (Veda Roberge)

"Historically their trail going out there was built by cows ... cattle trails," she said. 

"So there's no thought or no design put into these trails. So water is creating a major erosion issue for them as well as the high volume of users out there."

The area is famous for its rugged mountains and stunning views. Up to 1,000 people walk the trails or ride them on horseback each day as the park is open year-round.

"This is kind of that iconic, like 'the' trail," explained Roberge. "If you Google Chile, it's one of the main images that comes up."

The views from Torres de Paine are part of its allure. (Veda Roberge)

Roberge is a technical trail specialist in the Shuswap where she builds hiking, biking and equestrian trails all with the goal of making them sustainable.

In Chile, water, wind and the volume of users have damaged the system beyond repair, so Roberge and Brett spent their time there mapping new routes and devising a way to split them for walking or horseback use.

But there are challenges including intense wind, steep grades and even the soil, which is finer and does not bind as well as it does in the Shuswap.

Still, Roberge and Brett are optimistic about the future of the park and will return there to do more consultation.

Water erosion is one of the biggest problems facing trails in Torres del Paine. (Veda Roberge)

"I am pretty sure this is the start of a big project regarding the Shuswap Trail Alliance and Torres del Paine," wrote the President of the AMA Torres del Paine, Mauricio Kusanovic, in a message to Shuswap Trail Alliance Executive Director, Phil McIntyre-Paul.

"There is a (local) legend that says if you kiss the Yagan foot (an indigenous Patagonian statue), and eat calafate (a local traditional dish), you will come back. Veda and Sutra did both!!! So it's destiny now."

Many of the people who use the trail system in Torres Del Paine go on horseback, which contributes to trail erosion. (Veda Roberge)
Trails in Torres del Paine were essentially created by cattle walking through the rugged landscape. "So there's no thought or no design put into these trails," says Veda Roberge from Salmon Arm. (Veda Roberge)
Veda Roberge with the Shuswap Trail Alliance says trail builders from Chile may now come to B.C. to learn about best practises. (Veda Roberge)


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