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Scenery Review : 3D Cerro Torre "Los Glaciares" National Park by Frank Dainese & Fabio Bellini

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Scenery Review : 3D Cerro Torre "Los Glaciares" National Park by Frank Dainese & Fabio Bellini

 

It was not long ago a fabled land, a sort of "Lost World" a mythical story that few human western eyes had seen, but they brought back words of soaring mountains and seas of glaciers, this was a forgotten place at the end of the world. Today even with the current global unchallenging travel the words of Patagonia is still held in some sort of travel reverence that was once once held for Machu Picchu or Indiana Jones. But you can now get there or sort of in or out of the area, and with the courtesy of modern trekking methods...  the aircraft.

 

The area of Los Glaciares is heritage protected area in Santa Cruz Province, Argentina on the west coast and adjacent to Chile in the (disputed) border runs through the centre of the park in South America. The name means " Giant ice cap in the Andes"

 

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Los Glaciares National Park, of which 30% is covered by ice, can be divided in two parts, each corresponding with one of the two elongated big lakes partially contained by the park. Lake Argentino, 1,466 km2 (566 sq mi) is to the south and the largest lake in Argentina, while Lake Viedma, 1,100 km2 (420 sq mi), is in the north. Both lakes feed the Santa Cruz River that flows down to the lower part Puerto Santa Cruz on the Atlantic. Between the two halves is a non-touristic zone without lakes called Zona Centro.

The northern half consists of part of Viedma Lake, the Viedma Glacier and a few minor glaciers, and a number of mountains very popular among fans of climbing and trekking, including Mount Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre...  and it is this area is the focus of the scenery by Frank Dainese & Fabio Bellini

 

The main access for the (tourist) range El Calafate (SAWC) on the southern side of Lake Argentino and access to the actual resort zone is El Chalten which is on the Argentine side and just up the valley from the Cerro Torre mountain and other significant peaks. The odd thing compared to most of these significant mountaineering areas is that it is a plain on one side of the mountain range, so there is actual very little elevation climbing to be done to get to the El Chalten zone, so most transport into the area is via buses.

 

This scenery provides a "Fictional" airport called SACH at El Chalten and obviously modeled on VNLK - Lukla airport in the Himalayas, it is a short STOL runway with a few obstacles thrown in for good measure to make it all a bit of a challenge.

 

Frank Dainese & Fabio Bellini are the specialists of areas of mountainous regions for X-Plane. First there was the "Dolomiti 3D" Scenery, then there was the excellent Matterhorn Park 3D and the superb Everest Park 3D scenery of late last year to top them all out. This 3D Cerro Torre is a smaller scenery than Everest, but the price reflects that as well, but that doesn't say it isn't as spectacular... as this area is one of the most spectacular visual places on Planet Earth.

 

Los Glaciares National Park first Impression

Like most travellers I am going to depart from SAWC - El Calafate International Airport. There is no payware SAWC (hint) and the only X-Plane version is an old converted FlightSim modeled airport. I added in a few more objects to make it more usable as a base in the area, but the basics are good enough for what I wanted. SAWC is positioned well away from the actual mesh of the 3d Cerro Torre zone and so that is why the airport was not included with the payware scenery, so the mesh surrounding the airport is also then standard X-Plane mesh.

A note that this region is in the weather a very changeable conditions by the minute place as we shall see. 80% of the time the area is covered in cloud or mist and if you use a real time environmental weather plugin the chances are you won't get a clear day, but I got lucky on my fourth day...  that is not to say it is not visually stunning with the low cloud conditions, in fact it is the opposite in the surreal vistas it creates...  but it makes the flying extremely hazardous as well.

 

My equipment is the Carenado 208B Caravan, it is perfect for this sort of touristy operation.

 

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So why start so far away from the scenery. The best of Cerro Torre viewpoints are at 10,000ft and higher, so you have to climb up there, and that takes time and distance. I will note the 10,000ft altitude is the safest minimum requirement, even 8,000ft can put you eyeball to rock faces or peaks.

 

The long lake in Lake Argentino gives you the room to complete the climb to altitude and also with complete safety. There are loads of large lakes set out around the area, and they are great safe areas to descend through low dense cloud without hitting anything, once under the low ceiling you are back in visual control again...  today it is clear with a long visiblity, but as I mentioned these conditions are more rare than the usual.

 

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Once at the 10,000 altitude and at the western end of Lake Argentino you turn north and head directly towards one of the largest glaciers in the world with the Upsala Glacier...  if you continue west you will find more famous glaciers like the (falling ice into the sea) Perito Moreno Glacier and Spegazzini Glacier.

 

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The views are already spectacular, with the "top of the world" or "on another planet" sort of feeling. The actual 3D Cerro Torre mesh starts about here and covers the full Cerro Torre group range  and the main significant iconic mountains are situated about in the middle.

 

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You could say this is the rear of Cerro Torre, but the huge Monte Fitz Roy (also known as Cerro Chaltén) is bigger in size at 3,405 m (11,171 ft), Cerro Torre is 3,128 m (10,262 ft)... but it is in it's unusual almost spiky shape that it is renowned for by climbers.

 

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The aircraft views are out of this world....

 

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The high quality 3D Cerro Torre range modeling is according to the DEM data (digital elevation model) which are are further elaborated with many structural details. Many textures are like with all Dainese and Bellini sceneries based on 4K (4096x4096) extreme quality images. 

 

Yes the Cerro Torre and the Fitz Roy are the centre point of the scenery, but the rest of the range is just as impressive.

 

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Turning east shows the huge scale of the Upsala Glacier, only one glacier in Greenland is bigger (discounting Antarctica).

 

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In the confines of the 208B you feel the scale and the beauty of it all... vistas like these expand X-Plane to to travel to other worlds and the best most picturesque places are available on your desktop, so you can explore but also understand the earth we live on in a sort of 3D visual way.

 

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On the eastern side is the valley of the Rio de las Vueltas, with El Chaltén the main settlement...  but your eyes are for the moment is too the west. These are granite shaft towers and other peaks including the Torre Egger 9,350 feet (2,689 meters), Punta Herron 9,022 feet (ca. 2,750 meters) and Aguja Standhart 8,858 feet (ca. 2,700 meters) stand next to with the other two iconic mountains.  For a moment the Fitz Roy blocks out everything, then finally all the peaks are revealed...

 

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The Cerro Terro is the first shaft peak on the left, the summit looks like a phillips screwdriver head but it is actually a mushroom of rime ice. Cesare Maestri claimed in 1959 that he and Toni Egger had reached the summit and that Egger had been swept to his death by an avalanche while they were descending. Maestri declared that Egger had been lost with the camera containing all the pictures of the summit. (dubious). Maestri went back to Cerro Torre in 1970 with Ezio Alimonta, Daniele Angeli, Claudio Baldessarri, Carlo Claus and Pietro Vidi, trying a new route on the southeast face. With the aid of a gas-powered compressor drill, Maestri equipped 350 metres (1,150 ft) of rock with bolts and got to the end of the rocky part of the mountain, just below the ice mushroom.(even more dubious)...  but still no summit.

 

The route Maestri followed is now known as the Compressor route and was climbed to the summit in 1979 by Jim Bridwell and Steve Brewer. Most parties consider the ascent complete only if they summit the often-difficult ice-rime mushroom.The first undisputed ascent was made in 1974 by the "Ragni di Lecco" climbers Daniele Chiappa, Mario Conti, Casimiro Ferrari, and Pino Negri. (wikipedia)

 

Once past the formation it is time to descend down to SACH at El Chalten. The safest way down as I mentioned is again to use the lake, in this case Viedma Lake which is to your left.

 

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Almost all the flying around this area is totally VFR, the navigation map on any aircraft is useless with absolutely no markers or waypoints or any significant points of reference for flightplans or flightpaths. So it is all eyeballs or nothing... oh and skill helps.

 

Once you are down to an altitude (for me 3,000ft) it was time to do a 180º turn straight back up Viedma Lake...

 

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.... obviously if you are flying out from SACH at El Chalten then you can climb up to altitude on  Viedma Lake in reverse.

 

El Chalten

Your focus is now on looking for the Rio de las Vueltas estuary on the left, and the entrance to El Chalten. It is quite easy to see.

 

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The Cerro Torre group peaks are spectacular in the distance. El Chalten (SACH) does not exist, so don't go looking for charts or anything, and the one runway is 13/31 and is at 1322 ft (MSL). ILS... in your dreams.

 

Once you find the estuary you just follow the eastern side of it, and the line of the las Vueltas river is your line directly into El Chalten...  the gap you are looking for is small (arrowed).

 

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You have to watch your height because as you get closer then the terrain does step slightly upwards, and if are too low, then you will find your height will very quickly diminish, but you can't come in too high either as we shall see.

 

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As you fly through the gap there is a bluff to the right, and SACH is a bit farther to the right just beyond the bluff (arrowed). So you going to have to fly an S curve to line up to RWY 31 correctly. Height, speed and position is crucial in getting the best approach line into RWY 31...  it is far harder than it looks.

 

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Getting you final approach height is as noted is crucial in getting down correctly, the runway at 755 meters does give you room, but you don't have any space options if you get it wrong, the only way out is a hard climb-out. 

 

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This is a STOL airport and the right aircraft can make the difference here, The 208B struggles a little, as you seem to come in too high and fast, even just above the stall speed of 61 knts (the 208B is XP11 but not yet XP11.30)... but it can be done.

 

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It is extremely challenging, I never attempted RWY 13, as it looks just too challenging for a clean approach, but give it a go...

 

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There is that VNLK - Lukla feel at SACH without the extreme slope, but as a creation (fabrication?) it is really good.

 

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There is two taxi lines into five parking stands (A helicopter pad is located here as well- HCTN), the single stand is very nice, but the clover leaf parking design is a bit misleading in that if you follow the yellow parking line it actually creates the box, and not with you within it? There are two other helipads; HCTS - El Chalten Heliport-South and HCBCT - El Chalten Heliport-South Base Camp Cerro Torre.

 

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As an experience then the flight from SAWC - El Calafate and landing at El Chalten (SACH) is excellent and very challenging... "experience" is the the right word in more ways than one, as it requires great flying skills as well.

 

Before we look at the details of the El Chalten area, this flight was done in clear weather, but mostly the weather around here is like this...

 

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It is spectacular, but also extremely dangerous... the low cloud density is thick and heavy, and you hope there is nothing hidden in there to fly in to...

 

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... but this flying is also extremely realistic, but you will have to study your flying profile and maps to make sure the flight path is inch perfect, and all VFR.... as noted the lakes are a great leveler. Flying conditions around these regions are very combustible, downdrafts, up drafts, gusty winds are the norm not the exception, I found an odd area just on the approach to RWY 31 at SACH that did really strange things to the Caravan, the trick is too survive them...  it is all in the fun, well at times no!

 

SACH - El Chalten

It is strip... or a small runway or access to a tourist resort... The SACH airport is not detailed, detailed per se, because there is no real replication of the facilities here...

 

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The idea is actually very well done, if they wanted to insert an airfield into El Chalten then this arrangement would be a good layout, but I wonder if the 13 approach would pass the regulation requirements? I think the boundaries could have been made a bit more realistic, and better blended into the mesh as the lines are a bit to harsh, the fence helps the illusion.

 

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Main stand area are the noted four stands with the front in line single parking behind, the Helipad (HTCN) is mid-field rear.

 

One big factor is that the feel on the ground works, it does feel and look real from that perspective, and that is the most important aspect of any scenery.

 

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There is a lot of 3D people and airport objects to give the airport a working feel... but slightly more realistic textures linage to show no go zones and such would have lifted it from the normal. Runway textures are standard. Terminal is basic with a built in rooftop control tower, but the textures are well thought out for local area character. Three hangars include one custom and two semi-military style designs, they all look good with nice detail and not just easy to place default hangars. Microwave and communication towers add in realism.

 

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Welcome sign adds a little local flavour...

 

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El Chalten

The El Chalten township has been nicely recreated, and with more care than the recent Zermatt layout...

 

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...  is the township walkable... well it is and a very nice walk you will get exploring it... but there is limited moving traffic. All custom homes, churches and industrial holdings are all not from the "A few objects and replicated" mantra, but you really get a lot of diversity here and some nice designs, even if most textures are flat on a box variety. All the electrical and phone lines are set out and so overall it is really well done with some lovely detailing.

 

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The famous yellow "Rancho Grande Hostel" is fully replicated here and as well done as is the extravagantly named "Destino Sur Hotel & Spa de Montaña, Restaurante" is situated next door.

 

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Just outside the actual township is the famous "Chorillo waterfalls" and they have been replicated here to the north, and is a great addition to fill the scenic vista of the area...

 

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...  also featured is the "Estancia la Quinta" resort to the south, with the YPF gas distributor at the entrance to the valley.

 

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Lighting

The El Chalten nightlighting is very good as well... all buildings are well lit and the township doesn't have that total dark village in a remote area feel.

 

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There is a lot of little lit details like the Total Service Station and church signs, and the streets are nice lit by lamps.

 

Cerro Torre_El Chalten Night 5 LG.jpg

 

Airport lighting is not at all bad. The terminal is nicely lit, but mostly it is all downlighting....

 

Cerro Torre_SACH Night 1.jpgCerro Torre_SACH Night 2.jpgCerro Torre_SACH Night 3.jpgCerro Torre_SACH Night 4.jpg

 

.... ramp areas are nicely lit, and feel good on the ground at night. But a few area lighting towers are a bit dubiously positioned that close to a working runway.

 

Cerro Torre Group

The famous Cerro Torre Group range from the ground view is just up the valley (or valleys) to the west of 4. All the iconic National Geographic angles are shown here, just add in your own selfie to complete the trek.

 

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You can here admire the rockface detail up close and how excellent the work from Frank Dainese & Fabio Bellini really is, they are the masters of this sort of mountain range creation and authenticity of the formations.

 

I have added in my local map route so you can follow the route in the images, and the return leg back to SWAC - El Calafate of which I took the route back down the northern Lago San Martin lake system...   there are certainly far quicker ways back to SWAC, but not as a nice visual route to relax by.

 

Cerro Torre_Local Map.jpgCerro Torre_Local Map return.jpg

 

Here are a few images of the nice return trip to SWAC images, note the weather. On takeoff from RWY 31 just don't forget to kink left to miss the bluff!

 

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Summary

This "3D Cerro Torre' is the fourth mountain range scenery from Frank Dainese & Fabio Bellini of which they are specialists in creating perfectly recreated famous mountain range vistas. Not in scale or as large as their past sceneries it is not however not missing any of the spectacular elements that you expect from flying in these sorts of incredible areas. This area is the famed (or fabled) Patagonia area of South America on the border of both Chile and Argentina.

Words like "Spectacular" and "Experience" are all of the package, but even though all the visual vistas are outstanding it is in the other elements like flying conditions and the weather that can test your skills to high level as well.

 

The tourist hub of El Chalten for the Cerro Torre range is also well recreated here, with a even a walkabout simulation available and a "Fictional" airport (SACH) is also well positioned to test out you flying skill levels and give you a flying in-out aspect of using El Chalten as a flying hub. This is not an over detailed airport scenery, but certainly a realistic and well thought out one.

 

The quality of the Cerro Torre range at a high density modified mesh is very accurate, and recreating the dimensions and the main morphological terrain features of the mountains. But the Cerro Torre (3128 meters 10262 ft) also the Fitz Roy (3405 meters 11171 ft.) mountains are the focal point of the scenery, and they really both deliver in the huge sense of scale and realism. But the whole area and vistas including the massive Upsala Glacier...  and Perito Moreno Glacier and Spegazzini Glacier creates a significant area just waiting to be explored and marvelled at.

 

What are the elements of great simulation flying. Certainly great viewpoints and areas to be explored outside of your normal environs, but also to deliver challenging flying conditions and also fine tune your flying skills to a higher level, and this "Cerro Torre" is a scenery you will never be bored with because it delivers those aspects very highly on the scale of both of those crucial simulation elements. The "Los Glaciares National Park" is a glorious place to fly around and enjoy, and this 3D Cerro Torre scenery delivers the full Patagonian experience to you to enjoy...  Highly Recommended!

 

______________________________________________________________________

 

X-Plane Store logo sm.jpg

 

Yes! Cerro Torre Los Glaciares 3D National Park by Frank Dainese & Fabio Bellini is now Available from the X-Plane.Org Store here :

 

Cerro Torre Los Glaciares 3D National Park

 

Price Is US$22.95

 

Features

3D Cerro Torre includes a territory about 500 square kilometers located in the Patagonia South, on border between Argentina and Chile, but in Argentine territory.
In addition to Cerro Torre (3128 meters 10262 ft) also the Fitz Roy (3405 meters 11171 ft.).

Airport and Heliports

The virtual El Chalten airport has a runway of about 800 meters. and an Apron area with 4 parking sites.

Equipped with hangar and control tower, it is located in the east area of El Chalten, on the edge and near the Rio de las Vueltas.

For those who want the approach to landing 3-10 miles, I recommend using the runway start on 31, from the south. The approach from North is much more complicated.

Heliports some landing pads have been inserted in the most important points of the scenery, normally located in residential areas, and in the area the Base Camp at Cerro Torre.

El Chalten has been completely rebuilt with 3D buildings models, and although they are simplified, they are well recognizable. Some of these have been faithfully reproduced based on photos.

The 2 main mountains of area have been reconstructed with 3D models. DEM data was used and further corrected with 3D graphics programs. Later the textures were applied, mostly HD, taken from high definition pictures.

The positioning on the modified mesh was very accurate, respecting the dimensions and the main morphological terrain features.

The Cerro Torre (3128 meters, 10 262 ft.) Has been practically rebuilt from scratch, using the many pictures and descriptions available, in fact the basic meshes, even the most detailed ones are practically blank on the vertical walls.

 

WT3: Your joking of course! no, you are on your own here.

 

Requirements

X-Plane 11

Windows, Mac or Linux
4Gb VRAM Minimu - 8Gb+ VRAM Recommended
Release and Review version 1.0 (1st March 2019)
 
Installation
Download scenery file size is download 413.70mb and with the full installation installed in your custom scenery folder as there are four install folders in order (INI File included): 

 

  • trees_lib (41mb)
  • Mesh_Cerro_Torre (147.80mb)
  • EL_Chalten_Scenery (416mb)
  • 3D_Cerro_Torre (81.40mb)

 

Total scenery installation : 686.30mb

 

The developers note you need to adjust the X-Plane "scenery_packs.INI" so the loading order is correct...  and that the "LMML_JustSim_2_v1.0 (Mesh)" is below the Airport and overlay files, but above the Global Airport folder.

 

Documents

One manual with notes

______________________________________________________________________

  

Review by Stephen Dutton

1st March  2019

Copyright©2019 : X-Plane Reviews 

 

(Disclaimer. All images and text in this review are the work and property of X-PlaneReviews, no sharing or copy of the content is allowed without consent from the author as per copyright conditions)

 

Review System Specifications:

Computer System: Windows  - Intel Core i7 6700K CPU 4.00GHz / 64bit - 16 Gb single 1067 Mhz DDR4 2133 - ASUS GeForce GTX 1080 8Gb - Samsung Evo 512gb SSD 

Software:   - Windows 10 - X-Plane 11.31

Addons: Saitek x52 Pro system Joystick and Throttle : Sound - Bose  Soundlink Mini 

Plugins: Environment Engine by xEnviro US$69.90 : US$19.95

Scenery or Aircraft

- 208B Grand Caravan HD Series XP11 by Careando (X-Plane.OrgStore) - US$34.95

- SAWC - El Calafate Intl Airport by awall86 (X-Plane.Org) - Free (note this scenery was updated with objects for the review by the author)

 

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