Hiking in El Chalten
Having been in Buenos Aires for what felt like far too long, I was excited to come to Patagonia and get some hiking in the fresh outdoors. I’d had the chance to spot Southern Right Whales at Peninsula Valdes, Gaze at ice falling at Perito Moreno Glacier, be stunned by the waters and cloud covered mountains in Torres del Paine and now was time to see the mountains and glaciers around the little sleepy town of El Chalten.
El Chalten sits in a valley surrounded by mountains, providing ample opportunity for hiking. My friend from El Calafate joined me since I had pre-booked a double bunk bed room (cheapest private I could find to get some decent sleep), so that helped me with my budget and gave me some good company during hikes. We both had injuries to deal with so understood when we needed breaks which was good.
Hiking to Fitz Roy
Arriving at El Pilar by minivan on the first day we started off at 10:30am at the top of El Chalten out of town so that we wouldn’t be back tracking – Fitz Roy would be our lunchtime stop.
The first three hours or so were pretty stunning scenery. Going in and out of forest and near and far from the river with the stunning Glacier Piedras Blancas on the other side. It was definitely a great way to start our hikes in El Chalten.
Soon enough we reached our lunchtime stop at the base of the mountain, munching down a few empandas (pastery filled with chicken, meat or cheese and ham) we decided we had enough energy to try hike up to Laguna de los Tres. Little did we know, it wasn’t an easy hike. So far the route had been considered ‘medium’ or ‘media’ in Spanish, this part was ‘alta’ or ‘difficult’. Granted we weren’t super fit, but it was our injuries that we had to consider after an hour when we realised we were only halfway up the mountain and the track just got steeper. We opted to head back down since we still had a good 3-4 hours ahead of us to get back to El Chalten.
The second half of the trek really started to put pressure on our feet and injuries so it wasn’t so pleasant. However, it did have some great views and the clouds started to disappear as the afternoon sun got stronger. Turns out I didn’t need the 5 layers I was carrying.
Later that day we realised we’d walked over 20km. Not a bad effort consider I can’t remember the last time I’d hiked anywhere near that amount!
Day two, rested and back to fighting fit we decided to do the slightly smaller hike of what some brochures said would be 9km and some said was 11km each way. I think someone got confused because it certainly felt like at least 11km each way (maybe more) and took just as long as the day before.
We didn’t start off great as I got a little confused with the map and the two entrance options. Turns out the entrance at the far end of town had no signage whatsoever, so we were lucky that another two people were going the same way and that it eventually matching up with the trail from the lower entrance. It was steep to begin with, but eventually it was more about navigating through the rocky path and on the way back trying not to swear too much at the amount of bugs swarming your face as you tried to not fall over the rocks.
Again our injuries weren’t great and my shoe was digging into my ankle and my feet were killing me after we reached Laguna Torre. It wasn’t exactly an easy hike. Granted the map had also called this one ‘media’ too.
The views from Mirador del Torre and Laguna Torre were stunning, even more as we turned back and the sun came out and clouds disappeared. It was a stunning afternoon, again with very little wind.
Returning to El Chalten, it was the end of my friends trip and I was left on my own again. Turns out El Chalten is pretty depressing when its blowing a gust as there is very little to do in town besides hike, eat and drink.
Now I’m off to Bariloche for Christmas to hopefully get some more sun and warmth in me, it’s a bit weird to have a warm Christmas again and be alone. I guess by the time I get internet for this post everyone will have had Christmas already, so I hope you all had an amazing one and my thoughts are with you all near and far.