Previous to this, I had trekked 5 days through Torres del Paine followed by a few days hiking around Tierra del Fuego. Needless to say, both my shoes and toes were a bit worn by the time I arrived in El Chalten, Argentina. Exiting the bus station, I looked up and saw that this little village was sandwiched between 2 massive mountain walls. I knew right then that my feet were in for just a little more abuse. The sign stating ‘hiker’s capital of Argentina’ also helped too.
The afternoon I arrived, the weather was a bit inclement. Most people’s hikes were rained out and the mountain passes were closed so I happily used the day to prepare for my next day’s hike, eat some pizza, and collect a few hiking buddies (not difficult as that is only thing to do in El Chalten).
The sun was shining the next morning. The first trek of the El Chalten adventure I was taking was the famous ‘Laguna de los Tres’ and its stunning view of Mount Fitz Roy. Instead of making this trek as an out and back from El Chalten itself (the town is actually in Los Glaciares National Park), we opted to take a transfer to another trail and hike 25km from point A to B, passing through the Laguna de los Tres mirador.
The start of the trek was pretty easy, it was relatively flat and shaded and provided sweeping views of Mount Fitz Roy in the background.
It was easy walking for a few hours so we took our time, taking some photos and enjoying a pretty good lunch break in one of the camp sites. No hike is complete without my salami sandwich lunch. After lunch, we geared up and headed out of camp, towards the mirador. This involved a one hour long hike upwards. This part of the hike was open to the elements and involved crossing a couple rivers, flowing with delicious, potable, glacier fed water.
The ascent to the mirador was steep, but not overly difficult, and packed with people. It was like a highway through the mountains, clearly marked and with people heading in both directions. We hiked it slowly and steadily, taking little to no breaks. When we finally arrived at ‘Laguna de los Tres’ we were greeted with one of the most stunning views Patagonia offers.
We then enjoyed a couple of hours climbing around the mirador and the Tres Lagunas. With aqua coloured lakes, hanging glaciers, and the beautiful Mt. Fitz Roy in the background, it could not have been a better day.
When we finally deemed our time at the mirador was complete (trying to get back in the daylight) we headed back down the mountain through the camp and towards the ‘Laguna Capri’. This section of the walk had us traversing through flat marshy areas, open to the hot sun with Fitz Roy still in the background.
Laguna Capri was a nice mountain lake where many hikers stopped to take a quick snack break and maybe even a brave swim.
After a short break, it was time to return home and so we headed down the trail towards El Chalten. The end of the trail was easy, busy, and predominantly downhill. As we could see the little town of El Chalten creeping up in the distance with the sun gently setting, my feet were cheering, we were almost home.
A good Argentinian steak dinner later, I went to bed as 7:00 would come early and I had another 21km trek to complete.
Laguna Torre, Grande Glacier, and Cerro Torre was next on my trekkers list. Limping as I started, I thought, this was going to be a long, sore day. We left at 7:30 in the morning heading upwards towards our first mirador. The initial stages of the trek was probably the hardest part, mostly uphill and with a rocky uneven path. The first hour had us sweating profusely. We stopped at the beautiful mirador which provided a sweeping view of Cerro Torre for a water break and snack.
The path grew to be just a little easier after that, my hiking buddy (who I had picked up the day before) and I casually chatted for a couple hours as we walked on a gentle slope up, through forested areas and open air.
A few hours later, we could finally see it. The Glacier was within sight, not far out of reach. We ate our lunch just beside the lake which was fed by the Glacier Grande, enjoying the stunning view it provided. Post lunch, we started climbing up to the highest and also the closest point to the glacier in hopes of procuring better views.
This path was not marked, it was more like a free for all climb, make your own route. So we did. Our own route turned out to be a reasonable, safe distance from the glacier with exceptional viewing. We stayed here for another couple hours, just enjoying the fruits of our labour.
Again we were forced to head home, not because we wanted to, but because the sun would soon set. The trail is an out and back and so we took the same trail home as we did getting there. A solid number of hours later, we limped back into El Chalten, ready for a warm shower, a good dinner, and a well-deserved rest.
I loved El Chalten. There were at least another 3 or 4 half a day hikes available to do. These travel to other beautiful view points in Los Glaciers National Park. The town itself is cool, quiet and quaint, locked in a valley with a view of beautiful Mount Fitz Roy. A vista which never ceased to amaze me.