El Chaltén, Santa Cruz Province, Argentina
5 days - March 2019
We pass on the other side of Patagonia (West Coast but still in Argentina) to start our 8 Days of hiking.
El Chalten is a small village lost in the middle of the mountains and quite recent (well the houses are for the most in steel sheets and do not appear so recent!)
The reason for its foundation: its proximity to the National Park of Glaciers (Parque Nacional Los Glaciares) where many peaks over 3000 m are located including the impressive Fitz Roy!
And an important point for us backpackers: the park is free.
3 days of hiking and 70 kilometers walked gave us a good overview of this region.
Let's start with our arrival in El Chalten where we discover that our hostel had a problem with booking.com (we will discover later that they systematically overbook the rooms ...). The manager proposes to stay in his son’s house who is away (imagine your father has an hotel and impose tourists at your home, it’s normal we are in Argentina!). Ok a little house for us alone for 5 nights, we do not complain. However, when the son arrives 3 days later with his 8 young children and settles as if we were not in the house (it's his home after all!), we are less conciliatory ... we will end up having what we want but it was a rich evening in "culture shock".
So we are here to walk. And we walked kilometres.
Day 1: El Chalten- Laguna Torre-El Chalten. 24 kilometers; +400m of elevation gain and the opposite on the way back; 6 hours of walking.
We get up early for this first day of walking.
The hike is long although without much difficulty.
After about 1h30 of walking we reached the Torre viewpoint, the view is not totally clear but what a view on the plain, the Patagonian steppe and the steep mountains. We do not see the Cerro Torre which apparently is at the level of a cloudy microclimate and rarely discovered (we could say that of all the peaks of Patagonia;))
We continue between forest and mountainside before arriving at many volcanic rocks and red / black / gray hills that guide us to Laguna Torre.
Upon arrival, we discover this lagoon Torre, gray / blue color and the Grande Glacier. First glacier for us in Patagonia! Moreover we can hear many rumblings like thunder every 15/20 minutes. Some parts of the glacier fell over.
Picnic well deserved then we get closer to the glacier (200 meters of elevation in addition, it's good for our thighs don’t you think?); the famous Cerro Torre is still not discovered but we decided to wait patiently. We are almost alone and 2 hours later the sun comes out and warms us, we see the mountain and the glacier!
The way down and the 11 kilometers were fast and the sleep deep!
Day 2: El Chalten- laguna Los tres- El Chalten: 24kms; +800 m of elevation gain and the opposite on the way back; 7h30 walk including 50 minutes for the last kilometer (+400 m elevation gain alone!)
The sky is blue, the sun high in the sky, we are ready to discover the highlight of this region: the Laguna de los Tres and the famous Fitzroy!
The hike begins with a long climb (a trial/warning for the last kilometer?) to reach a plateau that gives us a beautiful view of the village and the river below.
We then cross a forest with trees all tilted due to the strength of the wind!
Wind absent for us today. Then we continue through the Patagonian steppe, we cross rivers, small bridges, the view of the Fitzroy is clear, it’s beautiful we are lucky.
After 3 hours of walking the hardest starts: one kilometer, +400 meters of elevation gain. It's like climbing 1 kilometer of stairs but with uneven rocks. No suspense: it was hard! Many have abandoned, we take our time. In the middle, two rockets overtake us -Renand and Jules 10 and 11 years-who make the climb running, normal ... we sympathize and they present us their trip by boat for the last 2 years already and for another 6 years until they are tired of their parents;)
Arriving at the top, wahoo it’s amazing. It's really beautiful! Cedric declares "it is the most beautiful thing in the world that I ever saw", it sure is and go in our top 10. The lagoon is fluorescent blue, the Fitz Roy majestic, the other mountains are grey mountains / red / black. It's crazy!
Small picnic facing the lagoon, we cool down very quickly, then we continue for 20 minutes of walking and even more altitude to see the Laguna Sucia AND Fitzroy, second wahoo: it's even more beautiful!
Two hours later it is time to face a 3h30’ hike downhill (with the first kilometer still as challenging because of high risk of falling).
We did it ! What a day!
Day 3: El Chalten-Loma Del Pliegue Tumbado-El Chalten. 24 kilometers, +800 meters of elevation gain and vice versa; 6 hours of walking.
Day 3 was supposed to be our day off (well a day off walking as we had planned to work all day) but after checking the weather, it is better to walk today rather than tomorrow to avoid high winds. . Well, let’s go!
It was the hardest for us. Our legs are heavy and it goes up up up. It never stops!
The landscapes are always so beautiful, alternating between steppe, forest, plateau and unobstructed views of Fitzroy and Cerro Torre (we were at the foot of these mountains the last two days).
The breaks are (well deserved) magnificent, we are alone, the landscapes are really crazy. It gives us strength.
Arrived to what seemed to be the top, Cedric who got well ahead, starts the picnic. I make it clear to him that it is necessary to continue, it is not the end, where is the 360 degree view on the summits and lagoons there?
We continue for 10 minutes which seemed to last hours and hours.
We see the lagoon and that’s it we are there! The view is crazy. It was worth it but first we eat. Again we cool down very quickly and put on all our layers.
The Fitzroy and Cerro Torre stand in front of us, still as big and impressive, the lagoons as the glaciers are beautiful. (And always alone, this hike is not the most famous).
It's time to come back down and it was a lot easier!
We did it again, let's enjoy our day off (1km maximum walk), our juicy steak and the mighty wind of Patagonia now!
# prices in pesos at the rate of April 2019: 1 euro = 48 pesos. Argentina= inflation at 50% each year ... this greatly affects the price of a trip (and especially the lives of locals who year after year see their purchasing power decreasing drastically ...) .
# all ATMs charge huge fees! We found the cheapest: Banco De la Nacion with 215 pesos for a maximum of 4,000 pesos per withdrawal.
# Airplane trelew- El Calafate: 2 hours flight for 110 euros per person.
# From the airport, we took a bus directly to El Chalten. 3 hours for 1200 pesos. From the city center it is 800 pesos.
# Hostel in El Chalten: Marconi Glaciar for $ 50 USD. One of the best value for money in El Chalten (pay by card or cash and present your passport to avoid paying the 19% VAT).
# all trails are within walking distance from the village.
# if the must-sees are Laguna Torre and Laguna de los Tres, do not miss Loma Del Pliegue Tumbado. Very nice hike.
# The El Chalten-Laguna Torre-Laguna hike in El Chalten can be done in a 35 km loop in 2 days. This avoids daily round trips but requires a tent and stove because campsites are very simple (but free).
# we enjoyed a steak in Patagonica. Very good!
# Patagonia is not as expensive as people claim. So yes it is not Bolivia but: the park is free, the hikes all leave from the village, the accommodations are at a fair price and all have a kitchen to limit costs.
Apr 5, 2019 - 02:38 PM
Magnifique ! mais il faut mériter !!!!!