After 22 hours of bus, on a straight road in the middle of flat and boring steppes land, we saw its silhouette in the distance: the famous Fitz Roy chain. Slowly, the silhouette becomes sharper and bigger, until revealing a fantastic mountain range like created from shark tooth, surrounded by a beautiful grey laguna and several glaciers. We arrived to the promised land of El Chalten, self-proclaimed capital of trekking of Argentina.
The dream starts at the end of a 22h bus ride.
El Chalten offers plenty of hiking possibilities: you can easily take day hikes but why not going for a mini trek for a more immersive Patagonia experience?
Why go hiking around El Chalten
- Standing in front of the amazing Fitz Roy chain is a reason to come by itself but the park contains many hidden gems with a difference ambiance in each of its laguna.
- Contrary to the area around El Calafate, this part of the National Park Los Glaciares remained made for hikers i.e not commercial. The trails starts at the end of the small town, entrance to the park and camping are free.
- The well preserved fauna : spotting eagles and even condors when hiking around El Chalten is common
- The option to do a short treks or day hikes from town if the weather is not on your side, after all you are in Patagonia and you will probably get the 4 seasons during your trek!
- This quite easy trek (45km in total, 3 to 6h of hiking per day, no major difficulty) is a perfect warm up if you plan to do longer treks in South America such as the W or circuit in chilean Torres del Paine.
Itinerary suggestion – 3 day trek in El Chalten
Day 1: El Chalten – Laguna Torres, 10 km (4h)
This is a warm up day but the views are already breath taking, starting with the Cerro Torre veiw point that reveals the all chain of mountain by clear sky. In 3h you should Campamento de Agostini where you will camp tonight. When we camped there we got awaken in the middle of the night by the thunderous hullabaloo a block of the glacier breaking apart and collapsing! These icebergs ported by the wind go die on the shore of the Laguna Torres, making this place a living dramatic theatre. Allow around 1h to explore the Laguna.
Feeling small facing Fitz Roy
Day 2: Laguna Torres – Laguna de los tres, 19km (3h + 3h)
Don’t leave too late this morning as there is quite a lot to see. After checking Laguna Torres one last time, hike towards Campamento Poincenot. Passing along Laguna Hija and Madre and you will get your first glimpse of the day over Fitz Roy.
When you reach the camp, pitch the tent and have lunch. After the break, pack a small day pack with clothes, water and a snack and make your way towards Laguna de los tres. You will pass a small campsite reserved for climbers, after the slop gets steeper. Note that the trail is exposed to the elements -winds, snow-, check the situation before leaving and don’t hike if the conditions are bad.
After 400m of climb, you reach the fantastic Laguna de los tres, with its turquoise water, at the foot of Fitz Roy. Magical and so impressive. Don’t forget to take a look at the emerald waters of Laguna Sucia on the west side.
Night in Campamento Poincenot
Day 3: Laguna de las Piedras blancas – Laguna Capri – El Chalten, 17km (5h30)
This morning you will start with a short hike. Bring a day pack and Follow Rio Blanco to reach Glacier and Laguna de las Piedras Blancas, it is a peaceful place as few hikers make it a visit, preferring them their more famous neighbours. This should take you around 2h return.
Unpitch the tent on the way back and head back. After another 1h30 of hike, you reach the Laguna Capri, and its campsite a bit less crowded. If you have extra time prolong the experience by camping there and getting back to town the next morning. If the weather is bad, you can head back to town: El Chalten is less than 2h away.
Elevation profile of El Chalten / NP Los Glaciares mini-trek
Tips for hiking around El Chalten and in NP Los Glaciares
Welcome in Tierra del Viento!
During this trek, I have renamed Patagonia “Tierra del Viento” (Earth of Wind). It’s there that I understood why the trees are bended along the road in the region. I had never experienced such winds: howl of the wind shaking the tent in all directions, bit of the wind on your fingers when cooking the quick dinner, strength of the wind forcing us to shelter behind rocks or just to crawl on the edge of the mountain to progress.
Pack accordingly -gloves, warm sleeping bag-, even in summer the temperature at night can approach 0C. And bring a good tent, waterproof and with many attach points to secure it to the ground.
Information about the hikes and the National Park
The rangers´office helds interesting briefings about the park and how to be great hiker. Don´t miss it. You can also get a good map there and check the weather forecast.
Good to know
El Chalten is a small isolated town, and the assortment in the small shops might disappoint you. If you want to have the choice for food to buy for your hike, consider bring some things from a bigger town.
There are several outdoors shops if you need extra equipment.
Transportation – Getting to El Chalten
It’s 8h from Puerto Natales (Chile). Be aware that in high season (Dec- February) the buses to Puerto Natales get full a few days ahead.
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