Trekking in Patagonia
Torres del Paine, Chile
Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina

February 2006

Paris, El Calafate, Puerto Natales - Torres del Paine NP - Los Glaciares NP - Buenos Aires

Page: 3 / 4

Argentina Los Glaciares National Park

Day 1
El Chalten - Cerro Torres (Laguna Torre) - El Chalten

Daily map
Trekking time:
Trekking distance:
6 hours
18 km
    Light backpacks Light backpacks

After spending a night in El Calafate, we moved on to the second part of our trekking trip, the Los Glaciares National Park with the famous Mt. Fitzroy as the main attraction. Los Glaciares NP is located about 200 km north of El Calafate, and we went on yet another long and bumpy bus trip to the El Chalten, a small town that will host our group for the next four days.
El Chalten is a village settled inside National Park Los Glaciares, and is the base for exploring the park. All trails start in El Chalten, and are readily available for daily excursions in different directions. While there are some native residents in El Chalten, during the season it consists almost entirely of backpackers, hikers, and mountain climbers, occupying hostels, while locals provide supporting services and small businesses.

On the way to El Chalten, bus makes a 10 min
stop for refreshments at the roads crossing
Arriving to the
El Chalten
We are welcomed by
park rangers, given maps
and basic instructions
On arrival, Fitzroy is
shy in the clouds

We got settled in a backpacker's hostel, six persons per large room, and shortly after midday we had been trekking already to the first destination, Laguna Torre with a view on Cerro Torres mountain range and a glacier beneath.

Leaving El Chalten and going uphill A typical scenery at Los
Glaciares national park
The valley with Cerro Torres and
the glacier at the end

Instead of trekking,
you can go horse
The trail drops down to the bottom of the valley, going upstream near the river

Almost there... The goal for today, at
the top of this dike
This is what we came for, Laguna Torre with a glacier.
Cerro Torres peaks are engulfed in clouds though.

Hard, jagged rocks
on peaks around us
Time to return the same
way, turning to El Chalten
at the opening on the left
El Chalten town welcomes
us back in late afternoon

Day 2
El Chalten - Fitzroy Mirador - El Chalten

Daily map
Trekking time:
Trekking distance:
3 hours
10 km
    Light backpacks Light backpacks

The second day in El Chalten it was raining. It started at night, and it drizzled down on us until noon. We waited it out, taking a rest from the day before. In the afternoon, we decided to make a short trip to the Fitzroy viewpoint, not too far away from El Chalten, and on the same trail we would be taking the next day on the main trek to the Fitzroy basecamp.

Just outside El Chalten,
we meet a rabbit
A short break, some are swinging around, others
evaluating a training climbing wall
A river valley that stretches up
north of El Chalten

Heavy clouds still
indicate recent rain
Terrain here is covered with small, bushy trees Goal for the day, Fitzroy
viewpoint at Laguna Capri.
Fitzroy is hiding in clouds.
We see these ones
around a lot

On return to El Chalten
clouds show signs of
In the evening, I go exploring El Chalten a bit, trying to get to know the city better.

There is a school, wide gravel roads, and lots of small hotels, hostels, shops, restaurants,...

In the evening, Fitzroy
did clear up a bit, promising
a better view tomorrow

The day was concluded with a home cooked dinner at the hostel's open kitchen; a vegetable soup, pasta, and lots of pancakes.

Day 3
El Chalten - Fitzroy basecamp - El Chalten

Daily map
Trekking time:
Trekking distance:
7 hours
24 km
    Light backpacks Light backpacks

The main event in Los Glaciares came up; we are going to Fitzroy base camp, no matter what the weather is, as we are running out of time. It's the last full day in El Chalten, and we're hoping for a clear view on the famous peak from up close. The trek to the basecamp and back is a long one, and it took us the whole day.

Boldly on the way to
the north side of El
Chalten in the morning
Mt. Fitzroy is kind of
cooperating, just a puff
of cloud around the peak
Following the same trail
as yesterday, we reach
camping site Capri
Moving past Laguna Capri

Heavy winds start blowing, spraying some raindrops from clouds around the peaks, and I'm
having increasingly more problems keeping my camera lenses clean

Strong wind envelopes
Fitzroy with clouds
Getting across
mountain river
Camping site Poincenot
is in the woods
Crossing a river behind
Poincenot, you don't
want to slip here

A spring at camp Rio
Blanco, before the
final assault uphill
For the last hour, the trail gets
very steep, gaining in height
about 400m in short distance
Almost at the top. Wind
throughout the ascent
is furious, gusts stopping
you in track
At the top, the wind
gets outright dangerous,
throwing people off
their feet

There on the top, that was the kind of wind that has to be experienced. As many as three members of our group have lost their glasses, as they were literally blown away off their faces. There was an Italian guy asking around about binoculars, last seen flying, and a group of elderly German tourists on all four, struggling not to go flying themselves. Finding some sort of a shelter behind any larger rock was a necessity.

Reaching destination Several shots of the glacier and a small lake under Mt. Fitzroy while snuggled behind a large boulder

If loosing balance due to the wind,
landing would have been down there
Some peaks were
...but Fitzroy itself was hiding

On the western side
high winds have
cleared the sky
Defying wind,
having a snack
Rain drops carried by
the wind created
a rainbow
A view towards El Chalten, the town hiding
just behind the shadowy ridge

Time to go back The trail marked with yellow sticks goes
steeply down, right to the river
Back at the bottom,
a well maintained trail
by the Poincenot camp
This valley is directly
downwind from Fitzroy,
perhaps worth a visit...

Crossing the river again,
carefully over the narrow bridge
Dusty trail passes through some wild, seemingly
abandoned scenery

The last view on
the northern valley
A lone house buried
in a small forest...
...and a lone tree
by the trail...
... while crossing
open space
Just making photos
for the sake of it

El Chalten welcomes us
back through the trees
from down below
One final descent... ...and we are back
in the town

Day 4
El Chalten - A picnic trek - El Chalten

Daily map
Trekking time:
Trekking distance:
2 hours
4 km
    Light backpacks Light backpacks

The last day in El Chalten, we were taking a bus back to El Calafate in the afternoon. After packing up and preparing our luggage for the trip, we decided to go out for a couple of hours on the last trek in Patagonia.

Before breakfast, I went outside the city past the park rangers' Gendarneria in order to shoot some photographs
of Mt. Fitzroy in the morning light, weather conditions were rather favorable

Getting ready for
the last trek
Fitzroy was clear, but
clouds were gathering
The park is full
of small streams
We are going just an hour or so out of
the city, on the southern trail

Now that's one interesting rock... El Chalten and the
northern valley, viewed
from the southern hills
We stopped at a small
forest on the top
before turning back
Tying knots 101

The weather turned bad and it looked like it would start raining any second, so we had picked up the pace and returned to the town.

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