Sunday, December 22, 2013

El Chaltén and its surroundings (November 13th - 19th, 2013)

I had somewhat mixed feelings about the Argentinian trekking "capital" before our arrival there. When looking at the map, I somehow did not see enough hikes that would justify the name "capital". But as you can read at the end of this post, I eventually figured it out.

November 13th - Arrival
We arrived in the late evening. The bus driver even make a special stop for us, so we could take a picture of Fitz Roy.

Fitz Roy in the evening light

From the bus station it was a bit of a walk to our hostel. There we were happily surprised that they charged us a lower price than advertised online. The whole hostel was almost empty.

November 14th - Departure to the trek
In the morning we went to the ranger's office. Usually all buses arriving in El Chaltén stop there right before entering the town, but we arrived so late the previous evening that it had already closed. We got plenty of useful information, a nice map and an important recommendation to start our trek already the same day, as the weather was supposed to get worse in three days. Therefore, we just returned to our hostel, made extra sandwiches and packed things for the trek. Already at around noon we departed for the Fitz Roy trail. 

Even views from the town were amazing

Just a bit after noon at the start of the trail

The weather was perfect and we had marvelous views of Fitz Roy. It is indeed an impressive chunk of rock.

His majesty Fitz Roy

There were many more things to look at than Fitz Roy

We were already bit spoiled by the well-marked trails from Bariloche, but here the marking was even better. Soon we arrived at Poincenot camp, where we set up our tent.

Perfect marking was available at every junction

Our arrival at Poincenot camp

With our tent set up, we left all heavy things locked up inside it and departed for the Fitz Roy viewpoint. We were a bit unlucky with the weather. When departing there was a blue sky above Fitz Roy, but when we arrived, it was already cloudy.  When we came back down, there was again a completely blue sky.

Radek celebrating our arrival at the viewpoint

This lake was a bit hidden and if we would not have been told in advance, we would probably have missed it.

November 15th - Second day of the trek
We left our tent at the campsite and went for a short walk to see the Piedras Blancas glacier fall into a lake with the same name. What we thought would be just a short and easy hike ended with climbing over big boulders and a lot of searching for a climbable path. In the end we managed to help each other and we arrived at the lake with fantastic views of the glacier.

Laura cooking porridge, our typical breakfast

Piedras Blancas glacier and lake

We got back to our campsite just around noon. After a quick lunch we packed our things and continued to the next campsite at Laguna Torre. It was a beautiful hike around some magically blue lakes.

Laguna Madre

By the time we had arrived at the camp site, built our tent and had dinner, we were quite exhausted. I still had just enough energy to go and see a lake in the evening light and search for a place with a clear view of the sky to send a satellite message home.

Laguna Torre in the evening

November 16th - Last day of the trek
It was quite windy in the morning. After breakfast we took just light bags and went to see Mirador Maestri. There was a very strong wind at the lake, so Laura insisted on going back and I continued on my own. The wind was unpleasant, but it was manageable.

On the way to Mirador Misti

Half way there I decided to turn back. Not because of the wind, but because of the fog that started filling the valley. I met Laura at our camp-site, we packed the tent and started going back towards El Chaltén. We were surprised by the huge amount of people going in the opposite direction, as they were running only into the strong wind and fog. At around 3 P.M. we made it back to our hostel and found out that the weather forecast for the next couple of days would not be much better.

The place we camped already in the fog

November 17th - Resting day
It started raining in the morning and there is not much to do in El Chaltén, so we spent the majority of the day working on our blog, using very slow satellite Internet.

November 18th - Mirador de la Loma
It was not raining any more, but the weather was far from perfect, so we decided for a simple day-hike to Mirador de la Loma. The majority of the time we were protected from the wind, but towards the top it was a bit challenging because of the wind. This time Laura managed it well and we made it to the top. Unfortunately it was completely cloudy and we did not see much.

Instead of seeing Fitz Roy from an different angle we just saw a lot of fog

November 19th - Departure
It was windy in the morning, which according to the rangers should have been ideal for visiting two viewpoints just above El Chaltén - Mirador de los Cóndores (Condor's viewpoint) and Mirador de las Águilas (Eagle's viewpoint). Unfortunately, the condors and eagles disagreed, so we did not see much. Soon it was time to go back, and at 2 P.M., we were already on the bus back to El Calafate, from where we were planning to continue to Chile.

By this time I understood why El Chaltén is called Argentina's trekking "capital". It is not about the quantity, but rather the quality, which is represented by the gorgeous views, well-marked trails and friendly people.

As usually, we have many more pictures.

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