Trekking in El Chaltén: a Near Perfect 10
El Chaltén is called the national trekking capital of Argentina, and for good reason. The town itself is extremely small, but the wilderness surrounding it is larger than life. I spent three days blissfully hiking through the well established trails, each one offering spectacular views.
The first trek was the Loma del Pliegue Tumbado. On the 12km journey I passed through a number of small forests filled with trees adorned in vibrant shades of red, yellow, and orange. At certain stages, the ground turned into a field of white, covered by recent snowfall. The trees themselves have a fuzzy green moss on them, making them look the Grinch who stole Christmas. This represented my first encounter with snow in over a year and I could not resist the urge to grab a handfull and make a snowball, pleting it imaginary enemies amongst the trees. The snow was actually perfect as the long hike and the strong sunshine had me sweating a few minutes into the trek, despite the crisp air and cool temperature. At one point I heard a rustling in the stubby vegetation a meter to my right which revealed itself to be a skunk. Close call. After a day of hard trekking I already smell funky enough, I do not need any help from nature.
A few hours in the trail opened up to an enormous hill, the top of which promised an astonishing view of the entire area around El Chaltén. That view was not to be earned lightly as it involved ascending steep inclines covered by ice and snow nearly a foot deep.
From this vantage point the enormous Lago Viedma rests to the right, and the famous mountains Cerro Torre and Mount Fity Roy rise to the left, behind their own respective lakes. On the way down, two majestic condors glided through the air currents overhead. The birds were as impressive in their own right as the mountains.
The second trek was to Laguna Torre, the lake situated in front of Cerro Torre. The weather was slightly less than ideal, with clouds and mist hanging over the mountains, obscuring them from view. The trail itself was very nice, leading past a few waterfalls and pristine forest. The trail culminates at a lake of crystaline blue water in front of Cerro Torre, a mountain 3,133 meters high.
I definitely saved the best, and most demanding, trek for last. A combination of trails leading past las Lagunas de Madre e Hija and up to the Laguna de Los Tres was definitely the highlight of the week. As I arrived on the pebbled beach of las Lagunas de Madre e Hija I felt a sense of pure tranquility overtake my active muscles. I felt compelled to sit down and just enjoy the view. Small islands of red leafed trees stand proudly amongst the pure glacial water. Dense forests line the smaller mountains to the left. To the right stand Cerro Torre and Mount Fitz Roy, conversing with the sky. There is a slight separation between the two lakes, the mother lake and daughter lake. They are appropriately named, maintaining a beautiful relationship with one another and their surroundings.
The trail leading up to the Laguna de los Tres is not for those of weak spirit. You have to earn your way to the top. Steep stairs carve their way up hundreds of meters, across patches of occasionally treacherous ice, culminating in a view that I will never forget. The weather was absolutely perfect, hardly a cloud in the sky, the sunlight reflecting off pristine water. The most famous mountain of Argentina, Mount Fitz Roy, stood proud in all its granite glory.
Mount Fitz Roy is considered one of the most challenging mountains to climb in all of the world. At 3,405m high, it is less than half the height of the largest mountains in the world. But its sheer granite faces are some of the steepest in the world and the weather around the mountain is quite unpredictable. Some friends who attempted this trek the week before found themselves caught in a blizzard, barely able to see a few meters in front of their faces. But when we had our first official meeting, the beast was content to bask in the sun, enjoying its reign over the beautiful territory below.
Stand proud Fitz Roy, for nobody can deny that you are truly one of a kind.