Straight after the W Trek in Torres del Paine we left Chile behind again and headed slightly north to Argentina’s self-proclaimed national capital of trekking, El Chaltén. We were high on life, hiking and Patagonia and were eager for more of all of the above.
El Chaltén is a small town built right up against Parque Nacional Los Glacieres, at the foot of the famous Fitz Roy peak (whose silhouette was the inspiration for the Patagonia clothing brand logo). The best thing about El Chaltén is that one can walk straight out the door of their accommodation to a trailhead leading into the park. However, the main attraction of the park, the Fitz Roy peak and its handful of surrounding spires, can be seen from pretty much anywhere in town. And although it makes for an incredibly picturesque town, no hard hiking, backcountry camping, backpack carrying is necessary to earn decent views of the park’s star attractions. To us, especially since we had just come off our incredible 6 day W Trek, it felt like the surprise was revealed a bit too soon, and in a way, we felt like that cheapened the lure of hiking in El Chaltén. Nevertheless, the town is a huge tourist attraction for people from all over the world, and the scenery is indeed beautiful with the park providing a number of good hikes for close up views of Fitz Roy as well as beautiful lagoons and glaciers that cover the park.
We spent our first day in town resting our legs from the W, and only did a few short hikes straight out the door from our hostel. We then rented some camping equipment for a 1 night/2 day stay inside the park. Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate as much as it had when we were camping on the W. It stayed calm and sunny long enough for us to soak in some incredible views of the Fitz Roy and its 2 snowmelt formed lakes. But that all changed on our way down the steep FItz Roy hike. As we started the descent down the trail, back to our campsite, the Patagonian wind that I love so much (ugh) blew in with a fury and whipped at our faces and hands. We literally had to plant our hiking poles in the ground to keep from getting blown over, and the wind numbed our hands and fingers as if we were in below freezing conditions even though without the wind it was probably 50-60 degrees. The wind carried over full blast throughout the night, and kept us confined to our tent until the next morning (lots of Rummy 500 to kill the hours). When we opened our tent in the morning we realized what we thought was rain was actually hail pelting the camp! Luckily the weather did finally clear up enough to give us a sunny hike back into town. But by the end of our time in El Chaltén I was good and ready to head north out of Patagonia to warmer areas, and Danny was good and ready for me to stop complaining about the wind!
Here are some stories and highlights from our time in El Chaltén…
- Even though the weather wasn’t as perfect as we would have wanted, we got in some more great hiking and felt like well-oiled hiking machines. The steep hike up to the Fitz Roy was actually really enjoyable and the rich blue-green, glacier fed lakes at the foot of the Fitz Roy made for a gorgeous place to hang out for an hour before the windy hike down.
- By pure chance, our tent neighbors at Campamento Poincenot ended up being our German friends, Oliver and Sebastian, whom we had met on the W Trek. Unfortunately we didn’t get to hang out too much at camp due to the tough weather conditions, but this wouldn’t be the last of our encounters.
- Danny found some meat-eating dinner dates! In town we ran into Chris and Matt, our friends from Atlanta, whom we also met on the W Trek, and we had a great dinner with them at a traditional Argentine Parrilla (BBQ). Funny enough the best salad I have had yet on our trip came from this Parrilla restaurant, which was called “Como Vaca”, meaning I Eat Meat. And at the same time, Danny got to go splitsky on some steak, chorizo, blood sausage galore. We went out for drinks with them after dinner and thank you again, Chris, for treating us to a yummy bottle of wine!
- The Internet in town is so slow that we weren’t able to book ourselves a place to stay at our next stop, but the lady who owned the Hosteria where we stayed was super friendly, and she made a call and a reservation for us! We just had to pay her back in sweets, specifically an Alfajor cookie (traditional Argentinian chocolate covered cookie sandwich) from the artisanal chocolate store across the street.
To see all of our photos from El Chaltén click here.