El Chalten: The Hiking Capital of Argentina

El Chalten, Argentina is considered the trekking and climbing capital of Argentina, and it is now officially one of our favorite places on earth! The town was established in1985 to secure the disputed border with Chile. Now it is the access point to the northern sector of Los Glaciares National Park, at the base of Cerro Torre and Cerro Fitz Roy mountains. Both mountains are famous with climbers, and the area is a popular base for hiking the numerous trails.

The hiking trails are accessible right from the town and all are well marked and easy to navigate. On our first evening here we braved the strong winds and rain to tackle two overlooks above the town: Mirador de los Condores and Mirador de los Aguilas. These trails were a good warm up to the big one: Laguna de los Tres. The Laguna del los Tres trail is a little over 10K, or about 7 miles one way, and it leads to a beautiful lake at the base of Mount Fitz Roy. If you’ve ever seen the beautiful snow-covered granite spires on your screen saver, then you’ve seen Fitz Roy. 1.1486976773.mirador-de-fitz-royWe’ve now seen it from our bedroom window at all hours of the day and night and up close from Laguna del los Tres. Our hike was long and at times grueling, but totally worth it! The final kilometer was a steep 400 meter climb up rocks and scree in a pretty fierce wind. But, once you got to the top, you forgot about the challenge of the climb. Seeing Fitz Roy up close is why we travel so far.

The second major hike from El Chalten is to Laguna Torre, which is a the base of the other large spire, Cerro Torre. Steve went to the top of this 15 mile climb on our second day here while Marnie went to the spa! We both climbed to the overlook the following day to catch a glimpse of the mountain. Again, words can’t describe the majestic nature of this landscape, even on a cloudy day.

Steve celebrated his birthday here in El Chalten, and we marked the big day with a trip down the Rio de las Vueltas on a rafting trip. Our guide, Lolli is a member of Argentina’s EcoChallenge team, and he’s competed in the adventure race in Morocco, Borneo, Argentina, and Ireland. This guy knew how to navigate a raft through the rapids! After we put on dry suits, our group of six plus Lolli boarded our inflatable raft and began to float quickly down the river.

1.1486976773.taking-a-swim-in-the-dry-suit

Steve testing out the dry suit

Through class 3 and 4 rapids, we paddled like crazy to stay upright. Two of our fellow rafters were thrown out of the raft in a particularly rough part of the river, but no one was hurt, and we remained on top of the raft the entire time. Steve did take the opportunity to try out the dry suit at the end of the trip and jumped into the river. All in all it was an adrenaline-filled morning that we would do again in a heartbeat.

Our time in El Chalten finished with two days of rain, with the mountains obscured by the clouds. Even in the rain we did a few small hikes in the area…good rain gear is essential here. 1.1486976773.chorillo-de-salto-on-a-rainy-dayIt was a bummer but at least we had a few good days of hiking with great views. Many hikers come for just a day or two and never see the mountaintops. Our advice: come and stay for awhile! This little mountain town is peaceful, slow-paced, and very cool.

Now we are moving south to the “end of the world,” Ushuaia, Argentina, where we will explore for a few days before boarding the ship to Antarctica. Hope you enjoy the pictures of El Chalten!

 

 

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