El Chaltén – 20 Nov 2016

We took the bus from El Calafaté at 18:00. Everywhere, we had seen the stickers and souvenirs of Route 40, but this time, between these two cities, we actually appreciated why it is so famous. After a long brown land of nothingness, you reach the lakes and the mountains. The view is amazing from the road. The blue of the lake mixes with the dark blue shade of the mountains, which hits the blue sky. As we got closer to Lago Viedma, we could see the white of Glacier Viedma shining under the sun. As it was a clear day, we could also see Fitz Roy in the horizon. Reaching to El Chaltén in this view of the mountains with the lake was absolutely beautiful.

View of the mountains from Lago Viedma as we get close to El Chaltén.

El Chaltén is a much smaller city when compared to El Calafaté. The whole city is in the limits of the natural reserve and the hikes are going into the natural park. There is again one main avenue where you can find a lot of restaurants, hotels, supermarkets, pharmacies, and camping gear rental places. This main street is also the hub to start the hikes into various locations including Senda al Fitz Roy, which is one of the hardest hikes, but you get best views of the Fitz Roy; more on this later. We have been told that there were no ATMs and you cannot use credit cards in this city. This was a partially wrong information. There are two ATMs in the city. One of them apparently does not work with cards with chips. But the other one does. Luckily, B’s TFCU card does not have a chip because the ATM which works with the chips was out of service that night. However, you will see a lot of restaurants and camping gear rental places have a sign of ‘Visa’ on their doors, so we assume that you should be able to use it. Our hotel was a much smaller place with 6 rooms (nunataks) and they did not take credit card, so we paid in cash.

Welcome to El Chaltén with Fitz Roy in the background

Fitz Roy – 21 Nov 2016

The trail map of Fitz Roy

After having a great sleep and a standard hotel breakfast (cereal + jam + dulce de leche) we were ready for the day hike we picked. The hike was 10.2 kilometers one way. We were confident that we should be able to complete this before our bus as it was quoted as 4 hours one way. And also, we would like to see if our training in Torres Del Paine will help us or not. The hike starts with a small climb where you can Las Vueltas river which is sealing the northern part of the park. After walking couple of kilometers, you will be able to see Fitz Roy and surrounding glaciers and other peaks. The view was breathtaking as there is a large green valley in front of this natural paradise. After this first glance, you will walk close to the peaks and they will grow bigger while you are passing the green valley. There are various streams going through the valley where you can fill you water bottle, wash your face (M did it). We were lucky with the weather as it was a cloudy day to block the sun, but clouds were not covering the peaks, so we could see it all.

Las Vueltas valley

After walking around 9 kilometers, you will hit the last kilometer. This last kilometer is why they marked this trail as a hard one. Because it is a very steep climb. The problem is while you are walking in the valley you get close to peaks but peaks will be blocked by hill that you need to climb. It is an hour’s climb and you need to be in real good shape to complete it. We again used some wooden sticks to help us, but walking poles should work much better. Terrain is not that stable either, so coming back is also a little bit complicated.

B in a tree
On the way to Fitz Roy, as it shows itself to us in the background

At the end of this one hour climb, here we were the Laguna de Los Tres lake was infront of us with four different shades of blue. Fitz Roy was surrounding it and other peaks and glaciers were visible again. After this demanding exercise, we sat one of the rocks and had our lunch here (you remember the wraps we made back in El Calafaté + apples). Then, we went down the hill by the lake side and enjoyed the view from there a little bit more. On the left side of the lake you will see another hill where people climb. We did not climb this hill as we had some time constraints to catch the bus back at 18:00 but if you climb this hill you should be able to see another glacier lake. We walked below this hill to see this other lake and the glacier, we just didn’t get a chance to look at it from above. This glacier lake is also being fed by the Los Tres lake. It was a magical place and we did not want to leave at all, we wished we had more time.

Fitz Roy
Glacier next to Fitz Roy

We started our descend (more like we slid down). That steep climb was hard on our knees but with slow pace and help of the sticks we managed to come down. In this hike, we observed similar fauna that we have seen back in Torres Del Paine and Tierra Del Fuego. We were also able to observe first time some condors but they were flying way up so it was not possible to see them in detail. However, we have seen one sleeping on a hill and tried to take some pictures of it as well.

Us with Fitz Roy in the back at the Laguna Capri
Our walking companions to Fitz Roy =)

El Chaltén is a cosy backpacker town. You will see so many backpackers in the end we were joking that no one else lives in this town besides us. We could easily spent 2-3 days here, as there are many more day hikes that we could do. But sadly our schedule is busy so we needed to hit the road. We were back at the bus station around 17:30 and caught our bus back to El Calafaté without a problem.

Enjoying an asado back at El Calafaté, trying to forget how our knees hurt =)