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Posts Tagged ‘El Chalten’

Our last two days in El Chalten were action packed and tiring. We did two long hikes again, and the first two-thirds of both were the exact same. But after arriving to a campsite and crossing a few streams and a river, there was a choice to make. Go up to near the base of Fitz Roy or over to a glacier and lake.

The first day after Nate and Sarah left was overcast, windy, and misty. We wanted to go to Fitz Roy since that was the main attraction for people coming to El Chalten, and at that point, we weren’t too sure if we were going to be up for a third 8-9 hour hike in a row. The weather wasn’t too bad by Patagonian standards, but we were a bit skeptical about making the trek all the way up to Fitz Roy and end up not being able to see it because it was too cloudy.

The two pics below were taken at the same exact place a day apart, to give you an idea of what cloudy weather does to the views.

Mirador on the way to Fitz Roy

Mirador on the way to Fitz Roy

View from mirador on the way to Fitz Roy (on a sunny day)

View from mirador on the way to Fitz Roy (on a sunny day)

On the overcast day, we hiked for for about 2.5 hours, got to the splitting point in the trail and decided to go to the glacier and lake instead of Fitz, which turned out to be a great choice.

There were all types of streams that we had to navigate, and then a river with several crossings that we had to hike down for a good hour or so, hopping from rock to rock on no discernable trail while trying not to get wet. It was a fun part of the hike and was a welcome change from the dirt and gravel trails we had been hiking on.

The best thing about all the streams everywhere was that all water in and around El Chalten was drinkable without any purifying. All the water was from glacial melt, and it was honestly the best water I’ve ever tasted. Simply great, and because there was water everywhere, it was only necessary to carry a small bottle, so minimal water weight in our pack.

Adam on bridge crossing Rio Blanco

Adam on bridge crossing Rio Blanco

Rio Blanco

Rio Blanco

Rio Blanco 2

Rio Blanco 2

After the hike down the river, we had to take a left to go to the lake and glacier. The last hour or so of the hike was very interesting and honestly one of the funnest parts of a hike that either of us had ever experienced. It required climbing over huge boulders with no one set way to go. We knew the direction we had to go, but there was certainly no trail. It was a bit harrowing at times climbing over, on, and around these huge rocks with the glacial melt below us in many cases. One wrong step wouldn’t have resulted in serious injury or anything, but a shoe submerged in icy water would not have made for a comfortable 4 hour hike back into town. The pictures don’t really do it justice, but these were the types of rocks we had to climb over for a good hour to get to our final destination (all in the wind and a light rain, which made these huge boulders nice and slippery for us).

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After jumping, climbing, slipping, and hopping our way over all these for a good hour or so, we finally arrived. The glacier and lake were obviously gorgeous, as were the many icebergs (some a deep blue color) floating about aimlessly in the lake. One of the coolest things about it though was the waterfalls everywhere coming down off the glacier. The wind was so fierce that it would literally blow the ends of some of the waterfalls back up, preventing them from ever actually hitting the ground or entering the lake. It was a wild sight to see, a waterfall actually going upwards. So make sure you maximize the pictures below and look closely at some of the waterfalls, particularly the really skinny one toward the left. You see it just end in mid-air. Pretty cool.

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Lago Piedras Blancas

Lago Piedras Blancas

Lago Piedras Blancas (with icebergs)

Lago Piedras Blancas (with icebergs)

Glaciar Piedras Blancas

Glaciar Piedras Blancas

Close up of Lago Piedras BLancas

Close up of Lago Piedras BLancas

Close up of icebergs

Close up of icebergs

Notice the waterfall to the left

Notice the waterfall to the left

Close up of waterfall

Close up of waterfall

After all that, we had to make our way back, which took a good four more hours.  You would think that we would have rested after the last 2 days, and even though we didn’t want to admit it, we wouldn’t have been crushed had we woken up to rain our last day in Chalten.  But the weather gods apparently wanted us to go outside because we awoke to a warm, sunny day,

Beautiful blue sky and odd, bright white clouds

Beautiful blue sky and odd, bright white clouds

We knew we had to go all the way to Fitz Roy this time.  And as we began our hike with full views of Fitz nearly the entire time, we knew we made a good decision.

Cerro Fitz Roy from a distance

Cerro Fitz Roy from a distance

From the trail

From the trail

View from the trail

View from the trail

The first 2.5 hours were the same as the day before, but instead of heading down the river this time, we headed up.

Straight up.

The trail up

The trail up

It was straight up for about an hour and a half, and although we’ve had longer uphills in hikes we’ve done since we’ve been gone, we have never done anything steeper.  And we were also racing the clouds.  We could see some getting close to the summit, and we were going to be pissed had we come all this way to have the peak obscured once we got up there.

After some pep talks and encouragement, we finally reached the top, with enough time to spare to pull up a rock for lunch and admire the view from the top.

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Lago de los Tres and Fitz Roy (from as high as you can get unless you are climbing it)

Lago de los Tres and Fitz Roy (from as high as you can get unless you are climbing it)

Close up of Fitz Roy

Close up of Fitz Roy

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View from the top opposite the lake and Fitz Roy

View from the top opposite the lake and Fitz Roy

After another loooooooooooong walk back to town, we had to get ready to leave the next morning to head to Chile for a 5 day trek in Torres del Paine.  We will have those posts forthcoming, along with some stuff about the last week we’ve spent relaxing in Bariloche (not much to tell because we really didn’t do much, but we’ve had a blast here).

On Sunday, we head to a little hippy town called El Bolson which is a couple hours south of Bariloche.  After spending much of next week there, we are contemplating crossing the Chilean border again and climbing a volcano that we can then sled back down.  We are running out of time here in southern South America.  In a few weeks we head north to Colombia for a month before moving to the other side of the world.

Lots more to come, stay tuned…

~Adam

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It’s been a few weeks now since we were there, but after Perito Moreno Glacier, we headed north a few hours to a small town (for now) called El Chalten. There are only 200 permanent residents, but during summer it transforms into a trekker’s heaven, and every hostel and hotel is pretty much sold out. Luckily for many trekkers, the beautiful surroundings provide a ton of camping opportunities if you’re brave enough to withstand the constant winds that we’ve written so much about during our time in Patagonia.

We arrived in El Chalten with one thing in mind: get in as good of shape as we can for our “W” trek in Torres del Paine NP the following week. Now as you already know, Torres del Paine did a number on Megan’s poor feet, but part of that was due to our overzealousness in El Chalten. We had 5 nights there, and we hiked every single day, with the first two days consisting of a few short hikes, and the last three days being our crazy long hikes that were referenced a few posts ago.

We arrived in El Chalten about 5pm our first day with the sun booming and nary a cloud in the sky. We were told by the rangers that it had been raining all day (typical of Patagonia in the summer), and it had just cleared up in the last hour or so. They told us that we should take advantage of the great weather, go put our belongings in our rooms, and get out there and hike. And because it stays light out until 10pm, we still had plenty of time.

So we did as we were told (as I’ve always personally done my whole life when it comes to authority–I can’t speak for my wife though 😉 ) and headed out on a short hike to the mirador overlooking the town and mountains of Fitz Roy (the main attraction of trekkers and climbers coming to El Chalten) and Cerro Torre.

The town of El Chalten below Fitz Roy and the Cerro mountains

The town of El Chalten below Fitz Roy and the Cerro mountains

El Chalten and Fitz Roy

El Chalten and Fitz Roy

This wind does wonders for my new hairstyle

This wind does wonders for my new hairstyle

Not only was the hiking and views spectacular (they only got better after that short first day), but another great thing about El Chalten was the people we met. We did another short hike on day 2 (we had to ease into after our month of steak, wine, and dulce de leche in BA). We were lucky enough to be sitting here having lunch with this view:

View from our lunch spot

View from our lunch spot

View from our lunch spot 2

View from our lunch spot 2

While sitting here eating, people kept coming up to admire the wonderful views. Two of these people were Nate and Sarah, from New York. We got to talking and found out that they were traveling around South America for about 6 months. Even though we only talked for about 15 minutes, something just clicked, and Sarah asked us we would like to join them for dinner that night.

Now one thing that we have written about time and time again and talked about incessantly is how much we miss our friends and family back home. So it was awesome to meet a couple that we got along with so well, and we instantly became friends.

We ended up at a nice microbrewery that was coincidentally right next door to the hostel that Megan and I were staying in. Our dinner turned into 3 hours of eating and drinking, and we decided to make hiking plans for the next day. Luckily because of the “light til 10pm thing” it wasn’t necessary to get up early (I think plans would have changed had that been the case).

So we met the next day bright and early (at 11am), had some breakfast, got some sandwiches together for the hike, and were off by about 1pm on our first long expedition in Patagonia (24km in about 8 hours).

After a difficult initial climb, the scenery was stunning as we hiked for about 5 hours to Glaciar Torres and Lago Torres, bullshitting about pretty much everything along the way.

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Glaciar Torre from a distance

Glaciar Torre from a distance

Cerro Torre

Cerro Torre

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Glaciar Torre and Cerro Torre

Glaciar Torre and Cerro Torre

Best Johhny ever?

Best Johhny ever?

After our 5 hours of hiking and chatting and eating and hiking and chatting and eating, we finally arrived to Lago Torre and Glaciar Torre, which we had been seeing the whole time in the distance. Even though we knew we had a long hike back to town, the views when we arrived were definitely worth the long day.

Lago Torre

Lago Torre

Cerro Torre (from in front of Lago Torre)

Cerro Torre (from in front of Lago Torre)

Lago Torre 2

Lago Torre 2

Nate, Sarah, Megan, and Adam in front of Lago Torre

Nate, Sarah, Megan, and Adam in front of Lago Torre

The hike was not a loop, so it was the same hike back as it was to the Glaciar and Lake, but we still took our time and got lots more pictures. Even though (in my opinion) the end results of our hikes the next two days were more spectacular, this was my favorite all around hike in El Chalten. Many factors were at play here, including the weather, the variety of the scenery at every turn, and great new friends that we were with the whole time.

Hike back down

Hike back down

Cerro Torre in the distance obscured by clouds

Cerro Torre in the distance obscured by clouds

Looking back during the hike back from Lago Torres

Looking back during the hike back from Lago Torres

El Chalten in the distance (almost back)

El Chalten in the distance (almost back)

After we got back down, exhausted, tired, and sweaty, we had another great dinner with our new friends (but a lot more tame than the previous night). Unfortunately Nate and Sarah had to leave early the next morning for an epic 36 hour bus trip, but we have been in touch and hope to meet back up with them in Santiago in early March before we fly to Colombia.

A great first few days in El Chalten. And the first of three straight 8+ hour hiking days for our “training” for Torres del Paine. Will be back soon with part 2 of our hiking adventures, plus plenty more pictures.

Until then…

~Adam

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