El Chalten is just three hours from El Calafate and within the Los Glaciares National Park. It also boasts the title of the trekking capital of Argentina. That is a big shout but I was to find out it is a just one.
We arrived by bus from El Calafate at around 8pm, so the town was well under the cloak of darkness. The rain was tipping down too, it seemed a cold and miserable night and there was not much in street lighting. We had no accommodation booked but luckily the tip I had came good. We headed to the La Comarca hostel that was located directly opposite the small bus station and there was lights on, great. It was really cheap too, just ARG$50 and although being really simple it delivered what we needed, warmth and a cosy bed. The kitchen was good too, open plan and I would say the right size for a small place. The owners weren’t sure when they were closing down for the season, they said maybe two days, we would have to wait. Hopefully they would keep it going for three thats what we need!
Why is El Chalten the Trekking Capital of Argentina?
So we were curious to find out the big brand, the best way ofcourse to do it was to get into the wild and start trekking. So it was Friday morning, the sun had risen and we stepped outside the hostel. It was quite an mazing sight, we were surrounded by mountains, just a block away was a sheer wall of rock too, right in town.
It was so weird arriving in the dark and not realising how it really looks. The deluge of rain they had received over the past 48 hours had ebbed away and snow had fell during the early hours, so everywhere was given that extra white sparkle too. The sky was semi-clear of cloud, bonus, and we heard the following day would be blue skies (as can be).
Laguna Torres Trek
We headed out and chose to do the Laguna Torres trek, touted at nine hours return. That is pretty hefty but they always over-estimate, I hope! The walk was living up to its reputation as one of the best day hikes in the world as soon as we got to the Mirador del Cerro Torre. It was splendid, and a joy to sit there and take the dramatic view in, Mountains flank the valley, the autumn orange tree with a sugar dusting of snow, the several dynamic peaks snow clad, it was brilliant.
It wasn’t too cold either, the warmth of the sun rays were stripping us of our layers. The walk took us through forest, open valley, along the edge of the glacial river and through the moraine field to the beautiful lake, Laguna Torres.
It is surrounded, huge mountains on three sides and then the huge moraine. The lake is filled with hundreds of icebergs of all sizes and shapes, slowly fading away under the suns striking rays. The icebergs are born of the awesome glaciers called Glacier Grande to the left and Glacier Torre to the left that live at the opposite end of the lake and cascade and warps down the mountain slopes joining together from high above. It really is stunning.
The walk there was made special by the snow, not many foot prints had disturbed them, the suns rays though took their toll and on our way back we were given a different view of our walk, snow melting away, the once dusted trees are now in full orange and red colours and to finish a perfect day the condors had decided to do some gliding in the sky above. This place is one the most beautiful places I have ever been, the setting is the key, everywhere you look you are surrounded by nothing more than out of this world views and the way the trails wind through different environments keeps your senses at their peak. Smiles all around.
Laguna De Los Tres Trek
Day two, it was up early again, lunch packed, got all the gear, lets find the start of the trail. The trail started at the top of the town, I had a map so no problem. We got to a point that I thought was the trail and we jumped onto it. We walked for about 20 minutes and thought these two treks are so similar, you seem to see the same views. Well another 5 minutes later our trail joined another and it clicked, I’ve been here before! I can’t believe I took the wrong trail, we were on the Laguna Torres trek again. What can we do, I’m not going back I thought but there was a saviour. I remembered there was a trail off that headed to where we wanted to be, but it was three quarters into the Laguna Torre walk. Never mind, it is not the worse place in the world to visit twice it it! We ramped up our little leg power and got onto the trail we needed which on the initial leg was a really steep climb through beautiful woodland, I was shattered. It seemed this trail wasn’t as popular because the bushes over grew onto the path and with the snow still lying in the shadows created tunnel like walk throughs, you had to make sure you didn’t bang them though otherwise you’d get a lump of snow down your back! The wrong turn ended up being a blessing, this trail that linked the Laguna Torre trek with the Laguna De Los Tres trek was as stunning. Snow was hanging around here and there was two big and sparkling lakes. When we got onto the Laguna De Los Tres trail though it was apparent why this was really admired by trekkers the world over.
The amazing sight of Mount Fitzroy looking over the valley below was stunning, but for me the landscape immediately around me was just as stunning. It was like a marsh land, cut and dissected by clear, crisp and pure streams. Stepping stones made of tree trunks and tree trunk bridges gave a route through this beautiful area.
I think this now is my favourite sight in South America, I couldn’t help but keep stopping and grinning at what surrounded me. Again the time of year sets it off, like the rest of Patagonia I’d visited, but this place has something more.
We made sure we got the correct trail back out and realised when we got back to El Chalten where we had gone wrong. Another great day, our last and the weather had been so, so kind to us. We celebrated our happy stay in El Chalten with a visit to a cute and cosy vegetarian restaurant, the name has slipped me by, but a couple of bottles of vino and some yummy healthy food.