Archive for the ‘El Chalten’ Tag

Chalten – Argentina (Feb 3-6)   6 comments

Driving from El Calafate low clouds begin to fill the valley, creeping over the mountains into a thick fog. Rain sprays the windshield on our bus as we pass the first hour of our trip oblivious to the scenery around us. As we pass Lake Argentina the clouds seem to melt away and we are met with the beautifully redundant land scape that doesn´t seem to end. To our right a tall jagged rock strewn mountain covered with dark green grass. To our left a large blue lake surrounded by dark yellow grass with a back drop of snow-covered mountains. Through their center a glacier snakes it´s way into the lake.

We find ourselves in a small quaint town awash with young adventurers from all over the world who have come to the trekking mecca of the western hemisphere. The town sits in a valley surrounded by broad-faced cliffs and one main thoroughfare, 1km in length. All the shops sell either souvenirs or trekking equipment, restaurants gouge their patrons with overly expensive, but delicious food, and the two supermarkets, though small, seem to be severely lacking what most hikers are looking. Regardless of the town which is not the main draw, the surrounding vista is stunning. Beyond the large surrounding mountains, through the ever-present clouds, sit the large Cerro Torre and Fitz Roy  mountains. Fitz Roy sites above all her rivals as king, jutting straight up with a broad flat face and slender sides.

On Friday we began our ascent towards Lago de los Tres, near the base of Fitz Roy. After purging our packs of the superfluous, grabbing a few items from the local supermercado and taking the afternoon´s repast we start up the 10k trail with our packs, tent and sleeping bags. The first hour was a constant up hill battle that left Magan hating life. With a little encouragement she ploughed through it with iron will and determination. One and a half hours later we reached a large clear lake and our camp site.

After an hour of rest and setting up our tent we set out for the second half of the trail towards Fitz Roy. This time with only a water bottle, which the local streams provided ample resupply. Through the entire trek we were met with ever increasing and diverse beauty as we passed through shaded trails with small trees, open passes with short shrubs and lush forests with moss-covered trees that looked as though they could be as old as the mountains themselves. All the while Fitz Roy is growing in size and grandeur.

The second hour and a half passed with significantly less hassle, but our feet were beginning to ache. As we passed the second campsite we knew there was one more hour of trekking, though this would be straight up. We set out for this last portion with zeal, but 30 minutes into the climb Magan´s legs had given out. As the winds grew colder and the setting sun pushed shadow on our trail we decided to return to our camp. As we trudged along, both of us thoroughly beat, we arrived back at camp after retracing the last hour and a half of trail.

At the camp we enjoyed our jamon y queso sandwiches along with potato chips and fresh stream water. After a brief run in with an unplesant out house we fell asleep, only to be awoken by the ferocious winds sweeping across the mountain. Slightly worried that our tent cover would blow away I stayed awake until I thought it was time for the sun rise. Anticipating the beautiful pink-orange glow of Fitz Roy in the early morning sun I eagerly climbed to a vantage point only to find the entire range covered in clouds. Disheartened we packed up camp and hiked down (30 minutes rather than 1.5 hrs) in the wind and rain accompanied by cloudy valleys and rainbows at each turn.

A rather anticlimactic ending for a stunningly beautiful and completely exhausting trek. Never the less the next few days were full of treks to water falls and up to Laguna Torre at the ridiculously windy base of  Cerro Torre.

On the trail to Cerro Torre

End of the trail at Laguna Torre. Windiest place in the world.

Large (about 16oz) Argentine steak. Best we have ever had.

Mag´s on a mountain bike.

Eating dinner in Chalten (delicious steak).

Water fall. A short 1 hr walk.

We all made it.