Enough with the glaciers already!






After Torres del Paine, we caught a bus back into Argentina for a little more mountain viewing. Parque National Los Glaciares is just on the other side of the border and offers more spectacular hiking and the granddaddy of all glaciers, Perito Moreno. Apart from the scenery, the towns we visited had nothing going for them but we endured high prices and mediocre food for the chance to view some of the nicest mountains we´ve ever seen. Oh, a just a few more glaciers in case we hadn´t gotten our fill of ice…

Our first stop was the big glacier- Perito Mereno. We skipped the tour (since we´re way over budget by this point) and simply took a bus out to the glacier for a few hours. We´re glad we didn´t spend longer, as the glacier filled up with tour buses shortly after we arrived. We can´t handle the crowds of people pushing around and retired to eat avacado sandwiches from a view point after only an hour. Still, even with all the people, the glacier was spectacular and we´re glad we made the trip for it. As you can see, it was a little cloudy and chilly at the glacier front, but back in town the sun was shining and we warmed up with a hike to see the local flamingos.

After only one day in Calafate, we were ready for a change and we headed north to El Chalten. We´d been warned that El Chalten was not the finest of towns, but that didn´t prepare us for the partially finished pile of buildings that our bus driver claimed was town. It was windy, dirty and ugly! The main drag (which was really all that there was in the town) was un-paved and contained, well, nothing. Maybe I´m being a little judgmental, but our first impressions of the town weren´t good. The bright light was our B&B and the apple pie at the nearby panaderia.

Luckily, El Chalten has more going for it than its buildings (or lack of). Treking to the mighty Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre can be started right in town which is the only reason why you´d endure the endless winds and dirt of El Chalten. Unusually, the day we decided to start our trek was clear and windless and within a few hours we could see Mnt. Fitz Roy ahead of us. Its the highest peak in the area and portions of it can be seen from town when the wind isn´t howling.

We´d given ourselves 3 days to hike and camp in the area, so we weren´t too disapointed when the peak clouded over as soon as we were within range of the view point. Later, when we did attempt to climb to the view point, the incredibly strong winds kept the viewing to a minimum. Thanks to the borrowed treking guide, we knew there were other sites to occupy our time and spent the rest of our afternoon looking at yet another glacier.

The next morning was perfectly clear (which could explain why we were so cold at night), and a sidetrip along the valley before breakfast gave us crystal clear views of Fitz Roy without the wind. We could have spent all day watching ice fall from the glacier but there were other mountains to view.
(Fitz Roy and other peaks with glacier and lake)
Setting out from camp we met our Swiss friends day-hiking our three day trek (crazy) and from them we heard that the second big peak in the area, Cerro Torre, was visible. People in town say that you can only see it 5 days of the year so we´d expected to find it clouded over when we arrived to camp at its base. I think the townies are wrong about the visibility frequency, or we´ve used up all the clear days, since the peak was visible for 3 days while we were there. I found it less spectacular than Fitz Roy, but easier to enjoy as its only a 10 minute walk from camp. Usually we don´t have time for sitting around when we hike, but this time we found ourselves with a whole afternoon of free time. Again, luck was with us and it was hot, really hot, in the valley. Fleece jackets were shed and 4 glorious hours were spent basking in the sun, and yes, waiting for glacial ice to fall.

A not so early walk to the lake rewarded us with reflections of the peak and an absence of other trekers (rare). We look our time getting back to town, but all was well in Chalten when we arrived, with the wind still faint and the sun shining. The circuit that we completed was short (30km?) but probably one of the nicest hikes we´ve ever done. If you find yourself in El Chalten and the weather is nice, we highly recomend!

One Comment

  1. Interestingly… In that lake (at the top) at the viewpoint for Fitz Roy there are these crazy shrimp things in the water. I hope you caught some! Jon if you didnt I’ll be deeply disappointed. See you guys in a week!

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