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El Chalten

ARGENTINA | Saturday, 31 March 2018 | Views [173]

So it has been an embarrassingly, ridiculously, unacceptably long time since I’ve written, which is definitely a detriment to me more than anyone else. Hopefully I can recall the amazing details of tiny El Chalten and relate them to you! The most important thing to know is that there are great hiking trails minutes from town and that they are all free. We would come to learn that this is not the case in most other parts of Patagonia.

As noted in the last post, we arrived in town after a 24-hour bus ride, somehow not too cranky or tired. Apparently this 5’9’’ frame is well-suited for those half-reclining bus chairs. We knew that El Chalten is on all backpacker’s must-go lists for having amazing hikes right outside your front door; however, I think we were all ready for an easy day after that looooong ride. So after checking into our respective hostels, I headed to the store to get some groceries for breakfast and lunch for the next few days. Luckily I was quick on running out, because as soon as I got back I was informed by Tommy that we were going to do the world famous Laguna de los Tres trail that day as weather conditions were perfect since the rangers don’t let you climb the last kilometer if it’s too windy. This trek, better known as the Fitz Roy Trail, is famous as view from the summit is the logo for Patagonia Outdoor company and after seeing the view, I know why.

So we made our lunches, gathered up our gear and hit the trail with three other people from Tommy’s hostel. Shannon and Alex, a couple from Australia, and to alter your gender predispositions, Shannon is the guy and Alex is the girl. And for the first time on my travels, I randomly ran into someone I had previously met. Meet Dirk, a tall, big and super friendly German from Munich, whom I had met at a hostel in Rosario, Argentina, four weeks earlier. What up Dirk!

The trail itself is a relatively easy to moderate 20 kilometer round trip, with the last kilometer being a pretty damn difficult total uphill climb. We had an absolutely perfect day with minimal wind and endless sun. The Fitz Roy peak was fixed in front of us along most of the trail providing the motivation anyone would need to push through any difficult portions. Also, one of the coolest things about all the hikes in El Chalten is that you can drink the fresh running water from the streams as it is glacial melt filtered through the rocks and the way down. Pretty amazing how sweet and delicious it was. I’m really big on raw water now.

After the three-hour plus hike to reach the summit, the reward was absolutely stunning. While you can only see one at first, there are two glacier lakes, which have a color that defies the human eye to go along with the three separate peaks. I’ve never seen this color before in any body of water, whether it be the turquoise of the ocean, the deep blue of lakes, the brown of rivers in Asia or whatever color the Chicago river is. To me it looks like the bright blue highlighter, which I’m pretty sure comes through in the pictures. Some of my favorite pics were taken there, including a group shot with about 20 people capturing both lakes and all the peaks. After sitting for hours taking pictures, eating and doing some good ole relaxing, we had to make the trek back down, which led to more amazing photos with the sun going down. I could definitely see why some people camp along the trail to climb the last kilometer at sunrise. Simply beautiful.

 

Another great perk of the hiking trails being so close to town is that you get back in time for happy hour! Given that this is a small town in Patagonia in the relative middle of nowhere, most prices are higher than normal. So when you can get two good micro beers for $6 or $7, you jump on it. I’m talking pale ales, IPAs, blondes, reds, porters, etc. After some drinks and dinner, I was more ready than ever for a hot shower and a lot of sleep.

Next morning was a slow one, but after getting in motion, Norma, Eleanor and I did the Laguna Torres trail, another 20 kilometer round trip hike; however, this one was mostly flat. The payoff for this one is an up close view of a glacial lake with a bunch of broken off ice chunks floating in it. We did have the additional challenge of a damn windy day. Our resident meteorologist Tommy was so concerned, he decided to hit the trail earlier with some people from his hostel to beat the wind. We just said screw and started an hour plus later. It was pretty damn windy out there in some parts, but not too bad; though we ran into Tommy and friends on the return journey and he said he saw a girl fly backwards about ten feet when a big gust hit her and her open jacket. I did have a major/minor casualty on the trek though too (depends on how you look at it I suppose). After I stopped to take a picture on the walk back, I jogged past a group of people to catch up and my sunglasses blew off from my shirt over the edge, NEVER TO BE SEEN AGAIN! Those babies were prescription and while I can still see, it’s still sad. I hope they find a good home. After more happy hours and a solid burger, day complete.

Day 3 brought a reunification with Shannon, Alex and Dirk to complete the Loma de la Pliegue Tumbado trail; another 20 kilometer hike. Not sure why I was up for another long hike, but the weather was beautiful again and my legs felt fine. This trail ran was a mostly gentle uphill climb the whole way through mostly open fields and a slight patch of forest. The last two kilometers were more challenging, including the summit, an unforgiving steep, giant hill composed of shale. Since the footing was not the best you had to use a switchback trail to push it to the top. After a good 20 minutes of one-minute spurts and rests, I made it to the top! And from on high I had a 360 degree view of Fitz Roy, Cerro Torres and wide open plans and giant lakes. It’s crazy how open and far-stretching the world seemed in that moment. We spent a quick half hour up there shielding ourselves from the wind to eat lunch and take some great photos before heading back.

I spent the last day resting and basically just hanging out. I ended up doing a piddly three kilometer walk to view the town from the south with a hostel pal before really turning the tables and having some wine and dinner at the hostel instead of happy hour and bar food. Gotta mix it up sometimes, ya know?

Next morning Norma, Eleanor, Tommy and I took the bus to El Calafate, home to the Perito Moreno Glacier, one of the largest in the world. Leading up to our departure there, we were having a devil of a time finding available rooms for that Saturday night and we didn’t know why. When we figured it out, we were both annoyed and excited. The reason for the troubles had to do with a concert from an artist responsible for the most popular song worldwide the previous summer. Intrigued? We were...

Tags: craft beer, hiking

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