Published: April 11th 2011April 8th 2011
"Skysurfer - Here Comes The Sun"
El Chalten, home of the famous Fitzroy! Move over Fitzroy, someone just informed me of a floor hockey tourney!
I arrived in El Chalten after a short three hour bus ride from El Calafate. Along the way I met some pretty cool backpackers and I managed to team up with Zuzana! I like her, she is from Slovakia and is crazy for Ice Hockey! AND she is the first Slovak that I have ever met!
El Chalten is a small town nestled into a beautiful valley. Most people come here for the Fitzroy! Monte Fitz Roy is a mountain located near El Chaltén village, in the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, in Patagonia, on the border between Argentina and Chile.
The mountain is also known as Cerro Chaltén, Cerro Fitz Roy, or simply Mount Fitz Roy. Cerro is a Spanish word meaning mountain, while Chaltén comes from a Tehuelche (Aonikenk) word meaning "smoking mountain", due to a cloud that usually forms around the mountain's peak. Fitz Roy, however, was only one of a number of peaks the Tehuelche called Chaltén. And it really did look like a smoking mountain, it was kind
The mountain has a reputation of being "ultimate", despite its average height (although being the highest peak in the Los Glaciares park, it is less than half the size of the Himalayan giants), because the sheer granite faces present long stretches of arduous technical climbing. In addition, the weather in the area is exceptionally inclement and treacherous. It also attracts many photographers thanks to its otherworldly shape. The area, while still fairly inaccessible, was even more isolated until the recent development of El Chaltén village and El Calafate international airport. The mountain climb, however, remains extremely difficult and is the preserve of very experienced climbers. Today, when a hundred people may summit Mount Everest in a single day, Monte Fitz Roy may only be successfully ascended once a year.
Monte Fitz Roy is the basis for the Patagonia clothing logo following Yvon Chouinard's 3rd ascent and subsequent film in 1968.
The village of El Chalten was founded in 1985, so tourism is quite new to this area and it shows. The village itself is still developing with many projects on the go. I reckon 10 years from now you wont be able to recognize it
from how it is now. Tourists will define the look and way of life. The local villagers are all very nice and unique in their charisma.
I would stay at the hostel Conder De Los Andes. There I would meet a nice, kind and helpful staff! And it turns out I would meet a fellow couchsurfer here named Tai. Also, many travelers that I had met along the way, including my boat to Antarctica, would pass through here. It was nice to meet people, now old friends of course, and catch up on our travel stories.
The best part about El Chalten is its close proximity to all the hiking trails. You can choose to camp and hike if you want, but you also have the choice to do only day hikes ranging from 4 hours to 12 hours in length. I decided to do the day hikes! The weather was great the first day so I set out on a long 8 hour hike that would take us up to see the Fitzroy! This was the perfect time of year to hike these trails. None of them are hard, not a single one. Mother nature had painted
all the trees and bushes with burnt reds, yellows and oranges and there was plenty of fresh snow on the ground to help with the contrast of colors. A truly amazing canvas! We hiked up to the Fitzroy in snow that would be almost knee deep. The last 1.5 hours of the hike up were incredibly steep and adventurous. Heading down was fun. While everyone else was quite focused on staying to the path and not slipping on the icy snowy rocks to their death, I decided it would be more fun to jump down the steep mountain side into the fresh snow. Much quicker, more fun, adventure and fresh snow is impossible to slip on! It took me less then 30 minutes to reach the bottom. I'm Canadian, we love snow!
The next day was rainy in the morning and I have hiked enough and seen enough now to be picky about my hiking. So I took the day off. I am glad I did because Mayra, a girl that works for the hostel, was advertising an indoor hockey tourney.
Now THIS was exciting. Zuzana and I took the day off from hiking and spent 5 or
6 hours watching indoor hockey. But its not like how we know it back home. It´s field hockey, only in a gym! It was a tournament deciding the champions from the Patagonia region of Argentina who would go on to play in the national tourney! The excitement and energy in the building was intense, much like a soccer game I reckon! I was so happy to experience this, it was a nice break from the tourist agenda. Just locals and they were not only passionate about the sport, but very good at it too! I wanted to play!
The next day we had a wonderful day, so it was hiking time. BUT we had to only do a short 6 hour hike so that we could be back in time to watch the finals of the floor hockey! We hiked fast, turning a six hour hike into a 4.5 hour hike. And this hike was the best one I have done thus far in all of South America. Yes, even better then in Torres Del Paine. It was uphill the entire way, through an enchanted snow covered forest, windy open spaces with frozen streams and glacier runoff and knee
The next day I would head off to Esquel, 25 hour bus ride up the Route 40, wonderful!
I loved El Chalten. Its a wonderful small village with so much to offer. I could have stayed for months! If you plan on going there to hike, go during the Autumn season!
There are more photos below