El Chaltén & Los Glacieres NP


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South America » Argentina » Santa Cruz » El Chaltén
February 19th 2015
Published: April 2nd 2015
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Pulling into the small town of El Chaltén around 7pm we pulled into a parking lot used for those leaving their cars during multi-day treks to get our masterchef and trip planner on. After concocting a not-quite-gourmet meal of a flavoured rice packet with tinned tuna, we consulted our guidebooks about the various walks available in the northern side of the beautiful Los Glacieres National Park. We formulated a plan for spending a few days in the area taking in two long walks to view the main mountains: Torre & FitzRoy (esteemed peaks in the mountaineering world).
Howling winds overnight and rainstorms in the morning had us reassessing our plans so we took a leisurely pace for breakfast, reorganising the van, refilling petrol and visiting the park ranger's office for advice. With the weather improving and a recommendation from the ranger, we went to the northern edge of the park (actually starting outside it on private property) to walk through woods full of termite and storm carnage to a spectacular view of Glacier Piedra Blanco (white stone) and its surrounding peaks including 3405m FitzRoy. The town of El Chaltén takes it name from the indigenous Tehuelche term for the peak which means "peak of fire" or "smoking mountain" and is a very apt description of the cloud shrouded mountain. We sat at the mirador taking in the view for about half an hour before being able to capture a cloud-free FitzRoy, the rest of the time spent predicting how the wisps would swirl and gather around the peak.
The following morning we chose the walk from town toward Laguna Torre that gives you a good view of the mountain by the same name - on a clear day. It was again a walk that meandered through gnarly woods and along the glacial melt rivers with clean blueish waters (safe to drink) up to the lagoon that faces straight into junctions of Glaciers Grande, Torre and Adela where we enjoyed a chilly but picturesque lunch after 2.5hrs walking. Then it was another 45mins climb up to the mirador with an even better view of the glaciers as they spread between two valleys and, if the skies had been clear, a great look at 3102m Cerro Torre. This walk ended up being our longest so far with 23km of mostly easy terrain and, after having a fairly easy month in Brazil and the van, our legs were quite tired and feet needed a rest, which we were about to get with approximately 1300km until our next desire destination at Bariloche.
After a few days walking and sleeping in the van we were very happy to have hot showers at a campsite in town before treating ourselves to a dinner out at a restaurant with beer and wifi - what a combo!

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