When someone asks me if there’s any place I’d like to go back to, El Chalten — a small town in the middle of Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina — is one of the first places that come to mind. After a quick visit to the Perito Moreno glacier near the town of El Calafate, I hopped on a bus looking forward to getting deeper into the Patagonian wilderness. It was nearly the end of the season and the weather was about to change, so I was eager to get outside and do as much hiking and climbing as I could.
People told me that even during summer, weather can be unpredictable in El Chalten. When I arrived, it was a cold, grey and wet afternoon; I was afraid I had missed my chance. However, the Universe was on my side and for the next few days I had mostly clear and sunny days. Also, since it was the start of the fall season it was awesome to see the imposing Patagonian landscape covered in tones of yellow, orange and red.
Hiking in El Chalten
During my time in El Chalten I went on a few day hikes by myself and visited: Laguna Capri, Laguna Torre and Laguna de los Tres. I really enjoyed the freedom of exploring these amazing natural landscapes without guides, without paying fees and on my own. But what I wanted the most was to see Fitz Roy and the surrounding peaks, one of the most famous natural skylines in the world, at sunrise. Before going to Argentina, I had seen a few photos and I wanted to see it for myself.
For this, I went camping on my own for the first time ever. Until then, I’m ashamed to admit, I had always relied on a partner to plan everything, carry most of the weight and just tell me what to do. Granted, this was no major expedition; but still… I was worried about sleeping in a tent by myself and being cold; so I made sure to rent a good sleeping bag and took some wine and plenty of chocolate to at least keep me happy.
On the way to Laguna de los Tres, there were so many great viewing spots of Fitz Roy that I kept stopping every few minutes to take photos. By the time I made it to camp and set up my tent, it was still early; so I decided to climb up to the lagoon and check if it’d be a good spot for watching the sunrise. It was a steep climb and it took me about one hour to reach the top, just in time to see the sunset.
The next day I woke up early and started to climb up the trail once again. Luckily, at that time of the year, the sunrise is kind of late in Patagonia; so I only had to start at about six in the morning, which is quite decent. It was much colder than the previous afternoon and everything was covered in frost. It didn’t take me long to warm up and start sweating on the way up. I kept a good pace and made it to the top with a few minutes to spare before sunrise. As the sun started glowing, I was in awe of the sight in front of me.
Climbing in El Chalten
Hiking in El Chalten was an easy matter, you just need to decide where to go and do it! But climbing was a different story. It was the end of the season and most climbers had already moved on to warmer locations, so it wasn’t easy to find partners at all. But, like it sometimes happens when traveling, the day when I was set to leave El Chalten on a midnight bus to Bariloche; I met a local climber.
When I told him I was leaving that night, he looked at me playfully and said I should change my ticket and stay a couple more days. I asked him if he’d take me climbing if I did, he quickly replied: “Obviously!”. So my last 2 days in El Chalten were full of climbing fun :)
Places I Like in El Chalten
Below you’ll find the details of some of my favourite spots in El Chalten. I stayed at Hostal/Camping del Lago, one of the best budget options in town. The place is run by climbers so sometimes cleanliness is not the best, but it’s OK and the atmosphere was awesome!
Have you been to Patagonia? Which are your favourite places? Leave me a comment, I’d love to know!