El Chalten: Trekking Capital of Argentina

We’re just back from nine days in El Chalten, Argentina, home to the famous Mount Fitz Roy and the inspiration for the Patagonia outwear company logo. El Chalten is actually inside the Parque Nacional Los Glaciares.

The town of El Chalten as seen from our bus

The town of El Chalten as seen from our bus

Nine days would be too long for vacationers to be here. There are only a handful of treks within walking distance and we already decided we wanted a break from camping and would only be doing day hikes. Most people came through for 2-3 days and we got some funny looks for being here longer. But we’re very glad we booked so much time. It rained for about four days straight with freezing gusts of wind during our stay. We stayed inside and read and cooked and didn’t feel guilty one bit because we knew we had plenty of time to do the hikes we wanted to do. We even got to do one twice: once with considerable cloud cover and again a week later with cloudless skies and incredible views.

Mount Fitz Roy
If I thought my terror-filled days of hiking on slippery mountain ridges were over in Torres del Paine, I was proved very wrong with this hike. A lot harder than we expected (do you sense a theme?) but very, very worth it.

The hike began with this view of Glacier Piedras Blancas about an hour in.

We took a bus about 30 min north of our hosteria and got dropped off on the road to begin hiking into the woods. This way, we got to take an alternate path to the base of Mount Fitz Roy, and then take the main trail back to our hosteria. No backtracking and lots of gorgeous views.

The majority of the hike was pretty manageable and we had a crisp, clear day. But as we got within 1km of the base of Mount Fitz Roy, the trail got incredibly steep. We knew this was coming. What we didn’t know was that it would be covered in ice and snow and slush. So: slippery and steep. This is my nightmare. A select few of you may know this already, but I have a weird fear of steep things. Not of heights. Steepness. When I’m in a car going up a steep hill, I put my head between my legs and hyperventilate and Nate laughs. Unless I’m driving, in which case I quickly take the first turn I can and find an alternate route. Hiking really steep portions of trails always makes me nervous. This was truly a nightmare. Thankfully, I never fell going up but I did fall good going down (and everyone around us did, too). It probably took us an hour to make that final, arduous 1km.

When we got closer to the top and the ice turned to snow up to our ankles (and knees if you stepped wrong), our stress melted away.

And eating the sandwiches we packed at the chilly base of Mount Fitz Roy felt pretty unreal.

On the way down, clear of the ice and snow, we felt victorious.

Our legs felt like jelly at the end of this hike but it was one of our favorite so far.

Laguna Torre
This is the hike we got to do twice, our second time with clear blue skies. It took us about 5.5 hours round trip but we relaxed and took our time once we got to Laguna Torre so we weren’t hiking the entire time. Nate went on to do an extra mile closer to the glacier and I stayed by the laguna because my legs were in shambles from our long hike to Mount Fitz Roy the day before and we still had a 2 hour hike back to town. I laid out on the rocks and listened to some of my absolute favorite nostalgic music (I’ll Catch You – Get Up Kids, Thanks a Lot – Third Eye Blind, and Hear You Me – Jimmy Eat World). It was so, so good for my soul.

At the base of Cerro Torre.

At the base of Cerro Torre.

The rest of the hike proved to be incredible both times. On the cloudy day we couldn’t see Cerro Torre or the surrounding mountains but we got lots of rainbows. We also hunkered down behind a rock wall to eat lunch protected from the strong wind and met some great folks doing the same. On our clear day, which is rare, the views were truly awesome.



Other Hikes
Shorter hikes were only 1-2 hours from our hosteria.



Mirador de Los Condores


Chorrillo de Salto

In between hikes, we walked around town, read, and cooked. Most of our time in places is spent grocery shopping and cooking in our hostels. (More on that soon!)

And El Chalten itself was pretty charming…

Saw this guy across from our hosteria.

Saw this guy across from our hosteria.

Currently, we’re in El Calafate, Argentina for one more day and then we fly to Buenos Aires! We have loved our time in Patagonia but are excited for a warm city and to see some familiar faces! This mountain weather is pretty brutal and we’re looking forward to fresh produce and a variety of food, which there’s not much of way down here. We’ll also be visiting our former AibBnb guests Gabriel and Gabriella (who call themselves “The Gabis”. Too much.) and staying with their tango teacher. Buenos Aires, here we come!