Our next stop after the glacier was the trekking capital of El Chaltén which is just a short bus ride north of El Calafate. It’s a haven for backpackers from all over the world who come to see the beautiful sights only accessible by trekking and camping. More than half of the town is made up of hotels and hostels, with the latter making up the majority. The town itself is small and simple. It sits in the shadow of many snow capped mountains and the famous Monte Fitz Roy. There are glaciers, lakes, and rivers of pure, clean, ice cold water that we drank plenty of – without having to sterilize it first. It was the best water we’ve ever tasted.
The day we arrived, the weather was terrible. The winds were so strong we could hardly walk in a straight line from the bus station to our hostel. We couldn’t see a single mountain in the dense cloud cover. The rain was coming down sideways at us and we started to doubt our trekking abilities in those kinds of conditions. We got some groceries and settled into our hostel and prayed for better weather the following day.
Our hostel was, for lack of a better term, hideous. See picture. At $39/night you’d think the accommodations would be a little nicer? We weren’t even sure if was the right place since it looked like an abandoned, dilapidated building. We laughed a little bit about it before we went in. But once inside, we were shown around and it was actually a pretty cool place. The bathrooms were fairly new and clean and our bunk beds in our shared room were cozy. Our roommates were really cool too and we made some good friends out of it. It was just right for us!
We haven’t had the best of luck at times during our trip so we couldn’t believe our eyes the next morning when we woke up to clear blue skies and a perfect view of the Fitz Roy right from our bedroom window! We chose to do the most popular, scenic trail called Laguna de los Tres. It brings you up close and personal to the foot of Fitz Roy, where a beautiful glacier lake sits. It was a 10 km trek to the lake, and very challenging. The last kilometer alone is supposed to take around an hour or more since it is very steep and made up of mostly rocks and boulders. Signs are even posted before the ascent warning hikers against the climb in high winds.
In total, it took us about 5 hours to reach the lake. One of our roommates, C.J. from New York, trekked with us that day and we all took turns keeping each other motivated to keep going. We even found some bracelets along the way that somebody must’ve dropped from their pack on the way up. We each took one and left the rest for the next trekkers to find.
Once we reached the lake, the struggle was worth it. We forgot about our aching muscles and feet once we laid eyes on the bright turquoise glacier lake and the imposing face of Fitz Roy. Check out a quick video from the top!
We spent several hours wandering the area and found rivers, waterfalls and plenty of rocks to climb. Jen enjoys risking life and limb and getting as close as possible to the edges of pretty much anything so she had a good time up there.
We took about a million pictures and soaked it all in as much as we could before starting our descent. Another 4 hours of trekking down the mountain truly tested our limits and our feet so we had to stop for a few happy hour beers before getting back to the hostel. They were probably the best beers we’ve ever had! We agreed that getting lost in Bariloche for those 30 km’s definitely helped us to do the 20 km hike that day.
The next day, the weather had turned back to being windy and rainy. There was a little bit of sun peeking through the clouds so we decided to head out anyways with another friend from the hostel, Elena from Italy. This picture of us looks deceivingly sunny and nice!
We decided on the Laguna del Torre trek, which was a 9 km trek to a different lake. It wasn’t as steep as the previous trail but it still had its challenges. We had strong winds and a bit of rain during our trek but during the last 1 km it started to get much worse.
Trekkers coming in the opposite direction warned us to turn back because of the winds. Naturally, we kept going. We had come so far and wanted to get a peek at that lake with its glacier at its side. As we got closer and closer, the winds were pushing us in all directions and sand and rocks were pelting us. We pulled our jackets over our faces and kept going until we could peek – for just a moment – over the last hill down into the lake. Jen braced herself on a rock to take a short video with the GoPro, check it out!
We checked out of the hostel the next day and said goodbye to friends we had made. The weather once again was terrible, windy and rainy and there were a lot of new people arriving just for a day or two who were seriously bummed out about not being able to do the Fitz Roy trek that we had done a few days before. We still can’t believe our luck and we are so thankful for being able to see such a beautiful place on earth.
That’s it for Argentina! Next we head into Chile to check out the other side of Patagonia!