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Archive for December 1st, 2009

Into Patagonia

To me, the word ‘Patagonia’ has always conjured images of a far away ancient landscape that was only visited by the most adventurous of travelers and trekkers. Visions of bearded men scaling jagged mountains and massive glaciers would pop into my head and I knew that we had to experience this place, even if we only ended up staring at some pretty mountains.

 It turns out that you don’t have to be a hard core trekker or climber to visit southern Patagonia at all…you just have to like to walk. A lot. 

After a thirty something hour bus ride (2 nights on a bus…ugh), along the mostly unpaved Route 40, we arrived in El Chalten, the ‘trekking capital of South America’. El Chalten is a small mountain town in southern Patagonia, with only about 300 permanent residents. There is absolutely nothing to do in this town but go on hikes, which is why we were pretty bummed that it was raining and snowing when we got there. The weather slightly cleared up later in the afternoon, so Kelly and I were able to do a short two hour hike to a waterfall before heading back to spend the evening at our hostel where we made dinner and played with the resident bulldog, Tango. 

El Chalten

 

Trying to catch some snowflakes on my tongue

Tango

Our second day, the weather was better, but still overcast. Since you can pretty much experience all four seasons in one day here, we decided to try our luck, suck it up and hike to Laguna de Los Tres, which is supposed to be beautiful and have a great view of one of the mountains, Fitz Roy. It was a nice hike, but the further we got into the mountains, the colder it became, and before we knew it, the sky was dumping snow. We had to turn around because it was pretty miserable and we couldn’t see anything. 

The next morning we awoke to blue skies and a handful of clouds. Finally, the weather was looking better! Our goal for the day was to hike to Cerro Torre, another one of the well-known mountain peaks in the area. The staff at our hostel had warned we should only attempt this trail on a ‘shiny day’, since you could not see any views if it was cloudy. We had to take advantage of the clearer skies. 

The hike itself was absolutely stunning, despite the little bit of clouds that obstructed some of our views of the mountain range. Three hours later, we reached Laguna Torre and settled down to have a picnic, hoping that while we were there, the clouds would part and the Cerro Torre would be visible. 

Sure enough, after about 15 minutes, the clouds cleared and we could see the peak!! It was one of the most beautiful scenes I have ever laid my eyes on and I could not stop taking pictures of it (sorry if you see a million of these on our flickr page), although pictures do not do ANY justice to what we saw. We sat there and stared for another 45 minutes or so, thinking how lucky we were to have had some good weather. 

The hike to Cerro Torre

Cerro Torre

Cerro Torre

On our way back down the trail, the sky cleared completely and we were able to glance back and see the entire panoramic view of the range, including Fitz Roy. We celebrated that evening with a fantastic steak dinner and a couple bottles of vino. 

Steak Dinner...of course!

Our final day in Chalten, there was not a cloud in the sky. The bus to our next destination didn’t leave until 6 p.m., so we decided to try and hike to the first view point of Fitz Roy, once again. We made it there in under two hours, and of course, the view was incredible. I took a million more pictures. Kelly and I had a picnic at the view point before heading back to take a quick shower before catching our bus 3 hours south to Calafate. 

Kelly at the Fitz Roy trailhead

On the hike to Fitz Roy

Fitz Roy

Us at the Fitz Roy View Point

The bus ride out of town was breathtaking, as you could see panoramic views of the Cerro Torre and Fitz Roy. Needless to say, it was a much different bus ride than when we drove into town. I could have spent at least another week in Chalten…there were so many more hikes and trails that we didn’t have time to do. I hope to make it back there one day to try again and actually camp in the mountains.

 That’s right, Mary and Nicole…I said I would go camping.

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