When our brief stint of luxury was over, we headed back to El Calafate and then back to the bus station in time to catch the afternoon bus to El Chalten. Wonderfully, our new friends, Bern, Dave and Jesse were on the same bus.
El Chalten is a hiking and climbing mecca. The famous Fitz Roy range (the range the Patagonia clothing logo is designed after) towers over the quaint town of Chalten. The little town’s population soars during the summer season as people come from all over the world to check this place out. Though El Calafate is a proper tourist town with all the restaurants and souvenir shops to prove it, El Chalten feels more like a frontier town with many of the roads still unpaved.
The hiking around town is extraordinary and you can literally walk from anywhere in town to the trailheads. There are two very popular hikes that people do and we all planned to do one the first day and one the second day, depending on the weather. The weather in all of Patagonia is notoriously unstable. We had been warned about rain, clouds, cold temperatures and wind being the norm and sunshine being an exception to the rule. We had lucked out in Torres del Paine, we had lucked out visiting the Perito Merino glacier earlier in the week, and we once again lucked out in El Chalten.
As the five of us headed out on what was meant to be a 6 hour (roundtrip) hike to Laguna Torre with a view of the majestic Cerro Torre peak, we couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day. Even the ever-present wind was taking the day off. We were very appreciative of our luck and had a great hike to the view of Cerro Torre where we had lunch. On the way down, we got to talking and the group decided to take advantage of the amazing weather and press on towards the second popular hiking destination. The clouds can be so thick that they completely obstruct the view, so we decided to keep walking on the blue sky day.
Hiking to Cerro Torre
Cerro Torre, up close
Our hiking crew at Laguna Torre
The path we were on conveniently connected over to the other path and rewarded us with spectacular views of the Fitz Roy mountain range and a crystal-clear blue lakes along the way.
Hiking in the park
At another junction, the boys decided to head all the way up to Laguna de los Tres – the high view point for Fitz Roy. At the thought of an additional 3.5 hours of hiking on top of what we had already done, Jesse and I decided to head down.
We got back to town around 6:00 pm after a 10-hour, 16+ mile day of hiking, feeling pretty good about ourselves. We both got cleaned up and met for beers at the local brewery to wait for the guys. Little did we know that they wouldn’t roll in until just after 10 pm and 25+ miles of hiking! Luckily it stays light until after 10pm in Patagonia at that time of year because I wouldn’t have felt okay about them wandering in the dark. Jesse and I had just started to get worried when they arrived at the brewpub famished and exhausted.
Bern, Dave, and Ted
Laguna de Los Tres (covered with ice and snow)
The beginning of a LONG way down
We later learned that the full hike the guys did is known as the Super Trek. Needless to say the next day was a sleep-in and relaxation day.
For our last night in the area we decided to cook a big dinner at the hostel and drink some wine with all the fun new people we had met. As the night went on, we found our table growing larger and larger and before we knew it we were next door at the local tango bar! There were professionals on hand who were quite impressive, and many Argentine men who were happy to lead, and then there was our group that managed to have quite a great time with little to no tango knowledge whatsoever. It was a hilariously fun night and a great way to celebrate our last night in this amazing part of the world!
Family dinner and drinks
The Tango Party
Addendum – Our friend Dave is not a huge hiker, and the Super Trek basically broke his soul. Read his hilarious account of our day on his and Jesse’s blog.