After a VERY LONG DAY in Chile the day prior, and passing out like a toddler after a tantrum upon return, I was rested up and raring to go to El Chaltén the next morning. Another long bus ride awaited me in order to arrive at Argentina’s trekking capital 3.5 hours away. On the way, I met a group of pharmacists from the U.S. who were college friends traveling on holiday, and a very kind Irish woman who had been to virtually every country I could list off.
When we had finally arrived, I was a little disappointed to see the extensive cloud cover, and the ominous Fitz Roy Mountain was nowhere to be seen.
I know you’re hiding from be behind that haze!
We had chosen our trails-of-choice, and given the limited time frame to make it back to the bus, our choices were limited. If you go to El Chaltén spend at least two days there because by the time you arrive by bus, half of the day is gone.
(Also speak to the people at the information center because they are familiar with what trails are best for certain types of inclement weather.)
Regardless, I picked out two trails for my 6-hour time frame. The first one was the Laguna Capri trail, which was about 8km there and back. My hiking buddy for the day (the Irish woman) and I scaled the heights of this trail, since it was literally uphill the entire way. This trail was like a moody girlfriend; it couldn’t make up its mind about the weather conditions it wanted to inflict on us. On the way up it was hazy and cool, with a drizzle of snow at higher elevations. The look-out point was beautiful, yes, but the majestic mountains in the background were shrouded by an opalescent haze. The tendrils of the vapor twisted and extended their reach into the marshy valley, beckoning it to hide its face. If anything, the mist only added more of a mystical element to the surroundings.
I felt like I was on my way to Mordor, looking out into the lush ravine and staring up at the diverse mountain formations around me as a subtle snowfall chilled my rosy cheeks.
Continuing on through the woods, we spotted a wary liebre for a split-second, as it fled into the labyrinth of trees. Every now and then I would stop in my tracks and close my eyes to hone in on the rustling branches, creaking trees, warbling birds and babbling brooks.
At the end of the trail, we finally reached Laguna Capri, where there was a howling wind pushing us away. (Remember the moody girlfriend analogy) The gusts were so powerful, they propelled us back into our footsteps. The seas were angry that day, my friend (If you get that reference, you’re my new BFF.). I couldn’t move forward, much less opened my eyes. So I did what any dedicated photographer would do and braved the elements. I turned around so that the wind was at my back and at the last moment, I got the shot.
Now, if it were a clear day, I would have been able to see Fitz Roy in the background but no. Nature was feeling indignant that day.
A little disappointed that we had walked all that way for nature to quite literally slap us in the face, we retraced our steps back down the hill, as the winds gradually waned the further we distanced ourselves. Just when we thought the hike was a bust, the skies started to clear, and choruses of Annie started ringing in my head. The same veiled valley we saw on our way up was essentially crystal clear and the mountains gloriously stood in the backdrop. Finally! I got another picture to make up for the disillusioning one from before, and also because it was just so gorgeous.
Descending even further, the shir—I mean, the tiny town started to appear. I was almost 4pm, right in the middle of siesta, so everybody and their mother had flipped the store signs to CERRADO and the streets were vacant.
I briefly turned around and was shocked to at last see Fitz Roy!! I was as if it was playing peek-a-boo, finally taunting us by revealing itself once the hike was over. I casually said to my hiking buddy, “Oh hey, Fitz Roy”, and she turned around and looked up in amazement. We both did.
Well it’s about time…
I cursed my broken boots and aching feet and contemplated whether or not I was able to endure the ensuing trail, the Mirador del Condor, I decided against my protesting aches and pains and went anyway. What was another 1.5 hours of walking in the grand scheme of things? I ignored the searing pain of each step and defiantly trotted forward, eager to reach the top. The trek is a perpetual incline, between 10-60 degree angles, and as you power through each step you relish in the thought of the view at the top. I was all worth it, despite the wind, I’m glad to say.
In summary, El Chaltén is a delightful trekking town that I would highly recommend to hikers and outdoor lovers. A good amount of time here would be 2-5 days, depending on how keen of a hiker you are. Bring good hiking boots or trekking shoes because you’re going to want to venture down as many trails as possible!
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