Day one: Laguna de los Tres Trek
When we embarked on our first ever 25km, 10-hour trek, the weather was just perfect – clear blue skies, a moderate temperature and not a drop of rain in sight.
When we arrived in El Chalten by bus, sleepy-eyed and disorientated, we were hurried out of our seats and ushered into the visitor centre for an orientation talk. Here we were told that usually El Chalten is ‘very cloudy, very windy, but very nice’, however we had chanced upon some exceptionally good weather – clear blue skies, subtle winds and no forecast for rain.
Previously, we’d got a bit excited about all the trekking we were going to do and spent an obscene amount kitting ourselves out in trekking gear from the Montagne store in Buenos Aires. Consequently as we set off on our first El Chalten trek I looked like a Montagne brand ambassador, draped head to toe in the brand’s clothing. Usually I’d be in Converse and skinny jeans.
The Laguna de los Tres Trek starts off uphill, through a cool, winding forest. Before we reached flat land we had the opportunity to take in some excellent views of El Chalten’s most famous mountain, Fitz Roy. On the clear days we were there the protruding rock could be seen from anywhere in town.
The next part of the walk is easy and passes through some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen – little streams you can drink from, panoramic views of the Fitz Roy and yellow-green fields. I’ve made a montage video of everything that can be seen on the trek here.
Uphill from here
Then came the hard bit. Having been fooled by the easiness of the first 9km of the trek I embarked on the last 1km with naive enthusiasm, which lasted all of five minutes.
Before we came to El Chalten I’d half-subconsciously and half-knowingly been eating with a sort of reverse-reward attitude. This means that, knowing I was going to be doing lots of exercise in a week or so, I ate everything and anything that was put in front of me the week prior, thinking I’ll just burn it off in El Chalten. When you order a sandwich for lunch in Argentina what you get is the equivalent of three on one plate, so I’d been eating quite a lot.
As I climbed the very, very steep path, stretching my legs far and wide to climb over one big rock after another, I could feel those extra pounds. I was encouraged only when I saw a woman in her 60s doing the climb but discouraged by some young Japanese, wearing jean shorts and Converse, who laughed at me as they made their way down the path. If only I was petite and willowy like them…
We reached the top after an hour, though my husband assures me he could have done it faster alone – I doubt him. As you can see from the picture below the view was spectacular! I think the weather made it, I can’t imagine it being so good in cloudy conditions.
Scenery ranking out of three: #1
Difficulty ranking out of three: #2
Time taken: 9 hours
Worth doing? Definitely.
Day two: El Chalten – Laguna Torre Trek
Slightly sore from the day before, Laguna Torre Trek was welcome because it’s much easier than the Laguna de los Tres Trek. Slightly up and down for the first 3km, the 9km route then, thankfully, trails off to flat land and is fairly easy from there on out.
The trek takes in views of a different mountain – the Torre Mountain – and a glacier at the foot of the mountains.
Unfortunately the weather wasn’t as good on this day but it didn’t spoil the views too much as you can see from below.
Scenery ranking out of three: #3
Difficulty ranking out of three: #3
Time taken: 8 hours
Worth doing? Definitely.
Tips for fellow travellers:
Things to do: Outside of trekking there is not much to do in El Chalten. The village is tiny. Though you can do horse riding at a nearby estancia. Make sure you visit the visitor centre to find out all about the different treks.
Duration: We spent five nights in El Chalten – one night arriving (though the bus takes only 3 hours and leaves regularly from El Calafate so it is possible to do something on your arrival day), three days trekking, and the last day we slept in and had a picnic on the shorter 40 minute trail (found by the visitor centre in the opposite direction to the Loma del Pilegue Tumbado Trek, which you can read about here.)
Travel: Busses can be booked from the bus station and leave regularly, the first one leaving at 7:30am (at the time of writing).
Food: There’s ample supermarkets, a delicious Panaderia and a shop selling empanadas (the best I’ve had during our trip so far). For a fancy dinner for our anniversary we went to La Tapera for a lovely three-course meal and (lots) of wine. It gets busy and takes no reservations so go late or early and expect to wait with a glass of wine for a table.
Accommodation: We stayed in Hotel Los Lago Del Desierto – clean, comfortable, excellent staff and a good breakfast.
Also…There is one cash machine in El Chalten and it did not accept either our UK or Australian cards.
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