DAY 78 (1 OF 2) – SENDERO AL FITZ ROY, PARQUE NACIONAL LOS GLACIARES (NORTH), EL CHALTEN, ARGENTINA
Today was our last full day at El Chalten, and also our final hiking day in Patagonia. We woke up with great joy of seeing Cerro Fitz Roy against the blue sky. The weather was finally on our side, and how lucky we were on picking today for hiking Sendero al Fitz Roy (about 9 hour return). Often considered as the most important hike in El Chalten, this hike would get us to Laguna de los Tres, a glacial lagoon at the base of Cerro Fitz Roy.
Arranged by our host, a bus picked us up at our guesthouse at 8am and took us to Hosteria El Pilar, an alternative trailhead about 45-minute drive from El Chalten. Perhaps it was the fine weather, it seemed that there were many hikers on the trail. The first 3 hours was easy and pleasant. Whatever we reached an opening in the woods we would have a great panoramic view of Fitz Roy and its surrounding mountains. About an hour into the hike we came face-to-face with Glaciar Pierdras Blancos with Fitz Roy in the background. Then an hour later, on the path before the campsite of Poincenot, it seemed that there was just a small evergreen forest standing between the majestic Fitz Roy and us. After Poincenot, we crossed a river and reached the next campsite at Rio Blanco, where a sign reminding hikers about the upcoming steep and rocky route up to Laguna de los Tres. This last hour of uphill hiking was by far the most difficult trail we had encountered during our entire trip. Not only the steepness and roughness of the path, and the slippery conditions at certain wet spots, but also the extremely strong wind near the top altogether made this part of the hike really physical demanding. Temperature dropped dramatically and the wind significantly picked up its strength when we got near the top.
At last we reached the lookout at the top of the rocky path where the panorama of Laguna and Glacier de los Tres and Cerro Fitz Roy dramatically unfolded in front of us. The steep ascend was challenging, but the view at the lookout was unbelievably rewarding. The gusty wind never really slowed down. We picked a spot behind a large boulder to avoid the wind, sat down, set up the tripod for videos and timelapse, and had some apple juice, a chocolate bar and some nuts to reward ourselves. Half an hour went by and we could see storm clouds moving toward us from behind Fitz Roy. Minutes later, Fitz Roy was fully covered, and then came the icy rain, and lastly, the flurries. We had no choice but to abandon the idea of checking out another lookout further down the side of the lagoon. We decided to pack our gear before the storm turned ugly. The wind was so strong at this point that we almost had to crawl out of the boulder area to reach the main path, because we simply had trouble standing up with the gusty wind pushing from behind. When we reached the foot of the hill and saw the dark grey clouds behind us, we felt so relieved. No more Fitz Roy. Near the campsite of Rio Blanco, we filled our water bottle at a glacial stream and felt grateful that we had at least half an hour at Laguna de los Tres to enjoy Cerro Fitz Roy (from behind a rock). The sun was out again while we moved away from the campsite of Poincenot, although Fitz Roy was still covered by heavy clouds, and it stayed that way for the rest of the day. And according to the weather forecast by the park ranger, tomorrow would be a rainy day. On our return, we were in no hurry to rush back to El Chalten. We took our time to enjoy the serene beauty of Patagonia at this very last hiking day of our trip.
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Read more on El Chalten in 2013 South America
Day 74 – Patagonia Once Again, Ushuaia to El Calafate
Day 75.1 – Laguna Torres, El Chalten
Day 75.2 – Estepa Restaurant, El Chalten
Day 76.1 – El Muro, El Chalten
Day 76.2 – Laguna Capri, El Chalten
Day 77.1 – Laguna Torre Once Again, El Chalten
Day 77.2 – Domo Blanco Ice-cream, El Chalten
Day 78.1 – Sendero al Fitz Roy, El Chalten
Day 78.2 – In-house Dinner, El Chalten
Day 79.1 – Goodbye El Chalten
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South America 2013 – Our Destinations
Buenos Aires (Argentina), Iguazu Falls (Argentina/Brazil), Pantanal (Brazil), Brasilia (Brazil), Belo Horizonte & Inhotim (Brazil), Ouro Preto (Brazil), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Paraty (Brazil), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Samaipata & Santa Cruz (Bolivia), Sucre (Bolivia), Potosi (Bolivia), Southwest Circuit (Bolivia), Tilcara, Purmamarca, Salta (Argentina), Cafayate (Argentina), San Pedro de Atacama (Chile), Antofagasta & Paranal Observatory (Chile), Chiloe (Chile), Puerto Varas (Chile), Torres del Paine (Chile), Ushuaia (Argentina), El Chalten (Argentina), El Calafate (Argentina), Isla Magdalena (Argentina), Santiago (Chile), Valparaiso (Chile), Afterthought