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El Chalten

January 24, 2013

Cerro Fitzroy in morning light

After spending 3 weeks on the Carretera Austral we were hankering after some civilization or at least a good supermarket. However this was not to be. After driving through Los Antiguos we drove down a good paved road until around 30km before Bajo Caracoles and then we were forced to drive down a bumpy gravel road alongside a perfectly new paved road.

Cerro Torre Reflections2

Bajo Caracoles is something of a wasteland – a hostel and some gas pumps and that’s it. We were done for the day and managed to find the one wind sheltered spot in the whole place to spend the night.

Cerro Torre and path 2

In the morning we got underway again and discovered that there was paved road where the map showed none so made great progress. However after 100km the road became a very good gravel surface (deep dry furrows at the edges showed how bad it could be in the wet though). This held up until the last 30km or so which was much rougher but then we hit pavement again all the way to El Chalten.

The drive down the spur road to the town is spectacular as you drive towards the mountains that are are just behind the town. Cerro Torre and Cerro Fitz Roy are particularly prominent.

El Chalten mountains from Road

The town itself is very much a tourist town with lots of restaurants and bars. We wasted no time at all in sampling some locally brewed beer and a freshly made pizza to go with it.

Patagonia has a reputation for wind and unpredictable weather but we were lucky enough to experience hot sunny days while in El Chalten which gave us continual amazing views of the mountain peaks.

Cerro Fitzroy and path

Our first morning we woke early in order to get a start on a 20km hike to Laguna Torre which lies right under the jagged peaks of Cerro Torre. The trailheads for hikes in this area start right in the middle of town.

Cerro Torre

The hike starts off with a climb up and over a ridge but after the first 4km the climbing is over and the rest is pretty flat with stunning views straight through to the mountains.

Laguna Torre

We reached the end of the hike which is a glacial lake with more stunning views after around 3.5 hrs and on our way back passed loads of people who were late starters coming up the trail. Our early start had certainly paid off.

Cerro Torre Range

Our second day in El Chalten we had pretty tired legs so spent some time hanging out in town after a late start. We did make a short 5km hike to some viewpoints above the excellent visitor centre. We also visited a waterfall and were rewarded by seeing a Pygmy Owl.

Pygmy Owl

El Chalten is billed as the hiking capital of Argentina and it definitely does not disappoint.

Chorillo del Salto

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Nick Prior permalink
    January 24, 2013 3:42 pm

    Hi Mark, What stunning pictures. Was the first at dawn or dusk? I love the owl. You need a special wildlife chapter in your book! The mountains are incredible. They are so spiky. Presumably due to upheaval and not volcanic. What does the great geographer say? Just a small point (what everyone says when they don’t mean small) what happened to the feature where you can point to a picture and a title comes up? It was great to talk the other night. Good luck with Antarctica. The temperature is now slowly rising and heavy rain is due back ate weekend. Love Dad


  2. January 24, 2013 6:52 pm

    Beautiful pictures! Enjoy.

  3. annathrax permalink
    January 25, 2013 12:12 am

    can’t believe the sun in your photos!!! my el chalten experience, even in summer, was windy and cloudy! stunning pics!

    • January 29, 2013 12:49 pm

      Thanks. The weather was stunning – no wind at all. We’ve been really lucky with both Carretera Austral and now Argentinian Patagonia too.

  4. March 31, 2014 9:58 am

    Incredible pictures and places. I would like to go there sometime.
    Thanks for sharing.

  5. Nowotny permalink
    December 21, 2015 10:47 pm

    Nice Pics ! Can we print them ?


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