We were so ready to explore “la capital nacional del trekking” in Chalten, after our visit to Buenos Aires. It would take us some time to get there, though. First a 3h15 flight from Buenos Aires Aeroparque airport (the smaller one) to El Calafate and then another 3 hours by bus to get from El Calafate to El Chalten.
As private transport was rather expensive, we booked our ride to El Chalten with Las Lengas Transporte (about 75 EUR). Our mini bus was quite full, but comfortable enough to get all 15 of us (and our luggage!) to our final destination. It was a beautiful day, so we could enjoy the wonderful scenery – 3 hours were over in no time. Along the way we saw quite a few horses, but also guanacos and a choique (looks like a ostrich, but smaller). We made a short stop at Hotel Leone, right in the middle of our trip. Mostly for a bathroom stop and possibly a hot coffee, as it’s not really a very scenic outlook.
Hosteria Kau Si Aike
When arriving at hosteria Kau Si Aike, we were warmly welcomed by the owner who would turn out to be a great guy. Very helpful in warning us about the bad weather that was coming overnight. At that point in time we still thought we would make our 2 day trekking adventure with a camping overnight, though.
Breakfast at the hosteria Kau Si Aike is so homey. Toasts all you can eat, cheese, ham, 2 flavors of jam, an egg cooked as you like, cereal and a home made piece of pie. Wonderful to get the (cold and rainy) day started.
On the day of our arrival at El Chalten we were still totally convinced to go for the 2 day trekking, so we got to Patagonia Hikes shop (which luckily is open until 9pm) to get our tent, matrasses and sleeping bags (it wasn’t possible to reserve these upfront). The combo deal costs 1.100 AR (about 30 EUR), on which you even get a discount of 10% if you pay cash. Not a bad deal.
Change of plans
Would turn out that we wouldn’t need all of that material, as unfortunately the next morning it was actually stormy. Winds of more than 80km per hour combined with rain (as in pouring rain) and max 7°C. We headed to the visitor center to see what we could do, but there it was clear that getting to Laguna de los Tres at Fitz Roy wasn’t an option. Apparently even a part of the tracks was closed. Anything else we could do? Not really… As El Chalten is so isolated, it takes you several hours to get anywhere else, so it was just too late.
We kept the spirits high, though. First we relaxed a bit at the hosteria Kau Si Aike until it was time to check-out (at 10.30am). The friendly owner helped us getting a room at another place, Cumbres Nevadas. He even helped us getting our luggage there by car. Although not far, with all that heavy rain we didn’t turn that offer down, as our bags would be getting soaked pretty quickly.
We also got back to Patagonia Hikes to return our camping gear and were hoping we didn’t have to pay for it. After checking with the manager, they agreed, so yeah!
By the time we were registered at Cumbres Nevadas, we saw – to our surprise – some rays of sunshine coming through. We didn’t hesitate a bit, got our rain coats on again and went for the short hike “El Mirador de los Condores”, which is about 1km from the visitor center (one way) and that took us 1 hour return. It stopped raining for a while, still heavy winds, but so happy that we got some great views.
And it didn’t stop there. After lunch (we had bought our sandwiches with ham and cheese already at the local supermarket the night before), we hoped for the best again and although left with heavy rain and winds, it got pretty good along the way to ‘Chorillo del Salto”, which is about 3,5km one way and which took us about 2 hours return. The destination of this hike is a waterfall and – lucky as we were – with some sun breaking through the clouds, it’s a pretty great scene.
Laguna de los Tres & Fitz Roy, here we come!
According to the weather predictions available at the ranger station, it was going to get better the next day, so we were fiercely hoping they got it right. We had big plans: getting up at 6am, taking our breakfast along with us in order to get up as early as possible (or as early as we saw doable). First getting to Mirador Fitz Roy which is 3km from the start of the trail, then to Poincenot camp, which is another 4km, then to Laguna de los Tres, at another 2,2km. That’s one way. Doesn’t sound too awful, but the altitude goes from about 300 to 1.100m and that’s very obvious for the last 2km to Laguna De Los Tres. They count 1 hour one way for that part and we indeed took that long. Man, that was one of the longest hours of my life. Not as bad as the Colca Canyon ascent in Peru, but pretty close. And I wasn’t the only one. Saw quite some people huffing and puffing getting up and asking whether it was still a long way to go. Getting back down was easier than expected, but requires the use of a whole different set of muscles, so not that comfortable either. I was so relieved to be able to walk “normally” again afterwards. But – most importantly of all: all that effort was generously rewarded with amazing views of Fitz Roy. By the time we got there it was mostly clear – only the higher part of the mountain was still covered by clouds, but when we got back to Poincenot camp, it was all cleared up – amazing sight. So one advice: hang in there and you’ll be glad you made it afterwards!
As from that last part of the hike up, the sun was shining gloriously and stayed with us to keep us a little warmer all the way down. While descending, we took the route to Capri Lake by the way, which is also beautiful.
So, after a satisfying hike of about 9,5 hours – we nearly topped of 27km by the end of the day, including our way up and down the start of the hike. We ended the day with sore muscles, but some great photo material and still a drone in our possession. There are worse days, indeed!