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Patagonia at its Finest

El Chalten, ArgentinaThe drive into El Chalten was the most beautiful drive I have been on. Ever. Period. Lying before me was the usual flat, rocky terrain with small scrubby grass that I have grown accustomed to seeing over the past week. Slightly further beyond was a pristine Patagonian mountain lake stretching across the land [...]

El Chalten, Argentina

The drive into El Chalten was the most beautiful drive I have been on. Ever. Period.

Lying before me was the usual flat, rocky terrain with small scrubby grass that I have grown accustomed to seeing over the past week. Slightly further beyond was a pristine Patagonian mountain lake stretching across the land with a cool-blue glacier running through a valley and terminating on the lake’s edge. Rising on each side were jagged, snow capped mountains scraping up against soft gray skies.


As we made our way around a curve in the road Fitz Roy stood in front of me hiding itself in the low lying clouds. On each side or me were shear walls of rock covered in a mossy grass. Rays of light would fight their way through the cloud cover and set the red-orange rock, green grass and snow covered mountains aglow. Condors glided through the air looking for their next meal.

Entering El Chalten fills trekkers, rockice climbers, conservationists and adventurists with the same anticipatory joy of a seven year old entering Disney World for the first time. Mt. Fitz Roy, Torre and the surrounding mountains must be seen in person to truly be believed.

Hiking to Mt. Fitz Roy

I woke up at 7:00 am and it was still pissing down rain from the day before. I’m not hiking in this crap so I pulled my covers over my head to sleep away the morning. At 10:30 I couldn’t sleep any later so I looked out the window surprised to see a clear blue sky. Time to hit the trails!

I took a look at the park map to see the distance and noticed the note, ‘Very steep trails! Dangerous when windy and rainy’. I looked back out the window the wind was blowing harder than George Bush’s presidency and whistling in the window frame. Only wind. No rain. That’s okay for me.

Joining me for the day was Colin and Biz. There’s no other way to describe Colin except as a hyper conversational Kiwi who has an opinion about everything. Whether you agree with him or not he will still make you laugh while telling you why you’re completely wrong. The defining characteristic of Biz is his really small head surrounded by mounds of dreadlocks. To each their own.

At 11:15 we started walking with Colin shouting, ‘Let’s make like a guillotine and head off!’

Walking, walking, magnificent view, walking, walking, snap a photo of some mountain or valley, walking, walking, re-fill water bottle in pristine glacial stream, walk some more. Three hours in we stood at the base of a steep hill all realizing that the next hour was about to be hell.

“Let’s make like a Catholic and pull out!” yelled Colin and we were off.

Step, step, pant, pant, step, search for the trail, step, step, wipe away sweat, step step, rest, step, drink water, step, step, amazing 180 degree view. Nothing describes the view. All I can do is show the panoramic photo and you’ll get 1/10 of the experience of actually being there.

From Patagonia 2011-02
180 degree view

We spend an hour soaking in the experience, snapping photos and running over the rocks. I put my bag on the ground to snap a photo and when I return my bag is no longer where I put it.
‘Where’s my bag?’
‘I thought I saw something blow by me out of the corner of my eye but thought it was a plastic bag that blew away from someone’s lunch.’ replied Colin.

In disbelief I stare off the side of a cliff realizing my bag was forever lost to the mountains, winds and snows of Patagonia. Lesson learned – Never underestimate the wind.

Some nasty looking clouds began moving in from the Andes so it was time to make our way back down the hill and hike the 12.5 kilometers back into town.



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Filed under: Argentina, Cubicle Ditcher

About the Author:

Sam Langley left a comfortable and profitable job with an insurance company in the USA to travel the world. He has been going for years, and has not stopped yet. Keep up with his travels on his blog at Cubicle Ditcher. has written 147 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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