Patagonia: El Chaltan & Hiking Fitz Roy

See Related Patagonia Posts: El Calafate | Perito Moreno Glacier

Patagonia [Full] Day 3: I opted to take the bus to El Chaltan for the day rather than schlep another night with my bag. The reason I wanted to go was for hiking Fitz Roy. We left early, arriving 4+ hours later on what was supposed to be a 3-hour ride. A quick glance at the map and I set off, positioning myself between other busmates for safety since hiking alone. I figured if there was an incident, the people in front or behind could assist me on their way down/up respectively. Initially I was walking with a random lady from the bus, but she was too slow so I left her behind.

Hiking Fitz Roy

There are 2 main mountains in El Chaltan, Fitz Roy (the mountain the Patagonia logo is based on) and Cerro Torre. Up a Fitz Roy trail I went, a short “2 hour” (actually 1 hour 2 minutes for me) hike to Capri Lake. The trail was easy at first; I made rapid time and was impressed with my skill.

Then, around the 2km mark, the ice hit. Packed down from all the hikers, plus the melt-and-refreeze situation from midday sun, the trail became very slippery and was basically sheet ice. My hybrid shoes were not ideal (people with boots were slipping too) but I persevered, and after the 3 km mark it, thank god, turned to mostly snow which was a bit less treacherous. My base layers heated up and I was almost warm, surprisingly. I pressed on to the top, and was it worth it!

The view was amazing. I sat on a rock to enjoy lunch, alone for a good 20 minutes between sets of other hikers. The hike down was harder. The ice was more treacherous than ever; I had one slipping incident and one gripping a thorn bush for support incident. But, going slow, gripping trees, and remaining vigilant (as usual!) I made it safely. Even bonded with another hiking lady on my way…whom I also wound up leaving behind because she was slow.

Town of El Chalten

Back down, I regretted not going further, but I certainly didn’t want to miss the bus! With ample time left  I wandered the mostly-deserted streets of El Chalten. El Chalten is a tourist town, built around the mountain and the hikers. I was told the back part of the mountain is disputed territory between Argentina & Chile, so they built the town in an attempt to claim it! It was off season, so the tourist hub was almost entirely shut down with only 2 hostels open. Nothing, not even grocery stores, was open aside from a single panaderia, a market and the bus station. 

Luckily around 4 some places started opening and I snagged a quick cerveza roja from a local brewery, Don Guerra. It was good, with a rustic vibe inside and some local relics on the walls. After this it was back to the bus — which somehow got back in less than 3 hours this time, inclusive of a stop for a French child to smoke a cigarette (no one else on the entire bus needed to stop, mind you).

And Then, At the Hostel…

At the hostel I hung out with some people, drank some wine, and sat by the fire. I learned some surprising facts about Chilean history and native populations. Then I drank pisco with a German guy, at which time I got a piece of glass from the beer-bottle-turned-cup stuck in my lip. A rogue girl in my room entered at 4am, then left at 6am, stinking of smoke and the hostel BBQ upon her 2-hour stay (very odd).

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