Sunday, February 13, 2011

El Chalten

The town of El Chalten was founded in 1985, when Argentina and Chile were fighting over land. The year round population is around 600, and the ATM is less than a year old. It is also known as the hiking capital of Argentina because of the Fitz Roy range in the Parque Nacional Los Glaciares (Glacier National Park). The park has quite a few glaciers and is divided into two sections, the northern section, and the southern. While we were in El Chalten, we were hiking in the northern part.

The great part about the town is that the trail heads for the hikes start from town. No need to drive or hike a long ways to get to where the trail starts. We did two hikes total in El Chalten, camped up on a mountain in a the park, were stuck in our tent for almost two days straight with rain and wind, almost were knocked off bridges trying to get back to our tent with the 70+ mph winds, but had some amazing views! The first hike we did was about 8 hours, with 2 1/2 hours of ascent of 800 meters.
Along the trail we saw one of the glaciers... it just seemed to pop out of nowhere!
Then we started to see where we were going... Cerro Torre and Cerro Fitz Roy. This is only part of the range... Cerro Torre eluded us the whole time we were there. The clouds just would not depart!
At the top of the hike, were two glacier fed lakes, Laguna de los Tres and Laguna Sucia (literally dirty lake; the water was green from the glacier melt). It was the best tasting water I've ever had, and after a difficult ascent, it was amazingly peaceful.
The view of the valley and how far we'd come was breathtaking!
A beautiful mountain peak and more lakes from our second hike.
The peaks we were trying to see the whole time we were there. Finally, on our last day, the clouds lifted a bit so we could see them. We couldn't finish our second hike due to weather (rain and the crazy wind).

I have never experienced such extreme weather conditions like there were on the trails and in the campground in El Chalten. Even with the cloud cover and awful weather, the views were still spectacular. I can't imagine how beautiful and breathtaking it would be on a clear day.

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