While writing this article I’m flooded with mixed emotions. I’m sitting in my garden, listening to birds whistling, sniffing up the smell of lavender in bloom and hearing planes passing by. We live underneath one of the busiest flying routes in Europe and can almost always see or hear a plane flying by. I never gave it any thought they could be shot down from the sky just like that. Those things only happen in the movies. Not in real life, I thought. For me, who has a slight fear of flying, this means of traveling by plane will never be the same again. We travel bloggers cross the world to embark on adventure after adventure and it could have been any of us. It’s a crazy world we live in. It’s not going to be a sad writing today, but I didn’t want to let this pass by without mentioning anything about what happened. Our thoughts are with the loved ones of the victims of this horrible crime.
A few days ago when nobody could have predicted this would happen, everyone in The Netherlands was mourning about the loss against Argentina in the World Cup. Once the final drew closer, I figured that if we would lose, my pick would be to lose from Argentina. The people over there are extremely passionate and love soccer. In fact, they are passionate about everything that they do. Today we’ll take you back to one of the most impressive hiking trails we ever did, located in this immense and rugged country.
The trail we are talking about is the one leading up to Laguna de los Tres. It starts from a small mountain village called El Chalten, located beautifully in the shadows of famous Andean mountain peaks such as Cerro Torre and Cerro Fitz Roy. The fun already starts when driving up to El Chalten, when the weather is good the views on the Andes are just stunning.
El Chalten is a mecca for hiking and mountaineering. There’s a ton of trails to pick from for every level of fitness. We spent 3 days there and as there are no mountain huts (and we didn’t bring our camping gear on this trip) we did some day hikes from the village.
The trail to Laguna de los Tres can also be defined as the trail up to the base of Cerro Fitz Roy. When in El Chalten, you have to be very lucky that the weather is clear so you can see the mountains. We’ve talked to people who had been waiting for days for the weather to clear up to be able to hike into the depths of the Andes. We were incredibly lucky and the mountains were out of the clouds most of the 72 hours we spent in town.
Anyone who is in decent shape can do this walk. It’s just quite long, 4 hours up and 4 hours down along the same route. However if you think it’s too heavy, just turn around any time. The way back is the way down …
The trail starts with a gentle ascent from the valley. It’s easy to follow and is usually either a sandy track or some logs in grasslands. When we got to the first Mirador (view point) it was still cloudy and we were afraid we’d walk to the base of the mountain “for nothing”. The day before we took a hike to Cerro Torre and on the way over, that one was in the clouds too and once at the base, it remained in the clouds. The scenery was still stunning, yet not as beautiful as it could have been…
In the valley between El Chalten en Cerro Fitz Roy there’s a great chance of spotting condors. They barely touch ground so you shouldn’t forget to look up into the sky every now and then. Big chance you will see them circling way up in the air, looking for prey. They are some of the most amazing birds we’ve ever seen.
After about 3 hours of walking through some lenga forest and seeing the Piedras Blancas Glacier in the distance, you will arrive in front of something that looks like a wall. Or in the hiking world known as a really steep trail. The last part of your hike will be a 450 metres eleveation gain, on a rocky stairs that will take you about one hour to complete. It may be quite the challenge for some hikers but take your time, you will be rewarded. Breathe in and breathe out and just remember that you will be glad you did it, once on the top.
We had been told that the views would be gorgeous so pushed on even though it was incredibly hot that day (it does not always rain in Patagonia!) and we had no idea of Cerro Fitz Roy would be in or out of the clouds as you can’t see it from the bottom of the climb. So when we took the last steps up and arrived at the top of the ridge, the grand view opened up in front of us and it was just breathtaking. Even though you are still 2.000 m. below the top of Fitz Roy, it seems so close.
The laguna was still frozen but that didn’t matter. It made the scenery even more special. We scrambled up a bit further to have a look into the next valley with a view of Laguna Sucia and the Río Blanco Glacier. And then we just sat down and enjoyed the beauty. Chunks of ice broke off the glacier and crashed into the lagoon below and condors were occasionally checking in. Realizing the way back would be another long one, we viewed Fitz Roy once more and started our descent down into the valley.
On the way home, we took various looks back over our shoulder. Fitz Roy stayed out of the clouds for the rest of that day. The views from the Mirador we had been earlier on were stunning, yet we had to return to the village before it got dark.
If you are ever in El Chalten and happen to have good weather, make this hike your number one priority. You will be rewarded!
We don’t think we will ever return here. Why? Our days here were perfect. Normally it rains here at least 5 out of 7 days. Chances of be able to experience those days again are slim. We’ll just cherish the memories we have and wish everyone else will get to enjoy the beautiful surroundings of El Chalten like we did.
Want to read more hiking trail tales? Then check these out:
– A day on the West Highland Way
– Hiking the Laugavegur: Iceland’s best multi-day trek
– Rimstigen: the forgotten hike in Nærøyfjord
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