The small town of El Chaten is a hiking Mecca in Patagonia – consider it the trekking capital of Argentina and the Patagonian region as a whole. It’s around 220km north of El Calafate and it is nestled perfectly at the foot of the peaks Torre and the most notable peak in Patagonia; Fitz Roy. Together these two peaks are the most frequently climbed in Argentina.
At home at my parent’s house in Falmouth, I have the luxury of being able to see the ocean from my bedroom (I mean spare room as I’m technically homeless). Having the ability to see the sea pretty much everyday as soon as you wake up is a small treasure to behold and one I’ll always remember and be grateful for. The beach is just a casual 10 minute walk away. It’s great. What I’m saying is that here at El Chaten, the same principle is applied, albeit with a contrasting climate and landscape. El Chaten townsfolk have that treasure to behold on their doorstep. All of these trails have their own unique offerings and deciding which way to go is often determined by the weather. It comes as both friend and foe.
“Dozens of world-class walking trails through one the most utterly magnificent places on Earth are right there, awaiting you, literally as soon as one opens the front door.”
One of my most loved aspects of Patagonia is the fact that the local people appreciate and understand how incredible their surroundings are, which they should do, as this is their home after all. It’s just a perfect example of community/society collaboration and proof (take note communities in the UK) that good can be achieved. For example, plastic bags are banned and everyone recycles through the garbage recycling system working in the town. Regarding power and energy, the electric wires and telephone cables go “underground” to avoid the visual pollution of the landscapes. These may only seem like small things, but small things lead to big consequences. Ultimately, the unity of the people is just a wonderful sight.
The first day trek was to Lago Torro with a total distance of 14km. Offering outstanding views of the Cerro Torre peak (3102m), the solitary and most jagged shard of the mountain range, this hike is best attempted when the weather is fairy clear – so I was informed. These is mainly due to the fact that it can get windy along the trail, and partly as the Cerro itself is notoriously difficult to see as it is usually covered in cloud at all time. Good fortunate had been kind to me so far in Patagonia and I didn’t want it to stop! Fortunately, it didn’t. It was another perfect day offering superb views – ones where you would find yourself stopping to take another photo of the same thing despite the fact you took a photograph only 20 steps before.
A more difficult trek is the more popular Laguna Los Tres which offers unrivalled views of mount Fitz Roy. The final kilometer is the toughest and becomes a genuine challenge. The final ascent is over 500 meters and in doing so, you’re scaling it at a 45 degree angle. Very tough, but as you can clearly see, undeniably worth it. Although getting to the foot of Fitz Roy is arguably the main attraction, the sight that awaited me at Lago Capri is worth a special mention. With virtually no wind in the air, and what felt like having the world to myself, I was presented with the most majestic view of Fitz Roy. It’s almost as though the peak was staring at itself in the mirror – with the mirror coming in the form of crystal clear, undisturbed water. I remember saying to myself whilst staring into the lake in all of its glory, “this is as good as it gets” , and on reflection (see what I did there) , I still think the same.