El Chaltén and Laguna de los Tres

Morning was surprisingly quiet, probably because most of the hostel guests were out of the house. We got some time to prepare for our trip. Todays goal was spectacular – close look at Fitz Roy from the shore of Laguna de los Tres.

After necessary packing, teeth brushing and avoiding mess in the kitchen we were on the way. First stop was at the panaderia which we discovered yesterday. It was absolutely necessary to stock up on facturas and empanadas.

Properly equipped and with enough food we were on the way. Our journey is roughly 20km long and it will take us up by 800 meters.

Adventure is out there

Path to the Laguna de los Tres starts at the northern end of the town. We got a chance to look at all the interesting places El Chaltén offers – restaurants, souvenirs and ice cream stores. Once we are done with hiking we’ll have to explore some of these places.

Back to walk – we finally got to the start marked by a sign saying Sendero al Fitz Roy. There were two information boards next to it. One was showing fire risks (all was good, we were still in green part of the chart). The other told us more about the hike and possible dangers on the way.

Sendero al Fitz Roy
Sendero al Fitz Roy

Beginning of the path took us above the road number 23, which goes all the way to Glaciar Huemul. There were nice views at Río de las Vueltas and its valley. Beautifully framed with white clouds and mountains peaks covered in snow.

Río de las Vueltas
Río de las Vueltas

Rocks, yellow grass and occasional tree were accompanying us at the beginning of the way. However it was going to change soon.

Yellow grass near El Chaltén
Yellow grass near El Chaltén

Into the woods

Slowly turning left we lost view of the river and entered forest. Tana and I were actually grateful for little bit of shade. Today ,unlike yesterday when we were freezing to death (almost), was really warm day. Sun was shining and we were soon getting rid of our jackets and rolling trousers up to the knees.

Paths through the forest splits and offers two possible ways before merging again. One leads to Mirador del Fitz Roy the other goes around Laguna Capri and its camp site.

We wanted to see the mountain as soon as possible so we took the right fork and went to the mirador. And what a wonderful view we had (after climbing on some rocks to get trees our of the view).

Mirador de Fitz Roy
Mirador de Fitz Roy

Fitz Roy was magnificent. Occasional cloud was flying around its peak but it only added to its beauty. We were filling our mouths with some bakery products and enjoying the moment.

Fitz Roy View
Fitz Roy View

Shortly after that forest disappeared and we were walking through the grassy meadows. Path was dusty but views were amazing. Mountain peaks, and blue glaciers appearing far ahead in front of us.

Dusty path to Laguna de Los Tres
Dusty path to Laguna de Los Tres

The hard part

We were progressing fast because path was pretty much on level ground with not many obstacles. The only disadvantage that open brought was cold air from glaciers. We put jackets back on again.

Baby glacier
Baby glacier

We entered the forest and passed through two camps which sits on the bank of the river – Campamento Poincenot and Río Blanco. These were in the middle of nowhere bus surprisingly quite busy.

Cerro Fitz Roy
Cerro Fitz Roy

Once we got through second camping place real challenge started. From there path goes steeply up. Even though this is relatively short part of the hike there is sign which warns all the hikers – next part is steep and will take you an hour to get to the destination.

Beginning of the ascend looked friendly – park rangers made something resembling stairs. There were even few benches and wooden hut to hide if weather was bad.

Smooth path wasn’t there for long, after short while it was replaced by very stony footpath. Sometimes narrow even for one person. We caught up with more tourists and slowed down. It was difficult to overtake them. At least we didn’t have to worry about people going down as hikers going up have right of a way.

Finally at the top

After an hour of sharp walk, which included jumping between stones and occasional search for right path, we were at the top. Laguna de los Tres is “protected” by stony bank which we had to overcome – feeling like a mountain goats.

Laguna de los Tres - we made it
Laguna de los Tres – we made it

But it was definitely worth it! It took us a little while to find level spot to sit on. After that we were enjoying the view. Lake, snow, glaciers and above it mighty Fitz Roy. Unsurprisingly clouds were still flying around its peak. That usually happens to us – we get to the top of a mountain at the same time as some cheeky cloud.

We quickly disposed of our sweet and sour treats, rehydrated and went for a walk around the lake. Jumped over stones and posed for photos. There was a bonus lake on the left side. If you are brave enough and get over all the stony obstacles you can look down at Laguna Sucia. That is another lake filled with blue glacial water.

Laguna Sucia
Laguna Sucia

Me and Tana had amazing time there but it was time to return back to town. Last pictures at the lake with Fitz Roy behind and down we go.

Explorers

Downhill should have been easier than uphill, at least that was what we thought. But it was no piece of cake at all. It felt more risky going down than up. Stones, sand and dust everywhere. Slippery surface at its best. We were going down so it was our turn to move aside and let people climb up. Simple task you might think, but it sometimes it required us standing on wobbly stones supported only by our shaky hiking poles.

But do not worry, we made it safely down to the comfy benches and little shed. It was time to refresh ourselves a little again and celebrate our first big hike in Argentina. To do that we opened tiny little bottle with “something stronger”. We even had a chance to chat a little and share our bottle of whisky with other hiking couple.

From there it was easy way back. Our legs were tired but we really wanted to get back to town in before heladeria closes for the night.

Way back El Chaltén
Way back El Chaltén

We made a little change on our way back and walked around the Laguna Capri. I think that distance is almost the same as the one going through the Mirador del Fitz Roy. View from the lake bank was nice, clear water and more snowy peaks.

Laguna Capri
Laguna Capri

There was only one more interesting thing on the way back (actually it was also on the way up). Small wooden bridges crossing the streams had warnings that they can be used only by one person at a time. I wonder what happened there, they definitely looked sturdy enough to withstand at least two average European adults.

"Unstable" bridge
“Unstable” bridge

Back in town

It was late afternoon when we got back. Because El Chaltén is quite far in the south and it was Summer time Sun was still high up in the skies. We were walking along the busy street, looking at all the different restaurants, cafes and accommodations.

We were not far from heladeria but had to make one unplanned visit first. Right next to the street is a nice wooden building with big sign – La Waflería. They had a lot of stuff to offer. Sweet or salty waffles with fruit, cream or chocolate. It took us more time to choose one than eat them.

Few hundred meters later was time for an ice cream in Heladería Domo Blanco. Ice cream bar was huge, there were more than 25 different flavours. Once we made our mind and decided which one we’ll have we moved to the cashier. Medium sized cone which fits two flavours costs roughly 100 pesos. Once cache changed the owner, we moved in front of the ice creams and pointed fingers. Ice cream masters don’t use scoops but rather small spatulas. They scrape the ice cream and make icy rolls.

It was the best ice cream I ever had. I think that Tana agrees with me on this. We knew that this wasn’t our last visit at that place.

Another noisy night

Back at hostel it was good old routine. On top of shower and sweaty socks disposal (to the safety of plastic bag) we didn’t do much. Some of our hostel-mates were having food party in the kitchen and some of them were sleeping.

We joined the later group as we were tired. But once again somewhere around midnight everyone was getting up, packing stuff and smashing doors. At least it became clear where they were going and why at that ungodly early hour. This mystery will be revealed in next post.

Summary

StartEl Chaltén
DestinationLaguna de los Tres
Length20km (return)
Altitude gain800m

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