We took a 24 hour bus from Bariloche to El Chaltén down Route 40 in Argentina. It's like Route 66, a legendary road, but into the Wild South. It wasn't as boring as I thought it would be... time passed pretty quickly. When we took the turn for El Chaltén the desert gave way to amazing mountains covered in glaciers. The Fitz Roy Range makes its impact instantly. El Chaltén is a very tiny town that basically only exists so people can explore the surrounding mountains and a few hiking trails start right in town. Clouds started moving in as we searched for a hostel (cheaper to book when you arrive) and Fitz Roy disappeared from view. We weren't able to find WIFI while in El Chaltén. I enjoyed it, but Chris went into withdrawals.
On our second day we hiked the 20 km round trip Fitz Roy trail. It was very overcast but Chris was determined that it would clear up. People had told us to expect 300-400 people on the trail so we woke up early to beat the crowds. It was a beautiful trail, but very tough at the beginning and end. The mountain stayed hidden as we neared the end of the trail, but we did see a full double rainbow! We also could see various glaciers below the clouds. The last kilometer was the toughest trail we have ever hiked. It took over an hour and was super steep, more like rock climbing than hiking. It was totally worth all the hard work. While Fitz Roy never appeared, the view of the lake and glaciers was one the prettiest things we had ever seen.
Unfortunately (or fortunately for my muscles) the weather was worse on Friday. We decided to hike to Cerro Terro, but we only made it about 3km to the lookout. We couldn't even see the glacier at the base of the mountain because the clouds were so low. The trail was really nice, but our heart wasn't in it so we turned back. Chris was also still holding out hope that it would clear up the afternoon so we could do Fitz Roy again. In town the rain kept coming down so we relaxed in the hostel reading and recovering from the day before. The rain eventually cleared but the clouds were still very low so we couldnt see the elusive Fitz Roy.
Saturday we were scheduled to leave El Chalten for El Calafate. Chris was determined to see Fitz Roy though so we woke up super early to see if the clouds were still there- which they were. However, an hour later they were starting to clear a bit so we decided to go to a lookout 4kms into the trail just in case it came into view. We rushed to pack up our things, checkout and hit the trail. We practically ran to the lookout and got there just in time to see it- more clouds moved in to cover it not even 10 minutes after go there. There were a couple clouds on it, but we could see the top half. It was stunning. We snapped pictures and then sat there watching the clouds roll in. As we power walked back to town to make our 11:30 am bus, the clouds started to clear again. We were very jealous of everyone heading to the top of the trail. The entire way to El Calafate we could see the clouds moving further and further away making Fitz Roy more visable. The few minutes we were able to see it didn't satisfy us, instead it has lit a fire to come back one day to experience all the beauty it has to offer.
After arriving in El Calafate we booked a minitrekking tour of Perito Moreno Glacier for the next day. We were bused to the park and had some time to walk and watch the glacier. Perito Moreno is MASSIVE, rising 70 meters above the lake on its face! We could see huge chunks of ice breaking off and falling into the lake below. It sounded like thunder and would make a crazy splash. We found out later that Perito Moreno glacier is one of only two stable glaciers in the park (it gains as much snow and ice as breaks off) but it was alarming to have so many chunks break off as we were standing there. It really made us reflect on the effects of climate change and how special Patagonia is.
In the afternoon we did the glacier mini trek. We took a ferry across the lake to the side of the glacier and climbed up to the side. After strapping on some crampons we set out on the glacier for 1.5 hours. We hiked on the lower part of the glacier so you could see all the cracks in the ice and the water streams running through it. It was incredible to see the peaks and valleys of the ice that close. At the end of the tour they served us whiskey with glacier ice. The trek was definitely a highlight of the trip and something we highly recommend!
Chris & Taylor
Read our travel blog as we visit three continents in 2017.