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Stauchy Blog » Blog Archive » El Chalten, Mar 7-10, 2008 (JRS)

El Chalten, Mar 7-10, 2008 (JRS)


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When I was planning the Patagonia part of our South America trip, most of my efforts went towards Torres del Paine, which generally had to be booked in advanced for the high season. The tiny hamlet of El Chalten was really just an afterthought, but after reading a couple of posts on the Thorn Tree, we added in 4 days here, and couldn’t have been happier about it. A cute little town, gorgeous mountian scenery, nice backpacking trails, and best of all, free camping!

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We arrived late, after watching a spectacular sunset over Fitz Roy (a famous and formidable peak that towers over all of the surrounding peaks, locally known as El Chalten). It was after dark, cold, and windy, but we trudged our way to the free campsite on the edge of town (we were tempted by the lodge where the bus dropped us off, but the price tag drove us away).

080306d_elchalten-23.jpg Sunset over Fitz Roy
The next morning, we did some internet and brief shopping before hitting the trial towards Mt. Torres. It was a nice hike, stopping about mid-way at a great overlook over a valley with Torre standing over it in the distance.

080307d_elchalten-10.jpg Walking in the valley towards Mt. Torre.

By the time we got to the campsite, situated by a small, scenic lake at the base of Mt. Torre, the spire of the mountain was hidden in the clouds (a typical scene from what we had heard). It was getting late, and cold, so we set up camp and hit the sack. In the early morning, we were awoken by the sound of mice around the tent, which we successfully scared away.

The spire was still shrouded the next day, so we decided to just kind of chill out all day and enjoy a relaxing time (mostly bundled up in our sleeping bags because it was a bit chilly). By the evening, the clouds were thinning quite a bit, leaving a pretty good view of the peak.

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That night, we were again visited by mice, this time beginning right after we turned out the flashlight. We were kept awake for quite a while, but after I got out of the tent and tried to chase it away, we were able to get a few zzz’s. Only to be awakened at 2am by a mouse that was actually inside the tent. This thoroughly freaked us out, so we eventually decided to move spots, which was a dark, cold, and miserable experience. But, it worked and we were not visited by any more mice that night.

The next morning we were treated to some absolutely amazing views of the peak.
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After a bunch of pictures, we packed up and hit the trail, heading for the base of Mt. Fitz Roy. The views of Mt. Torre on the way out of the valley kept us looking over our shoulders.

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After about a cold and windy 4-hour hike, we arrived at the campsite. Despite hearing that we would be lucky to see the peak since it is normally clouded over, we had a good view of the peak for a good portion of our hike. After setting up camp, we decided to risk that there would not be clouds the next day, so we didn’t hike up to the base that evening (the sun angle is much better in the morning hours).

That night we were again visited by a mouse in the tent. Not cool! We ended up leaving the flashlight on, which seemed to help a bit, but we didn’t really get a great night’s sleep. The next morning, we again lucked out and were treated to a great view of Mt. Fitz Roy, lit up by the amber hues of sunrise.

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We made the hour-long hike up to yet another scenic lake at the base of a mountain in Patagonia, and again we were not let down.

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We scrambled around the rocks for a couple of hours taking pictures before heading back down, packing up camp and hiking down the nice and easy downhill trail back to El Chalten. After our mouse experiences, we decided to stay in the cheapest hostel in town in a dorm room instead of the free campsite. This didn’t prove to be much better with relatively noisy people coming and going for much of the night. Oh well, I’m still very glad that we decided to make the excursion to the area as it turned out to be one of my favorite stops in South America.

-JRS

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