The main reason to come to the little village of El Chalten is hiking. Development has increased since the road from El Calafate is now completely paved, but the town still exists primarily to service visitors to Parque Nacional Los Glaciares. We spent four nights there and did two day hikes, the first along the Fitz Roy trail.
Like all the trails in El Chalten, this one starts in town. After some initial steep climbing the track became more balanced after about half an hour and we really enjoyed the easy hike to the lookout for Laguna Capri. After the bad weather in Torres del Paine, we were ecstatic to have gorgeous weather for our time in El Chalten.
The easy track continued all the way to Poincenot (nine and a half kilometres from town) where we had clear views of the mountain. From this point we had a choice between continuing up the steep, exposed path to Laguna de los Tres or an easier walk to see the glacier at Piedras Blancas. We chose the latter, though given the lack of rain and heavy winds we probably could have handled the more difficult trek.
We walked along a small rushing river for about two and a half kilometres before reaching some giant boulders that we had to climb over to reach Laguna Piedras Blancas. I'm realizing this year that I have a bit of a fear of hights. Of course the only way to conquer fears is to do things like climb an active volcano, so with a bit of coaching from John I did make it over and across these boulders to see the lagoon and incredible glacier on the other side.
Check out the video to see the glacier at Piedras Blancas:
All of the trails in El Chalten are marked in kilometres one-way on the official map so we had to go back the way we came. In total we hiked 24 kilometres and it took us about eight hours to complete the trek. Just before we reached the start of the trail we were rewarded with some wildlife: woodpeckers at work.
Check out the little woodpecker in action on the video. We could not believe how powerful their necks are.
In our next post we'll take you along with us on the Laguna Torre trail so be sure to check back!
Getting there: El Chalten is about a three and a half hour bus ride north of El Calafate in Argentina (or two days by bus if coming from Bariloche). An airport services El Calafate.
In town visitors will find a variety of restaurants, accommodation and services like grocery stores, laundry and tour companies. Campers are able to pitch their tents in the park but must follow strict guidelines for camping in the park. Bring cash: there is only one unreliable ATM in town and many places do not accept credit cards. Be sure to try the Calafate (blueberry) ice cream and other flavours from the shop on the main street. We can also recommend La Tapera restobar for a nice meal (be sure to try the artesenal beer sold there, which is made in El Chalten)