Thursday, February 7, 2013

El Chaltén

From Baja Caracoles, we headed south towards el Chaltén, passing through Gobernador Gregores for some gas and food along the way.

Rheas on the way to el Chaltén
(Gotta love the ñandús)

We had been driving on gravel and camping for some time at this point, so we were both tired and not looking to ride long miles.  Instead of pushing for distance, we stopped when we saw a good place to wild camp, set up the tent and still had time to relax a bit near Lago Cardiel.  The two liters of water we travel with went quickly due to the surprisingly high temperatures we had in this dry environment.  Lago Cardiel was calling.  The lake looked super close, but it ended up taking about an hour to get to the water.  Making the trek in flip-flops did not turn out to be the best choice since the terrain was full of stabby grasses and bushes.  Once we made it to the lake, we discovered that this was not a typical beautiful Patagonian glacier lake, but was instead a murky, stagnant, brackish lake.  And the filter didn't want to work.  After spending probably an hour getting the filter to produce two liters of water, we made the hike back.

Mike at the beach while camping on the way to el Chaltén
(Mike at the "beach")

Sunset at our campsite on the way to el Chaltén
(The sunset was spectacular over our perfect spot to camp.)

Highway 40 is full of nothing until you get to Tres Lagos, where there is a gas station (although no gas when we were there) that has empanadas. Once you turn towards el Chaltén, however, you have this view to keep you occupied.

Fitz Roy on the way to el Chaltén

el Chaltén
(this view of town isn't too shabby either)

As mentioned earlier, we had been camping, often with no facilities, for quite a while and it was definitely time for a bed (and laundry, but that didn't quite happen....). Unfortunately, el Chaltén is a little expensive, but we were fine with spending a little money for a room. We even sprung for a private room in a hostel instead of a dorm bed. Classy.

 El Chaltén was established in 1985 and functions solely around tourism, as Parque Nacional de los Glaciares is extremely popular among climbers and trekkers. There is free camping in the park at some beautiful hike-in locations. We didn't really come equipped to hike-in to a campsite, so instead we took a couple day hikes.

Day one was Cerro Torre.

Drugstore/kiosko at the base of Cerro Torres hike in el Chaltén
(This person has the right idea with the "Drugstore" kiosko/bar trailer at the base of the trail)

Cerro Torre hike in el Chaltén
(just another view)

Cerro Torre hike in el Chaltén
(This was at the top)

Cerro Torre hike in el Chaltén
(coming back down was nice too)

Day two was Laguna de los Tres ("Three Lakes", more or less) hike, about 6 miles one way, but with a 1,200 foot elevation gain in the last hour, we felt like we did something at the end of the day. Lots of people on the trail, and this is also where climbers take off to climb Fitz Roy. It seemed like it would rain all day, but we got lucky and only got some periodic sprinkles.

Tres Lagos hike in el Chaltén

Jill during the Tres Lagos hike in el Chaltén

Tres Lagos hike in el Chaltén
(One of the three lakes at the top)

Tres Lagos hike in el Chaltén
(This is the second lake. Not quite sure where the third one is.)

Tres Lagos hike in el Chaltén
(view on the way back to town)

Tres Lagos hike in el Chaltén

View of Fitz Roy on the Tres Lagos hike in el Chaltén
(Fitz Roy with clouds...)

View of Fitz Roy on the Tres Lagos hike in el Chaltén
(...and without)

View of el Chaltén from the Tres Lagos hike

Our hostel, Albergue Patagonia, was a really great place to stay, and the staff was super nice. They let us store our stuff all day, then come back and shower and fix dinner before we left the hostel. We got out of town a ways after all that, and found a wild camping spot with a view.

Camping outside of el Chaltén

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