El Chalten is our favorite town so far. It is completely a tourist town, built since the late ’80s within the national park and partly to settle a border disagreement with Chile. Despite the tourist status, it has a great setting right at the base of the mountains.
Only about a thousand people live here year round. You can apply for land through the government if you have lived here for a number of years and have a business or job in the town. The population explodes with another thousand workers and 2500 tourists during the summer season. Interesting.
The weather is typically sunny in town since it is Patagonian steppe (which seems like high desert to me). Clouds and precipitation generally hang over the mountains, which is why there is still an ice cap and glaciers at such a low elevation.
We set out on a loop from town to Laguna Torre the first day, camping at De Agostini. It was bright and sunny when we arrived, too much glare for good pictures. Luckily we took some anyway, as when we walked back up for sunset and then sunrise it was clouded over and raining!
The second day we hiked to the Poincenot campground. It was still cloudy in the mountains, so we decided to wait until the next day and see what the weather had in store.
The morning looked pretty promising with scattered areas of blue, so we started up. I think the last kilometre was the longest of my life ~ so steep! But I eventually made it to the top and Lago De los Tres. Fitz Roy was clouded over, and we had intermittent rain and snow, but we waited a few hours until around 3 pm when the clouds finally cleared enough for us to get a good view!
Hiking on a side trail leads to a view of the next valley and Lago Sucia… So beautiful! Glaciers end in waterfalls tumbling down the cliffs to the blue water…
It was New Year’s Eve. We ate dinner and climbed into the tent after the sun wasn’t warm enough. Heaps of people stayed up until the countdown, which woke us up. Happy New Year in about 8 languages is fun! I am not sure how they managed to stay out in the cold all those hours, maybe it was the wine and liquor they had packed in!
New year day we hiked out of the park on the north side to a valley that is private. We stayed at a very basic hostel, Piedra del Fraile, with a campground near the top of the valley. We were hoping to hike up to the lake and glacier, but the weather did not cooperate. So after one very rainy night and packing up wet and muddy gear we headed back to town.
I’ll add the last pics when I have internet again!