Thursday, April 2, 2009

El Calafate & El Chalten

We left Torres del Paine and headed north to El Calafate which is named after a berry that grows in the region. While we were in El Calafte, we met another traveling couple in the hostel we were staying who had rented a car and were heading to Perito Moreno, a massive glacier, which is located in the south end of Parque Nacional Los Glaciares.

We got up bright and early and drove to the park, arriving there before it opened so as to avoid having to pay the entry fee. It was still dark when we arrived, so we sat in the dark parking lot eating some snacks and waiting for the sun to rise. Instead of enjoying a beautiful sun rise over the glacier, it started raining; the fog and rain did not detract from the beauty of the massive glacier though!
Glacier Perito Moreno is 60m high, and is ADVANCING at nearly 2m a day.
While we were there you could here the glacier grumbling, much like the sound of thunder.
Several large chunks also broke off and fell into the water.
We left El Calafate en route to El Chalten. Along the way, we stopped at a small estancia (ranch & motel) for a coffee and bathroom break. The estancia has provide accomodation for many mountaineering expedition parties who first explored the area. Among the famous guests who had stayed at this little ranch, were Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid. After robbing several banks in Argentina, they hid out in the estancia for a month before crossing into Chile.
The Patagonia region is rich in folklore and stories...reminding us of the wild west.

When we arrived in the small town of El Chalten we immediately fell in love with the place.
Known as a frontier town(population 600) and was not formed until 1984. The town still doesnt have any banks, cell phone service, or other similar luxuries. There is a cemetery in town, but no-one has been buried there yet. Packs of friendly wild dogs roam the streets and people still travel on horse-back down the main drag. While we were there, the main street was in fact just getting paved.
One of the best things about El Chalten is that the north end of Parque Nacional Los Glaciers is at your doorstep. Many of the roads in town end in trail-heads into the park. The north-end of the park is made famous by Cerre Torre and Fitz Roy Mountain. World class mountainering climbers consider Cerro Torre and Fitz Roy among the hardest climbs in the world. The small shops in El Chalten also served as shrines, showing pictures of people who had climbed the mountains or died trying.
So, what did we do while we were in El Chalten?
We hiked the many trails of course!

El Chalten is named for Cerro Fitz Roys native(Tehuelche) name, meaning peak of fire or smoking mountain. We could understand why the natives referred to it as smoking mountain - after several days of hiking the peaks of both Cerre Torre and Fitz Roy remained concealed behind clouds. We hiked up one trail to the base of Fitz Roy, but it remained concealed behind clouds. Looking down however, we could see this glacier fed lake.

Our last day in El Chalten, we had planned on taking it easy and resting our legs. When we woke up the sun was shining and the sky was completely clear. Right away we both knew that this would be our SUMMIT DAY! We immediately scarfed some breakfast and set out on one of the trails that would bring us to the base of both mountains.

Cerre Torre (3128m)

In the centre of the photo(below), where the trees stop and the snow begins, is the spot where we took the picture of the glacier-fed lake. Its hard to believe that we could not see Fitz Roy the previous day as we were so close.
Cerro Fitz Roy (3405m) is the highest peak on the right hand side of the photo(below).

Argentine Fun Fact 4:
Rat-tails and mullet haircuts are alive and well in Argentina!

1 comment:

  1. Hey team! Seeing your pics from Argentina and Chile certainly brings back memories! Hope all is well, and look forward to seeing both of you back in Muskoka.