I met them by chance. 2 girls were sitting next to me on the hostel computer and I could hear them planning something, but wasn’t sure what. So I asked them and come to find out we had similar plans and they too were going to El Chalten after Bariloche. I let them know I had my ticket and they should get theirs soon too because it may sell out. They let me know they wanted to go camping while they were down there one night to wake up and see the sunrise on Mt. Fitz Roy, but were having trouble finding things online. I let them know to go get the ticket enjoy their time in Bariloche and I will figure everything out for El Chalten. I had already done the view of Cerro Campanario and Circuito Chico and had plans to do nothing the next day because my knee was hurting. I spent majority of the next day trying to find out how to camp there and got it all down.
El Chaltén is a small mountain village in Santa Cruz Province, Argentina. The village was built in 1985 to help secure the disputed border with Chile. Today the sole reason for its existence is tourism. It is located within the Los Glaciares National Park at the base of Cerro Torre and Cerro Fitz Roy mountains, both popular for trekking. For this reason this village was named Argentina’s Trekking Capital.
We arrived in El Chalten after a long bus ride through Patagonia. We each went to our hostel to shower, change and then we searched for a place to rent camping gear, had a great lunch/dinner and planned the logistics of what we were gonna do. The next morning we switched to another hostel that allowed us to leave our things there until we got back from camping. We each bought what we thought we would need for a night of camping and a bit before noon headed off to start the hike.
We were all smiles and laughter as we set off to hike Mt. Fitz Roy. We had no clue what to expect, but knew we had an 8km (5 mile) hike to Camp Poincenot alone where we would set up camp . We each were carrying our own things, but the tent we would swap off every 2km along the way to be fair. The walk there was beautiful. It was a bit tiring as it was a steady climb up into the valley of other mountains. We came across many amazing views along the way.
Our first stop along the way to the camp site was Laguna Capri exactly midway after hiking 4km (2.5 miles). We were already a bit tired and knew we were going at a very slow pace, but honestly had no rush so enjoyed it all. There we had a small snack to help carry us on and refilled our bottles of water from water of the lake. It tasted so delicious… and the feeling you get when you are drinking water directly from Mother Nature is such an amazing feeling of purity. As much as we wanted to stay there admiring Mt. Fitz Roy we knew we had to carry on. The hike continued and we kept our minds off the hike by just chatting away. Finally after 4 hours we arrived at Camp Poincenot and the real challenge started… putting the tent together!!!
By the time we arrived to the camp site we were exhausted, hungry and ready to rest. The problem was trying to put the tent together. We did our best, but couldn’t figure things quite out and had some trouble. Lucky for us two guys we met along the hike had saved us a spot next to them and when they saw we were having trouble helped us. After a short moment the tent was set and we all just sat down and ate. Ahh it was a feeling of bliss. The two other guys ate with us too and we made plans to all go together to hike up in the morning to see the sunrise. So now we were 5. The funny thing is all 5 of us were from the USA. That’s a bit rare… I do not run into people from home on the road often. So it was kind of nice to share this moments with fellow countrymen and women.
After having our lunch we took a much needed short nap. We woke up from our nap and hiked 2km more to get to Glacier Piedras Blancas. The hike was easy and when we arrived we just all hung out there talking and admiring the view as the sun was setting. We then walked back to camp and went straight to sleep. We were going to be waking up early to start hiking the 2km the steep hike to Mt. Fitz Roy.
It was 3am… it was pitch black, we all stumbled in the night with our flashlights getting everything ready for the hike we had ahead of us. It was freezing cold, but knew once we started walking we would warm up. We all were ready and headed off. It looked like we were the first ones to wake up and start hiking. We went extra early because we knew our pace was slow and well didn’t want to rush up there. The 2km was no joke straight up the side of a mountain. We all kept the same pace and slowly made our way to the top. Along the way we were talking about random things… like our favorite movies as a child or cartoons or just random things that people growing up in the USA would understand. Finally after 1.5 hours of walking we arrived to the top. It was pitch black and all we could see was the silhouette of the mountain. I brought a chocolate bar and we sat in a circle and all ate a piece of it.
Finally after what seemed like forever the sun started rising and our emotions were racing. We couldn’t believe our eyes. As the sun was rising behind us it was painting Mt. Fitz Roy in all it’s glory many shades of the rainbow. We saw it orange, pink, purple and even red. We just stood there in awe and of course trying to capture the moment in photo.
After being up there a while it was time to head down. On our way down we were all shocked at what we had hiked. We were very happy we didn’t have to see the steep hike we had ahead of us. The whole way down I kept thinking how did I climb up here? Finally we were back down and even though we planned to to try and hike to Cerro Torre (the other must see mountain in the park) we were all so exhausted we decided to take a small nap, pack and then carry on back to town.
Even though we only spent one night camping it was actually very bittersweet leaving and heading back to town. It’s like the mountain became our home for two days. We spent the hike down laughing at things that happened the day and night before. We talked about love, life, music and just about everything you can imagine. We finally made it back after hiking over 30km (18.5 miles) and were happy to shower, relax and have a real meal along with a celebratory drink. The next day we said our goodbye because the girls were heading off to their next stop. It was bittersweet, but the good thing is I may be seeing them in Paraguay when I make my way there because they are both in the Peace Corps volunteering there. After saying bye to them I got ready for another long hike to Cerro Torre. Sadly when I arrived there I was not able to see the beautiful mountain because the clouds never moved.
Looking back at this it is still one of the highlights of my trip so far and in life in general. I know I would not have done this if it wasn’t for them. It was their idea and I tagged along. Before this I had not really camped like this… yes I did with one of my readers in Germany, but yeah that was nothing like this jajaja. It was just quite amazing to spend a whole day hiking and resting and then waking up early to see the sunrise. It was so rewarding. It was like all the hard work paid off and to be in the middle of beautiful mountains was a reminder of how amazing Mother Nature really is. I also think this was the tipping point for me to actually start liking to hike, because I honestly had never really liked it. Oh how travel does change you and helps you discover new things about yourself.