TREKKING IN EL CHALTEN
Thanks to the impressive variety of walking tours and other activities it has to offer, the ambitious little Santa Cruz village of El ChaltÚn has earned a name as the Argentine Trekking Capital.
Its trekking offer is a multiple one, although pathways have been designed with the two major peaks of the region in mind: Mt Fitz Roy and Mt Torre.
Before you start out, choose a route you can manage, let the park ranger know what time you are leaving, take the Trekking/Climbing registration with you, and during the walk never stray off the marked pathway, nor try to find short cuts.
When deciding on a trekking route (for the short option), Lake Capri is a possible destination. It has enticing campsites near the lake and affords a magnificent view of the whole of Mt Fitz Roy. Another option is to visit Chorrillo del Salto, a cascade somewhat over 15 meters in height, in the last stretch of the De las Vueltas River (Winding River).
If you are looking for a longer route, you can take either of the two tracks that fork out from El ChaltÚn: to the base of Mt Fitz Roy and to Lake Torre.
On the road to Mt Fitz Roy, the itinerary starts at Madsen camping ground, whence one descends to the valley of Chorrillo del Salto, a wind-eroded plain. Three more hours of trekking are needed to get to Blanco river and eagerly lay foot on the Fitz Roy base camp.
Two more hours of trekking will take the traveler up to Lake De Los Tres -at the foot of the mountain-, where an outcrop affords a privileged view of Sucia Lagoon (Dirty Lagoon) and the glacier that forms it, some 300 meters below.
The trek to Lake Torre starts at Blanco River camp and lasts around four hours, if one takes the southern short cut.
After traversing lenga forests, one reaches the lake, full of icebergs broken off the Grande glacier, and is immediately struck by the panoramic view of the Torre and Mocho mountains and the Egger y Standhardt freestanding rock spikes.
Various excursions allow one to appreciate the beauty of the local flora and fauna, lakes, cascades, rivers formed from melting glaciers and, of course, the mountains. All these landscapes, with their forests of lenga and ˝ire are overrun by typical species in this area: hares, red foxes, pumas and tawny eagles.
Lodging at the local estancias (ranches) is one of the options offered in this village, and this is a good chance to learn and share the local customs. The main activities in this area are horseback trekking, mountain biking, bird watching and four-wheel motorcycling, among others.
El ChaltÚn is a "must" for mountain climbing and trekking fans: the Chorrillo del Salto cascade, Mt Fitz Roy and Mt Torre all possess walkways or climbing slopes. Lastly, there are some trips that though not as imposing are just as beautiful, such as the lakes "Del Desierto", Viedma and San MartÝn.
CERRO FITZ ROY
In the El ChaltÚn area one finds mounts Fitz Roy and Torre, two of the world's most challenging mountains to climb. They both stand on the border line with Chile.
The Fitz Roy is the chief peak of a chain in the shape of a croissant open on the east side and with a north-south orientation. The massif is bordered on the south by the Fitz Roy river valley and on the north by the "Electric" River that owes its name to strong local winds.
Towards the southwest extends the Torre Glacier that, surrounding the whole massif on its southern side, empties into Lake Torre. On the east, two other glaciers frame the mountain: the Piedras Blancas Glacier (White Rocks Glacier) on the northeast and De Los Tres Glacier on the southeast.
In the vicinity of these glaciers, the traveler can regale his sight with the peaks of Torre Egger, Cerro Solo, Poincenot, Guillaumet, La Innominada, and others.
Mount Fitz Roy was first climbed on February 2, 1952 by the French team of Lionel Terray and Guido Magnone, while Mt Torre was first climbed in 1959 by Cesare Maestri and Tony Egger.
The ideal time to make an climbing attempt is from mid-February to end March.
Consequently, if the tourist's main interest is mountain climbing, he will find descriptions of the different routes followed by the expeditions that conquered these mountain peaks. For example, the French expedition had very special features, as it was organized by the French M, and not by ice-wall seasoned climbers, rather the ordinary bleausards that train on some low rock cliffs to be found near Paris.
On these mountains and in these forests can be found some indigenous local wildlife, such as the evasive pud˙, the smallest deer in the world, which inhabits dense cane fields, or the huemul, that wanders among the trees in the forest.
Both ordinary and unusual birds can be seen. From the magnificent condor, the largest land bird, to the southernmost parakeets and hummingbirds in the world.
LAKE DEL DESIERTO
Lake Del Desierto is a paradise of century-old forests, glaciers and cascades that belie its name. Here one may practice sport-fishing, camping or trekking, among other activities. Behind the colossal granite walls lies the famous Southern Patagonian Ice Field, the second most important mass of continental ice on our planet after that on Antarctica. From this eternal ice cover descend the glaciers (one of them the Perito Moreno) that feed the great lakes in the area.