OverviewEl Chalten is a charming little town expanding madly.
More and more trekkers come around to enjoy beautiful landscapes, granit peaks and pure lakes.
It is also the perfect base town to go climbing the magnificent Cerro Torre and Cerro Fitz Roy.
El Chalten has a taste of lost Far-West when you first arrive, but has a real mountain (trek/climb) atmosphere when you stay for a few days.
The easiest way to access El Chalten is by bus from El Calafate (4hrs). Among others, two companies are doing the trip every day : CalTur and Chalten Travel (30USD return).
The road is a bit shaky on some parts, but the trip is quite enjoyable.
Actually if the roads gets perfect, we might see hundreds of day-hikers come, which would be great for local shop but sad for people who enjoy quiet nature.
They plan on asphalting it all, at some point.
It might be possible to go to El Chalten from Bariloche, as Chalten Travel organise buses between El Calafate and Bariloche.
But it is costly (around 150 USD) and not frequent. The best is to get advice in Bariloche.
To access El Calafate :
> by bus from Rio Gallegos (Argentina) ; or Puerto Natales and Punta Arenas (Chile)
> by plane from Buenos Aires, Bariloche and Ushuaia.
Sleeping and EatingIn the PN Los Glaciares you can camp as long as you remain in the camping area.
Outside these sites, it is strictly forbidden. No fee to pay.
In town there is a camp site with a small fee to pay.
Two nice hostels are there to welcome you : Rancho Grande and Albergue Patagonia.
Both nice and cheap : 8 USD per person a night.
My only recommandation to eat is a very tasty reastaurant called Ruca Mahuida.
A bit expensive (compared to the others) but high quality food and warm welcome, well deserved after trekking and climbing !
One last important thing : in February 2007 there was still no cash machine in El Chalten.
So I recommend you withdraw money in El Calafate before leaving.
US Dollars are usually accepted in town. It is a good way to get Pesos when getting the change back.
In the PN Los Glaciares nearby to trek and climb you will have to camp on specific sites, and all your pee & poo business will have to be done 50 meters away from any river (by dugging a little hole first). All trash must be brought back to El Chalten.
When you arrive in El Chalten the PN rangers will explain everything you can and cannot do. This should be done in every single National Parc around the world !
Note that the Parc is free, but you can leave a fee (the amount is up to you) at the rangers' office.
Climbing near El Chalten
There are two main area climbers go for :
> Cerro Torre range
> Cerro Fitz Roy range
The ascent of Cerro Torre is a much more serious business than Cerro Fitz Roy, but both offer some master climbing, reknowned all over the world.
For details check on SP pages dedicated to these summits.
Classic Trekking in PN Los Glaciares
The north part of PN Los Glaciares you can access from El Chalten is a real treasure for trekkers. You can go for a day hike to see Cerro Torre, Fitz Rio or the Rio Electrico valley. Or you can organise a nice little tour. A suggestion would :
Day 1 :
- Morning bus from El Calafate
- Quick lunch in El Chalten
- 3 hour walk up to Campamento Bridwell (also called "De Agostini") to enjoy the great view on Laguna Torre and Cerro Torre
- Camp there
Day 2 :
- Walk from Campamento Bridwell to Campamento Poincenot, via Laguna Hija & Madre (4 hours)
- Leave your stuff at the Campamento Poincenot and walk up to Lago de Los Tres to observe Cerro Fitz Roy (45 to 60 minutes)
- Back to Campamento Poincenot to camp (in low season if Campamento Rio Blanco is empty you can try to sleep there, but bear in mind it is supposedly dedicated to climbers rather than trekkers).
Day 3 :
- You can go back to Lago de Los Tres to enjoy Fitz Roy on the morning sunrise.
- From there 3 choices :
1. Walk back directly to El Chalten via Laguna Capri
2. Go for a 2h walk to Laguna/Glaciar Piedras Blancas (definitely worth it), and then back to El Chalten.
3. Go further north for an extra day of hiking along Rio Electrico (camp up there and on the forth day return to El Chalten).
We chose option 2 as the weather was not excellent on the 3rd day and as we wanted to go Lago del Desierto (see below). Keep also in mind than weather is changing VERY fast. So if the weather is good always try to go see Cerro Torre and Fitz Roy, as it could then be rainy and cloudy for 3-4 days in a row. I heard that Cerro Torre has more chances to be hidden by clouds than Fitz Roy. If the weather is nice, it would therefore be a better bet to start with Laguna Torre as we did.
Two tremendous tripsThese two itineraries are both amazing as they will take you deep inside Patagonian nature :
1. ICE CAP TRAVERSE
From El Chalten you can go for the Ice Cap trek, which takes you on the west side of Cerro Torre on the Southern Patagonian ice field.
It can be very dangerous there because of the weather, as there is no way to escape a storm on the ice cap.
However agencies organise tours.
You will find information in El Chalten, or try to contact for example Andes Cross
Check on their video : Ice Cap Trek... marvellous !
This trip will take you from El Chalten to Rio Electrico then Paso Marconi, ski traverse on the Ice Cap, back on firm ground through Paso del Viento and back to El Chalten along Rio Tunel (7 days).
2. CROSSING TO CHILE
This itinerary is a great way to reach Chile and its "carretera austral" to Villa O'Higgins.
Day 1 :
- First there is a bus to take from El Chalten to Lago del Desierto (10USD / 90 minutes of shaky road)
- At Lago del Desierto you can either take a boat across or walk (5hrs).
- Once on the other side of the lake you have to walk on another hour to reach the Argentinian/Chilean border
- Camp there
Day 2 :
- Walk for another 5hrs to reach Lago O'Higgins
- Then take a boat from a boat from Puerto Candelario to Puerto Bahamóndez (3hrs)
- Eventually take a shuttle between Puerto Bahamondez to Villa O'Higgins (30min)
All timing details on Villa O'Higgins website.
Books, maps and links1. HANDBOOKS
There 3 great handbooks that give detailed information on treks around El Chalten :
Bradt Chile & Argentina
Lonely Planet Patagonian Andes
John Biggar - The Andes : A Trekking Guide
Poice2004 added a book : Trekking en Chalten y Lago del Desierto (Miguel Alonso) Ed Zagier & Urruty (en Español)
- No doubt that the map edited by Zagier & Urruty is the best one.
Full detail on tracks and mountains.
- On the internet you can find good information on
El Chalten website and their specific trekking map.
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