We came to Patagonia initially for the wilderness experience of the Patagonian Icecap. On bad weather days when winds stopped us from going to the glaciers we enjoyed some marvellous trekking in the valleys and hillsides around El Chalten. This is big country and is well named as Argentina's "Capital of Trekking".
There is a big choice of day hikes based in El Chalten. Our descriptions below give you an indication of difficulty and grade (Leisurely, Moderate or Challenging). There is no set itinerary. You choose each day which trek you would like to complete.
We have expanded some of the regular trekking routes to include some multi-day trips wild camping in glorious mountain scenery. This is great hiking and will suit those who like to walk up to 7 hours a day and tackle up to 1000m of ascent. All gear must be carried. There is some simple scrambling and river crossings, but no mountaineering is involved. These tours are marked as "Tough" or "Tough+".
During all our trekking tours near El Chalten we shall have the services of experienced birdwatcher and photographer, Kiersten Rowland, who can advise on the amazing variety of birdlife unique to this part of the world.
We have priced each tour individually although we do run inclusive week-long packages (see box right). Prices reflect the difficulty, navigation and terrain involved.
Let the photos do the talking!
Description - A round trip walk alongside the Rio de las Vueltas to spectacular waterfalls north of El Chalten. Good opportunities for birdwatching and viewing condors. A nice half day stroll best kept for a poor day higher up.
Description - We head up to the viewpoint of Los Condores, well named because these huge birds frequently fly past at close quarters. Then its heading across pathless ground gently rising to the Mirador de las Aguilas (Eagles).
From here the pains stretch down to the turquoise Lago Viedma. We return via a small wildlife lake wher we have spotted rare birds in the past. All this beautiful walk has excellent views of the Cerro Torre and Fitzroy massifs.
Description - A long but gentle rise from the town takes us to a high shoulder SE of Loma del Pliegue Tumbado. Here there are magnificent views over Lago Viedma. We drop won into the Tunel valley and follow the river upstream.
There are several sub rivers to cross before we arrive at the Lago Toro campsite. After setting up camp we take the short walk to visit Lago Toro itself, set in a glacial basin below the Tunel Glacier.
Next morning we return to El Chalten.
Description - Transport takes us to the trailhead at the Rio Electrico. There is a 2.5hr walk to the refuge at Piedra del Fraile. After a short rest we continue on over a series of short hills before dropping down to cross the Rio Pollone. A short difficult section leads us to the tranquil campsite at La Playita, alongside the Lago Electrico. A beautiful spot with magnificent views of the NW face of Mt Fitzroy.
The following morning, leaving our gear at La Playita we ascend to see the lower Marconi Glacier and it's huge seracs. If time allows we shall make a short excursion onto the lower glacier itself. We return to Piedra del Fraile for the night.
Today, we climb up to Laguna Piedras Blancas and the campsite at Rio Blanco. Then it's a return to El Chalten via Laguna Capri. A long but satisfying day.
Description - A long but gentle rise from the town takes us to a high shoulder SE of Loma del Pliegue Tumbado. Here there are magnificent views over Lago Viedma. We drop won into the Tunel valley and follow the river upstream. There are several sub rivers to cross before we arrive at Lago Toro. Beyond the lake we cross the Rio Tunel (at least knee deep!). We camp in a sheltered, sandy spot near the lakeside.
A big day today as we make the climb to Paso del Viento. There is some loose moraine to cross near the Tunel Glacier and sometimes it is easier for us to actually use the glacier itself. Then its steeply up to the pass. The sight of the Southern Patagonian Icecap beyond the pass is sure to take your breath away. An awe inspiring sight. We drop steeply down and camp by Laguna Ferrari.
Today we leave our campsite intact and head across moraines to get marvellous views of the Icecap. Then its back to collect our gear and head back to civilisation. Camp by Lago Toro.
A return is made to El Chalten.
Optional 1 day extension (€95) - A day on the upper Viedma Glacier. Get onto the main Patagonian Icecap itself and enjoy the splendid isolation it provides. Wilderness, awesome landscapes, big country scenery. Amazing stuff!