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January 4, 2013 / JustinKays Porter

El Chalten: Laguna Torre and New Years Eve

We arrived by bus to El Chalten this morning. On our way into “town” (consisting of 300-700 permanent residents, depending on who you ask), we stopped at the local ranger station for Nacional Parque de los Glaciares orientation. The ranger who oriented us could not stress enough how lucky we were in terms of weather: the sun was out, the wind was down, and the clouds were hiding. This NEVER happens in El Chalten! And the weather was supposed to hold out for three days before it turned for the worse: the exact amount of time we would be in town. The weather here is usually highly unpredictable, with insane wind gusts and cloudy days making it difficult to see the stunning peaks that draw visitors here in the first place. The fact that it was about 70 degrees without a cloud in the sky or a breath of wind in the trees was somewhat of a miracle.

Overlooking El Chalten from the trail

When we finally arrived at the lodge that would be home for the next three days (the farthest point of town from the bus station), we checked in and suited up for our first hike. The hike to Laguna Torre is relatively flat and easy; about 7 miles each way with about 800 feet elevation gain. After about 10 minutes of hiking we realized we were overdressed: it really was 70 degrees without any wind. So we peeled off layers and kept hiking. Let me just say, you can tell we put sunscreen on when we had on more layers!

The hike took us up to a lookout of the Rio Fitz Roy, a turquoise colored river carving its way ever deeper through the rocks below. The hike continued through a forest, where evidence of the normally windy weather manifested itself in gnarled trees, low shrubs, and pesky flies, that we can only assume don't get out much during blustery days. The trail followed Rio Fitz Roy and views of Cerro Torre got more impressive at every turn. Cerro Torre isn't the biggest mountain near El Chalten, but it may be the baddest! The peak is a slender, near vertical protrusion; many describe it as “toothy” and jagged. At it's base, a glacier grinds away at the landscape and terminates into Laguna Torre, the destination of today's hike.

At Laguna Torre, with Cerro Torre in the background

We reached the lake and stayed for a few hours to take in the cloudless sky, the imposing toothy peaks, and the beautiful shades of blue and green that the lake, the sky, and the glacier had to offer. I'm not really sure I will be able to justly describe anything we've seen in Patagonia, but hopefully the pictures help! Cerro Torre is supposedly the most difficult of the famous peaks to see in the area, but with our picture perfect weather it was hard to imagine not seeing it looming over us! Cerro Torre is a favorite destination for rock climbers from the world over, and many climbers wait weeks or months to get weather like this to attempt to summit the peak. If only we brought our binoculars…

After a few hours at the lake, we booked it back into town and made reservations for our New Years Eve dinner. We splurged for our last meal of 2012, and enjoyed local lamb, trout, and wine. It was soooooooo tasty! Spending New Years Eve in a tiny town in Patagonia definitely has an effect on the social festivities of the holiday. So, after our epic meal and uneventful countdown to 2013, we went home because there was nothing else to do. Hopefully everyone had a wonderful, memorable New Years Eve; we definitely ended a great year with a great evening 🙂

Happy New Years Eve!


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