11/03/2015 My second stop in Patagonia was El Chaltén, truly a paradise for hikers. I reserved two complete weeks for the immense amount of treks there, including the highlight to Paso del Viento. To start off though, I decided to head east first for a 3-day hike towards Paso del Cuadrado. Soon after arriving at Laguna de los Tres, I was forced to turn around… my camera stopped working and it would be a shame if I could only take pictures with my phone in this incredible piece of nature.
I arrived in El Chaltén at night after taking the late bus from El Calafate. Having a hostel recommendation from someone in my head, I was walking down the street all the way to the other end of town close to the starting point of the Fitz Roy hike. The cheap hostel I was looking for was easy to find but, unfortunately, already booked out! Just another minute walking up the street was another hostel called Hem Herhu for the same price of 100 pesos though, and it turned out to be a really great one. After finding a place to stay, the next thing to organize was a tent. Spending the first hours of the following day to walk around all the outdoor shops, I hoped to find a reasonable priced tent. The hikes I had planned high up in the mountains required a good one and those tents started with 140 pesos a day, which would result in a lot of money for my two weeks there. I ended up asking a girl working in a coffee shop if she might know someone who could give me a tent for a better price and it turned out that she had one herself, giving it to me for free! She insisted on not getting any money for it and I could even use it as long as I wanted, I was really lucky to run into her!
With the tent situation sorted, I could start buying the food for my first 3-day hike. The nearby shop was super expensive, but you don’t really have any choice down there. I fell in love with the Argentinian Dulce de leche pretty fast and got addicted, eating about 200g each day! Meeting a group of three girls packing up for their own hike randomly on the street, I was now also not on my own anymore and we decided to do the hike together. They were already done packing and went ahead while I was packing up myself. I eventually started the hike at 15:00 and reached Laguna Capri about 90 minutes later. A really nice lake with view on the Fitz Roy massif. Just as I was taking one of my countless Panorama shots, my Sony A6000 camera suddenly stopped working with the error message “Camera Error. Turn power off then on.” I first thought it was just temporary, but would soon after realize that it is actually broken and not something I can fix here. With less pictures to take now, I was walking faster as well and caught up with the three girls pretty fast.
We arrived at the camping spot pretty late and had some snacks. You can actually only camp on those dedicated spots here in the area, with some rangers patrolling as well. Compared to the huge amount of people that passed along the way, I was surprised to see only about 20 tents set up. Most of the hikers here are doing day hikes and return to El Chaltén before it gets dark. There was only a little bit of extra hiking to do between the camp and Laguna de los tres and we arrived pretty late at 20:30 after climbing up a rather steep mountain part for about an hour. It was pretty cloudly and started to become pretty dark, so we could not stay for a long time and went down again. Throw in some rain and slippery rocks and we found ourselves in complete darkness soon after! Using the moon light and phones to get back to camp, we very much enjoyed the “Nachtwanderung” through the night for about half an hour very much though, providing a very special atmosphere.
It was raining heavy the next morning and while the girls still needed some more sleep in the tent, I was going back to El Chaltén on my own as fast as I can to start a process that would hopefully help my still not working camera. There was actually one person that used to fixed cameras in town and after tracking him down by talking to the locals, I left my camera with him and hoped he could do some magic. In the meantime, I used the bad weather and bouldering mat of my hostel’s owner to do some bouldering just five minutes away. The huge boulder “La Vaca Muerte” was protected by some big trees, allowing me to even climb in the rain, even though I was pretty limited both because of my missing strength after months of no climbing and the fact that I was on my own and nobody could help spotting and moving the mat. It was great anyway and I was so happy to finally do some climbing again! And it would not be the last time in this area, but more on that in the upcoming Live Updates 🙂
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