El Chalten

Laguna Torre hike (El Chalten)

We completed two hikes during our stay in El Chalten: Laguna Torre and Laguna De los Tres (Fitz Roy). 

Laguna Torre is located in Los Glaciares National Park, with the trailhead on the town’s perimeter. 

We arrived at the trailhead at 9:35am, unsure of what to expect and hoping to make it to the lagoon.

The first five minutes of the hike were a near-vertical ascent and brought us to this sign which we believed was the trailhead. The trailhead is an important location point because it’s what’s used to calculate the journey time of the hike.

The problem with the sign was that it was not at the trailhead. The trailhead was 30 minutes from the sign.

Below is the view of Chalten from the sign. 

Standing at the fake trailhead sign, it was hard to imagine the trail would lead anywhere spectacular, but it did. 

Blogs and reviews detailing the hike varied from an “easy eight hours” to a “medium six hours” to a “difficult five hours,” but were these times based on the fake trailhead sign or the real trailhead sign 30 minutes further down the trail? I think the answer is a mixture of both.

Since I’d only hiked once before, I had no benchmark to know what kind of hiker I was.

Having completed the hike to Laguna Torre with a freshly broken toe, I would rate the difficulty level a 4/10, with 10 being the most difficult. Except for the initial steep ascent, the trail was mostly flat.

It took us exactly six hours to complete the hike with the start and endpoints at the fake trailhead sign.

The first and last hours of the hike were the most difficult because they had the most incline and decline work. 

After the first hour, we came to a ledge with a panoramic view of Cerro Torre and the mighty Fitz Roy. 

With base layers and jackets, we were overdressed for the weather. 

The trail had varied terrain; we especially liked the kilometer marking signs informing us how many kilometers we had hiked. The problem was that we did not know how many kilometers long the trail was, so the markers provided limited insight.

My favorite sections were the flat sections with hard-packed dirt trails. 

My least favorite section was the “slanted forest.” It’s hard to walk at a slant, and it seemed to go on forever. 

We followed the Fitz Roy River for a little while. It flowed at a good pace, and the sound of rushing water could be heard for most of the hike. 

As we approached the lagoon, the terrain became bouldery and beach-like, which are complete opposites but existed in the same areas. 

The lagoon is on the other side of the mound of boulders

After nearly three hours of hiking, we arrived at the sandy outer ring of Laguna Torre. It was hot in that area, somewhere in the region of 65°F (18°C). We were sweating profusely.

Everything changed when we got to the top of the boulder mound in the photo above. 

First, we were battered with intense wind. 

Second, the temperature dropped below freezing. I went from wearing a thin long-sleeved shirt to wearing my jacket, hat, and gloves and being thankful that I had worn a base layer under my hiking pants. I wished I had a scarf and hand warmers!

We ate a quick ham and cheese sandwich lunch on the edge of the lagoon and then took a few quick photos. My hands were frozen!

Protip: Bring a mug or other vessel to dip into the lagoon and drink the water.

As I hobbled around taking photos, I kicked an iceberg, thinking the force of my kick would easily chip off bits of ice, like smashing a snowball, but that was not the case. It was rock solid.

We didn’t spend much time at the lagoon, maybe only 15 minutes. As beautiful as the spot was, the wind and temperature were too unpleasant to remain there for long.

Being new to hiking, I think the worst part is getting to the destination and realizing you’re only halfway done with the hike. The lagoon was a big payoff for the three hours it took to get there, but I wanted to hop in a car and have someone drive me back to Chalten.

At 3:35pm, we arrived back at the fake trailhead and, a few minutes later, arrived at the hotel exhausted. 

Below are my stats as tracked by my phone. 

Surprisingly, the most painful parts of our bodies were our feet. I felt blisters brewing but no obvious signs of blisters… yet. 

After a short nap, we bought a bag of empanadas from the empanada hut across the road from the hotel, including a few for our picnic lunch the following day.

We also picked up a bottle of wine and ate dinner in the hotel room.

We were asleep by 8pm and slept like rocks.

The next post on Argentina is here.

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