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El chalten piedra del fraile

I originally wanted to do the 4 day Huemmul circuit, because I’ve read that it’s quite challenging, really beautiful and in contrast to the rest of Argentinian Patagonia, it’s supposed to be nice and quiet sand free of crowds. Once I got there I asked around in the hostel if anyone wanted to do it and tried to find out more recent information about it, but unfortunately no one was interested, and apparently the park rangers do not allow anyone to do it alone. This was I think the only time, I felt restricted by travelling alone. I was expecting that everyone in El Chalten would be as enthusiastic about hiking as I was, but it turned out that it’s just a tourist spot for those that can afford it. It was interesting to see how the ‘vibe’ changed as soon as I entered Patagonia; further north was full of like minded backpackers, doing the same as I was, but here there were many wealthy, older people, a lot of couples who are on a typical vacation. Luckily for me, I stayed in a really nice hostel with plenty of cool backpackers. 
Since I wasn’t able to do the circuit, I decided to organise my camping excursion! I wanted to see at least part of the circuit I hoped to do, but also to get some practice before doing the 8 day Paine grande circuit in Torres del Paine in Chile I’ve planned for later. So I got the information and gear I needed and was just heading out the door… when I bumped into a girl I met in Bariloche who decided to do it with me! The site I chose was Piedra del Fraile, just north of the national park. So after a bus I hiked for 2 hours through a forest, to get to the coolest little Refugió where we set up camp. It was a really nice site, ran be these two ‘airy’ hippies, who were so laid back, they were practically lying down! We stayed out there for 2 nights and 3 days. The first two days I hiked around they valley and mountains near the refugio and went to Lago pollone and further to Lago del Marconi and it’s glacier, where if I was doing the huemmul circuit I would set up camp and later continue onto the ice field (which would be awesome so was sad not to be able to). This was a long hike and my knees were a bit sore, but we decided to climb the unbelievably steep Piedra Negra. It was definitely my steepest hike so far and it was quite challenging too. Because this part was on private ground, all the trails were really poorly marked. One problem with this was that we couldn’t find the start of the trail initially (it literally goes up so steeply, that it goes out of your sight at ground level so quickly, that it’s easy to miss), but also, because it’s challenging it’s important to stay on trail for safety. At one point I ended up literally rock climbing up two the summit at 45 degrees and more on rocks that were of varying size and would often move under my hands an feet (yes, I was on all fours at several stages of this trail). I was told at the Refugio, that I may be able to walk around the glacier at the foot of Fitz Roy to see the ice field on the other side. Unfortunately, there was too much snow to do this safely without specialist equipment. I was quite disappointed about this, and I think it clouded my ability to truly appreciate the beauty of this Summit… and it was really so beautiful… Another difficult part of it being poorly signed was that i was unsure how far I could hike safely, so I rock climbed as far as I felt was safe, but I was very aware that if something went wrong any emergency services were a 6 hour walk away…

El chalten loma del Pliegue Tumbago 

The after hiking Fitz Roy was cloudy and my knees hurt, so I took a ‘Rest Day’ to recover before attempting anymore hikes. The following day was a a little better so I did a hike called loma del pliegue tumbago. It was still a bit cloudy and very windy when we got to the top, but we got a lovely view of a glacier and a Laguna, but really could not stay there for long due to the icy winds. 

El chalten Fitz Roy 

It have been hopping around a lot recently, staying in places for a really short amount and of time an taking a lot of long buses, just to carve out a lot of time to spend here as I heard it’s the hiking capital of Argentina. In total, I stayed here for 9 nights!

As I arrived in the evening, I was told that the weather the next day is promised to be very good so I decided to do the Fitz Roy day hike. It was a beautiful hike but quite crowded because a lot of other people had the same idea. It was flat for the first 9 km, but the last km was quite steep. This was a really nice hike throughout though; we walked through valleys and forests to get to the gorgeous view of the fitz roy nad other mountains as well as a couple of lagoons. 


Puerto madryn

From el bolsón, I went directly to Puerto madryn, pretty much just to see the whales! I only spend one night here, I was debating whether to come or not, so when I did, I knew i didn’t have too much to spare, because i wanted to to a lot of hiking further south. It was amazing to see the whales. To see their true size, I was lucky to see some interesting behaviours and to see a mother and a calf. I was lucky to see them at all, because as a result of the El Niño phenomenon, the whales came and went a month early. 



El Bolsón 

El bolson was lovely… it’s such a lovely hippie little town. El bolsón, means the bowl, named after the mountain ridge that surrounds the town, forming a bowl shape. An additional interpretation is that people fall into the bowl and cannot get out, and I can really see why. It’s a great place for some beautiful hikes, just to chill in some very homely hostels, eat organic food, bake bread, eat the awesome Jauja ice cream, do yoga or buy artesanal products made by local artists. I stayed here a few days, much longer than I normally do, because I wanted a break and heard about this amazing hostel to stay and relax in, and even then, I which I stayed for longer! One big hike I did was to Cerró piltriquitron. Here we had to get an expensive taxi to the foot of the mountain, from there it was 1 hour to the Refugio, where we got a cuppa and cheese toasties, before we continued our hike. First 2 hours was easy and basically flat, the last hour was a very steep made nearly completely of small rocks so there was a lot of sliding… and it had the coldest and strongest wind I’ve experienced so far. At had to stop and hold my pose, because it was to strong to walk against; I also wished I brought my gloves…​




Bariloche 

From Buenos Aires I took a dreaded and long 23h bus to Bariloche… it was a long way, but it was worth it. Bariloche is in the Argentine Lake District, and it’s very beautiful and varied; it has lakes, forests and mountains. There is a lot of hiking you can do, but I’ve only had time for a hike to Refugio Frey. I decided to take a bus to el Bolsón that same day so I really had to rush, and managed to do it in 5 hours instead of 8, which is how long it normally takes! I also went on a tour to see the black glacier and the Nahuel Huapi national park. One of my favourite places in Bariloche was the Jauja ice cream shop… best ice cream I’ve ever had.