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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.