As the first stop on my Latin American trip this month of April, I wanted to visit Patagonia. It was the perfect time of year to take advantage of less crowded paths, and to see the amazing autumn colors, when the mountains of Patagonia turn into hues of red and orange. In May, the weather usually becomes much colder and winter progressively sets in, with snowfalls closing down many sections in the parks.
So here I was in early April, walking the amazing paths of the impressive Fitz Roy range in Argentinean Patagonia, with a lot to reflect on about all the events of the past years that had lead me here.
I hadn’t written on the blog over the past 4 months as life was more important and had kept me busy with the logistical aspects of moving out, selling and donating most of my stuff and furniture.
Arriving in Southern Patagonia
I started by flying from Paris to Buenos Aires, with an overnight connection in the city’s domestic airport to finally arrive in El Calafate, Argentina.
From there, I took a bus to El Chaltén in order to hike around Mount Fitz Roy for a few days. El Chaltén is a nice and (windy) quiet little town nested in the mountains of the Fitz Roy range, with a simple vibe, reminiscent of a Far West outpost.
Fitz Roy is an impressive mountain in itself. Unlike any other of the surrounding peaks, its abrupt and otherworldly looks are here to remind us that it is one of the most difficult peaks to climb on Earth. It was first climbed in 1952 by French alpinists Lionel Terray and Guido Magnone, and later inspired the logo of Patagonia clothing, following Yvon Chouinard‘s ascent and film in 1968.
When you see it, it is easy to understand why Fitz Roy has a reputation of being “ultimate”: despite an average height (3405m, less than half the height of the Himalayan peaks), the polished granite faces are long and difficult technical climbing routes. The local weather is also very treacherous and doesn’t help those who undertake its ascent.
Hiking around Fitz Roy
The first morning, I left at dawn to climb up to Laguna Torre, a day hike that took me to the base of the Cerro Torre. I felt an amazing excitement and awe at the light, the colors, the beauty of everything around me. As I had also recently started meditating more regularly every morning, the setting was also ideal for that: no other hiker on the path, absolute silence with just the soft hiss of the wind, a perfect temperature, and jaw-dropping scenery.
The path took me to the glacier (Glaciar Torre) and Laguna Torre, without hardly meeting anyone. The mountains were so rugged it was impressive to walk in such silence between the snow-capped peaks and among the small red trees, creating a surreal landscape.
The next two days, I explored the park further, as I wanted to see the sunrise on Mount Fitz Roy. Doing this required sleeping in Campamento Poincenot, at the bottom of Fitz Roy, in order to see it illuminated by the first rays of the morning sun. However, I had chosen to travel light (see the full list of gear below), and therefore had to rent tent and a mat. I didn’t carry a warm enough sleeping bag (mine was only for +15°C, in anticipation of the other warmer countries I was going to visit after Argentina), and the night temperatures were about -2°C to 0°C, but decided to go with this anyway, in order to keep the adventure spirit!
I set off to the two-day hike after the morning rain. Patagonian weather is unpredictable and changes by the hour every day, but I got lucky and it stopped raining around noon, to let a magnificent sun shine all afternoon.
The walk was stunning, and the colors a real feast. I reached the campsite in time to hike up to Laguna Los Tres, the highest viewpoint on Fitz Roy.
The only life around were woodpeckers (carpinteros), right next to the path, and they weren’t afraid at all:
I hiked all the way to Laguna Capri, arrived at Campamiento Poincenot at 3pm, and decided to continue to Laguna Los Tres, in order to determine whether it would be worth it coming back the next morning in the dark before dawn in order to watch the sunrise. The conclusion was that the path was quite unpleasant, with huge rocks making very high steps to climb a 45° slope. After going up and down to Laguna Los Tres, I was back at the camp in time to have dinner with a group of campers from France, Spain, and Argentina, who were camping next to me. I went to bed hoping for the weather to stay nice.
Apart from a bit of rain, the night was great, but cold! I obviously wasn’t properly equipped to camp and had to wear my down jacket, goretex and all of my clothes to stay warm in my thin sleeping bag by below zero temperatures!
The next morning I actually didn’t bother going back up to Laguna Los Tres and had a great time watching the sunrise from the camp! Nope, didn’t take any picture, I just enjoyed the moment ;)
As for gear, here is a list what I brought for those few days of hiking:
(for a full list of all I brought on the rad trip to Latin America, check out the dedicated post coming soon!)
I only carried a camera with two lenses and a tripod. I stored the rest of the gear I had in a locker at a hostel before heading out to the mountains. You can’t carry 10kg of photo gear when you are trekking for several days, unless you have a very specific goal in mind such as a client production, but it wasn’t the case here.
Photo gear :
- – Camera + lenses : Nikon D800, 24-70mm, 70-200mm
- – Spare memory cards and batteries
- – Tripod
Clothing and other :
- – Patagonia Ultralight down jacket, supercell Gore tex, and hoody capilene (stay tuned for a dedicated post with a review of this clothing more specifically, in the near future)
- – Fleece
- – Gloves, hat
- – 2 underwear, 2 pairs of socks, 1 pair of hiking pants, 1 thermal legging
- – Small sleeping bag rated for +15°C comfort temperature
- – Thermo ReactorExtreme from Sea to Summit liner, theroetically adding up to 15°C inside your sleeping bag (I would say 9-10°C is more realistic…)
- – Rental tent for one person, mat
- – Rice cakes + cheese + tomatoes and cucumber for lunch (tip: cucumbers keep super well in a backpack over several days, see section about food in my previous post)
- – Snickers, cereal bars for breakfast
- – Apples
I really recommend doing those two hikes (and sleeping at the foot of Fitz Roy with good camping equipment is really a must) as the landscapes are one of the best I saw around the Fitz Roy range. The Laguna Los Tres trail can also be done in one day, but spending a night at the campsite and one morning to go back is much nicer. Fitz Roy has a really unique feeling to it, it is the only mount standing out so impressively among other types of rocky formations: it is really beautiful.
Have you been to Patagonia? What hikes did you do? And if you want to go, did this post give you a good feeling for what to do there?
I’ll be happy to answer your questions below!