February 22, 2018
Today was an introduction to the El Chalten sector of Los Glaciares National Park organized by Walk Patagonia. We would be doing a 3day/2 night hike with them starting the next day.
We had a message from the agency that our pickup time was changed to 8:30AM instead of 9AM. We we’re ready and waiting in the hotel lobby at 8:30 but the guide and driver didn’t pull up until 9AM. No real apology just lame explanations about getting the vehicle and picking up other guests. I’m finding this is a general trend. Apologies for poor service are non-existent these days.
This was to be the only real hiccup in the day’s program. Our guide, Betty, is a delightful young Argentinian who speaks decent English despite her frequent searching for words. Her sweet nature makes it easy to forgive the lack of strong English skills. Our driver for the day, Zoe, is a Brit who fell in love with both Argentina and her guide on her first visit to this region.
We first drop off a small group of French tourists and their guide before continuing on to our destination. The drive is on a very slow dirt road taking about an hour and half to travel 37 kilometers.
Along the way we stop at a couple of waterfalls, neither terribly exciting but a good chance to stretch our legs and take in the magnificent day.
A bright blue sky with barely a hint of clouds. From the road there are frequent views of Mount Fitz Roy and its neighboring peaks.
We reach the bank of Lake Desierto about 11AM where we head off for a short hike, about 2K each way to the Huemul Glacier viewpoint. It’s about a 120 meter climb, a nice warm up for our trek tomorrow.
The trail starts through the forest along a pretty stream with much less mud than we experienced at Torres del Paine.
A ridge offers views of Mount Fitz Roy.
Near the end is a steep climb aided by ropes and a wooden banister.
The hanging glacier with the blue sky above and green glacial water below is a lovely setting. Not much to do here but enjoy the beautiful day and take a few photos. There was no one at the viewpoint while we were there but there was a group that came up before us and others were coming up as we descended.
Returning the way we came our next stop was a picar lunch in the campground. On this clear day the grassy field has a great view of snowy peaks and glaciers.
Zoe had set up lunch, a selection of cheese, salami, prosciutto, chicken, olives, cherry tomatoes, grilled vegies and various kinds of empanadas with both veg and meat options. Everything was of good quality and tasty. For drinks we had a choice of wine, beer, soft drinks, etc. and ended up splitting a bottle of red wine and a big bottle of beer. A lovely leisurely lunch chatting with our new friends.
Next on the program was an hour long boat tour of the Lago del Desierto. From the lake you have more views of the glaciers, snowy peaks and Mt Fitz Roy.
The deep blue water is surrounded by steep hills of green beech trees and rocky hillsides. with great views of Mount Fitz Roy.
It’s a smallish boat that holds about 20 passengers. While there is inside seating the views are better from the back deck. The boat travels about half way down the lake and then back along the other side where it stops at a couple of waterfalls.
The first of which is quite unique. A strong chute of water blasts into a rock wall forming a sort of pool.
Back on the bank where we started we had a few moments for cookies and coffee or tea. We also had the opportunity to try mate, the local herb drink which is often bitter, but Betty puts a bit of honey in the water to soften the bitterness.
After tea we take the slow rough road back to town. This time with views of Mount Fitz Roy directly in front of us.