This post covers the first day of a 3 day a guided trek with Walk Patagonia in the El Chalten region, first in Los Huemules Reserve and then in Los Glaciares National Park.
February 23, 2018
Although we did this as a guided hike it can easily be done independently and may be a great option for those looking for beautiful scenery without the crowds.
This first day’s trek is really three out and backs with an overnight at Refugio Puesto Cagliero located on Laguna del Diablo with views of Glaciar Cagliero.
We start the day at the Los Huemules Reserve Museum where Betty, our guide, shows us photos of various plants and animals in the regions and life-size cutouts of the huemul, a kind of deer, and the condor with its astonishing wingspan.
There are a number of edible berries in the region including the murtilla, chaura and calafate. All are in season at the moment.
The first trail of the day, Loma del Diablo, starts through a pretty forest with a grassy floor. The steady ascent becomes steeper as we climb.
Behind us Mount Fitz Roy and the surrounding peaks are clearly visible against a gray sky.
We stop at a couple of viewpoints before arriving at our destination, the Loma del Diablo viewpoint with views of Fits Roy in one direction and the Cagliero Glacier in the other.
Lunch is excellent – rice salad with tomatoes, corn, avocado, and seeds; empanadas; various sweets and 3 ripe plums.
We head back down the same trail, the steepest sections aided by ropes and a ladder.
Once down we cross the river and climb up to Laguna Azul. The trail first runs along a cascading creek and past a couple of waterfalls.
Just before the lake there is a waterfall with a viewing platform in front of it.
Laguana Azul is a pleasant, deep lake with views of the peaks towering above it. After a short rest we follow along the ridge between Laguna Azul and Laguna Verde.
Laguna Verde is rather drab with the prettiest views below along the grassy edge. Generally we’ve seen relatively few birds in Patagonia but we see a number of them here.
Past Laguna Verde we cross a particularly rickety bridge over a raging river to start the trail to Refugio Puesto Cagliero. The track then follows the river up the valley towards the refugio and the Cagliero Glacier.
Passing through pretty, open forest with the river below, the Patagonia flat trail climbs and falls. We see very few people.
It’s a 4.8K hike to the refugio. The first 2K seem endless but then we hit a rough service road speeding up our pace. Cut logs have been placed over roughest sections.
We cross one last bridge.
The sky opens up with views of the mountains and across a moraine we see the refugio in the distance on the bank of Laguna del Diablo.
The refugio is a simple structure that has recently reopened. The interior walls, constructed of particle board, smell of fresh cut timber.
The small rustic lounge has blankets over wooden benches. The dining area consists of long picnic tables.
Both the lounge and the dining room have large picture windows with views of the glacier.
Our small bunk room has two sets of 3 bunks. It is tight for the 4 of us and would be too crowded with 6. The private bath has questionable plumbing – hot and cold water are backwards in the shower, the sink is not properly attached to the wall (a sign warns you not to lean on it) and the toilet doesn’t always have enough water to flush properly even after a long wait.
Hot water starts at 7PM. Towels, sheets, sleeping bags, blankets and pillows are all provided.
I take a walk before dinner down to the water. It is not an easy walk. With no marked trail I slip and slide in the rocky sand. Too steep to go back up the same way,
I find a more gradual ascent up a cascade. I was planning to go to the waterfall at the end of the moraine but it is much farther than it looks with the water’s edge becoming more difficult to traverse.
Lovely in the late afternoon with the light ever changing on the glacier and mountain peaks.
Dinner, served at 8:30 included cheese and ham on squash with vegies in a tomato sauce over polenta. For desert dulce de leche on a canned peach half. Two bottles of wine for the 4 of us were included with dinner.
During dinner we chat with the manager, Mariano, and a French couple traveling with their 3 year old daughter Emma in a mix of Spanish, French and English.
According to Mariano this is the refugio’s first season. Although the refugio accommodates up to 25 guests we are only 9 this evening. While it handles the 9 of us comfortably I wonder how conditions would be at full capacity with the small lounge area and questionable plumbing.