Massif Attack

El Chalten Travel Blog

 › entry 34 of 115 › view all entries
Part of the Fitzroy range after the clouds lifted.
If towns were people, El Calafate would be a 50-something moneyed tourist all togged up in spanking new Gortex walking gear that´s about as likely to see serious action as a rubber johnny in the Vatican. El Chalten meanwhile, would be a rather more more unkempt teenage relative, only gradually feeling a way into his/her adult persona and likely to be sporting too-long trousers with holes in them and hand-me-down walking boots.

In reality, El Chalten, originally founded back in 1986, is no longer a teenager. I was randomly informed, by some Scottish bloke who visits South America as often as is possible to escape from Landan Tarn, that pre '86, the Argentinian government packed off any particularly ineffective civil servants from BA for a "stint of fresh air" down here.
A closer view of Mount Fitzroy steaming in the sun. I almost wet myself with joy when we got this view.
This was basically so they could claim the place was populated and avoid any border disputes with neighbours Chile. This long-sighted plan seems to have worked nicely and nowadays, although Chile can boast the more famous Torres del Paine, over on the blue and white side of the border Fitzroy National Park is enjoying increasing numbers of visitors. I imagine this growth in popularity will gather further momentum once the gravel-covered access road from El Calafate is fully paved.    

The reasons behind the booming numbers of tourists are manifold, yet simple. The peaks that form the Fitzroy massif make a stunning backdrop for walking and, with the majority of paths good for either a half or full day walk, you don't have to be a camping acolyte to fully enjoy the place.
El Chalten in its valley. Almost looks like a larger version of the Peak District back in Blighty...
The town is still a little rough and ready, with seemingly-abandoned building sites strewn with wooden beams and breezeblock featuring down every street.  However there´s still a reasonable range of places that are fully constructed and open for business, from fancy hotels to more simple backpacker haunts.  

Also, on the financial front, the major bonus at Fitzroy is that there is no fee to enter the national park. This is unusual; most other national parks in Argentina and Chile charge foreign tourists through the nose for the right to tramp around their wilderness. However, not at Fitzroy, instead the park officials merely make a polite request for you to take care of the place and not to torch swathes of foliage by burning your bog roll like some woman did a few years back.
A glacier lake and more peaks. This time they never entirely managed to shake off the cloak of clouds.


Of course the walking itself also has a good deal to do with the popularity. I did three day walks and loved all of them. The weather was generally excellent with no rain. Even better, once the low clouds finally lifted on the day of our walk to the lakes of Mount Fitzroy itself, the views of the peaks, rising sharp from the massif like jagged canine teeth, were simply stunning.

I found that this time spent walking was just what I needed to clear my head after leaving the bustle of the northern cities behind. Fitzroy allowed me a big old lungful of free and fresh Patagonian air and more than an eyeful of epic scenery. After the three days were up and it was time to move on, I still wanted more. My throbbing feet however, certainly didn´t agree. Toe blisters grumbled whenever I touched the ground, constantly reminding me that a trip to a second famous national park was on the immediate horizon. Torres del Paine and the famed W Trek were waiting just across the border.              
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
Part of the Fitzroy range after th…
Part of the Fitzroy range after t…
A closer view of Mount Fitzroy ste…
A closer view of Mount Fitzroy st…
El Chalten in its valley. Almost l…
El Chalten in its valley. Almost …
A glacier lake and more peaks. Thi…
A glacier lake and more peaks. Th…
El Chalten
photo by: mountaingirl