2019’s big trip in the Pianalto household took us all the way to the Patagonia region of Argentina! The four of us (Vince & me, and our friends Sarah & Jon) had an absolute blast exploring a new country together.
Patagonia has been high on our list ever since I learned about its rustic beauty, and it was definitely one of those pinch-me moments when we finally landed and stepped out of the airport.
But first, we had to get all the way down there 🙂
Reaching our final destination of El Chaltén, Argentina, required three flights and a three hour drive. Our first international stop was in Buenos Aires. We only spent about 20 hours here, but the little we got to see was beautiful. Buenos Aires has heavy European influences (60% of Argentineans have Italian heritage) and this is most obvious in the city’s architecture.
Our final flight led us to El Calafate, a town that lies along the Southern Argentinean Ice Field. This town and its chilly neighbor is getting lots of international attention right now because it’s one of the only glacial areas in the world that is growing!
From here we drove three hours to our final destination: El Chaltén.
El Chaltén is a quiet town of about 1,600 that wakes up every summer (our winter) when hundreds of travelers arrive for their chance to hike, climb and fish around Mount Fitz Roy. The mountain is famous for its massive prominence (6,401 feet, the third largest in the world) and for Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell’s famous completion of the Fitz Roy Traverse in 2014.
We knew from researching our trip that Patagonia is known for its wildly unpredictable weather. We literally had to pack for three seasons of clothing, and we used every bit of it. Throughout our five days in El Chaltén, we hiked in sleet, sun, snow, gusting wind, and rain – all in one day. I’d never before been somewhere where the weather can truly turn in 15 minutes, but it turns out that place does exist right here.
Our very first day in El Chaltén, we were all itching to stretch our legs and take our first hike in this stunning land.
Our host had recommended a few short hikes to help prepare us for our final push to Fitz Roy, and we opted to start with a short and sweet 2-mile hike to the base of a nearby glacial lagoon.
En route to the trailhead we encountered our first glimpses of Patagonia’s wild terrain and some of the local wildlife, including parrots!
Our host predicted that we’d have the best weather on our final full day in El Chaltén, which would give us the best conditions for our 14-mile hike to the base of Mount Fitz Roy and back. Unsurprisingly he was right.
That morning we headed out bright and early with packs on our backs full of layers, rain gear, and empanada lunches pre-packed for us from a restaurant in town. We walked through barren riverbeds, towering ancient forests, and wide open valley fields. All the while Mount Fitz Roy loomed in the distance, perpetually peeking out from behind clouds the mountain itself was making, like some South American Mordor.
At long last we reached our destination – the base of Mount Fitz Roy!
This mountain called and we came 🙂