El Chalten – Laguna de Los Tres

A good night sleep under my belt and I am keen for hiking, this is a trial run for W-Trek so lets hope it goes well. I head out to get food for snacks and lunch to a nearby Panaderia, a nice selection of empanada’s and a little sweet pastry treat and a large water. All set to go. I opt not to have any breakfast, I think I need to be working up my appetite and burning off some of the calories I’ve been taking in with all that Chilean and Argentinian wine!!

At 8.30am ish I head off with Didi, and Greta from the tour and we start the walk towards the entrance of the trek, the Laguna de Los Tres is what it is called, its about 20 minutes from the hostel all road/foot path. We get to the ranger station at the entrance and just confirm we are ok to do the trek and timings etc. Its a good 10km to get there with a few options along the way (a loop circuit you can take in the middle of the trek). Greta is not 100% up for the hike, she isn’t too fit and thinks she will be too slow, Didi is a walking machine and will no doubt be gone in 60 seconds.

We start the walk and as expected Didi is pretty much out of site almost straight away, I am happy with a reasonable pace and taking lots of photo’s along the way. Its a bit overcast early in the morning, but it is slowly but surely clearing which is good.

The start of the walk is a lot of uphill, mainly sandy and walking through forest its a well laid trail so not too tough but pretty steep in parts. Every 1km is marked so you know how far you are, and everything is well sign posted so you simply can’t go wrong really. The walk is stunning scenery as we make our way to about 5km where we can take the loop, we choose right and go along the river. We are basically now on relatively flat ground now as we are working our way round the mountain, undulating I guess you would say a bit, again still relatively easy, and there are bridges covering water obstacles.

Greta and I are having a few laughs along the way taking fun photo’s and video’s, the wind is blowing again pretty strong and with hair in our faces, and being blown over the selfies are quite impressive! I lose count of how many times we turn a corner and go “wow”, it really is a beautiful walk. As we keep going more and more cloud disperses and you see the glaciers and more of Fitz Roy unveiled. Its getting warmer and the layers are coming off!!

We walk through the campsite which is relatively close to the last 1hr of the hike, the hard bit!! 1hr straight ascent up to the top. There are lots of warning signs here as you start that bit, some about physical conditions others about the general care of the park area. Neither of us have walking sticks with us, and so far have done fine without them. So we have some water and Greta has a snack and we are off!!

The last 1hr is very hard, lots of rocky terrain, a little water coming but mainly dusty, loose rocks in places, and big steps, its one of those things you just have to keep on going, and going, and going. It does remind me a bit of the last 300m of Villarica but not quite as loose gravel or rock as that. It is tougher though. We see a few of the people ahead of us coming back down, with lots of comments on… “nearly there”, “not long now”. Not sure on their perception of not long but we still had a while to go. Greta shouts out, hey its just up here and I think we are there. Both of us get to the top and hearts sink as we can see how much further we have to go. There is another short descent and then a steep incline, I’d say 20 minutes. Both of us are getting pretty tired at this point but march on. We run into Didi who then advises us once we get to the top there is another walk down and back up, Greta is steadfastly saying “no way” to that one.

We finally make it and the view is breathtaking of Fitz Roy, the mountain, the glacier, the lakes and the waterfall. Both of us take a moment, big hugs and then sit down out of the howling wind to have lunch. Its take us to about 12.30pm, so a little under 4hrs to get up to the top. Needless to say after that walking and no food, the empanada’s are very welcome and are amazing and don’t last long!!

I manage to persuade Greta that we should go to the edge of the lake (even though its downhill and back up again!!), and so we head down. Throughout the trail we had been seeing a group of Spanish guys and chatting with them, they take our photo we take theirs which was funny, and so we see them again at the top and lots of photo taking only this time we join each others photo’s.

Greta decides to follow in one guys footsteps as he makes his way out to a big rock in the lake, the way out is fine but on the way back she struggles with the first jump and decides to slide off and ends up with her foot underwater, cold and wet and a very interesting exit!! All caught nicely on film to look back and laugh at. I lend her my spare socks to save her wet feet!

We take more photos and take in the view, a bit too close to the edge for my liking in this high wind situation! But I persevere and have fun with the waterfalls and just taking it all in, as the clouds uncover more and more and the sun starts blazing down on us. I think we spend about just under an hour and then head back before we end up way too stiff and tired to make the long trek back, because first we have to make our way down the steep hill we just came up and my knees are not looking forward to it one bit!!

Needless to say we start that descent and run into Garry and Krista en-route, going down is marginally quicker but I am getting more and more tired and my feet are sore. Not sure my north face hiking trainers are totally up for it, but maybe just needed to be 1/2 size bigger!. On the way back we take the other half of the loop around to the lake where there is a campsite, to be honest I think it would be cool camping here and breaking up the trek times if you had the time to do it that is. Greta takes the time to soak her feet in the cold lake, no way I am taking these shoes off otherwise they would never come back on.

We see a red and black woodpecker and lots of wildlife along the path home, but way to tired to appreciate most of it, just need to keep going to the hostel and rest! But at this point I am getting slower and slower, and as happens on hiking the others have marched ahead so its just me on my own for the final stretch feeling like my feet are bloody stumps in trainers by the end.

I finally make it back to the hostel at about 4.30pm and realise I have errands…. 1) ATM I need some cash, and 2) pick up the laundry. First things first, shower and flip flops…. thank God for that!! Then I go searching for the ATM which is in the Bus station, which is what feels like a million miles away. The laundry I pick up after that as that is close to the hostel, and then pack up as sadly we are leaving first thing tomorrow. It is a shame as I think a couple of days here would be great.

Next stop, Bourbon bar for happy hour… that is from 4pm to 8pm so I manage to get the last hour at least although the service in this bar is horrific, the waitresses look so angry all the time and basically ignore you. Its not even an excuse that its busy because it isn’t… but maybe that is why!! Everyone is up for a burger having had a big day so we head to B&B again, where the service is brilliant, the burger is amazing and we manage to get about 12 of us in there most of whom did the walk.

We then head to the shop, grab some booze and back into the hostel for a few rounds of pool. Its a great night and another chance to get to know a few more of the people and characters on the tour. Its another late-ish one as we aren’t going till 9am tomorrow, so Chris, Mark and myself carry on what is becoming a tradition of staying up and chatting away!


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