Thursday, February 23, 2012

Patagonia- El Chaltén

We've been in El Chaltén the last few days.  This little town of 1,000 people is located just at the base of the Fitz Roy Range in Parque Nacional Los Glaciares.  It is a funky little mountain town that has only been established for a short amount of time.  Roughly a decade or so ago there were only about 10 houses here and a couple hostels.  Now it is a huge draw for the hiking and climbing crowd because of the amazing peaks and the town has grown steadily from the tourism business.  Danny met a man at the park yesterday who told him about the recent growth.  The guy is originally from Buenos Aires and his wife is from London.  He said of the 1,000 residents 350 of them are 18 years old or younger.  The adults here are almost all transplants from much more metropolitan areas and they have had to do all the work to set up a functioning municipality- trash service, schools, town government, etc.  It sounds like it has been a wild ride.  There isn't even a cemetery here because they haven't needed it yet!
The town of El Chaltén (the peaks are behind me as I take the photo.)

Our first afternoon here we spent hiking along Rio Blanco.  It is a river sprung from the glacial ice melt and it is a beautiful milky-white color.  We hiked along the river for a while and then spent some time throwing sticks and rocks and digging holes (pretty much a daily activity for our family.)  The kids got soaked in the freezing water and when the sun went down we hustled back into town for dry clothes and dinner.
White river from the glacial sediment (we assume).
The next day we did the hike to Lago Torre, one of the more popular hikes in the area.  We all left town en route to the lookout point of El Torre, a huge tower-shaped peak with a icy blue glacier and milky white lake below it.  The kids hiked really well and we were really impressed with their endurance.  Out and back the kids did about 4.5 miles and Danny carried Cal for about 10 minutes total.  We've got some serious hikers these days and it makes us look forward to all the great spots we'll be able to get to in Carbondale this summer.  Needless to say the kids had some sore legs the next morning.
At the trailhead
mmmm GORP (PMBV en español)
View from the mirador- el torre (the tower) is in the back middle-right. (It is much more imposing in person!)
After the lookout the kids and Danny turned back and I continued on to Lago Torre (Tower Lake).  It was a haul and I was trying to hike my fastest to get back in time for Bob and Shirley's arrival.  The hike was beautiful, dropping down into a forest, then moving alongside the river, and then a final scramble up to the lake.  There was lots of other hikers- most people were backpacking and camping out at a base camp a kilometer before the lake.  It felt great to get some good strenuous hiking in after many days without much exercise.  I liked being out on my own as well, just taking in the view and having some peaceful quiet time.  The lake sits at the bottom of the peak, el Torre, and a glacier wraps around its front.  The blue ice of the glacier was beautiful and I don't think I could ever tire of staring at it.  Danny and I are planning a trek on another glacier later in the week (if the weather continues to stay nice) and I can't wait to see one up even closer.  On the way back down I saw a Patagonian woodpecker about three feet in front of me as I came around a turn in the trail.  Sadly I couldn't get my camera out quick enough to capture it on film (or digital pixels whatever.)
We've been told that it is pretty rare to get such a clear, wind-free day here.  What luck!
My solo hike to the lake
The lake complete with iceburgs.  Check out the glacier running into the backside of the lake in front of el torre.
Bob and Shirley brought another lens for my SLR camera (since I dropped the other one ages ago in Ecuador and have been only using my iphone camera since) and so here is one more photo of el Torre:

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