Trekking in Paradise: Falling in love with El Chalten

After over 30 hours of sitting on buses, we arrived in the trekking paradise called El Chalten. This tiny little town sits in a valley, almost completely surrounded by mountains. It is home to the Fitz Roy mountain range, which offers many world-class treks. We had heard only great things about the trekking here, but we were warned that the weather could be quite extreme and unpredictable.

Our plan was to stay for three days with the intention of getting two good days of trekking in. Luckily, the weather conditions worked out perfectly for us, which continued to be a consistent theme for our entire time in Patagonia.

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We were told that if we were only going to do two day treks, that we should do Laguna Torre and Sendero Al Fitz Roy. The big decision was choosing which day to do the Fitz Roy trek. When weather is poor you can’t see much of anything at the main viewpoint, which would have been unfortunate, since it was one of the nicest sights I’ve ever seen.

It was calling for heavy winds our first day, so we rolled the dice and decided to do Laguna Torre first. This was a nice warm up for me, since it was my first trek of the trip and it wasn’t overly difficult. Even though it was a more laid back hike, the scenery was still very nice. Near the end, it started to get really windy. As we crested the final hill, the wind got quite intense and I was literally being blown off my feet at times. In my opinion, the heavy winds and rain made the view of the lake even better. Instead of just seeing another nice calm lake, we got to see the little lake with white cap waves that made it look like the ocean during a storm.

I spent most of the trek being pestered by flies. They simply would not stop landing on my face and it was getting quite annoying. It got to the point where I found myself focusing more on the flies than I was on the beautiful nature all around me. Then I had an epiphany. To me, the flies represented distractions or negative circumstances. In life, we sometimes get so caught up in distractions and problems that we forget to enjoy life and we miss the beauty that is all around us. It’s easy to be excited and have fun when everything is going great. However, it’s amazing how fast the human mind can shift to the negative when external circumstances are not how we wish them to be.

I remember one of my mentors saying, “A champion stays excited, when there is nothing to be excited about.” The fact is that throughout life external circumstances will always be changing and we can’t always control them. The only thing we can always control is how we react to those circumstances. I used the rest of the hike as a chance to practice focusing on the beauty of the nature around me, despite the flies. Funny enough, as soon as I did this, I no longer noticed the flies at all and the annoyance and frustration that I had been feeling was now replaced with excitement and gratitude.

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Shaun playing with ice

The Fitz Roy hike, the next day, was a bit more difficult. The last hour was a non stop steep uphill climb. When we first reached the viewpoint, the entire Fitz Roy mountain range was hiding behind a blanket of fog. The weather forecast was calling for clear skies in the afternoon, so we decided to wait for the sun to break through.

The far left peak was first to appear. At this point, we thought that this first peak was the entire Fitz Roy Mountain, so we rushed to take our photos. Then we saw another, slightly bigger peak appear through the fog to the right. Over about a half hour period, each of the Fitz Roy mountain peaks showed themselves one after another, like a slow strip tease, until finally we were left with clear blue skies and a spectacular view. From this one location we could see two beautiful blue lakes, glaciers, snow covered mountainside, waterfalls and of course, the famous Fitz Roy Mountain Range. Not to mention, a stunning view of the landscape behind us.

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Mt Fitz Roy

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The beautiful view behind the Fitz Roy viewpoint

Our last day ended up being a rain day, which was fine since we planned on have a lazy day anyways. I was able to get caught up on e-mails, tend to my blisters and grab some ice cream before saying goodbye to the little Argentinian gem, El Chalten.

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Comments

  1. Delaine says

    Great blogs Jared, gorgeous pictures, inspiring words…looking forward to reading more! Sounds like you’re having a great time, we are so proud of you! Take care, safe travels.

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