Diamonds in the Rough – Argentina’s Fitz Roy and Perito Moreno Glacier

After leaving the Carretera Austral in Chile, one our favorite roads driven thus far, we crossed the border into Argentina with the goal of heading to the trekking capital of Argentina at the base of Monte Fitz Roy, the beautiful town of El Chaltén. We were super excited to go to this little mountain town, and were immediately greeted with the manic weather and intense winds Patagonia is famous for, but little did we know some of the other challenges we’d be facing in these parts…

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The road to El Chaltén - Fitz Roy in the distance

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The little lovable and totally offline town of El Chaltén

Argentina has gone through a lot of change as of recent. Until December Argentina had both an official currency exchange rate and a blue market rate that meant anyone traveling to Argentina had to bring in all their dollars to exchange. However, the newly elected Argentinean President decided to “float” their currency to the dollar, effectively eliminating the blue rate. This means that tourists can now use ATMs and credit cards without losing half the value of their money, but unfortunately ATMs are mostly empty. To add to the frustration we found Argentina very expensive. They’ve also had recent protests in the oil industry, causing gas shortages and long lines when gas is available (we were fortunate to get gas eventually, but met other travelers who had to camp out for days at a gas station waiting for gas).

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Waiting in another gas line in Argentina

El Chalten and Monte Fitz Roy

But amidst these travel challenges, El Chaltén remains a charming mountain village with access to great hiking and rock climbing around the famous Monte Fitz Roy, highest peak in the Los Glaciares National Park. Originally we had planned to spend 2-weeks here hiking and taking a few rock climbing courses. Unfortunately, there were just too many logistical challenges to make that happen (money challenges, lack of wifi or cell service in the town to coordinate with the rock climbing guides, and unfavorable weather). But the time we did manage to spend here hiking and camping in Los Glaciares National Park was spectacular.

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Together at Laguna Torre

The trail up to Fitz Roy was so accessible from town and we decided to hike up to the base of Fitz Roy and camp there over night, then try to see the towers at sunrise the next morning (a fierce 45 minute uphill hike in the dark). We had a great hike in with beautiful weather, set up camp, and met some awesome fellow like-minded campers to chat with, and even did another little hike before dinner to see a glacier. The perfect day.

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On our first trek to Fitz Roy

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Trekking to Fitz Roy

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Not exactly sure what these birds are, but they are sure cool

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Glacier on the trail to Laguna de los tres

Then came waking up at 5am to hit the steep 1 hour trail up to the Laguna de los Tres at the base of Fitz Roy. It was still dark and even though we heard some intense wind through the night, we could see the stars and the early pre-dawn was calm. This was going to be awesome! But as we hiked closer and closer to the base of Cerro Fitz Roy, it started to rain…then it started to snow! It was so socked in with fog and snow when we got to the top, all we could do was huddle together for warmth until we caught a glimpse of the sunrise. There would be no close up of Cerro Fitz Roy, but it was still an epic journey that we still laugh about…”remember that time we woke up at sunrise to hike a steep mountain only to see nothing and freeze in the snow?”. Lesson learned – take advantage of good weather when you have it!

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Sunrise Laguna de los tres. This was the only glimpse of sun we saw, after that the rain and snow came. We couldn't even see Fitz Roy standing right behind us

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We'll settle for this view on our hike out - the sun popped out for a moment and stunned us with the blue waters and mountains

We decided to hike out that day rather than try to see another sight in the fog and rain/snow and waited another day or two for the weather to break. When it did, we headed straight for Laguna Torre and had such an awesome day hike. This really is a spectacular park, and whats more crazy is that its all free. The park is free, camping is free, and we would discover later that not having to arrange reservations for camping is a luxury in these parts (next blog post on Torres del Paine will be a little different!).

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On our way to Laguna Torre another day hike from El Chaltén

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Jenine loves a good hike with a good ending

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The hills of El Chaltén, no wonder it is the trekking capital of Argentina

Perito Moreno Glacier

We really wanted to stay in El Chalten, but with no more Argentinean pesos and no rock climbing in our future, we headed for what we heard would be a very touristy and expensive stop – the Perito Moreno Glacier outside of the city of El Calafate.

Perito Moreno Glacier, one of the most popular tourist destinations in Argentina, is located is part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field – the second largest ice field in the world, and is actually one of the few ice fields in the world that is still growing. As if these facts aren’t impressive enough, seeing it was on a whole other level. I’ve been impressed by glaciers, but WOW this thing was huge and you can get so close… and to top it off it was actually calving right in front of us! There was a piece the size of a large truck that came crashing down into the water, leaving the huge ring of ice that you see in our photos. And if you do a quick youtube search you can see the massive explosions of ice that have made headlines down here in recent news.

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The massive and still growing Glacier Perito Moreno. It recently ruptured on March 10, 2016 due to the force of the glacier pushing into land

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The entire left side of this glacier recently ruptured and collapsed into the water

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It was wet and windy and nearly 8pm, but that meant we were pretty much the only ones there

Venturing into Southern Patagonia can be such a crazy experience between the intense wind and manic weather changes. Combine that with the infrastructure challenges and it can be daunting. But these diamonds in the rough – Fitz Roy and Perito Moreno Glacier – offered us some incredible hiking experiences and views of the most impressive and memorable glacier to-date. And for this, we are grateful. Next blog post we head to the most famously visited park in Patagonia – Torres del Paine in Chile!

More pics of our time in Argentina’s Southern Patagonia:

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The road to El Chaltén - Fitz Roy in the distance

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Roadstop to soak in the moment with the beautiful mountains calling us

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El Chaltén, the trekking capital of Argentina

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On our first trek to Fitz Roy

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Trekking to Fitz Roy

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Trekking to Fitz Roy

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The well marked trails around El Chaltén

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Not exactly sure what these birds are, but they are sure cool

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Glacier on the trail to Laguna de los tres

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Sunrise Laguna de los tres. This was the only glimpse of sun we saw, after that the rain and snow came. We couldn't even see Fitz Roy standing right behind us

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Marching around El Chaltén

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The little lovable and totally offline town of El Chaltén

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Let's head to the hills

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On our way to Laguna Torre another day hike from El Chaltén

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Jenine loves a good hike with a good ending

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Together at Laguna Torre

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the beautiful mountains surrounding El Chaltén

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The hills of El Chaltén, no wonder it is the trekking capital of Argentina

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Viento Mucho Viento - the official slogan of Patagonia "windy, really windy"

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Waiting in another gas line in Argentina

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The massive and still growing Glacier Perito Moreno. It recently ruptured on March 10, 2016 due to the force of the glacier pushing into land

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Perito Moreno

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It was wet and windy and nearly 8pm, but that meant we were pretty much the only ones there

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The entire left side of this glacier recently ruptured and collapsed into the water

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Trying to capture a calving moment, where chunks of ice explode and break off into the water

Posted in Argentina Tagged with: , , ,
9 comments on “Diamonds in the Rough – Argentina’s Fitz Roy and Perito Moreno Glacier
  1. Jacob says:

    Where is the fish porn?

  2. Will Sooter says:

    Hi Jenine and George, enjoyed reading about this part of your journey. Just wanted to let you know that the bird in your photo of the campground is a Southern Crested Caracara (a bird of prey). It is opportunistic an if often seen walking around on the ground looking for food (carcasses of dead animals some insects). Not your typical raptor.

    I am looking forward to reading your next post.
    Safe travels,
    Will
    PS> George thanks for sending me your feedback on your Sportsmobile. Can’t wait to buy my Toyota 4×4 & camper.

    • Jenine says:

      Thanks so much Will! I really love those birds! We are excited to follow your adventures as well. Will you have a blog?

  3. Karie says:

    I can’t believe the gas and money troubles! We had no problems when we were there a few weeks before you….very luckily.

  4. Jane says:

    Interesting–had never heard of calving!

  5. Hi you guys from Susan and Brian

    Glad you got to the Marble caves. We are back in Seattle and left “The Beast” in Bolson in a barn.

    You can see your pictures in my blog…. http://worldtourii.blogspot.com/2015/11/the-beast.html

    Would love to see you sometime.. still planing to go to your special spot by the beach.

    • Jenine says:

      Thanks Brian and Susan! Glad to hear you made it as far as Bolson. There is so much more to explore! We will let you know if/when we are in the Seattle area