But to back up: First we had to get to El Chalten, a prospect delayed by the fact that no one told us our flight had been pushed back three hours (and we were flying LAN, the respected private airline, not the much-maligned, state-run Aerolineas Argentina). So after a few extra hours in the Jorge Newberry Airport, during which Ben and I learned to tie bowlines, trucker’s hitches, and other useful knots, we boarded the plane for a smooth 3.5-hour flight to El Calafate, and then a 2.5-hour van to El Chalten. The terrain was surprisingly arid and without trees. We were 49 degrees south of the equator, we weren’t expecting a desert.
(If you're just coming to the blog, read more here and here about the transportation and lodging logistics for our two-week hike through Patagonia.)
El Chalten to Campamento Poincenot
Now for our first day of hiking. We got our first view of the town of El Chalten when we went in search of a few supplies (white gas, silicon spray, band-aids, map). The town’s architectural style clearly evoked rustic log cabins, and much was still being built. The “supermercado” was, in fact, a hiking store, and by 12:20 p.m. we were off.
- A multi-tool with a hammer so we could hammer in our tent stakes. (Rocks work quite well.)
- Eggs (packaged in water so they wouldn’t break) [Ben adds: Pre-trip experimentation demonstrated that rough shaking of a jelly jar filled with two eggs in water would produce... two cracked eggs in water.]
Past Laguna Capri, the trail flattened out and we kept trekking along. At one point it started to rain, which coincided with the only time that day when we lost the trail. Everything you read about hiking in Patagonia says the weather changes quickly. But I still wasn’t prepared for the sun to suddenly disappear, rain to start falling, and the wind to start whipping at our clothing. It had been so calm at the lake just minutes ago. And of course, we weren’t on the trail, which inspired a slight sense of panic in me, imagining us wandering around lost in a rainstorm. Ben wasn’t nearly as worried, soon we spotted a few other hikers, backtracked about 20 meters, and 10 minutes later, no more rain. Welcome to hiking in Patagonia.