Buenos Aires, by Noelia Diaco. Photo is not visible, used only for sharing on social networks.

El Chalten: Laguna de los Tres

March 22, 2012

Start from the beginning of our Patagonian adventure.

Fueled by our barely edible pancake goo, we loaded up light packs and headed to see Laguna de los Tres, a glacial lake sitting just below Mount Fitz Roy. The initial trek was flat, crossing a few rivers through a valley of low trees. Then we got to the bottom of a rocky mountain, with a small waterfall falling near the top. Ben suggested that we would be hiking to the waterfall. I said I thought we were just climbing around the mountain, not straight up it.

hiking trail laguna de los tres

But straight up we went, in what would have to be considered the hiking equivalent of switchbacks. Back and forth, back and forth, up and up. But we had ditched our heavy packs, and as we climbed, we kept getting better and better views of the valleys below us. We started seeing snow on the mountains nearby. Soon there was snow at our feet. We passed the waterfall and kept climbing. Over one ridge, and then up over another. Finally, as the clouds started to clear, we saw Fitz Roy peaking behind the ridge. And then, after a bit more climbing, the lagoon was below us.

hiking parque nacional los glaceries argentina laguna de los tres mount fitz roy

We scrambled down, trying not to get knocked over by the wind. This was one of many points during the hikes when we appreciated our trekking poles. I had wanted to get some since balance has never been my forte. Ben admits he never would have bought them for himself, but we both used them everyday (one pair, one for each of us — having a third leg aided stability but our non-quadrupedal evolution made two polls more a nuisance than a help).

Then we scrambled back up to the ridge. At this point, the wind knocked me over and used my daypack as a sail. We got down as fast as we could. We didn’t want to weather to change on us quickly, since we were on an exposed ridge line and it was starting to get late in the afternoon. Oddly, even once we were mostly down, some people were still starting to ascend. Sounded crazy to us, especially since it started to rain not long after we returned to camp.

mountains argentina patagonia national park

And it kept raining all night. At this point, we were very glad that we a) had replaced our rain cover, which had been leaking on our motorcycle trip (the North Face warranty department shipped it for free), and b) had securely tied down our tent. The American college guys next to us were not so well prepared. I could barely sleep the wind was so loud. Each gust seemed to come in two stages, rustling first through the tops of the trees, then hitting the tent.

When we awoke the next morning at 9, it was still raining and windy. We ate bread and cheese for breakfast, with Ben huddled inside the tent’s rain flap. One of his notes about the day says “Need oatmeal! but Steph hates.” Even driving wind and rain in Patagonia doesn’t come close to convincing me that we need oatmeal.

Laguna Madre e Hija

laguna madre e hija el chalten patagonia

Today was a slow day, mostly designed to get us from one campsite to another. The relatively flat trail wound past three lakes, Laguna Madre, Laguna Hija, and Laguna Nieta (mother, daughter, and granddaughter). It was threatening to rain the whole way. We got a glimpse of some wildlife — a red frog who got away before we could take a photo. (In its bushy habitat it’s camouflaged, but not on the trail.)

We tried again to make pancakes. We had found a piece of wire on the trail, and Ben picked it up, hoping to use it as a grate to keep the pancakes farther away from the flame. After that failed, we made some instant Asian noodles and pasta.

The wind was fierce again. Ben claims it was even louder than the previous night. He says it felt like a boat in a storm. I was sleeping. But luckily it didn’t rain because we needed to be hiking by 9 a.m. to see one final lagoon before we descended.

- Steph

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