Parque Nacional Los Glaciers – Mt Fitz Roy Triangle

Across the border and about 8 hours by bus north of Parque Nacional Torres del Paine is a small town called El Chalten. El Chalten is inside the north end of Parque Nacional los Glaciares and is the only way to walk around Mt Fitz Roy. If there was no Mt Fitz Roy, there’d be no El Chalten.

There’s also no actual hike called ‘The Triangle’, it’s purely name I gave it, because the 3-day hike is, well, a triangle. The walk itself isn’t especially difficult and most days are rather short. But, much like the Overland Track in Tasmania, it’s the side tracks that allow you to adjust its difficulty.

Day 1 – El Chalten to Campamento Poincenot

The wind was fairly brisk as I headed out of my hostel. And because the hostel doesn’t provide breakfast – a first for me so far this trip – I stopped at a nice little cafe/bakery down the road. Then, late in the morning, I set out towards the northern start point of the hike. You can start the triangle from both ends, but I chose the northern end because, well, I wanted to.

I found the entrance to the parque fairly easily and followed the trail up the hill beyond the sign. The trail heads up and around Cerro Rosado, a small rocky mound just over 800m above sea level – El Chalten is 400m. I soon come to a rocky outcrop with a good view back to town.

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Further on, I came to a mirador looking north along Rio de Las Vueltas and the mountains beyond with their light topping of overnight snow.

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The trail continued on slowly climbing towards the plateau. After a time I arrived at a sign announcing a fork in the trail. One way leads to Mirador Mt Fitz Roy while the other to Laguna Capri, then both meet again on the other side. I walked to the lookout but much of the mountains were covered in cloud.

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It did looked like the sky was clearing so I went for a short walk to kill some time. After hearing a tapping sound I discovered a pair of black and red woodpeckers hammering away at some old trees. I stopped to watch for a bit and when I returned to the mirador the mountains were a little clearer, but not much. I headed on down the trail and found a spot out of the wind to have lunch. By the time I was ready to leave, only the main spire was covered in cloud.

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Not far along the trail I found the fork back to Laguna Capri and went to check it out.

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I then headed on towards the campsite, following Arroyo del Salto.

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I crossed the plateau and rounded the base of the hill under the spires. Shortly after, I arrived at camp and set up my tent. Still early afternoon, I went to check out one of the two main side trails from camp, I took the easier one and headed off down Rio Blanco towards Laguna Piedras Blancas. After about 30 minutes I found an obvious trail that led me over huge boulders to the laguna.

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On the way back it started getting icy even before the sun had gone down. This means cold overnight, but usually clear skies in the morning. During the night I popped out of the tent to see the vastness of the stars and to check out the peaks at night.

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Day 2 – Campamento Poincenot to Campamento De Agostini

It was cold overnight, but especially the last couple of hours before dawn, with the sun rising at 8.30am. By then I’d slept about 10 hours anyway. There’s not much to do on a hike after dark and going to sleep by 10 is considered late. In the cold, I emerged from my tent to take early morning pictures of the mountains before heading back to the warmth of my sleeping bag to brew coffee.

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After breakfast, I packed but left my tent up and with my day pack, headed up the other side track, to Laguna de los Tres, under the towers of Mt Fitz Roy. The climb started in the forest near the camp but after the ‘climbers only’ camp at Campamento Rio Blanco it turned rocky and stayed that way, climbing steeply for the rest of the half kilometre climb. About half way up, the trail started to turn to ice and I became more cautious with my steps, then three quarters of the way up, there was snow, but not huge amounts. I eventually arrived at the top and sat looking over the lake with the peaks towering over me. The lake is 1170m above sea level, while Mt Fitz Roy towers to 3405m.

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After a while, I headed down and caught the view across the valley to Lago Viedma.

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I stopped for lunch back at camp before packing up my tent. Thirty minutes later and I was following my steps across the plateau and taking the trail to the south. It was fairly flat and I walked past Lagunas Madre and Hija.

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Then the trail dove into trees with the occasional grassy clearing. After 2 hours the trail headed steeply down into a valley to Rio Fitz Roy where I stopped for a break. Following the river, I came upon a fantastic view of Cordon Adela – The Adela mountain chain – in all it’s icy glory backing onto the South Patagonian Ice Field.

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For the rest of the trail I walked steadily towards the cordon and finally arrived at Campamento de Agostini just short of Laguna Torre. The lake is fed by Glacier Grande that hangs from the bottom of the range. I pitched my tent and climbed up to look at the laguna, but with the sun hidden behind the mountains it was fairly dark.

Day 3 – Campamento De Agostini to El Chalten

Again it was icy in the last hours before dawn, so I brewed a coffee to keep warm. Then, I stood at a viewpoint waiting for the first rays of light to hit the Adela Cordon.

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Once I’d seen it, I packed up and again left my tent. With my day pack I headed around the top of the laguna and climbed towards Mirador Maestri. On the way there were a couple of views of small waterfalls, but once I got to the mirador I was a little disappointed to find that it was just closer to the cordon than from the other side of the laguna. I did get better views of the laguna with light though.

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I headed back to camp where I packed up my tent and headed out back along the trail. For the most part, following the rio, the trail was fairly flat. I passed the junction with the trail I’d come off yesterday and continued on flat beside the river. As I got closer to El Chalten, the trail began to climb a small set of hills to eventually arrive at a mirador looking back over the cordon. This was designed for day walkers to be able to see the mountains without doing the entire hike and is similar to the mirador near Laguna Capri. The trail headed over a couple of ridges before descending towards town.

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Overall, the Mt Fitz Roy Triangle is an excellent short hike experience around some amazing mountains. It’s cheaper than Torres del Paine but still has plenty to see. There are slightly less day walkers, although that might be because it is the low season.

Next I’m heading back to Puerto Natales, where I board the Navimag ferry and cruise through the fjords heading my way up Patagonia to Puerto Montt.

The Lone Trail Wanderer

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