El Chalten (18th Jul, 2017) – Hiking to Cerro Torre base (20th Jul) – Hike / camp at Lago de Los Tres, Fitzroy (22nd /23rd Jul)
It’s -10C as I lie in the dark, waiting for the next 100 km/h gust. Each one worse than the last. Then it hits… A surge of adrenaline courses through my body as the tent is flattened against my entire body once again. The violent tent flapping is deafening. Seconds pass that feel like forever, and the gust does not abate. I have been unable to stake out the tent on the hard rocky ground, and it feels like I might get blown off the mountain. The wind subsides briefly and I consider packing up my tent in the dark. The idea of heading down near steep drop offs across ice and deep snow in the pitch black convinces me otherwise. I must suffer it out for hours until the first glimpses of light….
El Chalten is home to Cerro Torre and Fitzroy, both staggering examples of nature and understandably notorious amongst the mountaineering community:
Lago de Los Tres is a magnificent piece of nature that is about as close as you can get to Fitzroy before you start needing some pretty reasonable mountaineering skills. It is highly exposed and I was unsure whether camping up there was a good idea…
From my limited anecdotal experience, the default climatic condition in Winter appears to be one of precipitation and extremely high winds. With their tower like structures, Cerro Torre and Fitzroy are also highly effective cloud magnets so you need to keep an eye out for good weather before heading up there. Here is an account of my time in El Chalten:
A few days of rain follow until a sunny morning tempts me into borrowing a backpack and heading back to the hills.
It’s a calm night that drops to below -10C but at 6 a.m. a storm starts brewing with wind gusts that rapidly become stronger and stronger. Every couple of minutes I have to stick my hand out into the excruciatingly cold wind to re-attach the violently flapping tent door to a rock (the hard ground means it impossible to stake out the tent). It feels quite unsafe and I make the decision to pack up at the first glimpses of light. I need to get out of the situation, and fast. It’s hard to convey the sense of urgency I feel as I frantically stuff everything into my backpack with a 100km/h wind whipping up snow and blowing the tent onto my face. It’s -10C and it takes a certain amount of determined effort not to freak out.
I find temporary shelter behind a large rock and wait for the wind storm to pass then suddenly develop a very inconvenient upset tummy. With a 100km/h snowdrift you can imagine the complications in such a scenario. After two hours of hanging about the peaks are still covered in cloud…
You can hike to Laguna Torre or Lago de Los Tres (longer) in a day quite easily if you leave early. I would only suggest camping if there is a high chance of good morning weather to enjoy the light of the sunrise hitting the rock. However, in spite of poor weather I enjoyed my experience immensely (more so in hindsight!).
I wasn’t sure at the time but it’s not really permitted to camp at Lago de Los Tres. Even though there was no one there in Winter (most people just do the day hike) it’s probably best to adhere to this rule.
8 thoughts on “Lago de Los Tres Winter Camp – Fitzroy, Cerro Torre. El Chalten”
FINALLY a report from you. I could not find any postings on your Instagram, Facebook etc for a long time it seemed! I was ready to send emails to see if anyone knew whether you were OK or not! Your wonderful adventures often place you in such precarious situations and I am sure I am not the only one who worries at times. Your photography as usual is awe inspiring, your tenacity and drive blow my mind. I cross into Mexico Monday with RV and 3 cats now as dogs and one cat have passed since we first met in Perula all those years ago! I enjoyed meeting Gurkan through your postings and followed him on his web sites. I am curious to see where your journey will take you next… Take care…Adele
Thanks for your support as always Adele! Funny you’ve not seen postings on my instagram, should be a little more up to date.
Amazing photos as usual Nick. What camera are you using?
Thanks Charles! Olympus EM10mkii. mirrorless…
Amazing. Although these days I’m peddle powered, I did all this on with a motorcycle. This area is so busy during in summer I think winter cycling is appealing as you’re often the only person (insane) enough to be there. I think I did it all at the end of summer and even then I remember daily highs of but one or two Celsius. The winds were so had headed south that even with a motorcycle it was very unpleasant and sometimes just outright dangerous. I simply can’t imagine having the patience doing it with a bicycle! Where are you off to next then Nick?
Hi Ross! Sorry for the slow reply… I totally agree, the major upside of Winter in Patagonia is the complete lack of crowds (or virtually anyone for that matter). Staggering landscapes covered in snow also adds another interesting dimension. If you’re prepared and can put up with the cold it’s worth considering. I’m now in Rio Brazil working on some projects. 🙂
Great blog Nick and wonderful pictures. We are heading to El Chalten in June this year. I was wondering if the tracks to Laguna Capri and Laguna Torre are easy to find or should a guide be considered?
Thanks! I would say that it is quite easy to find but depends on experience level. For a beginner hiker, a guide may be a good idea since in the mountains weather can change quickly (with Laguna Torre being harder and less transited (at least when I was there) than Laguna Capri). For intermediate level or more, I’d say not necessary. Either way I’d decide / organise when there – likely cheaper and you can speak to other hikers of different levels etc to get more of idea.