Fitz Roy, the iconic mountain towering on the border between Argentina and Chile, sits amid glacial lakes as part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. Considered one of the most difficult peaks to scale, there are still ways to make it yours even if you’re a newbie – here’s everything you need to know.
Fly from Buenos Aires to the town of Calafate in southern Patagonia – from there, take a three-hour bus (we recommend Chalten Travel) to the tiny town of El Chalten, home base to Fitz Roy explorers. Expert tip: make sure you buy groceries and trekking food in Calafate, as prices skyrocket and selection is very limited in El Chalten. Also, check the weather beforehand – if the climate’s not in your favor, it’s better to wait things out in Calafate than in El Chalten. After all, who wants to sit on a bus for three hours in pouring rain and then be stuck in a small town with pretty much nothing to do if you can’t hike?
Once in El Chalten, the great Andean peak awaits you. First stop is the national park office, where they’ll give you free maps and information to calculate trail times (tiempos de recorrido). The town of El Chalten is so small it’s basically impossible to get lost, so you shouldn’t have trouble orienting yourself. All the trails around Fitz Roy are clearly marked, and camping is allowed in delineated areas. Make sure you bring plastic bags, as all visitors are responsible for carrying and disposing of all your trash (this is strictly monitored).
The first thing to do is decide how long you want to hike for, and what you want to see. There are several main trails to choose from. One popular choice is the moderately challenging eight-hour round trip hike (take into account what time your bus gets you into El Chalten) that includes the mountain’s famous look-out point – follow the northern signs to Lago de los Tres – while another is an easier, six-hour hike to a beautiful mountain lake that involves following the southern signs to Laguna Torre. You can continue on that path up to a mountain glacier called Glacier Torre, but make sure you’re equipped for the cold if you do so.
If you only have one day, consider taking a shorter, lesser-known hike to Laguna Capri, which is about a three-hour round trip. To get there, follow the signs to Laguna Torre and take a right on the small path leading east to Laguna Capri (it will be marked and be in the direction of Camping Poincenot). After admiring the crystal-clear lake with Mount Fitz Roy in the background, you can continue heading east until the path re-joins another main trail (that of Lago de los Tres) heading up towards Fitz Roy – except in your case, you’ll head down the mountain, not up. Going back down the mountain this way gives you a lovely riverbed view and avoids retracing your steps.
There are several other hikes in the area, but those are the main ones. The maps you get at the national park office will show you all the options.
Once you’ve decided on the path for you, you’re ready to see Fitz Roy up close – though if you’re familiar with the clothing brand Patagonia, it won’t be your first time seeing it, as the mountain is their logo. If, however, you find the idea of striking out on your own a little intimidating, then hire a private bilingual guide like Lucia Fernandez (email@example.com) or Muti Blampied (Mutiblampied@yahoo.com.ar) for a more personalized experience than you’d get with a local tour agency.
Fernandez, who has worked as a certified guide in the area for three years, told Culture Trip that these trips can be life-changing. “Complete contact with nature is complete contact with oneself”, she maintains.