The other day, at the top of a long hike to see yet another stunning Andean panorama, Cris and I sat down at Laguna de Los Torres and took in the view. While we sat there, staring across at the Los Torres peaks, the glacier at their base, and the blue lake below that, Cris challenged me to hit one of the nearby miniature icebergs with a rock. Before long, we were both throwing and skipping rocks at various targets and giggling at our mostly futile efforts. What followed, however, was intriguing. We were not alone at the lake. There were perhaps fifteen other people from around the world sitting at different places on the lake, and about ten of them had taken to tossing little stones into the water, watching them in flight, and listening to the mysteriously satisfying plunk of a rock splashing into a pond.
If you want to know what it’s like to spend a week in El Chalten, wandering around the Argentinian side of Patagonia, that’s pretty much the sensation: mysteriously satisfying. This is a town of little cafes, restaurants, cabins, and hostels. There isn’t much history to speak of, but there is a general air of tranquil hospitality, adventure, and remoteness. There’s also some really good food, wine, and locally brewed beer, making it pretty much perfect.
And what else do you do in El Chalten? While we were on our way back from Los Torres, an American girl stopped us to ask how much farther she had to the top. Within a few minutes, she had invited us to join her the next day for a rock-climbing session with a local guide. We accepted and subsequently enjoyed it thoroughly. Tomorrow we’ll rent and ride bikes down the stretch of highway that provides a complete view of the local mountain range. If that’s not enough for you, glacier tours and horseback rides are also available. Of course, the real pleasure of El Chalten is the ease with which you’ll find yourself enjoying the simple stuff.
Check out the pictures below, including hikes to Los Torres and Mount Fitz Roy, our day of rock-climing, and some time in the back room of a pub with a self-made brewing operation.