12 Jun Laguna Torre Hike – El Chalten
Hiking to Laguna Torre – The Base of Cerro Torre
A must do hike in El Chalten
Fiona Black – South America Travel Centre
I woke early in the quaint town of El Chalten, Argentina’s trekking capital, excited for my next adventure – to take on the Cerro Torre trail to Laguna Torre at the base of Cerro Torre (Hill Tower) mountain, the highest peak of the Cerro Mountain Range. The hike is 11km each way and takes around 4 hours each way at a moderate pace.
El Chalten is a small town located just outside of Los Glaciares National Park, with a population of approximately 400 permanent residents who stay all year round. During the summer season the population swells with visitors attracted by the incredible views found all around the National Park and the opportunities to embrace the great outdoors.
My hotel, Chalten Suites, offered a breakfast full of delicious options such as scrambled eggs, bacon, toast, fruit and yoghurt, which I didn’t shy away from as I needed to fuel up for the 22km walk ahead of me. Chalten Suites is located in the centre of town so I met my guide and the other members of my group out the front. There were eight of us from all walks of life. Helen and Alistair from Australia are retired and are keen travellers and photographers. They happily gave me tips on adjusting the f-stop on my camera and offered to take pics of me along the way as I was travelling solo. There was a young Italian couple on their honeymoon, who also happened to be very into photography, a couple from Canada in their early 60s with a great sense of humour, and a keen hiker in his 40s from the USA.
Our guide Mariano was an energetic, enthusiastic man with a big smile. He has lived in El Chalten for most of his life and is an avid rock climber. It was the start of my trip and I had only been in Argentina for 3 days, but it was very nice to be in a group of enthusiastic hikers and photographers excited about the adventure ahead. Many visitors to El Chalten do the hikes on their own, which is very easy as your hotel usually provides a trail map and the trails are well signposted with plenty of other hikers along the track, but I did enjoy the company of my group and Mariano’s knowledge of the forest.
We set off through the town and began hiking through typical Patagonian terrain. Mariano educated us on the fauna of the region and the edible elements of the forest including Pan De Indio, essentially a type of mushroom that tastes a bit like bread – the name translates to Indian Bread in Quechua (language of the Incan Empire).
As we approached the first ridge we had spectacular views of the star of this hike, Cerro Torre. Often the view can be obstructed by cloud cover but we were lucky enough to have clear skies over the mountain. For those who are not wanting to do the entire hike, this is a good viewpoint to see the valley and then return to town (approx. 3km one way).
We continued on, stopping for photos and snacks. For photographers this hike is sensational! Every turn you take reveals a new glorious angle of the mountain surrounded by trees and streams. As we approached our final destination, Laguna Cerro, a lake on the east side of the mountain, we had to climb up a small rocky ridge and then down the other side to the water’s edge. Icebergs were floating near shore begging for attention in the midst of the incredible mountain landscape. Here we enjoyed lunch and scurried around the rocks testing out the many different angles and various beautiful features to focus our lenses on.
On the trail home Mariano took us off the path to a spot that he promised would please the photographers in the group. He was right. A small steam had overflowed through the grass creating a mirror effect.
The rest of the walk home was along a stream, then we deviated from the original trail to meander along a path on top of some cliffs carved out by a river below.
Once we reached the township we were all very pleased with our experience and the photographs we had taken. The sun was shining and our guide offered to take us to the local brewery in town. It was an emphatic yes from everyone! We shared stories about home and our travels while enjoying a locally brewed beer in a quaint beer garden at Cerveceria Artesanal – the perfect end to the day.
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