El Chalten: Cerro Torre

When we finished the Huemul Circuit and arrived back in El Chalten, I demanded a rest day, which worked out well because the day after ended up being a very rainy, stormy day. I was happy to stay in the hostel and only venture out for steak dinner! We also managed to take our dirty clothes to a laundry for much-needed washing.

After relaxing and restocking our food, we headed back out towards Lago Cerro, towards Camp de Agostini, to start another three night, four day trek, although this time much more relaxed than the Huemul Circuit.
You can easily hike to Lago Torre and back in one day if you like, but since we had the tent and it was free to camp, we wanted to make the most of our time in the wilderness!I was also pretty excited to see Cerro Torre because it’s another really classic, striking Patagonian view. Along our way there, we spotted a huge avalanche falling off the side of the mountain. It was the first avalanche I have ever seen in person!

When we made it to camp, I set my pack down for a moment while Kay searched for a good spot. When I went to pick it up again, I screeched as one of these spiky caterpillars that we’d seen on the path stung my arm. It hurt!! Immediately my arm began to blister a little and burn. (I’m actually getting the shivers just seeing this photo again.)And as we saw later, these guys were EVERYWHERE. I became terrified that they would be hiding on my pack or in my shoes when I was asleep at night, so I closed everything and had a stick nearby to toss evil caterpillars away. And they seemed to like me…. they were always coming near me even in spots where there were hardly any around, climbing on the inside of the tent between the inner and outer tent, etc… Kay even accidentally had one in his pack that he took with him to Bariloche on the bus!

Caterpillars aside, Kay set us up next to the river and then got outside the cover of the trees to soak up some sun on the rocks. It was one of our warmest afternoons in Patagonia so far. If only we had known how cruel the night would be…The campsite was also ridiculously overcrowded. I think I counted over 40 tents. The most we had ever camped around before in such a small space, even compared to the Torres del Paine which was a bit set up for such hard use. Here, you still had the awful pit-in-the-ground toilets, which coupled with overuse, were a real joy to use.

After a break, we walked from the campsite to the lake itself, a quick 5 minutes away or so.There it was a bit more breezy by the lake, but we pitched ourselves and had our afternoon snack there. Unlike the Huemul Circuit, we didn’t have a long way to go, so we had the rest of the afternoon to relax, read, and enjoy the views.After heading back to camp, we made dinner for the night and then walked back to an overview of the towers and had our wine and chocolate while watching the sun set.After the wine and chocolate were through, we headed back to camp again to make our hot chocolate before heading to bed. We wanted to get up before sunrise and hopefully watch the sun rise over the lake.Below you see our tent set up for the night, which ended up being the coldest night in Patagonia, which really surprised us. After braving the far south of Ushuaia and the glacial-covered hills of the Huemul Circuit, we thought we were safe. We were not.Normally in sleeping bags, you sleep either naked or as close to naked as possible, so that there is less air between you and the bag and warms up faster, and so that when you get out in the morning and the warmth of your sleeping bag is stripped away, you have something to replace it with a little bit. (Getting up in the morning and getting dressed is still the worst part of camping IMO!) So normally I sleep in my undies and a bra and Kay in his undies… but it just wasn’t enough. Next to the rushing river, cold seeped into the tent, into our bones and shook us both.

We slept terribly, shifting and turning and waking up from cold constantly until it was finally 4:30am. I wanted to make sure we didn’t miss any of the earliest signs of the sun! So we pulled on clothes shivering, and walked over to the lake where we were almost the only ones waiting for sunrise.There we popped open a bag of heavenly pão de queijo from a bakery in El Chalten for breakfast. Lord knows why they had Brazilian food in such a small town, but I was so overjoyed to have some of my favorite gluten free balls to eat! And from there, we waited as slowly the sky turned, and others joined us for the early view.It did not disappoint. It took ages, but finally the mountains started turning pink from the tops, shifting and lighting, more and more.Finally the whole of Cerro Torre was on fire, and what a sight to see! It made your heart leap and rejoice to see such things.After just a minute or two of blazing color, the flash was gone and instantly the sky turned pastel, completely different from a moment before.From there, we decided to look just a bit more before cowering back to bed… it was still like 5:30am.Back from the campsite, the mountains flashed a bright yellow, but it still wasn’t as impressive as the fiery red from before. Meanwhile, 90% of the overcrowded camp was still asleep, having totally missed the most spectacular part of the day.We though, were pretty frozen to the core. Abandoning all thought of stripping down to our underwear again, we both took off our jackets and climbed into our sleeping bags fully dressed… and slept like babies into the sunny hour of 10 O’Clock, when most of the campers had packed up for the day.

With our easy schedule ahead of us, we lazily packed up and headed from campsite #1 on the map to campsite #2, Poincenot.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *