Mount Fitz Roy is located in the Andes Mountain Range, between Argentina (where it is a part of the Parque Nacional Los Glaciares) and Chile, close to the tiny town of El Chalten, in the region of Patagonia. Soaring to a height of 3405 meters, you can see it from a distance provided the day is clear.
The original name of the mountain is Chalten, which in the Aoniken language means “smoking mountain”. The name referred to the clouds that normally form around the peaks. This mountain was sacred for the local Mapuche people who originally lived in the region. The mountain was named Fitz Roy in honour of Robert Fitz Roy, captain of the Beagle, who sailed up the Santa Cruz River in 1834. Together with the rest of Patagonia, Fitz Roy is considered to be a climber’s paradise. The mountain can be very dangerous and unpredictable so do follow trekking guidelines implicitly.
The trail to Laguna de Los Tres is the one that goes all the way to the base of Mount Fitz Roy. The starting point, is on the north side of El Chalten, where a sign says Sendero al Fitz Roy (trail to Fitz Roy). This is the trail that most hikers follow. Set at the base of Mount Fitz Roy, El Chalten has a rich mountaineering heritage that attracts climbers from all over the world. The hiking trails are easy to find as they head out straight from the town. El Chalten boasts two independent breweries, a number of restaurants and bars. After a day of hiking, relax at any of these places for a pleasant evening.
Although the trek up to Mount Fitz Roy can be an incredible experience with stunning scenery and high jagged peaks, it does require a certain level of fitness. Those who intend trekking here, go with a requisite amount of preparation.
As mentioned previously, the trek begins from the little village of El Chalten. So you need to first reach the village itself. The village of El Chalten is not as popular or as well equipped as the more popular El Calafate, but is slowly developing as a tourist destination. Make your way to the Laguna Los Tres. The entire route is dramatic in its beauty with fantastic views of the surrounding peaks. The path takes you past the Laguna Capri, by the northern edge of the lake. Soon after you have crossed the lake, the path winds uphill to the Blanco River, passing a mountaineering camp. The trail rises steeply towards the Laguna de Los Tres. The blue of the lagoon is a photographers dream. Trekkers generally camp here for the night.
Next day carry on towards the Rio Blanco. This is often considered the base camp before attempting the steep climb to the top. This is the point closest to the Mount Fitz Roy summit without actually going to the very top. After a quick lunch start your descent back to the Poincenot Camp for your night halt.
The last day of the trek takes you back to El Chalten. Make your way towards the Laguna Capri moving on to Lagoons Madre, which is located in the scenic Hija Valley. Descend to the Fitz Roy River Valley where you join the Cerro Torre Trail. Rest awhile, take in the beauty of these unique mountains before you get back to El Chalten village.
The best time to go trekking in Argentina is in winter. October to March is the high season.
Plan your trip well to avail discounts. Some of the major expenses you will incur include Visa, Vaccinations and Insurance. You will also need to hire trekking equipment
Hiking in the mountains can be exciting but remember the weather is unpredictable. A bright sunny morning can turn into a cold windy day with rain, so be prepared.
Some important tips to keep in mind:
- Hiking boots are a must especially ones that give good support to your ankles. Ideally they should be waterproof.
- Hiking pants for comfortable movement and to keep the cold out, preferably waterproof.
- A fleece jacket in case the weather turns cold.
- Wind proof jacket
- A hat or cap to protect your head from the sun’s rays.
- Thermal wear and cotton t shirts to absorb sweat.
- Packed food and water bottle
- Hand sanitizer and tissues
- An extra bag to hold waste like used tissues, etc.
- Apart from these basic requirements, be safe and travel with others, never alone. In case of an accident help will be at hand.
- The best way to get to Fitz Roy is to fly to Buenos Aires and on to the town of Calafate. Take a bus to El Chalten, the small village that is the base for treks to Fitz Roy.