From Puerto Natales (the closest town to Torres del Paine), we took a bus back across the border into Argentina to El Calafate. We only stayed there for the night before taking off for El Chalten. Calafate and Chalten are on opposite sides of Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina’s second-largest national park. Chalten is a mecca for avid trekkers and climbers worldwide, known for its majestic peaks, as well as temperamental weather. Coming into Chalten, we knew we would be up against some crappy weather, so we kept our expectations low.
Our first day there we did the Lago Torre hike, a beautiful (and thankfully not too difficult) 10-mile hike along a valley to a glacier pooling into a lake surrounded by several mountain peaks. The views were unbelievable for the majority of the time we were walking. We complemented the scenery with more talk of our middle school days, and even started reaching into the elementary school memories. It’s safe to say we probably know everything about each other at this point. Once again, we arrived at the end of the hike to pretty low visibility, but after giving it some time, the sun came out for a few minutes and we were able to get an awesome view of the lake, glacier and mountain peaks.
The following day, we set out to do the infamous Fitz Roy hike, an 8-hour trek to see the highest peak of the mountain range. While we were warned that there might be rain throughout the day, we decided to go for it regardless since we had come all this way. We hadn’t even reached the trailhead yet before we were completely soaked by the rain. We picked up some ponchos to protect ourselves. As soon as we put them on, of course it stopped raining. Happens every time. It was on this hike that our luck with the weather ran out. We hiked for a couple of hours to one of the viewpoints along a lake. We actually could not see a thing. And then it started downpouring. So we downed our lunch, and made the fastest descent. We may have set a record, that’s how badly we needed to get off the mountain, out of the rain and into a bar.
We had a long, leisurely lunch at a yummy restaurant that afternoon. As we were preparing to pay the bill and head to the bus station, we were told that they only accepted cash, which we had none of. So, Izzy held down the fort while Lauren sprinted into a cab, went to an ATM, came back and paid the bill, then the two of us raced in the cab to catch our bus that we were late for. It was a slightly stressful experience, but we made it on the bus back to Calafate.
Our final day of activities in Southern Patagonia was easily one of our most epic. For our day in Calafate, we rented a car and drove to the national park to trek on the Perito Moreno glacier. The scenery throughout the car ride was absolutely stunning. We didn’t think it could get any better until we saw the glacier with our own eyes. We can both agree that the Perito Moreno glacier is the most incredible thing we have ever seen in nature. We took a boat to the glacier, and were led on a trekking excursion across the glacier’s surface. They gave us spikey things (called crampons, not to be confused with croutons or tampons) to strap on our feet and we walked all over that glacier. It felt like we were walking around on a different planet. The ice was the most incredible shade of blue, with pools and ravines with fresh running glacier water that you could drink directly out of. As if the glacier trek wasn’t amazing enough, the tour finished with a tasting of whiskey on the rocks with ice taken directly from the glacier. It’s hard to get more perfect than that. After the tour, we drove over to the main viewing area, a series of tiered balconies overlooking the glacier. We sat in the sun watching giant pieces of the glacier crash into the water below. It was truly one of the most spectacular sights we have ever seen, and was a perfect way to wrap up our time in Patagonia.