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Discover the best hike in El Chalten

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The best hike in El Chalten

 

When you come to El Chalten, you'll probably do this to see Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre. The hikes to those famous mountain peaks, sendero Laguna Torre and sendero Fitz Roy, are the most popular hikes in El Chalten. It are day hikes which start from the city center and are ideal for hikers who prefer doing day hikes. A combination of both hikes in a two or three day trek are also possible. But El Chalten has more to offer and only a few hikers see this. Take your tent and go out for a four day hike to discover the other scenery in the park. The 'Circuito Huemul' is our best hike in El Chalten.


Circuito de Huemul

The 'Circuito Huemul' is a four day hike following glaciers, zip lines and the biggest mass of ice you have ever seen. The hike starts officially at the park rangers office just outside of the city center of El Chalten. From that point it are four day of hiking to return in El Chalten.

 

Prepare yourself

It is mandatory to register at the park rangers office. It is a multiday hike on a challenging terrain and they want to be sure that you have some experience and the right material. You have to complete a form with your personal detail, and you have to show part of your equipment:

  • a hiking map: the route is well marked all the way and is visible in most of the gps applications, but still the park rangers demand a paper hiking map. They will use this one to explain the full hike and mark certain important points on the trail. Without the map you simply don't get the permission.
  • climbing gear: on the trail you'll have to cross a river twice with a zip line. You need a harness, two carabiners (steel and aluminium) and a safety rope. Don't let this withhold you from doing the trail. We never did this before and crossed the zip lines without any problems. You can rent the tools in one of the outdoor stores in the city center.
  • cooking stove: the park rangers want to be sure that you can eat a warm meal in the evening so you'll have to show your stove to them.

When you can show all the equipment, you'll get a signature on the form and can start the hike. After this you can watch a short presentation which shows some of the difficult parts of the route. It is useful to take some photos of the presentation which you can use during the hike when you doubt about the right direction.

 

The hike

The hike consists of four sections where day 2 and 3 are the absolute highlights.

Day 1 - 16 km: On the first day you hike from the park rangers office to campamento toro. It is a 16 kilometers long hike and you have to cross a fierce hill first. The major part of the hike passes typical Patagonian forests, sometimes through swampy gras lands and over small rivers. The backpack filled with four days of food will make this first day the hardest. Finally you arrive at campamento toro. There is a camping ground in the forest which is well protected from the wind.

Day 2 - 12 km: The second day starts challenging with the first zip line crossing over the Rio Túnel. It looks more scary because the river flows ten meters lowers through a narrow gap. Everybody, which actually are ten other hikers, leaves the camping ground around the same time in the morning. This means you will always find someone who helps you crossing the zip line safely. After this the trail follows the side of the Túnel glacier, whereafter you climb steep up to Paso del Viento. During the hike you have a beautiful view on the two Túnel glaciers, but the real highlight waits on top. The Southern Patagonian Icefield is the world second largest ice mass outside of the poles. It is almost unreal to see an endless field of ice. In the middle of the ice fields originates the Viedma glacier which you keep on following until the Viedma lake. Day two ends at the campamento Paso del Viento with a little shelter in case of bad weather.

Day 3 - 16 km: Starting from the camping ground you have to cross the Paso de Huemul, followed by a long and steep descent to Bahia de Hornos. The descent is so steep that there are ropes on some sections to help you go down. From the top you can already see Bahia de Hornos, full of icebergs coming from the Viedma Glacier. It is the perfect place to pitch the tent this night, with some well wind protected spots.

Day 4 - 24 km: On the last day you hike back to El Chalten. It is a pleasant hike and after 12 kilometers you have to cross Rio Tunél another time with the zip line. This one is way easier than the first one and is just above the water level. If you are lucky you can catch a hitch back to El Chalten at Bahia Túnel, where tourists board for a glacier tour. If you are unlucky you have to walk the last 10 kilometers back to El Chalten, but you really deserved a tasty cordero in one of the restaurants.

 

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