About El Chaltén, a paradise for nature lovers.

El Chaltén, Argentina

About El Chaltén

The village of El Chaltén is located at the foothills of Mount Fitz Roy –also known as El Chaltén– within the Los Glaciares National Park in the Argentinean Patagonia. The village has been used as a base by explorers of the mountains and landscapes that have turned this area into a favorite destination among nature lovers and hikers.

SMOKING MOUNTAIN

Much before it became an attractive destination for explorers, Patagonia was inhabited by the Tehuelche, a group of tall indigenous peoples with large feet and nomadic habits. While there are no historical accounts that place them at El Chaltén, the name means smoking mountain or blue mountain in Tehuelche language.

With the steady arrival of Spaniards in the 16th century and the subsequent killing of indigenous peoples known as the “Desert Campaign”, the Tehuelches were persecuted. While only a few of them managed to survive, some years ago they became extinct forever.

El Chaltén, Patagonia Argentina.

AN AREA UNDER DISPUTE

By the end of 1876, Argentinean explorer Francisco Pascasio Moreno –also known as Perito Moreno, with perito meaning ‘specialist’, ‘expert’– traveled to Patagonia moved by an interest in indigenous peoples and a concern for the borders with Chile. Once there, he cruised up the Santa Cruz River and advocating for Argentina’s sovereignty, he named the lake that drains into that river as the Argentina Lake. He also discovered and gave a name to the San Martín Lake, the Viedma Lake and the El Chaltén Mountain, which he mistakenly took for a volcano calling it Mount Fitz Roy. In this trip he was accompanied by a group of Europeans used to this area’s weather and who established the first ranches, or estancias. Currently, the streets of El Chaltén pay tribute to these first brave settlers who faced harsh weather conditions and spoke a different language.

In 1881, Chile and Argentina signed an agreement called the Border Treaty to establish boundaries in this area of the Patagonia and thus solve sovereignty-related political conflicts. The Treaty established the line of highest mountains dividing the watersheds as the border between Argentina and Chile. However, this criterion was difficult to apply due to the area’s complex geography and discrepancies between both countries continued, even escalating to an armed conflict nearby Desert Lake, in 1965. This conflict brought the dispute for territorial demarcation to the forefront.

Twenty years later, in 1985, and for geopolitical reasons, the Government of Argentina decided to establish the village of El Chaltén at the meeting point between the De las Vueltas River and Mount Fitz Roy, 37 kilometers (22 miles) away from the lake where the confrontation took place.

THE EXPEDITIONS

The expeditions began in the 20th century. One of them was led in 1932 by Alberto De Agostini, an Italian Salesian missionary whose photographs reached Europe and sparked great interest among alpinists, leading to a period of sport-related expeditions to the area.

The Los Glaciares National Park was created in 1937, including Cerro Torre and Mount Fitz Roy (or El Chaltén), the climbing of which became the new challenge for explorers. After a few failed attempts, French alpinists Lionel Terray and Guido Magnone made it to the Fitz Roy’s summit in 1952.

The Renowned Climbing of Cerro Torre

Cerro Torre, Patagonia Argentina

East of Mount Fitz Roy is the slender Cerro Torre. Extremely difficult to climb, the first attempt took place as recently as 1959 by Cesare Maestri, who failed to provide actual proof of having reached the summit. He went back 1970 trying to climb along Cerro Torre´s headwall with a hydraulic drill and a compressor to set the bolts. With this heterodox and extremely criticized method he managed to climb, but not to the more difficult ice-rime mushroom.

Finally, the first undisputed ascent to Cerro Torre was in 1974 by alpinists Daniele Chiappa, Mario Conti, Casimiro Ferrari and Pino Negri, who took two months to summit.

PATAGONIA, A VAST TERRITORY SHARED BY CHILE AND ARGENTINA

Patagonia is located in the southernmost tip of America and is shared by Chile and Argentina. It is mainly formed by two large geographical areas: the Pampa and the Patagonian Andes.

The Pampa or Patagonian steppe is formed by extensive pasture land ideal for grazing and cattle ranching.

The Patagonian Andes is the final section of the Andes Mountain Range cut by numerous transverse valleys, lakes, fjords and tectonic and glacier channels. Part of the Andean relief is occupied by ice masses, many of which are found in the Southern Ice Field, one of the world’s largest reserves of fresh water.

LOS GLACIARES NATIONAL PARK

Los Glaciares National Park was created to protect some of the remnants of the last glaciation, glaciers, native forests, lakes, part of the steppe and abundant native biodiversity. Mount Fitz Roy is one the milestones at the northern border of the National Park, while the famous Perito Moreno glacier is located south.

Based on its beauty and diversity of living species, in 1981 the Park was declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.

Los Glaciares National Park

El CHALTÉN, EXTREME BEAUTY

Set on an ancient glacial watershed and located within the Park, El Chaltén is surrounded by mountains, lakes, and forests, and watched over by the Viedma glacier and the granite needles of the Torre and Fitz Roy mountains. These geographical milestones have made this area a special destination for those who love unspoiled and wild nature. The wilderness offers stunning views with unique natural environments that result from a transition between the Patagonian steppe and Subantarctic forests.

The presence of huemul deer, torrent ducks and Patagonian woodpeckers wandering freely is evidence of the perfect conservation state of the area’s land, water and flora.

Mount Fitz Roy, the Symbol of Patagonia

Mount Fitz Roy

Mount Fitz Roy –also known as Cerro Chaltén– is considered by hikers as one of the world’s most technically demanding mountains. The logo of the “Patagonia” outdoor clothing and gear company depicts Mount Fitz Roy.

Torre Lagoon

Torre Lagoon is found within the Los Glaciares National Park, in Argentina. This beautiful lagoon originates from meltwater from the area’s mountain chains and offers magnificent and unique views of the massif. The famous east face of Torre Mount can be seen from here.

Capri Lagoon

Capri Lagoon is a blue water and extremely beautiful lake located northeast of El Chaltén. Amazing views of the following mountains can be enjoyed from this lagoon: Poincenot, Fitz Roy, Val de Bois, Mermoz and Guillaumet.

Los Tres Lagoon

Los Tres is another extraordinary lagoon with unforgettable views to the Fitz Roy Massif and several other mountains in the chain that are a delight for expert photographers, particularly the golden glow of Mount Fitz Roy at dawn.

The Chorrillo del Salto Fall

The Chorrillo del Salto fall is an extremely beautiful area, with a safe and well-signaled trekking route. This amazing natural waterfall is in the surroundings of El Chaltén, along with other routes such as Río de Las Vueltas Viewpoint, Torre Mountain Viewpoint, Las Águilas Viewpoint and Los Cóndores Viewpoint, all of which make the El Chaltén a true paradise for adventure, hiking and nature.

Los Huemules Natural Reserve

Los Huemules, El Chaltén

This area has an amazing geological magnificence with flora that’s representative of Patagonian species. These 5,800 hectares of mountains, glaciers, ñire and lenga tree forests, lagoons and rivers spans from the northern end of the Cóndor lagoon to the south side of the El Diablo lagoon.

 

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