When I was planning my trip to the Patagonia region of Argentina, I knew I wanted to explore the outdoors as much as possible. I had an opportunity to go hiking in the mountains near El Chaltén and camp there overnight, so I took it. Camping in Patagonia seemed like the ultimate way to experience the area.
Our group met the morning of with nervous excitement. We all loved being outdoors, but the weather was predicted to rain the entire time. Based on how windy it was the night before in El Chaltén, I could only imagine how windy it would be camping at night.
We made sure everyone had the correct supplies and grabbed our food for lunches and snacks. After a quick briefing on where we’d be hiking for the next few days, we grabbed our backpacks and set off.
As predicted, I felt raindrops on my face as soon as I got on the trail. I wasn’t too concerned since my jacket and pants were waterproof and I had a cover for my backpack. My main concern was feeling the muscles in my calves and ankles protest as I started to walk, as they were sore from the previous days of non-stop hiking.
We hiked for several miles and had views of one of the glaciers peaking through the trees. It was a magnificent sight to see so much ice between the mountains. There were also different mountains everywhere you looked.
After about an hour, the weather showed us that rain we had first experienced was just a warm-up. Heavy rain started pouring down with no mercy and was mixed with a strong wind, which pushed us sideways with every step we took. I was grateful to have my backpack to weigh me down a bit.
We hiked another five miles and finally stopped in a protected shack for lunch. It was nice to refuel and get out of the rain, but I suddenly became freezing and had to put more layers on. The goal was to go higher up on the mountain, but the weather was so bad and the view was obstructed by clouds, so we agreed to head to camp.
Unfortunately, the wind and rain never died down and even got worse, so our afternoon hike was off. We drank hot coffee in the communal tent and got to know each other better while watching the rain pour down.
Dinner came early since we were cold and a bit bored, but no one was complaining. We feasted on hot corn soup, pasta, and of course, as is traditional in Argentina, Malbec wine. That warmed us up and brightened our spirits a bit. We all turned in early for the night and hoped to see better weather in the morning.
To my surprise, when I woke up the next morning the rain was gone, but it was lightly snowing. By the time we had breakfast and packed up, that was also gone and it was now a beautiful, sunny day. I was ecstatic that I’d finally have a chance to see the mountains that were hiding behind clouds the day before and take some pictures.
We walked through the forest for a few more hours until we hit Laguna Torre. which was full of icebergs. Mountains towered over the lake, and a glacier was even visible at the opposite end of the lake. I warmed up with some hot tea and had lunch to refuel, feeling instantly warmer and more energized.
Since we were miles from the closest town, we had to fill up our water bottles by getting it from the many creeks around. Considering it was coming straight from the mountain, it was probably the purest water I’d ever had before. It also gives a new meaning to “bottled at the source!”
As beautiful as Patagonia is, one of the parts that was pretty difficult was how windy it was. We’re not talking just a little breeze here and there – it would completely push you over if you weren’t paying attention. At one point we were on top of a moraine and had gusts of about 50 MPH. It was all I could do to put one foot in front of the other to get off the hill.
We slowly started heading the direction of the nearest town, but with two hours still left, I started feeling tightness in my back from carrying a heavy pack for the past two days. My feet also started to get extremely sore and I knew blisters were forming. I don’t think it helped that my socks weren’t completely dry from the downpour the day before. Each step sent pain through my body, but I also didn’t want to stop and delay more.
Luckily, the scenery was a great distraction from my physical pain. Every turn made me want to take my camera out for another picture. We continued walking until we could finally could see the city of El Chaltén, which is where we’d be spending the night.
I felt as victorious as if I had climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and was elated to see the town. We had hiked over 20 miles over the past few days, which is much more than I normally do, and camped in rain and snow. I enjoyed the experience, but also couldn’t wait to take a hot shower and celebrate with a beer that evening!
What’s your favorite place to camp?
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