El Chalten, argentina
the tourism capital of southern argentina
El Chalten, Argentina is home to the famed Fitz Roy range, seven peaks of insane beauty and rough-cut wildness. The town, once sleepy and tucked in a windy valley, is now overrun with tourists. The town struggles to keep pace with the industry, and El Chalten is loud, littered, and flowing over. We chose to spend as little time as possible in town, because the hills were quieter and more our speed.
Travel Tip: Want to hike the incredible Huemul Circuit? Bring a STEEL carabiner with you to El Chalten - this is required for a permit, and restricting the number of carabiners in town is how authorities regulate the number of hikers on the trail.
We caught over twenty hitches throughout Patagonia Soul, and this is one of our more memorable ones - after missing a bus we needed four transfers to get to Villa O'Higgins. We thought that underneath the green tarp in the back was a cow carcass. Reese Wells.
Haunting landscape. I love the shades of brown and yellow mixing with the grey-blue of beyond. We paddle this the next morning, and it will be an intense experience. Reese Wells.
It's a small, uninspiring sign, but hey! Third of four borders crossed by foot. Tyler not betraying the pain he's feeling currently, but he's been hiking for the last three hours with a massive back spasm. Reese Wells.
To get from Villa O'Higgins, Chile to El Chalten, Argentina one has to take a ferry across the mighty Lago O'Higgins. It's a two hour ferry ride across fifty miles of choppy wind-swept lake. Beautiful, and if you've got a tender tummy, a somewhat nauseating experience. Reese Wells.
Our Aplacka Raft Explorer 42 looking so ready for anything, including this paddle across Lago del Desierto as we make our final push for El Chalten. Reese Wells.
Getting ready for a paddle in the sleet, it's 35 degrees out and we are fully clothed underneath our drysuits. Halfway into our 12 km paddle we'll be taking freezing rain and whipping wind, our only focus to keep paddling to combat the encroaching hypothermia. Yay! Reese Wells.
Looking back on where we've come, Rio de las Vueltas is our touchstone to the trek from Chile into Argentina. I love the glacier blue waters, and how different the shades of blue are to the sky above. Reese Wells.
Don't let this photo fool you, the wind is blowing 50+ mph and we are getting pushed around on this loose gravel road. One step at a time, eyes slitted against the silty clouds. Reese Wells.
Thousands of perfect steps a day, that's what it takes to hike in Patagonia without injury. The Huemul Circuit in El Chalten epitomizes this - with talus slopes dominating the lower landscape we had to scramble and hop our way from stone to stone, grateful for each other and for our rescue GPS device ... just in case. Reese Wells.
Cerro Huemul covered in snow and color. We're following the Rio Tunel into the valley on the right for day one of our circuit, and day three will have us crossing over Paso Huemul to the left of the mountain. Reese Wells.
It's a rare clear day when Glacier Inferior is in such sharp detail. The clouds building and spilling off its peak makes me think of emotions boiling up and off an insecure lover. That just might be me, though. Reese Wells.
Hard to look cute when you're covered in a week's worth of filth, resembling more of a Muppet character than yourself. Life's tough at the Dirtbag Depot. Reese Wells.
Tyler hiking towards Laguna Toro for our first campsite. It's the view of the day, hiking into the valley, surrounded by the shades of scree and slope. Reese Wells.
One of the coolest parts of the Huemul Circuit was walking on Glacier Inferior for a hot (cold) second. Now we're turning up the mountain, walking towards Paso del Viento. Reese Wells.
A long look at the barren land in front of us, Glacier Viedma poking out over to the left. Reese Wells.
Tyler looking out on the skyline of Fitz Roy. Day one of the Huemul and things have never felt more clear - this is where we need to be. Reese Wells.
On the back half of the Huemul Circuit Tyler and I paralleled Glacier Viedma. This shot coming as we approached the glacier before making another sharp turn upwards for Paso Huemul. Reese Wells.
We are in the land of boggy footing, rough rock, and shrubbery. Alpine lakes pop around every corner. Mountains dominate the horizon. It's a good, cold place to be. Reese Wells.
Tyler holding aching legs - Day 2 of the Huemul Circuit we doubled down on two passes for 17 miles. Our descent off Paso Huemul featured a near-vertical dirt slide down to Lago Viedma. Taking a breather, feeling like icebergs in an inhospitable land. Reese Wells.
What I love so much about this photo is how small Tyler is compared to the bowl of mountains behind him, and the flat lake which has before been filled with glacial melt from Glacier Inferior. Reese Wells.
As water pours into Glacier Inferior, it has carved out a tunnel that runs all the way down Laguna Toro, where Tyler and I camped our first night. Reese Wells.
A full scene of the, well, scenery. Glacier Inferior in all its glory, with a big, black mountain set between the ice. One of our favorite pictures from the trip. Reese Wells.
Nothing inferior about this glacier - it's huge, and this time of the morning only melting a bit. But by the afternoon there will be a cascade of water coming down towards the trail. I like the sky in this photo. Reese Wells.
Tyler marching up scree to Paso del Viento, a difficult climb made easier by the glacier spilling over into our field of vision. Moving slow, taking it all in. Reese Wells.
Tyler taking a moment on Day 2 of the Huemul Circuit out of El Chalten. We've just made a brutal pass and descended into this incredible view. Absolutely unlike anything I've ever seen. Reese Wells.
This 377 sq mile glacier is just a small piece of the mighty Southern Patagonian Ice Field, but the views are absolutely insane. Watch out for the weather! It gets nasty fast. Reese Wells.
Looking out at the clouds building up over Glacier Viedma, and the icebergs floating around in Lago Videma. This is our third and final day on the Huemul Circuit in El Chalten, Argentina. Beautiful, and brutal. Reese Wells.
Flower & Scree
The flower grew through the scree, where even rocks could not hold on to the mountain slope.
Where the winds blew ice and snow, where the earthquakes shook glaciers off their shelf.
The flower grew and bloomed where others could not, held fast where others slid down to the valley below and watched as the weather raged about her.
The flower grew, and bloomed, held fast, and watched as the world raced around her, treasure of the barren field.