“Chalten”, a word from the old Patagonian language meaning “smoky mountain”, is used interchangeably for the town and the mountain that dominates the skyline. The formal name for the mountain is Fitz Roy, after the Captain of the Beagle who chartered much of the wild coastline with a young Darwin on board.
I’ve enjoyed climbing for a number of years. At first, I wanted to progress and challenge myself but absence of time combined with self-inflicted injury frustrated my progress. At this point, climbing changed for me and became more mellow and spiritual – a perfect antidote for many hours in the office.
The site of rock still creates a reaction for me; an awareness and respect for the physical and mental strength of those that venture into the domain of the mountains, and respect for the mountain itself which one moment can be basked in sunshine but the next could be throwing gale-force winds at rain at you.
Cerro Fitz Roy is awe-inspiring, rising into the clouds in which it is often shrouded. This is a place of legends.
The hike to the lake “Laguna de Los Tres” takes you to towards the foot of the mountain and is the most popular in the area and the goal of many who visit. Our challenge was whether we could do this with a 9-month-old baby and a wife who fractured her fifth metatarsal only 4 weeks ago.
You can start in town but we chose to drive up the valley and start off at ‘Pilar’. The route climbs through mature woods and is accessible to walkers of any level. This stretch would also be okay on windy or rainy days. Towards the end of this 2-hour stretch you pass the stunning Piedras Blancas glacier across the valley.
The second phase is a short crossing on open land before the final steep climb of around 1 hour. The climb is fairly steep but a good and well-marked route. In good weather it was an enjoyable and straightforward climb but it would be a different story in bad weather and caution would be needed.
We were provided with a natural break on the climb when our baby delivered a monster in his nappy, through 2 layers of clothes, onto his snow suit, and all the way up his back (for those without kids: welcome to parenthood). He may be one of the few babies who has been stripped naked on the steep ascent.
The view at the top is breath-taking. Proximity gives you a sense of the scale of the mountains or perhaps it is more of a sense of just how small we are. Though busy, there is a hush at the top as people sit and contemplate the granite pillars in their own private thoughts.
The road back was bumpy. The day ended with a baby-seat covered in his dinner, and part of the evening was spent soaking and scrubbing clothes and car seat covers.
For those who enjoy hiking and have / are having kids and contemplating how to get into the outdoors: i) get a good baby carrier, having the weight on the waist not shoulders is a must; ii) allow a little more time than normal; iii) be equipped for all conditions plus prepared to turn back if the weather worsens; iv) keep a good supply of nappies with you and a full change of clothes for the baby; and v) consider walking poles on unstable ground due to the extra weight.
And then don’t hold back. Go for it. Our baby had a great time though finishing a little earlier would have been good. We’d got back into the outdoors and were left with that special feeling you get from nature and exercise and fresh air, and we’d proven to ourselves that having a baby doesn’t have to mean the end of hiking and exploring. A good Malbec marked the end of a great day.
Additional hiking information https://blogpatagonia.australis.com/hiking-laguna-de-los-tres/
Self catering we stayed in https://www.booking.com/hotel/ar/lo-de-tomy.es.html?aid=357026;label=gog235jc-hotel-XX-ar-loNdeNtomy-unspec-cl-com-L%3Aes-O%3AwindowsS10-B%3Achrome-N%3AXX-S%3Abo-U%3AXX-H%3As;sid=ea645c53c2857408875adf7168585a64;dist=0&sb_price_type=total&type=total&