El Chaltén is our meeting point and where the trip gets started. The youngest town in Argentina, founded in 1985. The Guide will check every bodies gear, also we will be briefing the trip, the Continental Ice Field characteristics, and get any last minute details sorted. Hotel check-in and followed by dinner; possibly, some barbecued local lamb with a good Argentinean red wine?
We take a private bus to Puente del Rio Electrico (Electric river bridge), where our expedition kicks off. We hike for 2 hours through Lenga and Ñires forest (Beach tree, Nothofagus family). We pass by Piedra del Fraile hut and camping ground; our last contact with civilization for few days. Leaving the camping and forest behind, we keep hiking in a U-shaped glacier created valley, most of the time on a moraine terrain. After an hour’s hike, we run into Pollone Valley where we have to wade the Rio Pollone; sometimes this is an adventure in itself. We follow Rio Electrico until its first beginnings: “La Playita” camp, a river bed that Electrico river has left for us to camp on. We’ll find rock protection for our tents. After a rest or, even better, a meal, we hike to Marconi’s snout to check the next day’s route. Altitude gained 80 meter, 12 km, and approx. 6 hours.
Today is the key day of the expedition. Glacier Marconi is one of the accesses to the ice cap. Most winds and weather come from west/north and funnel through passes like this one. Therefore, weather/wind permitting, we get up early, have breakfast and break down camp. Depending on glacier conditions, the guide will decide which route to take betwenn 2. De los 14 lagoon with a tirolean rope, or through Marconi. We get on Marconi Glacier, a combination of bare ice and rock at first. We make our way to the base of “Cambio de Pendiente” (change of gradient). We rope up, put harness and crampons on. After a section of 40 to 45 degrees and 1 hour on the ice, we reach Marconi Pass. A breath-taking view of the 3rdlargest fresh-water ice mass in the world just in front of us! From camp we appreciate Kolliker Range, Lautaro Range, Gaea Range and Mariano Moreno Range. 900-meter altitude gain, 10 km, 8 to 10 hours.
Summit day! Early wake up call. Light backpack only stuff for the day. Our goal is Gorra Blanca summit. We make our way through seracs and crevasse aiming for the west ridge. After getting on the ridge, we head east zigzagging ice mushrooms (interesting formation of ice with wind, similar to Cerro Torre summit). Our guide might fix the last pitch to the summit. If weather is good, you won’t believe the view. Cautiously, head back to hut/camp to celebrate an exhilarating day out. 1200 altitude gain, 8 to 12 hours depending on snow conditions and fitness of guests.
A good rest day is welcome here!
Everything packed and ready to go, we bear south for about 6 hours towards “El Circo de los Altares” (A bowl formed by the west faces of Cerro Torre and its satellite needles.) We will be camping at the entrance of the bowl. Amazing views. Only the ones who get here and are lucky with weather get the chance to see this. We might spend a good time building ice walls to protect our tents from predominant north and northwest winds. 6 – 7 hours, 50-meter altitude gain, approx 15 km.
Depending on weather and the physical state of guests, we might stay one more day at this camp. We take advantage and hike all the way inside the Cirque, getting to the foot of Filo Rosso, beginning of Casimiro Ferrari route of Cerro Torre. It’s just amazing to think they first climbed this route in 1974! Back to Camp.
A full day ahead! Today we’ll be walking on snow, bare ice, rock and grass! We leave from Circo de los Altares to Refugio Paso del Viento. We get off the ice around Vivac Laguna de los Esquies and keep walking passing by Laguna Ferrari and Vivac Ferrari (we might stop here to camp if groupis too tired). We start to see Mascarello range, a restricted reserve of Los Glaciares National Park. One more hour to the rustic hut of Paso del Viento. We use only the hut for cooking and we sleep in the tents.
After a nice breakfast, we start our hike to Paso del Viento (wind pass). If we slept in Refugio Paso del Viento, we re trace our tracks from about one hour 1/2 and one hour more to Paso del Viento. If we slept in Vivac Ferrari we just one hour and 1/2 from Paso del Viento. On the pass itself the views are breath taking: On one side the 3rd largest ice mass of fresh water, on the other Rio Toro Valley with Glacier Tunel inferior and glacier Quervain. We capture these images with our memory (and camera) and we start the descent to Camp Laguna Toro. 900 meters descent on very varied terrain: Scree, grass, ice and even snow (depending on the time of the year). We cross Rio Tunel using the Tyrolean crossing (zip line over the river) or wading depending on conditions and decision of the guide. Half an hour later we are camping on the forest where we spend the night. Distance: 5 Km. Elevation gain/lost: 400 mts ascent y 900 mts descent.
We head back to El Chaltén following Tunel river for an hour, the we start our gentle 500 meter ascent to Pampa de las carretas. We stop for lunch on the end our ascent, where we´ll see Lago Viedma with its turqoise colour. The descenst begins, crossing some marshlands until we can see El Chalten from above. We pass infront of National Park office by the visitor center. Then a very well deserved shower and diner with the group! Distance: 14 km. Elevation gain and lost: 500 mts ascent & 500 mts descent.