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El Chaltén, trekking capital of Argentina

Province of Santa Cruz • Argentina

Paso del Viento refuge - Paso Huemul - Lago Viedma

Descripción: This hike continues the journey from El Chaltén - Toro Lagoon - Paso del Viento - Paso del Viento Refuge. The beauty of the surrounding views along this trek are difficult to describe, even difficult to understand in its real dimension given the scale of the Patagonian Ice Field.

Area: Los Glaciares National Park.
Duration: 10 hours.
Difficulty: difficult.
Elevation: -500 meters.

Itinerary:

DAY 1: El Chaltén - Toro Lagoon Campsite

From the refuge next to the lagoon, the trail continues in the same direction that led you up there, always maintaining the height of the slope of the Cerro Huemul.

A series of stone piles during the entire path will help you not to make the easy mistake to lose height in the absence of references; meantime, you must cross a number of small streams that do not represent any difficulty.

The ice field is located in a large valley which crosses from N to S the Andes Mountains, between 15 and 25 Km wide, occupying it completely and spilling tens of glaciers over Argentina and Chile. From the geographical point where this trek takes place it will always accompany you at 250/400 meters down, the gigantic Viedma glacier and its endless cracks. You can also see the birth of another great glacier of the National Park: the Upsala glacier - the twin brother of the Viedma glacier - that goes south to the northern arm of the Argentino Lake.

On the horizon, always looking to the west, the massif of the Mariano Moreno range frames the western flank of the ice field; without its presence, the Atlantic Ocean could be seen in an area of ​​fjords where several glaciers fall in Chile.

In the heart of this valley arises as a huge rocky island the Nunatak of the Viedma glacier, from which a characteristic central moraine of the glacier detaches.

The itinerary then passes through two natural viewpoints about two hours apart from each other, where you can appreciate the immensity of the ice field in a rare solitude for the common people.

Passing the second viewpoint begins a gentle climb. As it progresses it becomes increasingly exposed so you should exercise extreme caution: it is a very steep free-fall of 400 meters over the glacier.

About an hour later you will be at the base of the Huemul pass, which you will reach going up a small stream. After half an hour climb you will come to a terrain from where two passes can be seen: you must go to the left until you reach a clearing where you will encounter an area of stunted lenga patches, a bonsai forest; an unexpected surprise at this altitude and aridity. With the Viedma lake already in front, you should look for the path to the left leading down to it, where a series of marks show the way among the lengas that thicken as you walk.

The descent is a very steep slope: more than 700 vertical meters that are completed in just over an hour along an area of loose ground and exposed lenga roots.

Once on flat terrain, in less than half an hour you reach the De los Témpanos bay, a privileged place to appreciate the glacier front and the large icebergs that often flow from it.

From here until Bahía Túnel there are another 6 hours to walk, crossing the river Túnel. Bear in mind that since there are no options of regular bus services from Bahía Túnel to El Chaltén, it is possible to contact a taxi from the port which is operated by the company that performs the navigation on Lake Viedma.

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