Piedra del Fraile
This is an easy and comfortable trail that enters the Valle Del Río Eléctrico and from where you can admire the imposing North Face of the Mount Fitz Roy.
This trail begins 17 km from El Chaltén on the Provincial Route 41 at the Eléctrico river bridge. To get here take a taxi. At this bridge, just before crossing, a signpost indicates the starting point of the foot path heading west.
At the beginning you will cross an open area without ascents. Loose-rocks debris, shrubs and low Ñires will follow. Some colored marks on the stones will show you the way. In less than half an hour you will be walking through the tall Lenga forest, very close to the Eléctrico river, being protected from the wind.
The trail always stays close to the river, and gains height very slowly.
In this forested valley you can find different species of birds such as Carpintero gigante (Magellanic Woodpecker), Cachaña (Austral parakeet), Caburé grande (Austral pygmy-owl), Carpintero pitío (Chilean flicker) and many others.
After two hours or so you will arrive at the facilities of Piedra del Fraile located next to the river, a private camp site with dorms and a small restaurant.
Here you can stay overnight, although you can not book your place in advance, since this is a remote area where there is no cell phone signal or Internet (there is usually a camp site available).
Ten minutes walk from the camp site, you will reach Piedra del Fraile viewpoint ("Stone of the Friar"), by a trail that gains height quickly.
From the viewpoint you can see the Eléctrico valley towards the west, the north face of the Mount Chaltén and the Mermoz and Guillaumet needles.
The name "Piedra del Fraile" refers to the famous Italian missionary, photographer and mountaineer Alberto María de Agostini, who in the 1930s came to this unexplored region and with his publications placed Southern Patagonia in the sight of the mountaineering world. In his explorations he used this rocky promontory as his base camp, since it offered refuge against the strong winds coming from the Continental Ice Field.
From here you can continue to the Pollone glacier, in a breathtaking rock and ice landscape, which requires about 4 to 5 hours round trip from Piedra del Fraile. The trail continues along the depths of valley where only a few bushes and shrubs live and which will not give you any shelter from the frequent winds coming from the West.
On the horizon you can see the Marconi range and its glacier, access to all expeditions to the Southern Patagonian Ice.
Continuing towards your left you will find the trail that goes towards the Pollone river. After half an hour the trail turns to the left again, following up the river to the glaciers which now come into view: to the right the Pollone glacier and to the left the Fitz Roy North glacier. If you continue further along the valley, you can reach the source of the Pollone River. Note that from this point the area has unstable moraine rocks that make it impossible to continue safely.