The legend of Monte Fitz Roy or Cerro Fitz Roy has grown over the last 40 years as a mountain climbers mecca or hikers paradise. The steep, granite walled mountain stands 11,171 feet (3,405 meters) near the town of El Chalten. The mountain’s original name is “Chalten” meaning smoking mountain in the native Tehuelche dialect. The mountain generally stands surrounded by a smoky ring which makes seeing a cloudless peak a remarkable feat. Today the mountain is named after Sir Robert Fitz Roy, the captain who navigated Charles Darwin aboard the HMS Beagle.
El Chalten is the base for tourists eager to hike up to the legendary mountain. The town is known as Argentina’s trekking capital, but has only been in existence since 1985. The area was part of a border dispute between Argentina and Chile which was resolved without war and now stands as one of the few settlement in the country within a national park.
The once sleepy town for rock climbing gurus has been attracting increased tourism from around the world. Most people who come enjoy the outdoors, hiking, climbing and the visit to the Perito Moreno glacier nearby. Hikers have a variety of trails they can choose for day hikes that leave from the outskirts of the town. Laguna de los Tres is the most popular hike. The hike is 22 km and takes 7 to 9 hours depending on the pace. Cerros Fitz Roy, Poincenot and Cerro Torre can all be seen from shores of the lake. The trail maybe fairly crowded so be sure to start early, and take your time to enjoy the beautiful mountain streams, unique vegetation and unforgettable viewpoints.
Hikers that want to escape the crowds should try the Loma de Pliegue Tumbado trail. The trail is 16-18 km and takes 6-8 hours to complete. It goes around the hill overlooking the incredible valley below. The trail offers a different perspective and gorgeous views of Lake Viedma to one side and Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre to the other. It is also a great place to see Andean Condors circle the sky over the lakes and valleys below. The elevation gain is significant and the last portion of the hike is rocky but the views are unbeatable.