El Chaltén borders the northern sector of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field (‘El Campo de Hielo Sur’). The Ice Field contains a ridiculous number of glaciers, and is a relic of the Patagonian Ice Sheet which covered all of southern Chile during the last ice age. It’s 350km long and an average 40km wide and is the world’s third largest reserve of fresh water. The area it covers is HUGE. The glaciers on the west side run out into the Chilean fjords and the Pacific Ocean and those on the East drain out into two enormous lakes (Viedma and Argentino) and eventually run out into the Atlantic Ocean. Over thousands of years, these huge quantities of melting ice carved out the rugged landscape we see in southern Patagonian today.
But first I had to get there….
The Perito Moreno Glacier – one of the many glaciers in the Southern Ice Field
The following morning I made my way out of El Chaltén. Looking behind me the whole mountain range was in full view (and this is only after the evening before, when I’d realised I had a perfect view of Mount Fitz Roy from the window in my bathroom after all that trekking up and down!).
The Fitz Roy mountain range in full view from the main road out of El Chaltén.
I was also feeling quite pleased with myself as the previous day I’d finally managed to find some plastic underlay from a local DIY store to go under my tent. I’d been suffering from water coming up through both the inner tent ground sheet and through the extra groundsheet footprint I’d already brought with me from the UK, as the ground is sometimes extremely waterlogged. Very small things make me very happy these days!
Winds like I’ve never known before