Laguna Torre Trail
Trailhead: El Chalten, Argentina
Duration: Approximately three-and-a-half hours to Laguna Torre, one way; distance about 10km (6.2mi), one way
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Elevation gain: about 250m (820ft)
Like the Mt. Fitz Roy Trail I posted about a few days ago, this one too is an easy day trip from El Chalten, Argentina’s trekking capital. It too will lead you through an incredibly wide array of landscapes during the four-hour hike towards Laguna Torre, a serene glacier-fed lake which calmly sits at the base of the mountain that gives it its name. And like the Fitz Roy Trail, this one should also be a priority during your visit to El Chalten.
Like other day hikes through Los Glaciares National Park, this one is popular. But you won’t feel overrun by people. Even in early February –still peak season– I ran into no more than 15 people over the course of the 21-kilometer hike.
You’ll of course see Torre’s dramatic peak well before you reach the laguna. For much of the hike, the 3,128m (10,262 ft)-high spire will be your guide, even if it spends the entire time hidden behind clouds; on my day, it, well, wasn’t my day. I never saw the peak clearly, even during the late morning portion when the skies were clear.
The weather shifted quickly and dramatically about two hours in, so much so that I almost turned back. I hid under a large tree instead to watch a rapid rain lightly bathe a wide valley. The shower didn’t last long, but the clouds and a chill remained for much of the rest of the day.
There are two trails marked for Laguna Torre from near the center of El Chalten. They converge some 5-10 minutes from town, so it doesn’t matter where you start. The trail is well-marked and maintained throughout so there’s no need for a map other than the one you’ll pick up at the visitors center on your way into town.
The initial part of the trail follows the Fitz Roy River valley upstream. Just 20 minutes into the walk you’ll reach the Cascada Margarita viewpoint with the waterfall on your left just across the river. From here you’ll have your first nice panorama of Cerro Terro and its range.
First sightings of Cerro Torre
The main ascent is on the way to the Cerro Torre Mirador, about an hour and a half from the start. The views are spectacular, even on a partly cloudy day. At this point, most of the 200m (656ft) elevation gain will be behind you. After a short descent, the walk levels off significantly for the next hour-and-a-half, taking you through a wide valley where windswept landscapes and dry water run-off beds abound. One large swathe about 45 minutes from the laguna (pictured below), was covered with dried dead trees, lending an eerie, otherworldly feel to the area.
As you near the laguna, you’ll watch and listen to the raging Torre River on your left. The power the sound represents is invigorating and humbling. For a short while the trail winds through a forest before it turns to scree at the edge of the Laguna. From here it’s just a short upwards scamper to the shore.
Spending the night is possible; the free DeAgostini campsite is located near the lake. If you want really good photos of Cerro Torre and its neighbors rising with the sun is really your only option. That’s enough of a reason to return.
Below, for my small but growing Field Guides section, some unique (to me) plants and shrubs, and a red bee I’ve never seen before. Any specific IDs will be very much appreciated.
Next up: A little more from Laguna Torre itself and the Glaciar Grande, coming Saturday or Sunday (1 or 2 Mar).