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Although there are some famous, extraordinary hikes worldwide (and they are all on my list), this one might slip through the cracks of your hiking bucket list. The hike I am referring to is the loop between two of the most beautiful, unique and iconic mountains in the world - Cerro Torre and Mount Fitz Roy.
Now, I have done a fair share of hiking in South East Queensland, Tasmania, the USA, Canada and some of NZ however, I have never seen mountains like those in Patagonia.
The TLDR version of why I think this is the best overnight hike is:
P.s. You may have heard of Mount Fitz Roy before and would have definitely seen it as it is the Patagonia logo!
Located in Patagonian Chile, Cerro Torre and Mount Fitz Roy are largely known as day hikes from the closest town, El Chaltén. When I travelled to El Chaltén in October 2023, the small mountain town was bustling with hikers and climbers, most of whom were heading out to the miradors (Spanish for lookout - look at me go) of Cerro Torre and Mount Fitz Roy. When chatting with other hikers, we seemed to be one of the only few who were doing the overnight version or even knew of it.
So, although we didn’t do the hikes as solo day hikes, the overnight option was the way to go in my opinion. The day hike to the mirador of Cerro Torre (fun fact: it translates to ‘Hill Tower’), known as Laguna Terro, is 17.5km and the day hike to the base of Mount Fitz Roy, known as Laguna Los Tres, is 21.9km. Whereas the loop is 33km without any backtracking and double-ups of scenery you had already seen before. So already, you are shaving off roughly 6km but still seeing all of the same beautiful views plus more.
For the loop, you can either do this anti-clockwise (Mount Fitz Roy to Cerro Torre) or clockwise and we chose the latter. Here’s an overview of our experience hiking the Laguna Terro and Laguna Los Tres loop.
Day 1: El Chaltén to Cerro Torre to Fitz Roy Campsite - 22km
After a quick breakfast early in the morning, we walked out of the hostel and hit the trails at around 8am. There are a few paths that leave from El Chaltén to the start of the Laguna Terro hike, so best to have offline maps downloaded as it was a bit of a maze at times. After a quick accidental detour via a bouldering crag, we found our way onto the main trail and saw the ‘Monumento al caminante distraido’ which is a homage to a ‘distracted walker’ who left their lit cigarette on the trail and caused a fire.
The start of the hike was consistently uphill and although this was considered early season for hiking, it was very warm and sunny so remember to wear layers as the weather quickly changes in the mountains. After this, the terrain fairly plateaued for a while which was a great opportunity to take in the incredible views. The first peek of Cerro Torre was mesmerising and made me wonder how mountains could ever look like that.
The trails were relatively quiet until we got closer to the viewpoint of Laguna Torre still we seemed to be the only hikers with overnight packs on rather than daypacks. It took us about 3 hours to arrive at Laguna Torre, the lake at the base of Cerro Torre.
After a quick bit of lunch and trying to soak up as much of the view as possible into my brain and eyeballs, it was time to keep moving along to our campsite - Poincenot Campground. Between Laguna Torre and Poincenot campground, we only saw a handful of hikers. Instead of walking with hikers, we walked among gnarly, windblown trees, traversed snow crossings and swamps, and hiked alongside blue alpine lakes.
After walking 13km from Laguna Torre, we arrived at Poincenot Campground. It is a free campsite and no reservations are needed, however, there are minimal facilities and when I say minimal I mean a drop toilet. That’s it. So be prepared to bring all of your food with you and walk to a nearby river for water. From the campsite, you have a perfect view of Mount Fitz Roy. Seeing this, I could not wait to head up there in the morning. We set up our tents, cooked a quick camp dinner, enjoyed the local Patagonia craft beer we carried with us, and went to bed.
Day 2: Poincenot Campground to Mount Fitz Roy to El Chaltén - 11km
Waking up to see Mount Fitz Roy lit up in the morning sun is something I don’t think I will ever forget. The pink and orange glow reflecting off the towers was vibrant and extraordinary.
Although we had ambitions to get to Laguna Los Tres by sunrise, getting out of a warm sleeping bag to 0ºC temps was not appealing. After mustering up the courage to leave my tent, have breakfast, pack up and hit the trail, it was around 8:30am. We left our big packs at the campsite by a tree and carried on with our daypacks. Even though we started hiking later than we wanted, we were still one of the first groups on the track. We could see that others did go for sunrise, however, after hearing their encounters, we were glad we slept in. From the campsite to Laguna Los Tres, it is only 1.5km to complete, however, as we were there still in the early season, we quickly reached the snow line. By the time we reached it, the snow was soft and slushy, a fun experience for an Aussie from the Gold Coast. However, the hikers before us warned that before sunrise, it was icy and slippery. Given we did not have crampons with us, we inadvertently made the right decision to start later.
The trees started to thin and soon it was only a mix of rocky and snowy alpine. After a couple of false summits and with Mount Fitz Roy always in our sights, we finally reached Laguna Los Tres. The lake, normally a brilliant aqua-blue (as I had seen in pictures) was completely snow-covered. I was in awe of being in its presence, it was humbling and truly hard to make the trip back down.
Once we started the descent, we ran into the day-trippers. Given the amount of snow, by the time we hiked down, it was slippery and became very busy and difficult to dodge the up-hikers. This is when my hiking poles particularly came in handy, without them I would have definitely had more falls (even though I did have a couple of stacks).
I am so happy that we chose to do the hike clockwise, with Fitz Roy at the start of the second day as making that ascent in the afternoon would have been tiring after the day of hiking as well as hiking with many other day-trippers. At Lagunas Los Tres, we were able to enjoy it without feeling overcrowded and fully take in the beauty of Mount Fitz Roy.
After making our way down, we grabbed our packs from the campsite and continued the 9km back to El Chaltén. I couldn’t help but keep looking back at Mount Fitz Roy for “one last view” as it became smaller and smaller, but its presence was still mighty in the dry, rocky landscape.
We arrived back in El Chaltén in the afternoon, tired but so grateful and elated for what we just experienced.
This hike was a great mix of stunning scenery and at times challenging terrain and I would do it again in a heartbeat.
Want to add this hike to your bucket list? Here are my gear essentials which I used on the Laguna Torres/Laguna Los Tres loop.
I took the Sea to Summit Flame 3 sleeping bag with me because it has an awesome weight-to-warmth ratio. Overnight and in the mornings, it dipped below 0ºC so the Flame 3 kept me toasty warm with its -4ºC comfort rating. No wonder I found it so difficult to get out of my tent for the sunrise hike..
I opted for a little piece of luxury for the outdoors with my Big Agnes Boundary Deluxe Insulated Sleeping Pad. As I am a side sleeper, the 11cm thickness was super comfortable and the quilted baffling kept my weight even across the mat and didn’t cause me to sink or roll to one side. It has an R-value of 4.3 which provided additional insulation for the chilly night.
The Arcteryx Cerium Down Jacket was perfect for this hike. During the day when the sun was out, it packed down super small in my pack and only weighed 205 grams. At night, it provided warmth while sitting down for dinner and watching Mount Fitz Roy at sunset.
Unfortunately, I am cursed with a mild allergy to Merino wool and I cannot enjoy the wonders of Merino, so instead I use the Patagonia Capilene Thermals which are synthetic. They were comfortable and warm and provided a nice additional layer under my pants and jackets. In the morning hike to Laguna Los Tres, I wore the Patagonia Capilene Thermal top under a tee as it was still super cold before the sun fully rose but once it did, it was beaming and reflecting off the snow. Along with providing some warmth, I think it probably saved me from a nasty sunburn too.
Although these are technically climbing pants, they are my favourite hiking pants. The Arcteryx Konseal Pants are a cotton blend so they are comfortable and provide stretch when needed, yet are durable enough to hold up to scrapes. Even after my couple of tumbles during the descent of Laguna Los Tres, not a thread was ripped. Plus, they are also stylish enough to wear out in town for dinner without looking too much like a classic dorky hiker.
As mentioned, hiking poles were a must on the hike, particularly the descent from Laguna Los Tres and Mount Fitz Roy. The Black Diamond Distance FLZ Hiking Poles were comfortable to use with the foam handles and when I didn’t feel like using them, the Z folding method meant they packed down small into the side compartment of my pack without getting in the way during hiking.
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About the contributor:
Jess Fiske is the Marketing Coordinator at Wild Earth. When she isn’t rollerblading in the streets of Coolangatta, you will find her either hiking in SEQ or strapping on her snowboard somewhere cold. Always planning her next adventure, Jess loves to get outdoors and travel off the beaten path. Follow her adventures on Instagram.