Mount Fitz Roy and around
The soaring granite towers of Mount Fitz Roy rise up from the smooth baize of the flat
steppe, more like a ziggurat than a mountain, surrounded by a consort of jagged snow-clad
spires, with a stack of spun-cotton cloud hanging constantly above them.
Cerro Fitz Roy
(3405 m) is one of the most magnificent mountains in the world, towering above the nearby peaks, its polished granite sides too steep for snow to settle. Its Tehuelche name
was El Chaltén, ('smoking mountain' or 'volcano'), perhaps because occasionally at sunrise
the pink towers are briefly lit up bright red for a few seconds, the
amanecer de fuego
('sunrise of fire'). Perito Moreno named the peak after the captain of the
who saw it from afar in 1833, and it was first climbed by a French expedition in 1952. It stands in the northern end of Parque Nacional Los Glaciares, at the western end of Lago Viedma, 230 km north of El Calafate. Around it are
(3002 m), and
(2558 m), in an area of lakes and glaciers that makes marvellous trekking country, every bit as satisfying as Torres del Paine across the border.
The national park office is across the bridge, right at the entrance to the town, www.parquesnacionales.gov.ar. Visitors are met
by the friendly
(some speak English), and you should ask for their helpful trekking maps with paths and campsites marked, giving distances and walking times.
Walking here is only really viable mid-October to April, with the best months usually March to early April when the weather is generally stable and not very cold, and the autumn colours of the beech forest are stunning. Mid-summer, December and January, and spring (September to October), are generally very windy. In December and January the campsites can be full to bursting, with many walkers on the paths. Outside of these months most accommodation and many services close.