World → South America → Patagonian Andes → Argentina → Fitz Roy
One of the best hiking areas in the world
Hikers who visit Torres del Paine in Chile are urged to hike nearby Fitz Roy on the same trip. A similar fantastical landscape — but with even worse weather! 🙂
Fitz Roy is at the northern tip of gorgeous Parque Nacional Los Glaciers, itself part of Hielo Sur, the largest icecap not in a polar region.
- close to the southern tip of South America
- Los Glaciares National Park (Spanish: Parque Nacional Los Glaciares)
- jumping off point is the bustling tourist town of El Calafate. Fly or bus via Buenos Aires.
- From El Calafate you can bus to the trailhead at El Chaltén (“Argentina’s Trekking Capital”).
- the best hike is the “Around Fitzroy” trek as described in Lonely Planet Trekking in the Patagonian Andes – 38km (23.6mi) plus sidetrips. But most hikers simply do day trips in and out of El Chaltén
- notoriously bad micro-climate. The big peaks are often shrouded in cloud.
- no reservation, trekking fee nor permits required
Once there, consider adding the challenging Huemul Circuit from one of the same trailheads. That’s 4 days, 3 nights heading over to the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, second largest in the world.
Why We Like This Hike
- Paine, Huemul & Fitz Roy are the best hikes in Patagonia
- the jagged mountains of Paine are surreal — but we feel Fitz Roy is even more stunning
- Mt Fitzroy 3,375m (11,073ft) is the highest point in the park
- 1980 declared a World Heritage Site
- Fitz Roy hikes are easier than Paine, more suitable to all levels of ability and experience.
- it’s also easy to hike independently in Fitz Roy
- no need to speak Spanish, though it helps
- no need to filter water
- no risk of altitude sickness
- chance to see condor, guanaco, fox & nandu (rhea)
- most hikers like El Calafate better than Puerto Natales (the two jumping off points for Fitz Roy & Paine respectively)
- side trip visit to Perito Moreno Glacier, one of the top tourist attractions in South America
The history of these impossible spires adds a special flavour. Named after Captain Fitzroy, skipper of Charles Darwin’s Beagle. Fitz Roy is one of the most notoriously difficult mountaineering destinations in the world.
The biggest concern for hikers is wind. It can blow steady from November to April. We have never seen wind like this anywhere else in the world. Fitz Roy is colder and windier than Paine, on average. The huge Hielo Sur ice sheet diminishes the maritime influence.
At El Chaltén:
- February (summer) low maximum 5C (41F) plus wind chill
- February (summer) high maximum of 22C (72F)
In addition, temperatures in your tent, closer to the mountains, will be colder.
- plan for horrible weather: rain, sleet, hail, snow
- bring warm, dry clothes
- hypothermia is a slight risk
- the summit of Monte Fitz Roy’s polished granite spire is usually obscured by cloud
- if camping, you need a strong tent & good tie-downs to survive the wind & weather
- you need a stove (rent in town) as open fires are prohibited
- November to April are the best months
- January & early February first-come, first-served campsites are crowded, but not as crowded as Paine where they’ve been booked months in advance
- the days are long in Patagonia during their summer — it is light until at least 9:30PM
- conversational Spanish is recommended
- rental gear, if needed, can be hired in Puerto Natales, El Calafate or Chaltén
- most hike independently here. Few trekkers hire a guide.
- “Around Fitzroy” 38km (23.6mi). Standard route has you tent at Agostini, Poincenot & Refugio Los Troncos.. .but — as you can see — there are many options. Decide on your route based on consultation with the Rangers in Chaltén. Some trails were closed when we were there February 2019.
- an extra day (or more) in Chaltén is helpful in case you need to wait on weather
- The most popular trails are rated easy – medium. Children & non-hikers will enjoy this trek, weather permitting. But there sidetrip scrambles aplenty to challenge any hiker. Especially Cerro Electrico Lookout — which many hikers opt not to do due to bad weather.
The trails around Fitz Roy are clearly marked. There’s little need for a guide if you have your own gear.
This section is for those who would like to do Fitz Roy independently.
- make your way to El Calafate, Argentina
- from El Calafate you can bus (4.5hrs) to the trailhead town of El Chaltén, entering the national park (free entrance) en route.
- you can start hiking directly from El Chaltén, which has grocery stores for last-minute purchases. Also, we’ve heard, ATM bank machines that work.
- Accommodation & restaurants are surprisingly good in booming El Chaltén. It is no hardship to relax there, waiting for the winds to drop. There is even a free campground on the edge of town.
The National Park Visitor Center (Parque Nacional Los Glaciers) in El Chaltén is terrific. It’s the best park office in South America we can recall. And a big surprise after the nonexistent help when you enter Paine in Chile.
No one is too stressed about hiking Fitz Roy, however. Not much can go wrong — except the weather. Ask in El Calafate at trekking shops for up-to-date news on conditions. Our hostel showed us a LIVE video camera view online before we headed up!
Best Trekking Guidebooks
- Lonely Planet Trekking in the Patagonian Andes 2009 (out of print)
- Los Glaciares National Park Travel & Trekking Guide: Fitz Roy, Cerro Torre, Patagonian Ice Cap, Patagonia, Calafate, Chalten 2006
- Trekking en Chalten & Lago Del Desierto 1998
Best Travel Guidebooks
- Lonely Planet Argentina 2012 (get the most up-to-date edition)
- Footprint Argentina
- Enduring Patagonia – Gregory Crouch
Crouch is ideal reading when tentbound due to weather. 🙂
- In Patagonia – Bruce Chatwin
- Baja to Patagonia – Larry Rice
- Nowhere Is a Place: Travels in Patagonia – Bruce Chatwin, Paul Theroux, Jeff Gnass
- Patagonia: Wild Land At The End Of The Earth – Tim Hauf, Conger, Jr. Beasley, Gregory Crouch
- Lonely Planet Trekking in the Central Andes 2003
- Zagier & Urruty Monte Fitz Roy & Cerro Torre trekking map. Two different versions (at least) are available in El Calafate. There are others. None we found was very good.
Best Web Pages
- walkopedia – Fitz Roy Massif
- Argentina’s Hiking Capital: El Chaltén & Monte Fitz Roy
- wikipedia – Los Glaciares National Park
- El Chalten official website
- interpatagonia – AROUND EL CHALTÉN AND ALL ITS TRAILS
- trekker.co.il Fitz Roy
- ramblin’ boy – Southern Patagonia: Hiking Adventure At “the End of the World”
Best Trip Reports
- Backpacker’s Review – MOUNT FITZ ROY, CERRO TORRE, AND THE PERITO MORENO GLACIER 2017
- ramblin’ boy – Argentina’s Hiking Capital: El Chaltén & Monte Fitz Roy 2012
- Jeff Salvage – El Chalten to Campamento Poincenot
- Photodiary of a Nomad – Los Glaciares – Fitzroy Treks
- The Hiking Life – Cerro Fitzroy, Argentina, 1997
- Eu-Jin Goh – Fitz Roy
- Seth Pollack – Los Glaciares and Trekking photos
- Peakware.com – Fitz Roy photos
Click PLAY or watch El Chaltén: Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre on YouTube.