World → South America → Patagonian Andes → Argentina → Fitz Roy
One of the best hikes 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
- alternatively, you can day hike out of El Chaltén
- notoriously bad weather
- no reservation, trekking fee nor permit required
- close to the great Paine trek
Why We Like This Hike
- ARGENTINA is one of our favourite destinations
- Paine & Fitz Roy are the best two 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
- hikes here are easier than Paine, more suitable to all levels of ability and experience. You can even day hike Fitz Roy.
- 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
- the days are long in Patagonia during their summer — it is light until at least 10PM
- conversational Spanish is recommended
- Argentina is less expensive than Chile
- rental gear, if needed, can be hired in Puerto Natales or El Calafate
Argentina, since a 2002 currency crisis, has been very good value if you are holding foreign currency. It is less expensive than Chile.
- 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 (which sells snacks & meals)
- many variations of “Around Fitzroy” (often decided on by weather) are excellent too
- an extra day is helpful in case you need to wait on weather
- Unfortunately the only independent hiking allowed in Parque Nacional Los Glaciers is around Fitz Roy. (We wish they would open more routes.)
- 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.
- Looking for trekking partners? Plan an extra day or two in El Calafate. Put a note up at your accommodation & check at popular gringo restaurants. It is fairly easy to hook up with others for this trip. And easy to meet other hikers on the trail and in El Chaltén. You won’t be alone for long on this hike.
- extreme hikers could (guided) consider a Southern Ice Field trek such as Paso Marconi
The trails around Fitz Roy are clearly marked. There’s little need for a guide if you have your own gear.
If you want even more excitement, check out some guided Southern Ice Field treks:
- casa de guias – Paso Marconi
- Swoop – Marconi
- National Geographic (including Paine)
- Walk Patagonia – Trekking to Paso Marconi
- ecmg – Paso Marconi Trek
- Expedition Argentina – Paso Marconi Trek
- Mountaineering Patagonia
- Patagonia Adventure Trip
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.
- it is pleasant to sleep in an El Chaltén hostel or hotel, particularly if the weather is too dreadful for tenting.
- you can start hiking directly from El Chaltén, which has grocery stores for last-minute purchases. Also, we’ve heard, ATM bank machines.
- Accommodation & restaurants are surprisingly good in tiny El Chalten. It is no hardship to relax there, waiting for the winds to drop. There is even a free campground on the edge of town. You’ll be tempted to day hike.
- South American Explorers is a good starting point
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 outfitters for up-to-date news on conditions at Fitz Roy.
Best Trekking Guidebooks
- Lonely Planet Trekking in the Patagonian Andes 2009
- 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.
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
- 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.