Trek: Fitz Roy Grand Tour
Destination: Argentine Patagonia
Distance: 36 miles, 4-7 days
The iconic profile of the Fitz Roy group—a monumental ascending ridge formed by the rock spires of Cerro Torre, Poincenot, St. Exupery, and the magnificent arrowhead of Fitz itself—appears out of the Patagonian plain more abruptly even than that of the Grand Tetons. These towers of pink-tinged gray granite, painted by sunrise in shades of brilliant orange and blood red, take your breath away. It is sublime view, a spectacle, the best reason to come here.
The peaks lie within the boundaries of Argentina's Parque Nacional Los Glaciares, at more than 6,000 square kilometers one of the biggest on the continent. Fitz Roy at 11,020 feet is the star of the show, but the big glaciers to the south are major players as well: Lago Viedma and Lago Argentina lap up against the Patagonian ice cap, where huge glaciers spill into them, turning their waters a surreal blue from glacial sediment.
If you want to see everything, start from the village of El Chalten. Hike to Lago Torre for the views across the lake to Cerro Torre, perhaps the most awesome rock spire in the world, then on to Campamento Poincenot, where a stay of one or two nights allows for the steep side trip to Laguna de los Tres and the iconic sunrise view of the Fitz Roy group. From there the route follows the western bank of the Rio Blanco to its junction with the Rio Electrico trail, and a third camp at Piedra del Fraile before a final night at Lago Capri and the return to Chalten
Logistics: Getting to Fitz Roy became much easier with the opening in 2002 of the airport at Calafate, which saves two days of driving on gravel roads from Rio Gallegos. From the airport it’s about four hours to the village of El Chalten, where so many new lodges, restaurants and other amenities (like hiking supply shops and microbreweries) have sprouted in Chalten that it's the logical base camp. Major trailheads are within a few blocks of each other, and permits are not required. Come prepared for the legendary winds and rainy weather that are synonymous with Patagonia.
Adventure journalist Peter Potterfield has hiked more than 10,000 miles in search of the greatest backcountry routes on the planet. As he researches his iconic hiking books, such as Classic Hikes of the World, Potterfield is always on the lookout for the best hikes on all seven continents. Here, just months before the release of his next book, Classic Hikes of North America, Potterfield offers up his current list of favorite hikes.