The Smoking Mountains and Glacial Lakes of Patagonia

There’s a simple serenity to being in Patagonia — eat to refuel, rest to recharge — so that each new day’s hiking trails, waterfalls and glaciers can be fully experienced.

I’ll never forget the colors. April is the tail end of the season in Patagonia, before it gets really cold. But going at the end of April is also the best time to go because that’s right when the fall colors set in: the fading remnants of summer greens, blooming yellows, and broad but gentle strokes of the amber blanket.

The terrain is so varied, changing from snow-covered fields, to dense forests. Above the tree line, it’s all rocks and gravel.

The small mountain village of El Chaltén exists solely to feed, clothe, and shelter all the visiting explorers and adventure-seekers.

It takes only 20 minutes to walk from one end of the village to the other, but once you get to the edge, there are trail heads everywhere that lead you up into the surrounding mountains.

“While a hundred people may reach the summit of Mount Everest in a single day, Mount Fitz Roy may only be successfully ascended once a year.”

Before it was formally named, the locals used to call this mountain Cerro Chaltén, which means “smoking mountain”. The shy peak usually peek-a-boos from behind lingering clouds.

In 1877, Argentine explorer Francisco Moreno named the mountain in honor of Robert Fitz Roy, the captain of the HMS Beagle that carried Charles Darwin through and around Patagonia.

There’s a serene majesty here. In spite of the treacherous and unpredictable weather, everything in sight has stood the test of time and the elements. It quiets that part of your mind and soul that races always onward and forever forward. Instead, your breath slows and your eyes dilate as you try to take in and remember the texture of the landscape, the pristine azure color of the glacial lakes, and the towering granite faces of the iconic mountains.

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