El Chalten is a tiny village that is popular with hikers because of the stunning Fitz Roy mountain range. We decided to go there because it was clear we weren't going to make it to the Torres del Paine in Chile because of the weather and our lack of equipment. It's about 4 hours from El Calafate and we got a return ticket to stay for just one night.
When we arrived it was late afternoon so we thought we'd take a walk up to the Los Condores lookout point. We saw about 6 or 7 of the birds including a couple that were swooping in and out of the surrounding mountains for about half an hour. Andean condors have an average wingspan of between 9 and 10 feet and against the metallic grey sky seemed almost jet black, like silhouettes. They barely even move their wings when they're flying, just letting themselves glide on the air. It was amazing to see them for the first time in such stunning surroundings.
On the way back we did a detour and went to see Glacier Viedma, from afar anyway. It in no way as breathtaking as Moreno, and had an almost sinister air to it with the low clouding moving over it and the dark lake beneath.
Back at the hostel we got chatting to an English couple called James and Megan and it turned out that Megan was the girl that fainted at the Moreno glacier, and they had rented a car with the Israeli girl we were in the dorm with.
The next day aimed to do the one-day hike to the base of Rio Blanco. We bumped into James and Megan on the way up so spent the day with them; luckily Megan was as crap a hiker as me so the boys went off and we tagged along at our own pace behind them. As soon as we got high up the grass disappeared and we were greeted with a fresh layer of snow from the night before. We were still quite early and it was really warm so we mucked around playing in the snow for a while as we walked up. On a clear day the Fitz Roy mountain must be an amazing sight, but it was really cloudy when we got to the viewpoint, although it was still pretty special in the snow.
We ate lunch in a snowy forest next to a river; the water in the national park is potable so we had a try of it…. Tasted like icey soil!
Before we reached the base of Poincenot, there was a huge bog and with my crappy shoes me and Meg decided to wait there and let Nick and James go to the other glacier. As we were sitting there a blizzard started battering us and froze us blue. We met some funny Irish girls who did the walk including across the bog through the blizzard in trainers and tracksuit bottoms with just some cake for a snack! They were still in pretty high spirits when we saw them come back; I reckon cake should be introduced as a standard hiking meal.
It took us longer than planned to walk back down but I think Megan and me felt a slight sense of accomplishment afterwards for not dying en-route. Attempted to dry clothes and shoes out in the hostel before the bus arrived, but not luck, had to sit with wet feet all the way to El Calafate.