Southern Patagonia > El Chaltén

The stone needles of Fitz Roy, a challenge for climbers See map

Its needle-like stone peaks distinguish it in any photo or postcard on mountains that flow. And precisely for its whimsical way, not a few climbers come each year to its base, to climb to the summit. Tehuelches Indians called it "Chaltén", meaning "smoking mountain" because its peak is usually hidden by clouds and gave the impression of a volcano. Today, the challenge for mountain climbers and tourists, is called Fitz Roy.

The mountain is a part, as the Perito Moreno glacier, of the Los Glaciares National Park. To reach it you have to move to El Chaltén, located at its feet and at few kilometers from the border with Chile. El Chaltén is the youngest town in Argentina and was created to reaffirm the country's sovereignty over the continental ice in the area.

Myths, legends and history of the area

Evidence of Aboriginal footprints in the area of ​​El Chaltén, northwest of Lake Viedma, are few. But the mythology that the young tehuelche Elal, fleeing the wrath of his father, reached the summit of a hill on the back of a swan. Then it took him four days to descend. On the way he was attacked by Shie and Kokesne, spirits of the snow and cold, he frighten away them with the fire created by striking the flint.

He cleverly overcame all the difficulties presented to him, until he reach the foot of the mountain. There he gathered a group of hospital tehuelches with whom he lived until becoming a man.

In gratitude, he taught them to use a bow and arrow and how to light the fire. Since then, the beautiful hill was called Chaltén or "smoking mountain", by the effect produced by the wind pushing the clouds, and was considered sacred by the tehuelches. Today is the main symbol on the shield of Santa Cruz.

panoramica-fitz-royPanoramic view of Mount Fitz Roy.

In 1877, the Perito Moreno, in an expedition to explore the lakes Argentino, Viedma, del Desierto and San Martín, he saw a mountain, El Chaltén. And then to recognize, he called it Fitz Roy in honor of this eminent explorer of Magellan coasts.

In the late nineteenth century, again under the command of Perito Moreno, there was another expedition to this area in order to mark boundary lines in Chile. This group consisted of Nordic and German, accustomed to the harsh climate of these ends of the earth. They were the pioneers of the place and founded the first farms around Lake Viedma.

Then he made other expeditions to El Chaltén. One, led by the Salesian Alberto de Agosti, who arrived in a high valley to the Patagonian ice.

In 1937 he created the Los Glaciares National Park, in which were integrated Torre and Fitz Roy Hills (northern boundary of the park). After having explored every corner of this land, birth of a new challenge: conquer these two hills. They were awesome and would not be easily scalable. After some unfortunate attempts, an expedition of French climbers took two of his men, Lionnel Terray and Guido Magnone, to the summit of Fitz Roy in 1952 and in 1970 the Italian Maestri overcame the difficulties of Torre Hill.

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