Take it from me. Never hike in sandals.
Inching towards Mt. Fitz Roy
The trail to Laguna de los Tres is the most memorable I've hiked so far, if not for the landscapes then for the blistering pain I'd feel in my legs and feet for days to come.
The trail itself is about 26km (16mi) long with 700m (2,300ft) of elevation. A significant amount of this elevation happens at the last stretch along a very steep cliff. It tests the limits of my tolerance for heights, leg cramps, and granola bars (the only thing I packed that day).
The lighting is a bit harsh when I get up there, which is almost unavoidable without camping unless you leave really early or arrive back at El Chalten really late. Either way, you would have to hike a long stretch in the dark. Given a chance to hike this trail again I'd bring a tent and a bag and camp near the lake instead.
Also, did I mention? Don't hike this thing in sandals unless you grew up running around mountains in flip flops.
Warnings and notices.
Mt. Fitz Roy reflected in Laguna Capri.
Antarctic beech and other flora of Patagonia.
It takes about four hours for me to reach the foot of the steepest incline on this trail. There's a warning sign. It reads, "Only for people with experience, good physical condition and trekking boots". I have none of those things at the time.
I take several breaks going up.
Lagunas Madre e Hija and Laguna Capri (nearer the top of the frame).
Straight from the source
The sight of Laguna de los Tres is as refreshing as it is rewarding. Its waters flow directly from the melting Glaciar Piedras Blancas right next to it, giving it a rich, mineral blue color.
The water is potable as with all of the other lakes, streams, and rivers on the trail. Maybe it's the long hike the preceded me drinking from the lake or its the thought of knowing this water comes from this huge glacier opposite of me, but the water tastes amazing—easily 100x better than regular tap. Irefill my canteen several times.
Immediately to the left of this lake is a hill about ten feet tall. Climbing it affords a view of Laguna Sucia. From this distance and angle, the water looks like a giant slab of chrysoprase. It looks easy to get to, but numerous danger signs indicate otherwise. That, or maybe it's easy to roll downhill into the lake and never come back up.
Before I leave, I take one good look at both lakes and pose for a last picture.
Under darkening skies
This is another one of those trails I do where I time everything poorly and end up back at home well after dark.
A paraglider would be ideal right now.
The rough trail and Rio Blanco.
Crossing Rio Blanco- its source is Laguna Sucia.
A forest of antarctic beech.
Through the lenga beech forest.
Leaves of a lenga.
One last look at the iconic mountain.
Rio de las Vueltas.
Phew, that's it!