Seriously. These two were awesome through and through. We arrived in El Chaltén after a couple days in El Calafate where we did the Big Ice tour w/ Hielo y Aventura. Everything we heard was that El Chaltén was the place to be if you're looking for hikes, excursions, and any kind of Patagonian adventure. Everyone was right.
We didn't arrive in El Chaltén with anything planned, not even a hostel booked. We got there hoping we could find a room at Latitud 49 but they were full, went to another place they recommended and that was full then got to El Paraiso based off the other place's recommendation and it was fine for a night. We put down our things and headed over to Patagonia Hikes to figure out the next few days. We had been in email contact with Maria in advance but never finalized anything.
We walked in and finally got to meet Maria in person. We started going through by talking about the high-level plans she had proposed for us. 90% of our communication was done in Spanish. While I grew up speaking Spanish I'm still more comfortable speaking in English and while talking about the plans I asked her if we could take a step back, switch to English, and approach the plan by talking about our goals with the trip. She immediately switched gears with us and the magic started happening. We were really starting to nail down our trip details. Something just clicked once we approached the plan making a little differently and she handled everything with us excellently. As soon as she understood our goals and motivations (decently experienced hikers looking to go all out for a few days, check out awesome views, and most importantly - learn to ice climb) the stars aligned and she was on the phone with her head guide, Simón. She called him up and arranged a time for all of us to meet a couple hours later to see how the chemistry worked.
A couple hours later we came back to meet with Simón. My friend and I instantly hit it off with him. We talked about what we wanted to accomplish with trip (and Maria had briefed him before we arrived) and everybody was into it. We made our payment right then and we walked out incredibly excited. We left the day after next.
3 day trip. Wednesday through Friday.
Day 0 - Tuesday
• Simón arranged for my friend and I to meet up with him the day before we set out for the trek at our hostel to look over gear in advance to get a better idea of what we'd need to borrow from Patagonia Hikes versus what of our own we could use (super helpful and cool of him) though unfortunately we were super late in getting back into town from doing our own hike up and past Lago Torre.
Day 1 - Wednesday
• We met at Patagonia Hikes with our gear to sort through what things we needed to borrow from Patagonia Hikes and what of ours we needed to take. It was super easy. Simón had all the gear ready to go. He also had all our food for the next 3 days organized into bags for each of us. We knew right away that there was no way we were going hungry.
• From there we took a cab over to the trail head.
• We started from Rio Electrico, up through the woods to Piedra Fraile, and made our way up to Marconi Pass.
• We set up camp at a pass that put Marconia Pass right within sight from our tent.
• Simón cooked up a mean dinner with some great appetizers to to start us off beforehand.
• We ended the day not long after sun down to rest up after about 6 hours of hiking through some pretty crazy terrain (not good if you consider yourself a novice hiker in questionable state of fitness).
Day 2 - Thursday
• We woke up at first light and started the day with tea/coffee/breakfast in the tent
• From there we set out on the hike to the glacier with just our gear for the day (cramp-ons, ice axes, harnesses, rope, my cameras, etc) plus of of course lunch and snacks since we'd be spending the whole day on the glacier.
• We got out there after a crazy, rocky trek around a beautiful, glacier-fed lake and it was game time.
• As soon as the hiking got crazier then when we put on our cramp-ons Simón helped us with some advanced tips and lessons on how to walk more efficiently with all the crazy terrain.
• Once we got into the glacier we immediately started scouting out a fun glacier wall that would be the location for our introductory lesson.
• We did a few climbs up then packed up to look for another location to try some more advanced routes and eventually went to a 3rd route too.
• Every step of the way Simón helped us out with all the patient instruction we needed. Even as a casual gym rock climber, let me tell ya, ice climbing isn't easy at all and Simón was awesome every step of the way.
• We had lunch in the middle of the day on a giant table of a granite rock that we found while we dried off for a bit in the sun.
• After we finished our climbing we packed up and headed out a bit farther into the glacier and Marconi Pass to get some awesome photos of more of the surrounding mountain peaks.
• Once we finished up there we headed back to camp to cook up dinner and relax.
• From there Simón gave us a tough choice - In the morning do we wake up early and go back to the glacier for a couple more hours of climbing before heading back to El Chaltén or do we just head back after sleeping in a little bit? As much as we loved the ice climbing (I definitely intend to do it more in the future) we knew it'd be really, really tough to do all that hiking and make it back to El Chaltén without being miserable by the end of the day.
Day 3 - Friday
• We had a leisurely start to the day, packed up camp and got on our merry way back.
• We got back to El Chaltén at about 5pm and Simón gave us a lift back to our hostel after Maria called in advance to book a room for us since we forgot in our rush to check out the morning that we started the trek.
All in all, everything was great. We were more than sufficiently exhausted by the end of the 3 days. I have no problem saying that the excursion definitely wasn't cheap at all but I had such a great time and enjoyed everyone at Patagonia Hikes so much that I don't care at all. It was an incredible time and the people behind Patagonia Hikes were a huge part of that. This 3-day excursion is the highlight of my 2 weeks in Argentina, without a doubt.
I would recommended Patagonia Hikes to anybody looking to find adventure anywhere near El Chaltén. I look forward to going back to El Chaltén one day to arrange another adventure with them.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.