It was my first day in El Calafate. I needed to get a tour of the glaciers lined up, find some other things to do. I had also slept in on my first day in town. It was still early afternoon. After walking around Del Libertador (the main street in town), I found an agency for a cruise to see the 4 glaciers, but still wanted to do this afternoon. A couple of doors away was another agency offering a 4 X 4 tour that I still had time to get. This tour would be a visit to Cerro-Frias (cold hill in English), and take a 4 X 4 ride to the top, and get a view of the surrounding countryside.
Cerro-Frias is 1,030 meters high (about 3,400 feet) and is about 23 kilometers west of El Calafate. It is on an operating estancia (very large ranch). It takes about 4 hours (time includes travel to and from El Calafate). Transportation is provided by the Cerro-Frias organization with pickup / drop-off for tour guests at hotels in El Calafate. A map of Cerro-Frias relative to El Calafate is shown below. When looking at the map, it is surprising to see how close it is to both Chile and the Pacific Ocean. Somehow, when I am in Argentina, I have never thought that I was close to the Pacific Ocean.
While one could say this is just another 4 X 4 ride, I am very glad that I took this tour, and saw both many interesting sights. There is also interesting wild life to see, and the views give a very interesting orientation of the other attractions in the area. I would even suggest that if possible, people should take this tour prior to other tours in the vicinity of El Calafate. After this tour, the things you will see on other tours will fit into place better. This post will have the following four sections:
- Getting to Cerra-Frias,
- Up to the top of Cerra-Frias,
- Coming down from Cerra-Frias, and
- Returning to El Calafate
The Trip to Cerra-Frias
Scenery around El Calafate is nothing but amazing. As you head west towards Cerra-Frias you see nothing but the snow-capped mountains of the Southern Andes in the background surrounding Lago Argentina. About halfway there, Cerra-Frias comes into view, and then begins to dominate the skyline as one gets closer. Below are two photos that I took on the way to Cerra-Frias from El Calafate. I forgot the mention it, but a van from Cerra-Frias picked me up, and took me to the base of the hill where we changed into 4 X 4′s for the ride up the hill.
As you leave El Calafate going west, the Andes mountains overlooking Lago Argentino are spectacular.
Cerra-Frias just takes over the skyline as you get closer. At the base, one can take a road to the right to get to Puerto Bandera, or to the left for the Perito Moreno Glacier. Puerto Bandera is where people catch the Lago Argentino boats to visit the four glaciers.
Getting to the top of Cerra-Frias
We changed from the van that brought us from El Calafate into a 4 X 4 for the ride to the top. Our meeting place was on the south side of the hill, and this is where we did the change of vehicles. Along the way, we stopped a couple of times to take in the view. We also stopped to take in the wide life as we climbed to the top. In sequence below are some of the photos that I took on the way to the top of Carra-Frias.
There is nothing like a Land-Rover for a comfortable 4 X 4 ride. There were six people in our tour group along with a bi-lingual driver / guide that spoke both Spanish, and fluent English.
Snow capped mountains were everywhere to be seen. It would be hard to imagine ever getting tired of the scenery here. The mountains in the background were in Chile.
We left our assembly point and started for the east side of Cerra-Frias.
We had a view to the east of Lago Argentino as we started up the hill.
Little by little the trail got steeped. You could see from the ruts in the trail that many 4 X 4′s had been here before.
The views of Lago Argentino just kept getting better as we assended.
The road was getting steeper also. I don’t think that I would want to make this climb in my Ford Focus.
This was taken at our first stop on Cerra-Frias. Funny thing. The higher we got the better view we had of Lago Argentino. The large size of the lake is better appreciated as you get higher.
Another tour group in two Land Rovers followed us up the hill. The did not stop, and continued on the top as we were still looking at the view, and taking photos.
Water of two different colors can be seen here. In the foreground, the water from a river valley enters a bay of Lago Argentina maintaining a deep blue color before mixing with the waters of the larger lake. In the backgroung is the light blue color of the water consisting of finely mixed particles suspended in the water from glaciers. The particles are the result of grinding of bedrock and glaciers.
The lite blue waters of Lago Argentino with the fine glacial suspended here is shown here looking to the north from our vantage point. Notice the iceberg in the middle of the lake. It is just mind-blowing to me to see a freshwater iceberg.
We were now the last 4 X 4 going assending Cerra-Frias, but who cares. We were enjoying the sights, and they must have been in a rush. I guess that they just never learn “That you have to kill some time before it kill you!”.
We finally make it to the top, and could look down on where we started. This photo was taken with a telephoto lens. So it is not as close as it looks.
It is always nice to be on top of the world. Here we are looking east from our stop on the way to the top of Cerra-Frias.
As we started up to the west after the other Land Rovers, the peaks of Torres del Paine in Chile could be seen in the distance. At this point, they were about 75 kilometers (roughly 45 miles) distance.
Our trail started to level out as we got closer to the top.
It was the start of spring when I took this tour, but there was still snow on the ground in places that did not receive direct sun.
To the north, the channel leading to the Upsala Glacier could be seen from the top of Cerra-Frias.
Mount Fitz Roy / Cerro Fitz Roy about 50 kilometers (31 miles) to the north could also be seen from the top of Cerro-Frias. Mount Fitz Roy is supposedly one of the most challenging mountains in the world to climb.
Coming down from Cerro-Frias
Another Land Rover caught up with us as we getting ready to descend.
We saw a herd of guanacos was grazing as we came down. They actually seemed like there were not interested in us. We had passed them on the way to the top, but I did not have an opportunity to get a photo then.
We also passed some other wild life on the descent. I believe these animals are call “Herefords”, but not much is known about them. If anyone can give anything scientific about “Herefords”, please post a note in the comments. I am sure we would all like to learn something new about these rare animals.
Our descent was uneventful, and we made it back to our assembly point.
Returning to El Calafate
The guide that took our to the top of Cerro-Frias took our group make to El Calafate in 4 X 4 after we spent some time in the coffee / souvenir shop at the bottom of the hill.
Here we are heading east towards El Calafate. It took about 30 minutes for the return trip. I was dropped at my hotel to complete the trip.
More about Cerro Frias
There are many things to see at Cerro-Frias besides taking 4 X 4 rides. There is also zip line riding, hiking, horse back riding, and a restaurant open to the public. Visit Cerro-Frias’s web site for complete details.
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