Laguna Sucia is one of the smaller lagunas in Glaciers National Park. It stands below the Rio Blanco glacier and is close to Laguna de los Tres, though it's a much more difficult laguna to reach.
However, if you have done the hike to Laguna de los Tres, you can look down on Laguna Sucia from a moraine on the western side of De Los Tres. The views are fantastic, a great reward for such a short climb.
The Sendero Madre y Hija (mother and daughter path) provides a convenient shortcut betwen the trail to Laguna Torre and the trail to Laguna de los Tres.
The trail is named after two lakes on the trail. It takes about 45 minutes to walk the length of it and along the way there are good views of the mountains around Cerro Fitz Roy.
If you have any energy left after hiking to Laguna Torre, there is a great hike around the laguna and up to Mirador Maestri, from where you can look down upon the laguna and Glacier Grande. Cerro Torre was covered in clouds when we hiked up to Mirador Maestri so I can't comment on the views of the Torre spire, but I imagine they are spectacular.
It takes about an hour to hike to Mirador Maestri from Laguna Torre. The clear trail follows the north side of the lake before climbing steeply. After a short hike through a forest area you emerge at the mirador. Along the way keep an eye out for the shelters used by previous expeditions attmepting to climb Torre.
The hike from El Chalten to Laguna Torre and back is an 8 hour, 25km roundtrip, which takes in some of the park's most impressive views. It's along a well marked trail, worn down by the steps of the thousands of trekkers who have trodden this path. From El Chalten there is a choice of paths to follow at the start, either in the north of town at Campamento Madsen or from the south of town close to the hydroelectric works. We hiked to Laguna Torre twice, thus taking in both the starting paths - I think the path from the south was my favourite as there were views of Cerro Torre from an earlier point.
The paths meet up after about 45 minutes hiking just before Mirador Cerro Torre, from where on a clear day there are excellent views of Cerro Solo and especially of Cerro Torre. This 3128 metre peak is one of the world's most famous mountains, so if you're lucky enough to be here on a clear day, you'll be well rewarded with the view.
After the mirador, the path drops down through beautiful woods, before crossing an open section near the turn off to the Sendero Madre y Hija, a shortcut to the FitzRoy hike. Ignoring this turn off, you soon reach the Campamento de Agostini, a free camping area below the Laguna.
The laguna itself is beautiful, so even if Cerro Torre is covered in clouds the hike is worth the effort. The view of Glacier Grande flowing into Laguna Torre is one of the finest sights in Argentina. You'll see floating ice on the emereld green lake, and if you're lucky Cerro Torre will be visible in the background.
Torre seems to have its own weather system, and is often covered in cloud. We didn't see it at all the first time we hiked to the Laguna - in fact, for our first three days in El Chalten it was completely covered. On Day 4, however, the clouds cleared, so we decided to return to Laguna Torre, and even though we'd hiked much of this trail two days previously, it was worth it for seeing Torre close up.
Cerro Torre is one of the most famous peaks in the world, a 3128 metre peak whose first ascent is a controversial matter and still the subject of much debate. From afar it looks impossible to climb as the relentless Patagonian wind has sculpted it into a tall, narrow imposing granite spire.
Torre seems to have its own weather system, and is often covered in cloud. We didn't see it once during our first three days in El Chalten, and a local told us it can often be covered in clouds for weeks, even when nearby skies are clear.
When the clouds do clear, you can see Torre from El Chalten. However, the views are better the closer you get. Mirador Cerro Torre is 45 minutes walk from El Chalten along the trail to Laguna Torre and is a good spot to take in the view. Even better is Laguna Torre itself, 12km from El Chalten. The laguna is fed by Glacier Grande and stands just below Cerro Torre and makes for a fantastic viewing platform.
On our first full day in El Chalten we did a couple of easy hikes to warm up. We had arrived late the previous night after 11pm after a two day bus journey from Bariloche, so naturally we needed an easy start - the hike to Chorillo del Salto (Chorillo Waterfall) was a good choice for the first day.
The hike involved an 8km round trip to a small waterfall north of town along an easy to follow trail. In fact, the road to Lago del Desierto went nearly all the way to the falls and for the most part we walked parallel to Las Vueltas river, so it was impossible to get lost.
There were impressive views of the river along the way, as well as good views of town, but we couldn't see the far away spires of Fitz Roy - they would have to wait for another day. The waterfall was nowhere near as impressive as others we'd seen in Argentina, but all in all it was a good hike and good preparation for the longer treks to come.
Trekking to Laguna de Los Tres was supposed to take 4 hours. It didn't work in our case though, we made it in 6 hours but did an additional, probably the most beautiful trek aside. Just after passing Poincenot camping we weren't sure where the trail goes (although it's perfectly marked) but saw some people a bit on the left, where we thought the trail might be going there and decided to follow. Soon enough I realized we were wrong. First, the regular trail had all the facilities needed for an easy trek and didn't demand jumping on bigger stones to get to the other side of the river. Second, it wasn't marked with the regular trail signs, still, it was marked in a way, there were piramides made of stones all along the way. Third, we were walking up (or rather jumping from one rock to another) the rocky river valley with a small brook at its bottom and looking at the map it became pretty obvious we are heading towards Laguna Sucia. I wanted to go back but the 4 people I was walking with were quite sure we were going the right way. Luckily, thanks to my lack of persuasibility we went all the way to Laguna Sucia, which is an amazing beauty itself and also this part of trekking was the best of all.
Trekking to Laguna Torre would take you a maximum of 3 hours and it's a very easy trek. There are trail maps available at every hostel showing the way to leave the town to get on the trail. Its beginning is a bit steep as the town lies in a kind of canyon but then it really is an easy walk.
The climat is pretty harsh and the weather can change rapidly. When we were leaving the town early afternoon it was pouring rain and cold but soon it cleared out so the views became more beautiful and we could take some of our clothes off too :)
Just above the town of El Chalten along the trail to Lago Capri and Tres Lagos there is a forest of wind devestated trees that lie in a narly state upon the ground. This area is a feast for the Magalenic woodpeckers that are completely unbothered by people. You can get very close to these large woodpeckers that have a flaming red head and see them busy digging out worms.
We didn't have a full day for trekking to Laguna de Los Tres cuz we had to leave El Chalten with the 6 pm bus in order to catch our flight from El Calafate the next morning. So, to have some extra time, we decided to start at 6 am which is nothing extraordinary for regular trekkers but it was kind of special for a sleepyhead like myself. Still, I didn't argue a bit as the beautiful sunrise views inmediatelly payed off the little trouble.
The famous Cerro Torre rises right above Laguna Torre. Unfortunatelly the clouds didn't let me see its summit which is nothing unusual. The clouds coming from the west stop on the barrier and the barrier itselt doesn't let the clouds go, like it was ashamed of the inquisitive looks of those who came dozens of thousands of kilometers to see it.
The remote town hidden between the granite wall was only founded in 1985. Argentinians created a base point for climbers from all around the world dreaming of conquering Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre.
The facilities are limited in El Chalten, there is no bank or ATM, so remember to bring enough cash along. One small supermarket is just enough for its small community and visitors, what's new is a recently opened gas station. The town serves its purpose and it definitelly wouldn't be the same if the access road was paved (and I've read it will be paved soon) and it was equipped with full facilities. I'm thinking, I like it the way it is now.
Soaking up the beauty of Laguna Sucia it was a time to decide whether we still have time to get back on the trail and go to Laguna de los Tres. We decided to give it a try remembering we absolutelly must catch the bus leaving at 6pm.
It came out that the ascent to Laguna de Los Tres is very steep and there was no time for breaks. I tell you, that I hardly survived the last part of the ascent, I was exhausted, hardly breathing and my body was aching but I was still going up, almost on my fours now.
What kept me going was U2's "I can reach highest mountains..." running through my head. It was well worth it to be able to see Laguna de Los Tres and looking behind, the view over Patagonian steppe with Laguna Capri and Lago Viedma further away.
One has many different feelings reaching the top, a feeling of a conqueror may come first but then comes humbleness which in this case feels much better than a pride. And the pictures in my albums will never just become pictures.
Laguna Sucia is an inmense beauty. Once you get there you just don't want to leave. It's not really popular destination so you're there all alone surrounded by bare rocks, looking at the bright turquoise waters, listening to the waterfalls falling from the glaciers and overwhelmed by the majesting Fitz Roy rising right in front of you.
It's a great way of loosing the right trail.... providing you can find it back.