After the high of Torres del Paine, I headed off north, into Argentina. I was glad to get out of Chile, and anxious to get to ARgentina, and experience the steak, wine and friendly people which everyone talks so highly of.
First stop was El Calafate, a patagonian tourist mecca. Deciding this wasnt for me, I headed straight to El Chalten
, which was an up and coming tourist mecca but also the jumping point for Cerro Fitzroy, and the surrounding Torres. The town was a remote, and expensive tourist hot spot lacking any real character, and full of all sorts of international botiques, ice cream stores, brew house, and even a tapas bar! But I wasnt there for the fine dining, only for the mountains.
The hiking wasnt as spectacular as torres, an most popular destinations could be reached by a day trip. Overnight camping was popular for those who just wanted to hang out in the woods. I did a few popular hikes, and ticked the `Cerro Fitzroy`box, on a suberb day. The real fun, however, started when I found a couple of old friends I met in Torres - a canadian couple who loved the outdoors, travelling in an old yellow combie beaming with character.
The husband of the couple proposed an adventure to me - a hike around the back of the fitzroy, between the fitz and the torres. It involved lots climbing up and down 1000m, crampons & glaciers, and a solid rapel. off course I signed up.
I had to hire some boots for the crampons, and a harness for the rapel.
AFter sorting these items, and a little food, we set off into the bad weather (the weather defaults to bad at least 80% of the time, and good weather is referred to as a `window`). We hear the weather was improving, and decided to camp halfway the mountain, wait out the afternoon and evening reading books. It turned out to be an excellent decision, as we woke to clear skies, and amazing views.
We walke up our steep hill, across icy rocks, up a glacier, to a pass... then down the other side (rocks),
down another glacier, across more icy rocks (steep and slippery), then
up another glacier, more rocks, more glacier and more rocks. the whole
time we were hiking amongst some of the most amazing scenery you have
ever seen. We had a topographic map, but it the contour lines simply
couldnt keep up with the terrain.
... cliffs, granite walls, rock
spires, glaciers, ice falls... and there wasnt another person anywhere
(its not a hiking trail...). it got a little tough on the last glacier,
where there were many crevaces, snowed in from the night before. Deciding it was a little dangerous, well actually Scott decided, I lacked sufficient experience to contribute to any decision making....we navigated our way through the crevaces. When we climbed up the last rocks (literally climbing, steeper than
they were long), we ended up on top of a massive wall. it was impossible to
see the bottom, but we guessed the glacier below to be 500m or so below
us (thats elevation change). incredible view. It felt like the top of the world, but the Fitz stood beside us, towering 1500m above.
The point of climbing up was to find the rapel, which we didnt find.
AFter concluding we were a ways off, we headed back down a knee busting decent. With wobbly tired legs, at a flat spot in the glacier, we worked out where we thought the rapel should be - 500m across an extremely sketchy looking glacier loaded with crevaces. Deciding it was still dangerous, we headed back the way we came, and camped at a climbers camp. The camp was well above the tree line amongst massive rock spires,
and glaciers. We slept under the stars (not enough space for the tent), on a fresh night that was estimated to be -10. I had a mat to keep a little cold out, but scott didnt, so he showed me a few tricks to
keep off the cold cold dirt... sleep on a tent, then ropes, in a
massive fertilizer bag (that was already there - its actually a
lightweight bag for sleeping in cold climates). My sleeping bag wasnt warm enough (an embarrasing and foolish mistake), so I slept in every item of clothing i had with me... thermals, fleece, down
jacket (loaned from scott), beanie, scarf, with the fly (outer cover)
of the tent over the top of my sleeping back. In the morning my boots were frozen, from moisture within the, and fly was riddled with frost.
After a pretty neat few days up in the mountains, we headed back to town, and it was time to escape El Chalten...