The "H" Hike
El Chalten Travel Blog› entry 35 of 71 › view all entries
In hindsight, I wish I had planned on two full days in El Chalten, not one. There were enough trails and activities to keep someone busy for at least a few days.
But - as (bad) luck would have it - I only had allotted one full day - today. And there were at least two "famous" hikes I wanted to do. Hike 1 is a four hour trek (each way) to Laguna del los Tres and Cerro Fitz Roy. Hike 2 is a three hour trek (each way) to Laguna Torre and Cerro Torre. My crazy plan for today was to do BOTH these hikes - bridging to two trails by hiking down a valley called Madre de Hija (thus creating a type of "H" shaped route). I haven´t quite added up the kilometers, but I think it´s about 35 kilometers, or 20 miles.
Now, given my boot problems and health problems, you may be asking yourself - like I was - what the hell is dannyboy thinking??
Well, the update is that my throat / cough / fever thing seems to have gotten mostly better. Maybe that second pack of amoxicillan helped. I still have a lingering cough that sporadically presents itself; and my strength/energy is not totally back either. But generally speaking health wise, I am feeling much better.
As for the shoes, I just can´t explain it. If 0 is great and 10 is pain, they were an 8 on the "W" hike but the last few days they have been like a 2. I am not sure what is going on.
Bottom line - I decided to go for it and attempt my self-designed "H" hike today.
I woke up at 6am and got ready. Same drill as before. I repacked my large pack with only the bare essentials I thought I´d need. Fleece, hat, goretex shell, waterproof pants, lunch (2 sandwiches and an apple leftover from shopping trip in El Calafate), and water. I ate a quick breakfast at the hostel, and hit the trail at 7am. Early, but I wanted to give myself plenty of time. I wasn´t exactly sure how long the "H" was going to take me, but I figured up to 12 hours of walking, plus rest stops, lunch, photos, etc. I did not want to be stuck on the trail in Patagonia in early evening, or god forbid, nightfall.
Three of the first four hours were basically all uphill, gaining nearly 750 meters. Not a huge amount, but enough for this old guy to feel it in my legs. I still managed to beat the recommended time, and arrived at my first destination (Laguna de los Tres and Cerro Fitz Roy) about 20 minutes early. That was good news in terms of getting back home before sunset.
The view here was pretty spectacular - though uncanny how much it resembles the "look" of Torres del Paine. Huge granite spires rising up out of a rocky ridge, with a blue lake in the foreground. I spent some time goofing around with photos and videos - including taking my shoes off and wading in the ice cold lake water.
After about an hour hanging out, I began the descent. I was going about halfway back down the trail I´d just come up - and then take a right and head down the valley Madre de Hija to intersect the other trail to Laguna Torre.
The trail up/down to Cerro Fitz Roy, by the way, was crazy steep, crazy rocky, and crazy windy. Had to be careful. On the way down, I just had mental flashes of me tripping and doing a faceplant on the rocks below. I guess this is where those silly trekking poles might actually be useful.
The walk down the valley was really nice - and a nice change. It was virtually flat. It offered great views back across the valley at Cerro Fitz Roy.
By mid afternoon, I arrived at the trail to Laguna Torre and Cerro Torre. So I made a right and headed out for 2 hours to the lake and mirador. This trail was flat - a welcome relief to my tiring legs. I tried to walk fast, again battling time and uncertainty.
When I got to the mirador, it was incredibly windy. Someone had even built a rock wind wall - so I ducked behind that and made a quick video.
Then, I started the walk back home. Another few hours of walking. At long last, I caught a glimpse of El Chalten in the valley below.
When I finally made it back to the hostel, I was tired, dusty, thirsty, stinky... a shower never felt so good. And it was a hot one, too. (I´ve actually been pretty lucky so far in the hostels. Only a few times have I had to cringe through a cold shower.)
After the shower, I headed back to the small brew pub, where I immediately ordered the 2 beers I had promised myself. I also ordered the Locro...or lamb stew. Tasty. And I reflected on my hike today:
I was fortunate on my route choice for a couple of reasons. I left early enough in the morning that my hike up to popular Cerro Fitz Roy was virtualy deserted.
After dinner, I headed back the hostel and again hung out in the lodge a bit. But it wasn´t very social, and I was tired anyway, so I hit the sack early...hoping I wouldn´t be too sore tomorrow.