The "H" Hike

El Chalten Travel Blog

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Starting off on the big hike. 35 km. 10 hours. Wind.

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.

Playing around in a tree.
 

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.

Supporting the trail.
  I had talked to a couple locals who said it was possible....of course these guys live here and are basically professional hikers.  I´m a silly Californian with a desk job.

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.

Whew! Made it to the first viewpoint - 4 hours in - that´s Laguna de Los Tres and the Cerro Fitz Roy in the background.
  I was not bringing my headlamp, against a recommendation from "professionals".  Aren´t I hardcore? =)

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.

I dipped my feet in the ice cold (literally) water. Brr...
  I also ate a sandwich here to refuel for the next leg.

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.

Another hiker was nice enough to snap this photo of me.
  It passed a couple of lakes that were very accessible - so I took a minute to go down to the shore and dig my hands into the "sand" which was made up of rocks the size of marbles, or smaller.  See picture.  And, by the way, the wind was WHIPPING through this valley.  Finally I got a taste of the true Patagonia wind!  Awesome! 

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.

Descending from Laguna de los Tres and Cerro Fitz Roy. Next, I´ll walk on the left side of the lake below, and down the valley to next destination, Lago Torre
  I enjoyed the view for a few minutes while munching on an apple.  While the view was still amazing, the granite spires and glacier at end of lake were probably less impressive relative to the other things I´ve seen - Torres del Paine, Perito Moreno glacier, Cerro Fitz Roy.  The towers were less descript, and hidden by fog anyway, and the glacier was an ice cube compared to Perito Moreno.  Nonetheless, I snapped a few photos and smiled to myself that I was fortunate enough to be sitting here.

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.

Taking a drink from fresh glacier-melt stream
  I literally started laughing out loud, I was so delighted.  It was about 6pm now, and I was tired! 

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.

The walk along valley Madre de Hija gave me great views of where I had just climbed - Cerro Fitz Roy. That dark ridge on right/middle side of photo is huge - you can just make out a whitish "vein" which is the switchback trail I climbed.
  That was cool.  I don´t like hiking around a lot of people.  Sort of destroys the purpose.  And the wind was at my back as I made the last hour ascent (a steep one) to the Fitz Roy mirador and Laguna de los Tres, this helped on the way down, too, as the wind helped keep me from going down too fast.  Then, cruising down the valley, the wind was at my back.  I even found myself jogging at some points - partly because the wind was so strong, but also partly because I was forever conscious about my timeline (and not knowing for sure how long my "H" would take).  By the time I got to the trail toward my second destination, it was late enough in the day that the crowd (if there was one) had already headed back to El Chalten or back to their campsite to settle in for evening.  And, finally, the weather was crystal clear from 7am to 2pm, and then got a big foggy, but still very tolerable.  So all in all, I really lucked out here.  And no faceplants.

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.

 

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Starting off on the big hike.  35 …
Starting off on the big hike. 35…
Playing around in a tree.
Playing around in a tree.
Supporting the trail.
Supporting the trail.
Whew!  Made it to the first viewpo…
Whew! Made it to the first viewp…
I dipped my feet in the ice cold (…
I dipped my feet in the ice cold …
Another hiker was nice enough to s…
Another hiker was nice enough to …
Descending from Laguna de los Tres…
Descending from Laguna de los Tre…
Taking a drink from fresh glacier-…
Taking a drink from fresh glacier…
The walk along valley Madre de Hij…
The walk along valley Madre de Hi…
The walk along valley Madre de Hij…
The walk along valley Madre de Hi…
Here I am at the lake in the valle…
Here I am at the lake in the vall…
Relaxing in wicked strong sun, tha…
Relaxing in wicked strong sun, th…
Here is destination 2 - Laguna Tor…
Here is destination 2 - Laguna To…
Here´s a map of my looong trek.  …
Here´s a map of my looong trek. …
Descending back into El Chalten.  …
Descending back into El Chalten. …
A well deserved 2-beer appetizer.
A well deserved 2-beer appetizer.
This is how a lot of my meals look…
This is how a lot of my meals loo…
I wasn´t kidding when I said 2 b…
Sunny and raining!
Hiking down valley Madre de Hija
At my first destination - Laguna …
Here I am, risking my intestines.…
A couple hours into my 35km, 10 h…
El Chalten
photo by: mountaingirl