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A Real Page Turner

Fitz RoyIf Patagonia were a book, it would be on par with Tolstoy’s War and Peace.  It just goes and goes seemingly without an end. El Chaltén has so much to offer that just three or four days isn’t enough. But that is what we had, thus we made sure to milk it as much as possible. So back to the utter after our first snowy hike. 

The weather was decidedly better and offered stunning views of Fitz Roy later in the week. And thank goodness because Ash and I woke up at 6am to embark on a 30 kilometer hike towards and eventually onto the Torre Glacier. Along for the grueling adventure was Karen from Hong Kong who shared pictures of her five day ascent of Kilimanjaro, the tallest peak in Africa. Clearly, we had to bust our butts to keep up with such an adventurer and our tough-as-nails guide, Carlos. After four hours, we took refuge in a domed tent and were outfitted with a harness (for the river crossing and ice climbing) and crampons (for walking on the glacier). A bit further and we reached the milky blue lake at the foot of Torre Glacier. Ash volunteered to cross the river first on the south side of the frigid body of water. Her poor little arms failed halfway across, needing a break before continuing. What a valiant effort! She was not alone in the problem department. As I readied myself for the crossing, I put my full weight on the harness, which didn’t feel so well in the “special no-no place.” The group of twelve behind us enjoyed a good chuckle at my anatomy’s expense. Nonetheless, we battled on towards the glacier and finally reached it after a careful descent down the rocky southern exposure.

Crossing the Raging Glacial River Torre Galcier Honest to Goodness Ice Cold Water

Walking on crampons is a bit strange at first, but once you have confidence in these metal spike accessories for your boots, any ice is your playground. Like chicks following the mother hen, we followed three deep behind Carlos. He was careful to point out dangerous crevasses, icy caves, and glacial rivers running atop the slick surface. Perhaps it was in our minds, but the water from the glacier was the best tasting water ever. Then my brain performed a mental exercise. Should water even have a taste? OK, back to Earth.

Glacier Tunnel Tunnel to China Not a Step Closer 

We were fascinated to spy how the wind molds the ice horizontally and water creates deep passages vertically. One such spot on the Torre Glacier offered protection from the wind for lunch, an impressive crevasse, and a sheer wall of ice to attempt ice climbing. Carlos performed a quick demonstration after anchoring the safety rope high above. It was a bit tricky at first considering you are moving straight up an ice rink. After a slow start, we both got the hang of swinging the ice axes while supporting our bodies with our crampons. Later, we both admitted that had it not been for the rope attached to us, the icy wall was insurmountable.

Carlos Secures the Climbing Rope Reaching to the Sky Going Pro in Ice Climbing...

Worn out the next day, Ash took it easy and rested her sore muscles. I vowed to get close to Fitz Roy and with that packed a ham and cheese sandwich and set off on a 25 kilometer hike to Laguna de Los Tres. This spot affords you the closest view of Fitz Roy without actually climbing it. Setting a punishing pace due to our bus departure that afternoon, I reached the plateau overlooking three lakes and stared into a massive body of clouds. Myself and two Brits hunkered behind a bolder that yielded protection from the driving snow and wind. After thirty minutes it was obvious Mother Nature was not on our side on this day. I gave my dogs a rest and re-wrapped my blistered toes then headed back for the fireplace and a refreshing 1.5 Liter Quillmes.

Laguna de los Tres Trail Gloves Were Invented for a Reason Snow Capped Toes

Our amazing time in Argetina’s Patagonia region was over.  But this novel has many chapters.  There is just too much to enjoy about Patagonia for a guy rapidly catching the trekking bug again to stay away for long.  Ash on the other hand was ready to hang up her boots in exchange for a bottle of malbec in Argentina’s wine country.

- Greg

Learn From Our Footsteps:

  1. There are numerous adventure operators in El Chaltén, thus pricing is more reasonable compared to El Calafate. For example, Big Ice and Minitrekking runs $170 and $120 in El Calafate respectively. Our hike, river crossing, glacier trekking, and ice climbing ran $75 in El Chaltén.

  2. Consider what you want out of an Argentina Patagonia experience before selecting your destination(s). We can only speak to the glaciers, hiking, and towns we visited. For our preferences and budget, El Chaltén was perfect. We met loads of travelers who visited Ushuaia (commonly referred to as the “end of the world”) and the opinions were varied.

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