A RANGE OF EMOTIONS

El Chaltén

The Fitz Roy Range gets its own short post because it is, quite simply, spectacular.

After a day or so resting up at the Casa de Ciclistas, I headed out on the first of two hikes. I was very fortunate to have arrived in El Chaltén as a weather window opened up – the infamous Patagonian weather does not always afford visitors a view of this famous range and, indeed, several of my friends on the road ahead of me had experienced poor weather here. With my backpack converted into hiking mode and loaded up, I headed off up the mountain on a short hike up to the campsite near Laguna Torre, where I would overnight before hopefully watching sunrise the next morning. It was a pleasant hike and I got some lovely views, in particular of the Glaciar Grande.

After finding a spot in the campsite, I bedded down, eager to rise before first light and find a good spot for sunrise. A brief excursion to the toilet midway through the night revealed stars overhead, which boded well. Arising at about 5:30am, I got dressed, grabbed my backpack and moved away from the tree cover of the campsite. At which point, I felt a light spray against my face and looked up in the pitch black to realise that, where there had been stars only a few hours earlier, there was nothing to be seen. The clouds had enveloped the mountain and there was little hope of seeing anything. It’s always difficult to know in these situations whether it’s just a passing cloud or more set in. My intuition said the latter and, with a wry smile, I returned to the campsite, got back into my sleeping bag and went back to sleep! Daylight confirmed I’d made a good decision – clouds wrapped around the mountain – so I packed the tent and trudged back down to town!

My next assault on the mountain would come a few days later. I decided to do the more popular Lago de los Tres hike, which takes you up to a small glacial lake right beneath Cerro Fitz Roy itself. Preferring to go lighter and do it in one day, I set out at 5am, in order to watch sunrise from a mirador (viewpoint) on the way up. I made good progress and arrived with plenty of time to spare, so much so, in fact, that I was fairly frozen through by the time the sun finally broke the horizon, a strong Patagonian wind buffeting me constantly. This time, the clouds had stayed away and it was beautiful watching the light slowly change colour on the mountain-side, finally reaching a golden yellow…

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