As I slowly settle into my new digs here in Buenos Aires, I can’t help but think about the two weeks I spent in Patagonia. The thought of editing down my 1,400+ photos seems a bit overwhelming so I’m going to tackle one day’s worth of photos at a time and also post what I did that day. I think the last entry I had on Patagonia was about El Chalten where we spent two nights. I loved that little town (estimated year-round population ~800) with comfortable lodgings, good food, drinks, and great ice cream. This takes me back a few weeks to… January 4, 2012. I was a bit nervous about the hike but I woke up excited about what we were going to see.
Our local guide Andreas set the pace for the group and Carola, our expedition leader for the trip, hiked at the end to make sure we were all accounted for. It was sunny and beautiful out, and none of us thought it would rain but we were prepared to take on whatever changes we might face. What we didn’t know was that it hadn’t rained in several weeks and the strong winds would kick up all the dust, making us feel as if we were trapped in a sand storm at times. To protect myself from the strong sun, gusty winds and dust I was more or less completely covered from head to toe. It was almost comical to find dirt and sand in our pockets, eardrums, and every nook and cranny of our clothing after the hike. I dodn’t want to think about how much of the dust I inhaled into my lungs…
The start of the trail was relatively easy and it gave me a lot of time to marvel at the scenery. The grand scale of the mountains, rivers, and the valleys will remain with me for the rest of my days but looking at my photos now, I don’t think any one of them shows how incredible it really was. The towering peaks of FitzRoy were covered in white smoky clouds the entire time we were hiking but we had high hopes that once we reached the top, we’d get a glimpse of the sharp granite summit.
It’s a good thing that I didn’t read about the Laguna de los Tres trail because if I had, I think I would have really been intimidated. The hike up to Rio Blanco was beautiful but long (about 3.5 hours) but the real test came at the very end, when we faced the steep moraine (moraine = mass of rocks and sediment deposited by a glacier). It took us an hour to climb this hill made of rocks and pebbles, with a short break every 20 minutes or so. My heart pounded and I wasn’t sure whether I could keep up the pace, but in the end we all reached the top. And what we found was simply amazing.
We were treated to an extraordinary view of Cerro Fitz Roy (3,405m) and the remarkably still waters of glacial Laguna de los Tres. The clouds still hovered over the peak but we were all smiles. We had our lunch looking up at the peaks and afterwards I headed down to the lake to fill my water bottle with the best tasting glacier water in the world. A few of us decided to walk around the lake to see what was on the other side, and to our utter delight and surprise we found an emerald-green lake hiding deep down (called Laguna Sucia). It felt like a secret gift!
Just as we were getting ready to start our descent, the clouds moved away ever so slightly for us to see the glorious Cerro Fitz Roy. The sight of Fitz Roy gave me the jolt needed for the long journey back to El Chalten. The weather held up nicely for us but the 4 hour hike back seemed like an eternity.
But the afternoon light made everything brilliant and radiantly green, and I could only be grateful for everything I was seeing. My feet were beginning to hurt and I was covered in dust, but all I felt was pure joy. In the world of mountaineering the granite spires of Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre pose some of the most challenging climbs on the planet and each year there are hundreds of elite climbers who come to conquer these peaks. For me, trekking in the valleys below and hiking up to see the summit provided more than I could have imagined. I am proud to say that I’ve hiked the Laguna de los Tres trail in Parque Nacional Los Glaciares in Argentina and saw the peaks of Fitz Roy up close. I didn’t know that I could hike 24km. Now I do.
We were off to a great start to our Patagonia trip and I didn’t think things could get better… but they did!