June 5, 2011. David, Gaelle, William and I went to El Chalten to do day-hikes around the base of Mt. Fitz Roy, located in Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina. We added new travelers to our group, Sibylle from Switzerland, Nick from Australia, and Jean from Brazil.
El Chalten was a ghost town. Perhaps only 2% of the city was open for business. Since we arrived early in the afternoon, all of us ran errands, shopped for food, withdrew money from the ATM. Later in the afternoon, David, Sibylle, Jean and hiked two of the shorter trails, Los Condores and Las Aguilas. They took us up to heights overlooking the town.
We were very lucky to have clear views of Mt. Fitz Roy. The weather in this area is notoriously variable and many a traveler have come to see Mt. Fitz Roy only to be disappointed from never having even caught a glimpse of the mountain during the length of their stay.
We hiked to the viewpoint at Las Aguilas. We saw a wide plain, a road that went off into the distance and a large lake off to our right.
We went off the trail to explore some higher hills. We encountered a frozen pond and played on that for a short while before hiking back to town. It was a good, easy day of hiking.
June 6, 2011. William, Nick, Sibylle, David and I hiked up to Lago de los Tres at the base of Mt. Fitz Roy. As we neared the lake, the trail got really steep and icy. We went so high that I began to think that maybe we were on the wrong trail. Nick had to turn back because he thought it was too treacherous to continue. The rest of us pressed on. Up and up we went; the trail cutting across scree slopes.
We were rewarded with the satisfaction of meeting our objective. Lago de los Tres sat at the base of three peaks just below Mt. Fitz Roy. It was frozen over so we walked on it. What a cheap thrill!
I walked a long the bank of the lake to the left and discovered a bright blue, frozen lake, Lago Sucia. It so beautiful!
Even the walk back to El Chalten was beautiful.
June 7, 2011. David and I were up before sunrise to eat breakfast before another day of hiking. He told me to look out the window to see if the skies were clear. I saw snow on the ground. “Uh oh,” I thought. “This is going to make it very hard to see the trails, and if the trail was anything near as steep as the trail to Lago de los Tres, it would be very, very dangerous.” In addition, my boots weren’t waterproof and if I got them wet, my feet would freeze. I had doubts about going hiking that day.
Being from Australia, snow was a novelty for David, and he was very excited about hiking in the snow. Sibylle, being from Switzerland, was also comfortable with going out in the snow. William, from France was willing to go, and so were the two Argentinians, Pablo and Solange, and another Australian, Nick. Since the group was going, I figured that I ought to go, too. I was curious to see how bad the trail was.
Like what my friends and I used to do when we were kids, I wore plastic bags over my socks to help keep my feet dry. We went out on the trail and the first part was really steep and slippery. A few of us slipped and fell. We hiked through this winter wonderland and had great views of the mountains since the skies had cleared up.
We reached Lago Torre. It was frozen over.
The Argentinians, Pablo and Solange, had brought mate, a hot tea made from the yerba mate plant, and they shared with everyone. Mate has a bitter taste and this was the day that I acquired the taste for it.
Like all the hikes in the Patagonia, the way back was just as beautiful.
We encountered Gaelle on the way back. She had been hiking for almost two hours alone, following our footprints in the snow. Here’s a picture that we took with all of us together:
Gaelle had left messages in the snow for us. How cute!
At the end of the day, my toes felt like they had frozen. The plastic bags around my feet only delayed the inevitable wet feet. The trails weren’t as bad as I thought they’d be. I was glad that I went hiking. All it took was a little peer pressure.