March 1st, 2013
Perfect Day at Cerro Fitz Roy
It was a perfect day.
We woke up at 6:30 am after spending the night on the outskirts of El Chalten. It was a bit rude, because I had to set an alarm. I wanted to get up and get going as we had a pretty long hike for the day and I wanted to get started before the big crowds. It is on of the most popular and famous hikes up to the base of Cerro Fitz Roy. Plus I wanted to see the sunrise on the mountain from our camp spot. Susanne was less than thrilled when the alarm went off.
Our little spot next to road was pretty good. For being a major road into a major tourist destination, there was maybe one car every 20 minutes and at night maybe 3 went by all night.
We had some coffee and breakfast and headed into the trailhead. Susanne was going to do the 12 km hike up to the Mirador Fitz Roy; I was going to do the 24 km hike into Lago de los Tres, which was at the base of the glacier. Susanne’s foot was definitely not up for that.
One dude from Peru in an RV with a surfboard, that we had seen at the ranger station the night before, had just camped at the trailhead. I guess we could have done that, but after having been booted from a few parks already, we were feeling gun shy, plus we had a better view.
It was a bit chilly at the start, but the sky was completely cloudless and view of Fitz Roy on our way in was absolutely stunning. The trail was well maintained and pretty easy walking. Once the sun hit us, we were down to a shirt and shorts. I lathered on the sunscreen and spent the rest of the day in my totally cool safari hat with flaps. Seriously, I look totally cool in it.
We got to the Mirador at about 10:30 where we had a bit of a snack and I headed off. Susanne was going to hang and check out the view and then mosey on over to Lago Capri before heading back down to hang in El Chalten while I hiked. We did the usual safety time coordination (I should be back by 4:00, if we get to 5:00 then something is wrong).
The hike to the camp, where all the climbers base out of, was not very interesting, so I set a pretty fast pace. Geomorphology is pretty consistent throughout the world; if you want to get a view of a mountain from a glacial lake at the base of a glacier, then you are going to do a steep ass climb up a terminal moraine to get there. This was no exception. The trail climbed about 1500’ in 3 km to get to Lago de los Tres. I decided to make it an exerhike up the climb and managed to make my way up to the top in about 45 minutes. It was steep and rocky. Many suffering people along the way.
The view was stunning. Many mountains get less imposing as you approach them; Fitz Roy just got more and more impressive. It must be quite a climb. I had lunch and hung out for about ½ hour and then headed back down. The down was harder than the up. I got back to the car just before 3:00 pm and Susanne was relieved that I came in well ahead of the official “start to worry” time.
I have noticed one thing about blogging is that you tend to focus on the adventures and negatives because they often lend themselves to good humor. The perfect day just doesn’t have the edge to make a blog funny. So I lied. The day wasn’t quite perfect.
As stated yesterday, the only reason Susanne puts up with my terrible Spanish is because I drive her around, and quickly, on roads that she would rather not drive. Thus, I have built up many brownie points that have excused me from calling the “Cuernos” the “Carneros.” Or constantly not being able to properly tell her what time it is in Spanish. Sigh. Someday.
Anywho, neither of us was hungry after the hike, so we decided to log some klicks since we are faced some 1000 kms of dirt road over the next couple of weeks. Off we go. About 50 km outside of El Chalten I pull over for a pit stop. Now, let me tell you, the shoulder looks great. It looks like good hard gravel. I hit it and Casimiro does a digger, stalls and is stuck. Bummer. Susanne is less than amused. If fact, she is not happy at all
Now, I must fill you in on one small side detail that may help win me back a few brownie points. Buried amongst all of our stuff is my ice axe. Why I brought it, I am not sure; I guess I had the thought that maybe I would climb a mountain or something. An ice axe is a wonderful thing. It can save your life on a mountain by stopping you from careening into a crevasse, chip ice so you can melt it to get life-sustaining water and it can be used to dig out a stuck Sprinter van.
I pull out the ice axe and start trying to dig the wheels out. I give it a try, no go. A dude and his dudette stop to help. They have a rope. We hook it up and can’t get it to go forward. I dig some more. I then get it to rock, slam it into reverse and go zooming up the bank and on to the road with a squeal of rubber. No worries.
Ice axes are good things. Off we go.
Susanne remains unamused by the whole incident.
We stopped in at Tres Lagos to get some supplies. There was nothing. The streets where all gravel and very rough. Susanne asked this dude where the gas station was and he pointed us in the right direction. We headed back out of town where we found the non-descript white building that was the gas station. The dude that ran it was out picking up his kids from school, so if we wanted gas we had to wait until he got back.
You need patience in Patagonia. Things just happen and it’s so unpopulated, what’s the big deal if you leave your gas station for an hour. He finally came back and gassed us up. The good news is that he finally gave us the right terminology for the propane tank in van and now tomorrow we hope to actually get that replaced before heading back to Chile.
We drove north on Highway 40, which was under construction, so we got the usual bone jarring desvio for about 50 km. The road improved after a while and I was able to do 70 to 80 kph. We headed down a, surprise, rough dirt road to Lago Cardiel. There is truly nothing here. Not one light was visible from our campsite. We were treated to a fantastic sunset and packed it in for the night.
Tomorrow, more bone-jarring dirt road.
Ciao for now.