Sunday, March 03, 2013

Patagonia: Trekking around Fitz Roy



I read so much about this place and I was finally there. I could not fucking believe it. You get to Fitz Roy through a small town called El Chaltén. Mount Fitz Roy is located inside Parque Nacional Los Glaciares, and  El Chaltén happens to be in it as well. You can see Mount Fitz Roy from El Chaltén! There are two main trekking attractions, you either trek to the base of Laguna De Los Tres to see the Mount Fitz Roy range of mountains or you trek towards to Laguna Torre to see Cerro Torre. I had only 2 days to see around Mount Fitz Roy, so I had to jam in somehow a few days of trek into two days. I was really nervous given that this would be my first time trekking or camping alone, but yet so excited as I knew this was going to be epic.


I crashed at the Hostel Rancho Grande, where tons of other back packers typically crash. Prior to settling in I went to look for local guide books and I found what they call here the local climbing bible, a book called Patagonia Vertical. I ordered a pizza, thinking I ordered only a slice but got a medium pie... I reluctantly ate it, but its a good thing as I would need the carbohydrates the next day, although I didn't know it yet. Back at the hostel a guy crashing in my room mentioned he worked in Antarctica doing guide work for scientists. This fucker was bad ass... and was on his way back home from his season work, figured he'd come check out Fitz Roy prior to his departure. The day prior had just finished a long trek path he advised I should take given the short amount of time I'd have to see things. His recommendation was that I go to Campamento Poincenot, do Laguna De Los Tres to see Fitz Roy and then do Refugio Los Troncos and then head straight to Campamento De Agostini to see Cerro Torre. Cerro Torre was not part of my plans but he insisted it was worth it. The recommended trek seemed a bit ambitious for my experience, I had only trekked once so far and I'd be doing it alone. I wasn't sure if I'd do it yet.


Fuck it, I said. On my first day I trekked 37.72 km just 4.47 km short of trekking a marathon. I managed to record that trek with my phone's GPS, you can view that trek on Google Maps here. Due to fall I had, and being attacked by a bird it will likely be the last time I trek alone. I know what you're thinking... I had seen the movie 127 Hours (2010) a while ago and after watching that I always told myself I'd never do similar activity alone, but hey -- sometimes we learn the hard way. You might not believe me I got attacked by a bird, but I recorded two attempts of this fucker bird taking a dive at me. You can see one dive at 7:22 and another at 8:01. Not sure what type of bird this is, let me know if you can make it out. Nothing serious, all in all it was fun, and the scenery and peace I felt was just amazing.


This was my camp site and that was the view I had all to myself. By now I was comfortable with Satanic Patagonia winds, but the insane winds would not come, at least not at Campamento Poincenot. Across the river there is another camp site called Campamento Rio Blanco and the trekking book I had indicated it was used by Rock Climbers. The holy climbing bible would later reveal to me that such claims were blasphemy, these days given that El Chaltén had so many allocation options rock climbers would not use this camp site to avoid erosion on the park and instead they would go straight to the glacier base camps and camp there. A typical journey to start rock climbing then could take as little as two days. I was pleased, after trekking 37.72 km successfully I knew at the very least I could make it one day to a base camps at Fitz Roy. Now I just have to work on my rock climbing, maybe for the next 20 years, and one day hope to come back for a second type of adventure.


I didn't know much about Cerro Torre but the climbing bible would enlighten me as I camped at Campamento De Agostini the second day waiting for the insane conditions I had always read about to clear up. I woke up before sunrise and managed once again to see the sun melt over rock, this time over Cerro Torre. I looked at Cerro Torre differently this morning with an appreciation of all of the history of effort, lies, death, deceit, anger, effort, and climbing ethics. Never have I read about so much drama over a piece of rock. The closest I can find online for you about this is through climbing.com's article on Cerro Torre. Grab some popcorn and read it for your amusement, in particular the parts about the Compressor Route. If you're lazy a movie seems to cover some of the history with some modifications, Scream Of Stone, I haven't watched it yet.


I ended up climbing Cerro Dos Condores past the Mirador Torre by mistake, thinking there was a path towards El Chaltén there. This mistake set me back by an hour or two but its a good thing as I managed to see this view, probably one of the most fascinating and rewarding views I got to see in all of Patagonia.


Glacier porn. That's what I call this. Now, this is not part of the Fitz Roy area but since Fitz Roy is part of Parque Nacional Glaciares I figured I'd show in this post the southern part of that park. There lies a huge glacier called Perito Moreno. The glacier is about as tall as half the size of a football field. I learned what glacier speed is. Boring. It is still beautiful, but very boring. All these signs about not getting close. Bleh. I should have gone ice trekking with my friend.


I don't know when but I have to come back to El Chaltén and next time I'd stay in the town and take advantage of all the little random things to do there. There is good local rock climbing crags, and I have a top guide for it, you can get to most places by just walking! I dream of seeing that little small town again even in the winter. It must be amazing.
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