Saturday, December 22, 2018

Argentinian Patagonia: Cerro Fitz Roy

“There’s no such thing as natural beauty”  
–Dolly Parton, via "Steel Magnolias"

From the glacier, we returned to Calafate for what turned out to be an unfortunate lunch and drove off onward to Chalten. The scenery did not disappoint, and for the most part, ours was the only car on the road.

You’d be surprised at how many people skip Chalten and Cerro Fitz Roy. Perhaps they think they wouldn’t see anything they didn’t see in Torres del Paine, but they’d be wrong. The town itself was interesting. Whereas Calafate struck me as the Banff of the southern hemisphere, Chalten felt distinctly South American. There was a street full of trekkers' hostels and pubs, but there were also real domiciles. We checked into our B&B and set off to take care of some important business, and then came to Curcuma for dinner. Curcuma is a vegan place that grows a lot of its own food.

We had a delicious cashew-cheese pizza on a buckwheat crust, and ordered packed lunches for our hike the next day. They were the envy of the other hikers lunching at the top of the Laguna de los Tres trail, whose packed lunches were the more typical jamon-y-queso on white bread. Ours gave us the nutrition and energy we needed to keep going.
After dinner, we bought a bottle of wine at a tiny drug store, and drank it out of what we had, which in my case was a vitamin container. A cold was coming on, undeterred by the zinc that had come in the container (and had been relocated to a ziploc).

Our two different hikes to Cerro Fitz Roy were worth everything they took out of us—all the pain in the knees and ankles from so many steep inclines. That said, I’m glad we did them first; after the W, I’d have been inclined to check myself into a spa rather than subject myself to additional hiking. I don’t know what I was thinking when I signed us up for a hundred miles of hiking in a week (with one day’s break).  I mean, I do know what I was thinking… and we did it… but it sure hurt. Here are the views from the Laguna de los Tres trail.

The incline at the top was brutal--we were practically going straight up. And then down, which, as I've mentioned, is hell on the joints. I’m not sure we were ready to do it all again the next day (somewhat less steep trail) but we did. Our respective bodies reacted the same way—or rather, we anthropomorphized their reactions similarly: at first, they balked, and then they came around. “I thought we were done with this… but, okay, fine, if this is what we’re doing, we’re doing it.” The start of the Loma del Pliegue Tumbado trail was pretty reasonable, but we were already spent from the previous day's hike.

When we got to what we thought was the top, we realized that the very top would entail a very steep incline.
Yes, that's how steep it was at the top.
I was inclined (no pun intended) to skip it; we had to drive back to Calafate in time to return the car by 7pm and I was worn out. But Jason wanted to try it, so we did. By the time he decided to turn around, I found it easier to keep going up than go down. Until I got to the snow. Which I could quite possibly lose my grip on and fall down the mountain. A nice Belgian-American couple was also grappling with the snow, and told me to hook my feet into the steps they made. With a deep breath at every precarious step, I stuck my feet in the snow and made it to the top. The view at the top was worth it.

We enjoyed the relative flatness of the way down.

 As we drove back to Calafate, the peak we'd come so close to made itself known in our mirrors.

Lago Argentina was coming out to greet us as we approached Calafate.

We made it in more than enough time to drop our stuff off, return the car, and have an early-for-Argentina dinner. The next morning, we had a very early bus to Chile, where Torres del Paine awaited us.

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