Archive for the ‘El Calafate’ Tag

Chalten – Argentina (Feb 3-6)   6 comments


Driving from El Calafate low clouds begin to fill the valley, creeping over the mountains into a thick fog. Rain sprays the windshield on our bus as we pass the first hour of our trip oblivious to the scenery around us. As we pass Lake Argentina the clouds seem to melt away and we are met with the beautifully redundant land scape that doesn´t seem to end. To our right a tall jagged rock strewn mountain covered with dark green grass. To our left a large blue lake surrounded by dark yellow grass with a back drop of snow-covered mountains. Through their center a glacier snakes it´s way into the lake.

We find ourselves in a small quaint town awash with young adventurers from all over the world who have come to the trekking mecca of the western hemisphere. The town sits in a valley surrounded by broad-faced cliffs and one main thoroughfare, 1km in length. All the shops sell either souvenirs or trekking equipment, restaurants gouge their patrons with overly expensive, but delicious food, and the two supermarkets, though small, seem to be severely lacking what most hikers are looking. Regardless of the town which is not the main draw, the surrounding vista is stunning. Beyond the large surrounding mountains, through the ever-present clouds, sit the large Cerro Torre and Fitz Roy  mountains. Fitz Roy sites above all her rivals as king, jutting straight up with a broad flat face and slender sides.

On Friday we began our ascent towards Lago de los Tres, near the base of Fitz Roy. After purging our packs of the superfluous, grabbing a few items from the local supermercado and taking the afternoon´s repast we start up the 10k trail with our packs, tent and sleeping bags. The first hour was a constant up hill battle that left Magan hating life. With a little encouragement she ploughed through it with iron will and determination. One and a half hours later we reached a large clear lake and our camp site.

After an hour of rest and setting up our tent we set out for the second half of the trail towards Fitz Roy. This time with only a water bottle, which the local streams provided ample resupply. Through the entire trek we were met with ever increasing and diverse beauty as we passed through shaded trails with small trees, open passes with short shrubs and lush forests with moss-covered trees that looked as though they could be as old as the mountains themselves. All the while Fitz Roy is growing in size and grandeur.

The second hour and a half passed with significantly less hassle, but our feet were beginning to ache. As we passed the second campsite we knew there was one more hour of trekking, though this would be straight up. We set out for this last portion with zeal, but 30 minutes into the climb Magan´s legs had given out. As the winds grew colder and the setting sun pushed shadow on our trail we decided to return to our camp. As we trudged along, both of us thoroughly beat, we arrived back at camp after retracing the last hour and a half of trail.

At the camp we enjoyed our jamon y queso sandwiches along with potato chips and fresh stream water. After a brief run in with an unplesant out house we fell asleep, only to be awoken by the ferocious winds sweeping across the mountain. Slightly worried that our tent cover would blow away I stayed awake until I thought it was time for the sun rise. Anticipating the beautiful pink-orange glow of Fitz Roy in the early morning sun I eagerly climbed to a vantage point only to find the entire range covered in clouds. Disheartened we packed up camp and hiked down (30 minutes rather than 1.5 hrs) in the wind and rain accompanied by cloudy valleys and rainbows at each turn.

A rather anticlimactic ending for a stunningly beautiful and completely exhausting trek. Never the less the next few days were full of treks to water falls and up to Laguna Torre at the ridiculously windy base of  Cerro Torre.

On the trail to Cerro Torre

End of the trail at Laguna Torre. Windiest place in the world.

Large (about 16oz) Argentine steak. Best we have ever had.

Mag´s on a mountain bike.

Eating dinner in Chalten (delicious steak).

Water fall. A short 1 hr walk.

We all made it.

Perito Moreno – El Calafate – Argentina (Feb 2)   4 comments

Early this morning Magan and I began our journey to the Perito Moreno glacier. Along the winding road we are flanked by the seemingly endless golden-brown landscape that is the Argentine steppe. To one side the vast undulating meadows of wind swept sagebrush flow to the serene shore of lake Argentina.  The deep, indescribably blue sun-stroked lake is punctuated by small windswept white caps and fragments of ice torn from the face of the glacier. To the other side clouds are contorted and crippled to preternatural shapes as they sail past the large snow capped Andean peaks jutting from the ground. A large golden brown condor soaring above suddenly swoops down for a possible meal. As we turn a corner the mountains seem to part and we are confronted with the large spinney beast that is to be our world for the next seven hours.

The first hour was spent in awe as we moved between the multiple viewing platforms near the glacier. The 60 meter tall 4 kilometer wide cliff of ice consists of deep blue and white towers of ice crushed together through thousands of years of snow. The view is punctuated by the thunderous crack and roar of ice separating from the cliff face and eventually falling into the water below.

Our trip to the glacier began on a short boat ride through the placid lake full of milky blue glacial water and icebergs, courtesy of Perito Moreno.  Once on shore we begin our arduous trek up the side of a mountain flush with small green shrubs and gnarled trees, crippled perhaps by the windy and fridged Patagonian winter.  After an hour shadowing the glacier we reach our point of embarkation, don crampons, and begin our ascent.

The surreal glacial surface seems as if a vehemently rough sea had suddenly been flash frozen with 30, 40 even 60 foot waves stuck in time waiting to crash down. Deep crevasses scar the surface running horizontally as well as vertical. It is quite possible, and with no amount of hyperbole, that when this glacier was created God decided to encompass every shade of blue perceivable to the human eye. The crystal clear white ice of the surface that hints at the lightest shade of blue quickly gives way to the aqua colored puddles of collected glacial melt. All colors, beautiful as they are, pale in comparison to the deep blue of the crevasse-tunnles cut by the fast flowing torrential rivers of melted glacier water. Up and down steep ice embankments we marched, one by one, for three and a half hours (including a quick break for lunch) until it was time to return.

On the walk back we stopped for water at a quite beautiful waterfall surrounded by lush vegetation and a lone cow. A scene that would fit into any picture book’s tableau of the Garden of Eden. Down we trod, back to the boat for a snack and glass of scotch. Onward to the bus for a quick nap and chance to lament the trip’s lack of sunscreen.

Large ice cave in the center of the glacier.