Keep on Trekkin'
Trip Start Sep 10, 2009
19Trip End Dec 10, 2009
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Where I stayed
For all its quirkiness, though, El Chaltén really was a great place, due in no small part to the spectacular scenery. On a really clear day, even Mt. Fitz Roy and its surrounding friends can be seen from town.
Arriving late Saturday night, I quickly passed out in our cozy hostel, Aylen Aike. The next day, Andreas and I temporarily split up. He had decided to do a day of glacier-hiking with a local tour company. Luckily, his group, in their hike returning to town, would pass by the campsite at which we´d planned to stop on the first night of a three-day trek. After Andreas woke up early to hike up to the ice, I slept in for awhile, bought my food for the trip, and hiked west out of town, ambling for a few hours up and down hills alongside a river winding its way through a canyon until I reached the first campsite, De Agostini. Right next to the campsite sat Laguna Torre, an icy lagoon of greyish green, at the mouth of the Glaciar Torre, on which Andreas was somewhere doing his ice adventure. From this vantage point, on a clear day, one would be able to see Cerro Torre and its two brother peaks; because Sunday was a bit cloudy (it´s particularly rare for there not to be clouds up around the peaks), I could only see the bottom halves of the towers
The next morning, Andreas and I slept in and had a nice leisurely oatmeal breakfast, as we only had 4 hours or so of hiking and were in no rush. A little before noon, we headed north through forests of lenga trees and alongside tranquil lakes until we reached our second campsite, Poincenot. After setting up our tents, we started to cook a nice long dinner. Because I needed to get stuff from inside and it was still a bit wet from a light drizzle during the day, I left my bag outside my tent for the time being. Surely it would be safe, as I was only a few yards away by Andreas´s tent, and the campsite was inhabited by only a half dozen or so other people, yes? Well, yes and no. Safe from theft, yes. Safe from the huge Andean falcon who decided my bag would be an excellent target towards which to aim his bowel evacuation, no. Alas, when I went to get some grub from my bag, I found it partially covered in more bird shit than I´ve ever seen in my life (this was a very large bird). Luckily, I still had my rain cover half on the bag, and it wasn´t a direct hit, so there was only a little along the side of the bag, but a lot on the rain cover. After some exasperated cursing, I cleaned the bag and cover as best I could with a combination of leaves and the nearby river (the bag is fine if a bit stained now, and the rain cover is too, after I had it washed with my laundry back at the hostel)
Andreas and I hit the sack early that night, as we had an early morning planned the following day. A little after 4 am, we woke up and half-grudgingly rolled out of warm sleeping bags into the cold - very cold - morning. Our goal was a lookout spot about an hour and a half uphill from our camp, from which we´d have a clear view of Mt. Fitz Roy and it´s neighboring peaks. Once again, as in Torres del Paine, if we were lucky and the rising sun had a clear shot to the peaks, the sunrise would paint them a fiery red. The sky peppered with stars, our hopes were high for fewer clouds and better success this time than last. After 90 minutes of steep uphill climbing, half of which was lit by our headlamps, we reached our viewpoint as the sun began to climb in the east. Although we had a brilliantly clear view of the peaks and the royal-blue lagoon at their feet, there were a few clouds low in the sky to the east behind which the sun was rising. Unfortunately, it seemed, our aspirations to see sunrise-colored peaks were foiled once again. While admiring the views, though, we were given an unexpected treat. Suddenly, the sun broke free from its cloud cover; although it had risen too high in the sky for the angle to provide a red glow, the peaks suddenly exploded in a golden, fiery orange
After breakfast back at camp, we packed up and headed back towards El Chaltén. The day remained spectacularly clear, almost no clouds in the sky, even around the peaks, and so we got some great views looking back to the peaks along the way. When we arrived back at our hostel, Andreas hastily packed his bags and jumped in the shower, then was off on his bus back to El Calafate, from where he would fly to Buenos Aires. I spent one more night in El Chaltén, then caught my own bus Wednesday night, another 28-hour behemoth, this one heading up Ruta 40 (a notoriously unpaved, slow, and lonely road) to Esquel.
Since pulling in before dawn on Friday, I´ve just been hanging out in Esquel, a nice little city surrounded by mountains. If I understand the strange and confusing bus system, tomorrow morning I´ll head into Parque Nacional Los Alerces to do a 4-day trek. If I´ve misunderstood the bus system.. well, then I´ll be doing something else I suppose. In any case, I´ve got my Thanksgiving meal planned for a nice big parrilla (mixed grill, like I had in Arequipa, but should be better in beef-loving Argentina) in Esquel before heading up to El Bolsón.
Hasta luego amigos,