Sun has already been up for the last few hours, there’s no wind yet and the city is absolutely deserted. It’s very energetic and full of people returning from the mountains or just arriving or leaving El Chaltén during the day and in the evening so I’m pretty surprised to be the first one to hit the route today. I only pass one guy before getting on track – a staggering gentleman with a white plastic bag – well, he’s not going to keep me company. I pass a wooden gate informing me that I just entered Los Glaciares National Park, I check if I’m on the right track and move along. In four hours, I should reach Fitz Roy mountain.
We’re going to spend next few days in El Chaltén. We don’t know how many as it mainly depends on the weather which has been favourable so far. But you know how it is in high mountains – everything changes quickly. Together with Ania, we decided to do the treks separately since one of us needs to stay down with Amelia. We’re not interested in short tracks leading to observation points (miradors). These were built for organised groups who drive here in their coaches in the morning, stay for 2 hours and move along. Today is my turn and I chose a track that leads to Fitz Roy – very nice looking mountain, a postcard-like one, which pops up here and there when you talk about Argentina or Patagonia. It looks like a pointed cone and stands out from other mountain tops in this range which emphasises its monumental character even more.
First part is just 600 m long but very steep. I look at the awakening city when I get on top. A city that is situated really amazingly – surrounded by rivers, rocks and mountains from all sides. It sits in a depression on the only wide part of flat terrain around. I turn around and now I’m looking at a rocky road which leads to a Deserted Lake (Lago Desierto) located approx. 30 km from where I am. There’s 13 km ahead of me – around 3-4 hours and that’s just one way. I want to get to Laguna de los Torres from which you can have the best look at Fitz Roy.
After an hour I’m standing on the crossroads and need to decide if I want to go the mirador or to Laguna Capri. Without hesitation, I turn left and continue towards the lagoon. This way I will avoid the observation point. It’s only a few minutes past 8 and I haven’t seen anyone yet – I expected at least some people. Maybe not crowds but certainly not a completely abandoned track. After another 20 minutes, I pass an empty camping by the lagoon – yet another surprise. But it’s just the start of the season, it’s not holidays yet so maybe that’s the reason. I sit down by the lagoon and look for the empanadas I bought yesterday. They are supposed to be my energy bars for today. The weather is fantastic – the sun is shining, gentle and pleasant wind blows, only my mountain is covered with clouds. But I’m hoping that I’ll get the opportunity to take at least one good picture when I reach it.
After almost three hours from the start I meet first people. Two guys from Germany are coming back from a camping with their tents. They’ve been here for a week and they’re about to finish their stay and relocate to El Calafate icebergs. There’s only 1km left. The worst one – all the signs I passed said that the first 12 km will take me 3 hours while the last one will take a full sixty minutes. And indeed, so far it has been a very light trekking. The terrain is a bit ridged with no major hills, it went quite fast and the views drew me away from thoughts about passing time.
Firstly I see a warning which says that I need to be very fit and if I’m not, I should go back. Screw that, I move along and see another sign. This one says that it’s the most difficult and the most neglected track in the area. I look up and that seems true – so far it was super-flat while the last part is very steep. After 10 minutes I see the first person who decided to give up and later on there’s plenty of people resting here and there.
I don’t want to demonise this last stage. You don’t need any specialised equipment to make it, there’s no ledges or chasms – it’s just very steep. For many people who already walked 12 km, that might be quite intense and you still need to get back afterwards. It takes me almost an hour and three breaks to climb to the very lagoon. But the worst thing is a recurring running contusion that I’ve been having problems with for the last year. In the last minutes I step on a stone quite unfortunately, feel the tendons stretch and I already know that the way back is going to be very painful.
Before that, I take a sit right next to de los Tores lagoon among other happy individuals who have reached the top. Tough finish makes everyone who made it very happy and the view really is rewarding. Before me, I see a large lagoon – completely frozen – at the foot of Fitz Roy. That fellow beautifully towers over us and we’re all waiting for the wind to blow the clouds away and make it visible to us. It’s not that warm here, after 15 minutes I get myself a beanie and zip up my jacket as I start getting cold.
I sit there for quite a while, looking at the view.
I don’t feel like getting back since I feel my foot and already know that next 4 hours are not going to be pleasant, but I finally wrap it up. I turn off my time-lapse camera, say goodbye to others sitting here and hope that after the steep part it shouldn’t be that bad.
Initially I wanted to check out Piedras Blancas iceberg located nearby too but the pain gets worse and even though I fell tempted, I get the feeling that it might be a bad decision to make. A bit disappointed, I decide not to look back.
Right now the track is pretty crowded and I have to stop once in a while in order to let large groups through. It makes me even happier about my early start since I had the mountain just for myself for quite a while and now I keep passing somebody by. El Chaltén is called the Argentinean trekking capital – there’s a lot of tracks around here. Ania takes another one tomorrow – towards Cerro Torre. We’ll see how it goes.