Laguna de los tres, El Chalten, Argentina 🇦🇷
It’s summer in the Southern Hemisphere. My Garmin says 14c. My shivering body tells me otherwise. My fingers are numb. My toes are stiff. I’m wearing a base layer, mid layer and wind proof. There are thick gloves on my hands and my head is wrapped in a double layered Buff. My camera (iPhone) keeps refusing to work. It’s cold and I am being pushed around like a rag doll by the ferocious wind gusts that drop like road trains off the nearby summits.
But this is what I came for. For the view, the breathtaking view of Cerro Fitzroy and the peaks that flank it, the glaciers that hang from it, and the turquoise blue lakes that lay at its feet.
I was struggling to like El Chalten. It was a bit “Wild West”. It was small. Maybe I was the dealing with the recent departures of friends. Was the weather testing me. Maybe it was the “where to next after this” travellers game I was playing, and struggling with.
But today, El Chalten, delivered. A quick breakfast, pick up an empanada on the way and start the 10km climb. 4km in and the sole of my right hiking boot 🥾parted from the boot. Well 3/4 of it unstuck itself. A quick fix was needed – with this perfect weather window – a broken boot wasn’t going to stop me. I found some nylon cord in my pack – removed from my Swiss Army knife, weaved it through the tread and tied it tight over the boot. Sorted. I was then chasing down the slower hikers – some who look like they’d only been introduced to hiking poles that morning and should have had lessons – that I’d previously overtaken.
The Fitzroy Massif cuts a line across the sky, 5km long with Cerro Fitzroy dominating in the centre at 3359m, while its shoulders are jagged pillars and spires of granite, peaks in their own right. Like a dragon’s teeth biting into the Patagonian sky.
I loved Torres del Paine, the park was beautiful, the views superb, and hiking the “W” circuit with friends, unforgettable. But Fitz turned up the dial. I sat behind a Golf sized boulder trying to shelter from the gale force winds in near freezing temperatures so I could just enjoy the view of those majestic peaks. Waterfalls blew sideways beneath the ice falls, while snow was whipped in dramatic veils off the glaciers and snowdrifts hanging tenaciously to the sheer cliff sides.
I spent an hour soaking up the views before descending back down the trail, heading back to town and ordering a burger and several beers 🍺at a cosy little bar close to the hostel. My boot repair had held together for over 25km. I’d gotten the views that helped me appreciate El Chalten better, well as understand why hikers and climbers come here. Fitzroy and its neighbours are, simply, breathtaking.