El Chalten: Fickle Weather and Enchanting Granite
Riding in to El Chalten there before me stood the Fitzroy massif bathed in sunlight. Monte Fitzroy, Cerro Torre, Poincenot, Inominata and many more I was to learn the name of.
Like many other tourists, climbers and mountaineers before me I had come to marvel at the imposing granite spires in Los Glacieres National Park.
For many Monte Fitzroy holds an allure, magnificent granite walls and Patagonia’s harsh and fickle weather are chronicled in many climbing books.
Like a fat kid in a sweet shop I stare at the map, salivating, formulating various options and ideas thinking that somehow I hold the upper hand. Lest I forget that Patagonia’s weather is anything but compliant, as to reinforce matters the next day the curtains are drawn and Monte Fitzroy disappears from view.
Over the following days I look up eagerly from the comfort of El Chalten to see even a glimmer of what met that first day. Nothing. Cloud swirls, bubbling like a cauldron as cool air condense off the glaciers surrounding Fitzroy.
Between Beat, Lucia and myself we do our best to keep the town’s Panaderia in business as morning coffee rolls in to lunch and a chance to indulge my sweet tooth on anything and everything I can lay my eyes on. Talk about fat kids.
As days drift by a sense of cabin fever sinks in. I watch as fresh faced backpackers come and go ticking off El Chalten and Fitzroy without seeing but anything.
A series of day hikes are perfunctory, they confirm legs and lungs work but the views aren’t offered up.
Cloud hangs in the valley.
Reaching Laguna Torre rain and wind whip across the lake lashing me and the camera.
Retreating back to El Chalten a momentary lapse in the weather allows me to catch a glimpse of Fitzroy as cloud billows and plumes around the mountain. Blink and you’ll miss it.
Its these snatched glimpses that make the mountain all the more bewitching.
As the weather forecast begins to show improvements, I hike up to Poincenot base camp with Tom a fellow Brit.
Brisk weather and limited views. Mirador Fitzroy.
Side trips to Lago Sucia provides moody views of Inominata and Poincenot and a nice scramble over loose scree.
Poincenot and Inominata.
As Monday dawns and with it supposed fine weather, rain patters on the tent, at least it prevents me getting out of my warm sleeping bag. Slowly the sun’s warming rays penetrate the dense canopy of the campsite and a final look upwards shows Fitzroy slowly clearing.
Muscle up its time: zig zags beckon.
First out of camp Tom and I scramble up to Lago De Los Tres just as the suns ray’s begin to breach over the glacial moraine. All alone we find the place to ourselves.
Lago De Los Tres.
We sit looking upward in awe for over an hour. Quietly pondering what an astonishing enchainment it would make to link these mountains together I later find out that the Fitz Traverse was completed just a month earlier.
As a French couple arrive its time to turn on our heels and let them enjoy the solitude of this place before the masses arrive. Just before descending back to camp they tell me that Cerro Torre normally clears the day after Fitzroy and with it an excuse for another day in the park.
Having dropped our tents and shouldered our rucksacks Fitzroy begins to cloud over.
Time for for cake. Hang a right.
Shaded, quiet trails and twisted trees.
True to its word the weather forecast delivers another blue sky day. This time Tom and I head out for views over Cerro Torre from Lomo De Peligue Tumbado.
Fitzroy still clear.
Trails snake off in to the distance.
You guessed it. Fitzroy.
The jagged spires of Cerro Torre, like sharks teeth.
After two days of fine weather, clear views of Fitzroy and Cerro Torre my business here is done. Autumn begins and its time to head north and begin the next leg of the journey; The Carretera Austral.