Sunday, May 19, 2013

Patagonia: "It is a very beautiful place"

We are waiting the bus from one of the prettiest places I have ever been - Chalten, the base for epic Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre. The later two are super famous sheer mountain towers that have been among the hardest climbing challenges in the world over the last several decades. They are stunning.

We have been in this sleepy little town for 3 days, which is extra sleepy due to the late fall season down here. It has been so pleasant, with these massive and jagged peaks high above the town and really great weather.

As a bit of background, the weather here can been horrendous -- like, never see the huge towers that are mere miles from town horrendous. People can be in Chalten for weeks and not get a clear view of the peaks, and part of their difficulty as climbing destinations is trying to squeeze in the summit push while battling the notorious weather. In some seasons, no one gets to the top of the peaks.

Thankfully, we got a sublime window of weather for our time here. In fact, the day we arrived and stopped at the national park office, the ranger was giving as short talk (in very cute english actually) and was positively giddy about the window of weather we were going to enjoy. He kept recommending various hikes and viewpoints, and for each would say happily - 'It is a very beautiful place'. With the knowing smile on his face, and the fact that he lives here, we knew that we were in for a treat.

Cerro Torrre and Fitz Roy did not disappoint, and we used up as much energy and daylight as we could muster. One surprising part abut exploring and hiking down here in the fall is the short supply of light. It gets dark by 6:00ish and does not get light till 9 am. One day, we did not see the sun lift itself above the ridge until after 11. This is a great place to come for guilt free sleeping in, and really just sleeping in general. However, for our purposes the season leaves only 9 or so hours of daylight. You have to be on your game to get up on time and out of the hostel, all while it is pitch dark.

By my calculations, we were in the town for about 23 hours of usable daylight spread across the three days. We hiked in the park for 20 of those hours, covering around 78 kilometers. The trails are in great shape and tooks us to a variety of destinations, all of which come highly recommended. One day to the lake at the base of cerro torre, with the massive glacier rising from the lake up to the sheer walls. Cerro Torre actually is my favorite of the spires here, because it is steeper and seems more improbable.

The next day, we did a big loop up around Fitz Roy, to a huge glacier and lake with thousands of ice chucks waiting to melt in the nearly freezing water and then around a number of clear mountain lakes. This was our biggest mileage day and left me a little worn out, but oh so worth it. Fitz Roy started the day obscured in clouds and I was worried that we would not be able to see it, as is the norm. Thankfully, in the afternoon the weather lifted and the clouds started swirling around the many thousand foot sheer faces of the tower. Wow.

Our last day was spent climbing a smaller peak, one with a much more gentle slopes than the towers. The hike started right about dawn, at the gentlemanly time of 9, and the view of the rising light on the massive face of Fitz Roy was the most beautiful site i have seen thus far in this magical part of the world.

The end result of the hike was sweeping vistas over the heart of the park, which gave a cool closing memory of our time here. It was nice to look out across the park and feel like we had grown to know some of what we saw in some small way, and be able to transition of the sheer amazement of the splendor that I felt upon arrival to a more nuanced and detailed view of specific crags, crevaces, hanging glaciers and lakes. I needed a fair bit of time to move from the grand to the minute, and etch those observations into my memory.

So, yes - Fitz Roy, Corre Torre and the rest of the mountains here are very pretty places, and we are so thankful to have had such a great window to get to experience their beauty.



  1. Spectacular, It is the things that dreams are made of.

  2. Paul, totally agree. Have been wanting and hoping to make it hear for at least a decade. To see these stellar peaks, know their history and walk amongst them has exceeded those pent up and long forming dreams. You would love it hear so so much.

  3. As I am reading your blog, I got the rising tower of Washington monument outside of my office window on one side and one another side a cubicle wall covered with pictures from the lake at Fitz Roy and Circuit Hike at TDP. Being there was definitely one of the most unforgettable experiences - I can still remember everything about it so clearly. It makes me feel so giddy and happy that you made it out there and got to experience these places. Looking forward to chatting more about that and looking for comparable spots in the world!

  4. T, sounds like you have a pretty nice set up in your office between the wash monument and the pics from Patagonia. Totally agree with the clarity that the parks in that very blessed part of the world impart and which stays with you. Thanks so much for your recs and thoughts about how to spend our precious time down there, it was all spot on and super useful.

    There is so much about patagonia, from the cerros, to the water to the sunrises to the ruggedness. All of which i will treasure forever.