Hiking through Argentine Patagonia to Cerro Fitz Roy

Tuesday – December 25, 2007 –

After hot showers and an incredible “Norwegian-Argentinean” smorgasbord for breakfast, Mr. Halvorsen drove us to El Chalten where Jeff and I would begin a great day of hiking. There on the edge of the city down the main street, we began our trek to the Laguna de los Tres located in the Parque Nacional Los Glaciares.

This was the northern branch of the park, whereas the southern part – with the famous Perrito Moreno Glacier – is located closer to El Calafate. The 25-kilometer (15 mile) round-trip hike is considered one of the most beautiful treks in Patagonia and Argentina. We heard the journey would offer some of the best views of Cerro Fitz Roy and surrounding peaks.

Cerro Fitz Roy, also known as Cerro Chaltén, towers over the Southern Patagonian Ice Field in Patagonia, and strandles the border between Argentina and Chile. It was first climbed by French alpinists in 1952, and it remains among the most technically ascents on Earth. That was not our reason for visiting, but we hoped to have great views of the famous peak. You may have seen Cerro Fitz Roy, which is depicted on the Patagonia clothing logo. The mountain was named by Argentine explorer Francisco Moreno in honor of Robert FitzRoy, who captained the HMS Beagle up the Santa Cruz River and charted large parts of the Patagonian coast.

An overlook on the trail to Laguna de Los Tres

An overlook on the trail to Laguna de Los Tres

After trekking through sub-antarctic forest, we had a nice view of Cerro Fitz Roy off in the distance. The peak reminded me of the Grand Teton, but it seemed to be an unfathomable distance away. We took a number of photos because it was so pretty and the sky was perfectly blue.

Me with Cerro Fitzroy in the background

Me with Cerro Fitzroy in the background

Later we passed a small glacier lake named Piedras Blancas that is situated below and filled by waters from a glacier that bears the same name. We used Jeff’s infrared wand to purify some water before crossing a bridge over the Rio Blanco. That’s when the steep and tough part of our trek kicked in. We began a fifty-minute climb that zigzagged up a 45º slope. It seemed to go on forever as we were exposed to the sun and wind on the ridge. We also were buzzed by a whole family of bees for half of the ascent, but remarkably, we didn’t get stung!

The extraordinary Laguna de los Tres

The extraordinary Laguna de los Tres

Soon afterwards, our efforts were rewarded when Cerro Fitzroy appeared high above us. The giant peered ahead of us as we reached the top of the ridge. We descended a short distance to the eerily still glacial Laguna de Los Tres. The view was one of those that I think will stay burned in the back of my mind forever. Considered one of Patagonia’s best panoramic vistas, Cerro Fitz Roy and its neighboring three peaks rose high above the lake. We pulled out our lunch and feasted on the landscape of the mountains and glaciers of the peaks towering above us. I even stripped down to my boxers and when into to the water for a cool dip … very cold!

Reluctantly, we couldn’t stay too long.

After arrival back that evening in El Chalten, we grabbed a taxi – there was literally one in town! – back to the estancia. We had another great dinner cooked by the Halvorsens. Mr. Halvorsen said he lived in Pennsylvania for a while and loved it. He didn’t speak much to us in English as we conversed in Spanish and he taught us Chilean. He said our Spanish was pretty good.

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