Thursday, May 10, 2012

Chalten and Fitz Roy

The two weeks after Torres Del Paine went by like a highlight reel. Life felt nearly as large as the expanses of Patagonia as i hitch hiked my way north along the rain-shadowed wastelands east of the Andes. I made a few key left hand turns to get back into some magical places and through a bit of luck and timing i randomly met up with the Swiss Girls again in Fitz Roy (Chalten). My plan had been a solo 5 night epic crossing the whole region, doing big 30 k days, getting out onto the southern ice field and exploring some of the lesser traveled non-technical ridges and high elevation lakes...after sharing a camping area the first night with the girls though, my energy intensive gung-ho plan was quickly downscaled to a much more leisurely pace full of short days, big meals, good company and endless laughs...The ladies even took pity on my bland and tasteless meals and fed me cheese and treats. We spent 3 days on the trails with mixed weather. It cleared on our last day and a half and the views never fell short of mind-boggling. Nothing but amazing really!

2 days of hitching north...You can camp here, here, here, here, here or here...or well, wherever the hell you want. Water was my only worry but i carried much and restocked when i could which meant i could get dropped off anywhere, which is exactly where i got dropped many times.
Not too much going in these parts

Chalten here I come

Waiting for cars

Not the beach, just beach like

This part of Argentina is dominated by ranches holding huge land holdings and pretty much nothing else. Beautiful glacial rivers pour from the lakes and carve their way to the Atlantic.

Finally in Chalten with Fitz Roy looming in the back

The morning sunrise of Fitz Roy thwarted by low lying clouds (i swear its just right back there..somewhere), regardless we made the morning hike up for a lake view and a few group shots. Me, Sarah, Sue, and Corne

The Weather cleared and the land appeared...Cerro Torre, nearly 6000 ft of climbing from its base to summit spire.

This park is split into two worlds...the tourists and the climbers. The tourists are kep in the front valleys far from the ice and the peaks, certain trails and high camps are never spoken of and for the most part the general hiker has no idea that there is an entire community of climbers living further up in the mountains making bold attempts at the summits during rare weather windows...
We got to camp two and with a little wandering around i found this tyrolean traverse set up to bring climbers across the often-swollen river and up higher to camps not shown on the regular touro maps. I wanted in to this secret world. Each rope is equipped with a heavy duty pulley and with a climbing harness on you clip in and pull yourself and gear across the river. With no harness however i was left to my own devices. I snagged the rope with my hands, lifted my feet and latched them around it leaving me elevated and horizontal to the world below. From this position you inch-worm yourself across...hands slide out along the rope above your head, clench and feet slide up behind, reach out again with your hands, clench, slide feet - repeat. Dont get tired, dont fall.


Monday, March 26, 2012

Torres Del Paine

Alright getting back to the correct chronological order of things.

In Puerto Natales i was reunited with Gabriele and Angelo - my two new Italiano amgios which i met on the side of the road while trying to hitch north out of Argentina through Tierra Del Fuego. Puerto Natales is the staging town for trips into the famous Torres Del Paine National Park, which happened to be the exact reason why we were there.

A breath taking entrance to the park on a beautiful afternoon, The towers poking up right in the center of the pic

I had defnitely grown used to remote wilderness experinces by now and other than 2 nights near Machu Piccu, i had yet to spend an evening in the backcountry over the entire privious 2 and a half months with anyone other than myself. My world was about to be rocked as we entered the Disney Land of Patagonia...walking aruond camp naked was no longer an option, well i guess its always an option, but not one i cared to exercise anymore.

A nice little dinner show on night one, we had no idea what was instore for breakfast!

TDP can be done in a 5 to 8 day loop or in a shorter 3 to 5 day tour known as the W where you take a ferry out from one end. 90% of the people ( tens of thousands) just do the W, as the circuit is held on a pedistal for only those hardy brandished trekkers who really know what they´re doing (crock o shit, its some solid trekking but if you´re gung ho its available to be had by anyone).
The scenary and landscape here is nothing short of spectacular but the attitude towards and management of the land and park is nothing short of a gong show. Camping can only be done at specified campsites which are run by private companies who have no investment in the environmental preservation of this amaznig land, a place where you can still drink the river waters untreated, but not for long - at one campsite the ranger closed the bathroom (pit toilet) from 7am to 11am leaving 150 campers wandering around with a douce on deck and no where to deliver it (the majority of which have no concept of burying their waste and would simply poop wherever they found cover leaving their steaming pile and accompanied TP out for show). Its deinfintely always easy to criticize and i should probably just keep this all to myself, but the hefty park entrance fee and the amazingly expensive buses to get into the park add up to a whopping 10 million dollars of revenue each year - to simply keep a pit toilet open and to invest in a bit of proper trail maintainence to prevent excesive errosion (which there was plenty of) doesn´t seem to be asking too much...anyways, stepping down from the soap box.

I was on a rushed schedule so only the W was mine to be had and even with the shortened trail sectioon i was pushing it to fit in everything with my limited time 5 days of trekking into 3? Sure, why not.

Angelo and Gabriele showing off their goods!

I started off with the Italians, had an epic sunrise show across the Cerro Torres and we spent the day playing 'how much ____ do you think we have?' (fill in the blank with some, any, kind of food). To start, the italians are well, italian, and second, when they went food shopping for the trip they were hungry and we all know how that works out. 5 pounds of caramel, a dozen eggs, olive oil, priscouto, 2 dozen sausages, 3 pounds of steak, pasta, sauces, 3 pounds of cheese, oats, nuts, 4 loafs of bread, 4 pounds of get the point. they were beyond excited with their food stash and mid way through any meal they were already planning out 2 meals ahead.

The towers coming alive in the early morning light

One second early on the timer shot and 10 minutes late on the sunrise

We lucked out with the weather and saw more or less complete sunshine for the entire time in the park - this place is renounded for its wicked weather and imposible to believe winds. I was really hoping for a bit of a wind show but alas i got a few gusts of 50k´s or so, but nothing more.

Today the weather will be partly cloudy with extreme amounts of vastness approaching from the West and a significant helping of Holy-shit-look-at-those-mountains piled up on the East

At 2nd camp we randomly met up with 3 swiss girls who the italians had randomly met during their last tour of hitching and little did i know i would soon be spending weeks with these amazing ladies (and will now be visiting them in Switzerland this coming summer). The italians had a few extra days to boot and were thus taking things slower, so i went ahead, fell into the same schedule as the ladies and over the next few days we all became friends.

He´s single ladies...

No cars coming through here, maybe we can hitch a ride on a donkey

There is no point in my trying to write about how beautiful this place was, even the pictures fall well short of capturing the imensity of the place...a tiny finger glacier of the southern ice field pourng 20 k´s into a torquise lake that flanks the near-sea-level base of 10,000 foot granite spires which tear apart clouds blowing in off the ice sheet. see, words dont even touch it, and the picture below is missing the spires which sit off to the really should just fly down here and come take a look for yourself :)

Lucky timing to catch the collapse of a large section of face ice tearing off the hanging glacier

I missed lunch with the Italians on day two when i was off running up a side trail but they made a sandwhich so rediculous that they took a picture of it, then took a picture of my reaction to the picture of their was nothing short of amazing.

Dinner time and All business for these guys!

Obviously you dont go into the back country without a full loaf of raison bread and extra large candle for presentation...after all, it is all about the presentation right?

A fire this year started by arsonists unhappy with the lang managment had temporarily closed parts of the part, she was all open once we showed up.

The direction that we did the trek put us in the vacinity of the Towers on day 1, then out and back up another valley for day 2 and then on day three we walked around to the flanks of Glacier Grey, its lake, and the larger ice field it pulls away from. Walking up along the valley produced moment after moment of 'you gotta be fucking kidding me' kinda views which started with the lake, then ice burgs, then the visual of their terminal source, and then finally the entire ice field in its enormity (well sorta - all these pictures only capture a few k´s of the glacier the actual southern cap ice sheet which sources all this lovely white stuff is just past the peaks and runs about 100 kilometers in width (humungous - god im a horrible speller)...let the show begin

the ocean

I rallied out of the park with the Swiss ladies, spent a night backyard camping in town and the next day shipped off with plans for a quick jaunt south then back north to Los Glaciers NP and Fitz Roy (the 6 day river trip that was the cause for me rushed trip through Torres NP had fallen apart while i was hiking - fuel strikes). I said goodbye to the Italians on the trail and we had left our futures pretty open to meet up again, and the same had gone with the Swiss girls who were also heading to Fitz Roy but on a slightly different schedule...

One of these days i will return for a more proper exploration of the lands within this region...a car, ice equipement, climbing gear and a solid crew could produce a life long list of endless adventures in this place. For now though, its northbound with thumb out on the side of the road.