Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018

Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018
On the Archduke's Path in Mallorca
Showing posts with label Fitzroy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fitzroy. Show all posts

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Not Fitzroy (Episode 3)

13 November

There were eleven tents at our first campsite, twelve here. But not this morning. Denise and Owen had left by the time we peered out after 7.30. Their 'round the world' equipment may not enjoy the same weather resistant qualities as our Patagonian trip gear. It may have been cool outside overnight, but not inside our RAB 400 bags.

It was still raining, and the snow line looked to be at about our height of 750 metres or so. Nevertheless, soon after 8 am we were to be found on the rising path to Laguna de los Tres. It's described in our guide book as "A short, stiff climb to a viewpoint with astounding close-up views of Cerro Fitzroy."

We met a couple of Italians coming down. They had been put off by the near blizzard conditions and tried to dissuade us from going further. They failed. We didn't see anyone else on this normally crowded path until nearly back at camp, where we met some ill equipped Spanish speakers.

We took a little over an hour to reach the Laguna de los Tres viewpoint. It was a wintry scene. Cerro Fitzroy was nowhere to be seen. You'll know the feeling if you've spent a few days in Zermatt and haven't seen the Matterhorn. (I remember that well!) At least we did see Fitzroy from the plane on Monday.

It was good to be in proper snow, though gaiters would have been handy for the sections where it had drifted. We had slithered back down to the tent by 10.30. Time for lunch. Well, time to eat all our remaining food as it's only a 10 km walk back down to El Chaltén, and we have plenty of time for that after lazing at length in the tent.

The walk back down was pleasant enough, with quite a few folk battling with the wind and rain. We kept glancing over our shoulders, but Fitzroy retained the shy side of his personality.

El Muro café has an enticing "Té/café y dolce P60" sign outside. (That's £2.50 in real money.) We couldn't resist. The home made cakes were excellent. I meant to photograph the loaded cups and plate but the moment was lost in a flurry of gluttony. Instead, the picture shown portrays the  aftermath of said activity.

Condor de los Andes was reached around 4 pm, just before a violent rainstorm.

It should have been the start of a relaxing hour or two. Far from it. The entire bag with the camera battery charger and other miscellaneous but important items had gone missing. Peter and Dorothy had taken it but "have not returned it". Panic!

We knew that Peter and Dorothy were no longer in El Chaltén, having gone to El Calafate yesterday. What had happened to the bag? The girls at the hostel agreed to phone around the likely hotels in El Calafate to track down our friends. Meanwhile, we pondered how we might manage without the bag and it's contents. A desperate email message was sent to Peter.

Despite the girls' insistence that the bag had Definitely not been returned, and if it had been it would be behind the counter, we eventually persuaded them, against their better judgement, to check the baggage store.

Eureka. What a  relief. Another message was sent to Peter, who meanwhile had been close to a coronary event, worrying about who might have nicked the bag. He managed to get through to the hostel by phone. So our good turn had resulted in an unnecessary period of worry for everyone involved.

It might even have been worth it for the euphoric feeling of relief we all experienced when the bag was found.

Ahonikenk Restaurant, recommended but empty, saw to our culinary needs once we had completed our domestic chores. Claire and Justin sat next to us. They are on a month long trip as part of a relocation from the USA to Sydney. Their US possessions left home in Ocober and will arrive in Australia in the New Year. We commended parkrun to them.

By the time we left Ahonikenk, a queue stretched outside into the rain.

Today's pictures:
Laguna de los Tres
Looking back to yesterday's route from the Laguna de los Tres viewpoint 
On the path to El Chaltén, with dwarf beeches
A view towards Fitzroy from the path back to El Chaltén
A satisfied customer

Fitzroy (Episode 2)

12 November

My Karrimat proved superior to Sue's Neoair, which kept deflating. Probably because the glue in the repair kit was missing and my attempt to seal the leak with tape was a heroic failure. This is the Neoair I used in the Pyrenees. It made me dizzy every time I blew it up. Now it's Sue who has the dizzy turns. I'm not sure whether they are from the Neoair or the whiff of antiseptic coming from the toilet.

It was bright and fine when we set off for the Poincenot campground at around 9 am, leaving a small scorpion to ponder his missed chance of invading our space.

We soon came across our neighbours, breakfasting beside the river away from the campsìte's dust storm. Their tent isn't as dust resistant as our Nallo. Denise and Owen are an Irish couple who set off on a world tour in July. Denise thinks she might even prefer rain to last night's dust.

We trudged back along yesterday's path before taking a left turn. Dwarf beeches lined the dandelion meadows.  In the woodland Sue spotted white orchids, lilies, pasque flowers and lesser celandine. Small birds sang sweetly. One of them looked just like the picture of a Dartford warbler in my bird book.

The 'idyllic lunch spot' mentioned in our guide book was passed. Its fine view across Laguna Madre was blurred by white horses and rainy squalls, and the 'lunch spot' was an area peppered with rain blown dust vortexes.

We arrived at the campsite dressed in dust blasted waterproofs. Denise has her wish, but I think she wanted rain instead of dust, not both at the same time. It had taken us a leisurely four hours for the 12 km walk. A judicious brew stop around half way proved to be a good move. After that the wind increased and the rain started.

Lunch was taken in the tent, to sounds of chatting Italians and what seemed like an industrial watering device hosing down the tent.

A buzzard sized bird of prey strolled nonchalantly around, inspecting the day's tourists.

Denise and Owen visited us. They looked soggy. They had been to collect water. They related stories from folk who regretted having attempted a walk up to two lakes that we were planning on visiting.

We decided to delay further perambulatory activities until after dinner.

6 pm. Still raining. But the two and a half hour return trip walk to a viewpoint above Laguna Piedras Blancas was chosen as a flattish alternative to our original plan (we were planning on going there tomorrow anyway).

Denise and Owen declined to join us. Their supply of clothes was becoming increasingly wet.

It turned out to be a very pleasant 5 km stroll through beech woods to an excellent viewpoint*. Cerro Fitzroy towered, unseen, above us, but the view through the moraine to the lake and the glacier beyond was excellent.

There was more wind and rain later, but that of no concern to us, cosy in the Nallo tent.

* Later I was told that the target of our walk was the lake itself, not the viewpoint.  Apparently we stopped too early.

Today's pictures:
Botanist at work
Laguna Hija, passed before reaching Laguna Madre in the rain
Looking towards Laguna Piedras Blancas and the glacier beyond

Fitzroy (Episode 1)

Cerro Fitzroy is the 3405 metre high iconic granite rock that dominates the northern part of Los Glaciares National Park in Argentinian Patagonia. This three day excursion sees us attempt to walk most of the paths in the area, which is one of the two most popular trekking destinations in Patagonia.

11 November

Following on from our brief posting after arriving in El Chaltén, I should just mention that this is 'Butch and Sundance' country. About half way along our 220 km journey, our bus pulled in to Hotel La Leona. It was pictured there in the last posting. This place is ideally situated to do a roaring trade by way of a coffee stop for travellers between El Calafate and El Chaltén. That wouldn't have been the case until fairly recently, as the tourist resort of El Chaltén dates from as recently as 1985.

Back in 1905, before the tourists arrived to fawn over the giant pinnacle of rock known as Cerro Fitzroy, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, together with Ethel Place, stayed here for about a month before leaving for Chile. That's what they say, anyway. Bruce Chatwin also mentions the trio on numerous occasions in his 'In Patagonia' book, but he has the trio in Rio Gallegos in January 1905, and he refers to Ethel, the beautiful gun-toting moll, as Etta. He does however have them back at an English estancia in Argentina later in 1905 before they returned to Chile, so the two stories may mesh.

We walked up the signed trail to Laguna Torre. It's a 10 km stroll through lovely scenery, with open scrubby land interspersed with forests of southern beech trees. The trees are mainly on the dwarfish side, so they don't obscure the views too much. Strange birds sang sweetly as we passed through their territories. Rio Fitzroy roared like an angry lion, especially when the not inconsiderable wind caught it.

A pause for lunch. Crisp bread and sardines. Excellent. Nearly half way along the trail we came upon Peter and Dorothy. Peter's camera battery had just expired again. Luckily we've left Sue's charger in El Chaltén for him to borrow. We chat at length. We will see them again, if not on this trip.

We meet two llamas, reluctantly carrying somebody's possessions.

Soon after 4 pm we reach Campground Agostino, the only place that we are allowed to camp hereabouts. There is a toilet a bit like the ones found (if any) in London car parks. The pitches are flat patches of sand. They are in woodland so sheltered from the main blast of the wind, which increased as we approached the moraine at Laguna Torre.

Quite acceptable for the price. (0 Pesos)

The tent remained open for a while, but a thin veneer of sand soon covered our belongings. The woodland view was not to die for, so we zipped up and enjoyed the pleasures of a meal in the tent.

Thai chicken and lemon grass soup
Macaroni cheese with tuna

Pause for digestion. Aided by a 4 km return trip to view Laguna Torre from the moraine leading to Mirador Maestri.

Hot Belgian chocolate

It's great to be in the tent. One of our favourite places. And tonight there should be no barking dogs or noisy washing machines. Just the rush of the river and the puff of the breeze.

We deemed it too hot for our usual dessert of angel delight, though a lack of milk of any sort is more likely to blame.

Sadly our efforts to get a clear view of the summits above Laguna Torre didn't succeed, though the glacial scenery and the bases of the peaks made our evening stroll worthwhile.

Today's pictures:
Outside the hostel in El Chaltén (for Alan, the closest we could get to a tractor
Leaving El Chaltén 
Rio Fitzroy 
Camping at Agostino 
Laguna Torre