El Chalten was founded in 1985 to help secure the disputed border with Chile, but has existed ever since as a base for hikers and climbers hoping to explore two of the most famous peaks in Southern Patagonia.
It is a tiny town with one proper road and, as with most towns in Argentina, has a cavalcade of friendly but curious dogs, and the first person we came across as we wandered into town was this rakish fellow.
Being out-dressed by a dog is not a great start to any holiday let alone a honeymoon, so off to the Visitors Centre we went. Here they had this very useful diorama of the region we were heading into – I have labelled, for reference, a number for each major stop in El Chalten, we were off to number one today.
As normal we set off at an ungodly hour towards Loma del Pliegue Tumbado, which is a peak just south of the main Fitz Roy range which offers (when the weather permits) the only 360 view of the area. Within no time this was the view behind us.
After this we entered a forest which was also just above the snow line. We could hear the famous Patagonian wind starting to howl above but were mostly protected from it until it blew masses of snow off the canopy.
After an hour trekking we came out the other side, to a blanket of snow and the full force of the wind…time to buckle up!
We had a lot of trekking to do in open snow, and it had some beautiful views back towards El Chalten.
When we finally got to the top after some pretty hairy moments, where all we could do was crouch down in the snow and wait for the gusts to pass, we were rewarded with a cloud covered Torre and Fitz Roy! You can see the base of Torre in the middle and a partially obscured Fitz Roy to the right.
We pushed on and even though the weather was getting worse we were rewarded with an amazing view of Laguna Torre, where we would be setting up camp in a few days time at the end of our excursion.
The photographs don’t really convey how cold it was, with the peaks over 11,000 feet and some of the strongest continuous winds I have ever experienced! By this point we couldn’t feel our fingers so we decided to head home, but every time we glanced back it seemed to be a little clearer.
The Cerro Torre had completely disappeared but Fitz Roy kept dancing in and out of the clouds. At this point my lens was icing over faster than I could chip it off, hence all the aberrations in the top right hand corner.
When the clouds change this fast not only is it hypnotic, it totally changes the structure of the scene – if you wait half a minute everything can look totally different.
This is the last shot I took before Fitz Roy, for now at least, dipped below the apex.