|The wall of the Piedras Blancas Glacier.|
Thankfully, we denied Bern's request to "check it out"
since it was another two hours walking (each way!)
The manageable grade of the initial portion of the Fitz Roy walk, however, soon came to end. And the gentle dirt path that we had followed for the previous 7 hours (yes, 7 hours) turned upwards in a mean and nasty way. Before us were thousands of rough-hewn, slick and muddy rock steps. This was most definitely not the “tourist trail.” Except for the fact that there was a fairly steady stream of older and less-fit (in appearance at least) hikers descending from the summit! I wrongly concluded that based on the appearance and number of people passing us that the hike up could not be that bad.
Within the first 50 steps my left foot and leg began to hurt. Failing to complete even the first 1% of the hike without having some pain was a bad sign. Also within this very short distance Ted and Bern had pulled ahead, such that their amicable (and distracting) chattering was inaudible, leaving me with only my own inner dialogue. And the steps went on, and on, and on. For about an hour the conversation in my head went something like this:
DSM: it’s probably not that much further, look at these old people happily bounding down
DSM: Step. C’mon Dave, you have to make sure that you foot clears the front of the step. It really hurts when you smash your toe into the rock because you couldn’t lift your leg high enough.
DSM: crap, I hate my life
DSM: but look at this scenery, it's spectacular
DSM: crap, should I just turn around
DSM: It is too soon to ask these people how much further?
DSM: Hiking is the dumbest thing ever. They should put in a chairlift. I never want to hike again.
And so it went minute after endless minute.
After an hour of the worst stair-climbing experience of my life we reached the “top”. I say “top” because we actually reached the bottom of the beginning of the actual climb of the Fitz Roy. Our summit was in fact, the base camp for those who (insanely) push on to attempt to climb the actual rock spire of the Fitz Roy. I figure we will do it next time we pass through El Chalten.
|Wait until you see what exactly these guys are climbing|
|Lago Madre & Hija from above|
|The Fitz Roy gleaming in the sun.|
Those climbers in the earlier photo had walked around the lake and were heading up that giant snow field.
|Berm, Dave, and Ted - "summitted" the Fitz Roy with a Supertrek.|
|Ted & Dave.|
Ted: This is an incredible view.
Dave (in the Great White Onesie): Thinking how much the walk down is going to suck.
A short walk took us to a better view of the Blue Lake. Mostly, I was just glad that we had yet begun the descent and subsequent 2-3 hour walk back home. It was not going to be pretty.
|The Blue lake.|
Inevitably, we began the long slog home. With each passing step the pain in both of my feet, and my knees, and my legs got worse and worse. Each step left me with this impossible choice: do I fight through the pain in my thighs and ease my foot into the next step, or do I simply let my foot fall, and endure the pain when it crashed into the ground. Needless to say, these were not my most graceful moments.
The walk back, however, did have some more spectacular views (or as I thought of them, brief respites from the torture that was each step).
|View of the Fitz Roy as we heading back to town.|
One hour done. Two hours to go.
|The Fitz Roy in the day's last light.|
Two hours done. One more to go.
There is not much to say about the walk home, except it was horrible. Without Jesse to complain to, and needing to maintain some semblance of manliness (and, of course, we couldn’t talk about sports) I soldiered on, thinking for sure I had multiple stress factures in both of my feet and wondering just where I would convalense for a few weeks to recover. Actually, my first thought was Mendoza, where I pictured myself laying on a comfy couch or daybed and having Jesse bring me delicious wine and huge steaks for weeks on end. These daydreams ended abruptly each time I dropped my foot onto the hard ground. Such a shame.
Two hours later, and multiple rest stops, adding additional socks for foot padding, and thinking regularly (OK, non-stop, except for the Mendoza daydream) about the hearty stew, cold beers, and long bath that were awaiting me back in town, we finally made it to the trail head.
We (or I) may not have been the pretty sight, but boy was I glad to be back. Or least only 1 KM away from the bar!
|My face for the camera.|
It was worth fighting through the pain for one more smile.
|"Successful" Supertrekkers - whatever that means.|
The next day, most shockingly, I didn’t feel that bad. That, however, did not stop me from arranging a number of alternative medical treatments, including a full body massage from a man called Luis (which was excellent) and some targeted accupunture from our friend Bern.
I was walking normally again in just a few short days.
If you go to El Chalten, and you should, think about doing the Cerro Torre trek and Fitz Roy Trek on separate days. It will certainly make the visit more enjoyable. If you have three days a nice way to break up the longer hikes (4-5 hours) is a the Mirador de los Condors y Aguilas which starts at the Park Ranger office and heads away from the peaks, giving excellent panoramic views. Its windy!
|The Fitz Roy, and just a few days earlier, we had walked to the base of it|
Food & Drink
The Chocolateria. Go there. Good coffee. Great chocolate brownie. Even better apple tart. One of the few coffee shops with a picture perfect view of the mountains – try to sit at the large table upstairs.
|The combination of the apple tart and the view from the 2nd floor window cannot be beat.|
La Cerveceria – decent home-brewed beers. The locro was very good. One of the few places in Argentina whose hot sauce was in fact hot.
We stayed at Paradiso Hotel, it was very clean, had a superb shower and bath, but the owner/manager Henry was not particularly friendly.
* Note to those I ski with – I now understand what it’s like when we are skiing together and as soon as the slowest person reaches the group I cheerfully question, “ready to go?”.