Patagonia - El Chalten - Fitz Roy II / by Mark Boyd

I woke early.  I consumed what little food remained in my tent, which consisted of a little quinoa and half and apple (held back a nugget of cheese and salami) and then headed towards the Fitz Roy viewpoint.  After following the track for a little over 10 minutes then taking a left turn for another 10 minutes strange signage suggesting that I may be going the wrong way began to appear.... You know... Danger, loose ground, stay away you're gonna die, those sorts of signs.  In addition to the off putting signage the trail seemed to whittle away to nothingness.  I checked my iPhone map against my GPS location and sure enough the left turn should have been a right.  It took almost 15 minutes of off trail boulder hopping along the river to get back to right 'right turn'.  My legs felt heavy and tired which could have been down to spending almost 36 stationary hours in my tent or maybe a lack of breakfast.... It wasn't long before the trail headed skyward at a 40% incline!  400 metres altitude gain over 1km.  My legs were not appreciating the burn, but I ploughed on over the rocky, and at times loose trail.  The overtaking other walkers process seemed to take minutes as opposed to seconds... Everything moved in slow motion up here. There seemed to be nothing left in my legs.  Every now and again I'd stop and look over the landscape.  It was impressive, as always seems to be the case here in Patagonia.  My knees wept at the strain.

It took me an hour to reach the view point.  A few small groups, couples and single walkers were there ahead of me.... Maybe twenty five people all in all.  I drank in the cool, still air whilst surveying the peak... I was tired and hungry.  Previous folks had mentioned how steep this short trek was but in all honesty I shrugged it off.  In this case 'folks' were right.  I was in desperate need of food.  I got chatting with a young Norwegian lad in his late 20's.  I was well aware there was yet a fine lake to see.  But I was feeling so fatigued, another 10 minutes of trekking was as unappealing as staying at a public campsite!  In addition to the extra few minutes, I needed to keep in mind the knee busting descent that lay ahead, followed by the three hour trek back out to the village carrying all my gear back out.... Sheesh!

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Mr Norway went on to tell me that I'd be crazy not to walk the extra few metres to see the blue lake.  He went on to tempt me further, 'You'll probably have it to yourself.'  I told him of my food situation.  'I have some food I can give you' he said, adamant that I was not leaving without witnessing the blue lake.  The excitement of being able to help a fellow traveller in need showing in his big blue Scandinavian eyes was clearly visible.   It was exciting to be offered some consumable energy.... Maybe a Snickers bar or some nuts and chocolate, anything to fuel my legs.  'I'm not sure how many calories they'll provide.' he went on to say as he rummaged about in his backpack, then pulled out a half packet of plain Snack-a-Jack style rice crackers.... I attempted to hide the immense disappointment that washed over me... This kind and generous act must remain appreciated I thought to myself.  I smiled with gratitude as I bit in to the first of one of the dry polystyrene textured rice cakes, simultaneously burning off the 10 calories it was providing through mastication... I was going to need more water!  With almost 4 hours of trekking left to get from top to bottom and then on to El Chalten I was going to burn in excess of 2,000 calories.... I thanked him again through a blizzard of puffed rice grains, headed down the slight descent, and along the frozen, snow covered lake edge, up the otherside and around until I could just about see the incredible blue lake that 'Norway' had promised.

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I walked around and found my very own rather precarious view point.  One wrong step on this loose shale and I wouldn't be climbing back up.  I sat and watched in silence whilst a chap 100 metres to my right attempted to line up a series of catalogue pose style selfies. 

As I walked back around the top of the ridge and towards the frozen edge of the lake, I passed behind a man who was in the process of 'writing' a warm, yellow inked message in the fresh snow.  One hand controlling his writing implement the other filming on his smart phone.  This really was a creative release of excess bodily fluids, the yellow stained letters with the snow capped mountains in the background negating any need to visit the post office to send a stunning vista of Fitz Roy via the standard (and more socially acceptable) medium of the postcard.  This gent was not going to be up for any handwriting awards anytime soon, but I was impressed at how long his.... message was.  I could see he clearly had a massive.... bladder.

The walk back down to camp was brutal on the knees.  I tried to move as fluidly as possible, and I was definitely far quicker on the way down than on the way up, which is not always the case.  I arrived back at my forest based camp at 2pm.  My feathered friends had kindly decided to decorate my tent with droppings, so before packing down I needed to wash off my canvas with river water.  I engulfed the final nuggets of cheese and salami whilst the tent dried, then packed down my camp.

A couple of hours later I was back in the village.  I was ravenous.  I headed in to one of the many eateries, ordered a gourmet burger with a beer to wash it down, then went back outside to sit on the veranda in the warm sun.  A basket of bread was put in front of me.  Within five minutes it was gone.  I really was hungry.  A baby face sized burger was delivered 10 minutes later which sat heavily and uncomfortably in my belly that night back at Pablo's place.  At 2am I rose to move slowly through a series of yoga poses to ease the discomfort....

I rose at 8am had breakfast with coffee, then around midday headed off on the trail to Lago Torres.  A two and a half to three trail lead up to the lake and the same trail lead back home....  It was a stunning 'big blue sky' day.  I decided to bring water, a bit of fruit and my Iphone.  I felt like travelling light.

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It took me only two hours to reach Lago Torres.  The lake itself was an anticlimax, but the walk in through the hills and valley was stunning. 

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I enjoyed the return journey just as much as the walk in, surveying my vistas from a fresh angle, with shadows being cast longer as the sun had fell lower in the sky.

Tomorrow I need to get from El Chalten to Cerro Castillo.... I'd be hitching... I hoped the weather was going to be kind.