Hiking in Fitz Roy
The first thing I found out when I got to El Chalten, is that they have no banks or ATM's in the whole town. I knew the place was small, but being almost nothing but a tourist town I can't comprehend how they don't have a bank. So, not having a whole lot of cash, I had to be very cautious about spending any money. I figured out that if I camped for 3 nights, stayed in a hostel the fourth night, and left in the morning I would have just enough money.
I went to a cheap hostel and dropped off my excess gear, and entered the park.
I thought I knew what to expect in Fitz Roy. I had just spent 4 days hiking in Patagonia, and knew all about the high winds, sudden rain and cold. I was all set to go through just such an experience again. What I didn't expect, however, was that the weather would be so amazing.
The first afternoon I hiked in to the first campsite. The sun was shining, and there was no wind at all. It was absolutely perfect. I set up my camp and found a nice spot by a gorgeous lake to fix my dinner. Eating Mexican rice, I watched the sun go down behind the most awesome mountain range I've ever seen. It was one of the most perfect moments of my life, and I will not soon forget it.
The next morning I awoke and set off to the next campsite. It was only about 2 hours away, but from there I could do several day hikes to the different viewpoints in the area.
I started off on what appeared on the map to be a short, fairly easy hike. What I didn't realize from the lousy map I received at the visitor center was after about a mile of hiking the trail heads nearly straight up a mountain. Luckily, I was in good enough shape at this point that it wasn't terribly difficult, and the climb was definitely worth it. The top of the ridge provided awesome views of glaciers, jagged mountain peaks and a frozen lake. I watched with envy as climbers set off across the lake to climb even higher into the mountains and wished I had my climbing gear with me.
By the time I got back to my campsite that afternoon I was thoroughly worn out. I had intended to do another day hike, but at that point all I wanted to do was relax. I fixed my dinner, and played some cards with a guy I'd met at a hostel a few days before. I was glad to have some company after hiking by myself the whole day.
That was the one night that it was truly cold in the park. As the sun went down, the wind picked up tremendously. The wind blowing across the tops of the trees sounded like waves rolling across the valley. Each one bringing colder temperatures as the night went on. Eventually I slept, but not well.
The next morning, the wind had finally subsided and it became an absolutely gorgeous day. I had perfect views of all the mountains around me as I hiked to the next campsite, which was a beautiful spot in the trees with a river on one side and more awesome mountains on the other. I set off on another day hike, this one up a rocky ridge which took me to a beautiful overlook of an awesome glacier and the lake below it.
Hiking out on the fourth day, again with perfect weather. It occurred to me just how lucky I had been. To get 4 days in Patagonia without rain is a very rare occurrence. While tired, I did not feel the weariness that I had after hiking in Torres Del Paine. As I approached El Chalten once again, I couldn't help but have a smile on my face. Backpacking doesn't get much better than that.