Betweena Argentina

"Perfect." I replied to Tim´s question asking how I was.  I was smashed up against the side of a cold wet tent, soaking wet, and sharing a 20 inch wide piece of foam with Tim.  We had inadvertently pitched our tent into what soon became a puddle whose waterline went just over Tim´s piece of foam, but just under mine.  So while I was soaking wet, Tim was actually dripping. It was my middle-of-the-night discovery of Tim up on his knees in the fetal position that prompted my invitation for him to share my twenty inch wide mat. But in the trilogy of Wet, Windy and Cold that we´ve found in Patagonia, at least Windy had taken a break for the night. 

Thus our initial foray into the Mount FitzRoy wilderness of Argentina come to an abrupt break, our planned five night hike being waylaid after a soaked third night. The following night found us back in the town of El Chaitlen, and we smiled at the rain drops from underneath our (dry, warm) down comforter in a hotel.  We´d so far seen the Cerro Torre´s peaks, very reminiscent of the Torres del Paine I thought, and we were looking forward to seeing the actual Mount FitzRoy. We ventured back out into the woods the following day on our quest, and carefully chose a spot to set up the tent at a lake. It was clear the morning I left for a great day hike to see FitzRoy up close and personal. Naturally it clouded up again and started raining.  And while we didn´t even approach sopping wet this time, we still decided to pack it up in the morning and move on outta town. 

So we returned to El Calafate, Argentina and spent a morning looking at the Perito Moreno Glacier, big chunks of its face sliding into the lake below with resounding booms echoing off the hillside we stood on. It was very impressive, and cold, prompting us to return somewhat earlier than the 10 hours I´d hoped to watch it.  Also touristy, but deservedly so.  I spent the morning entranced by the play of light over the glacier while Tim was so kind to keep us in coffee and chocolate.  El Calefate was alright for a town, it seemed like a sister city to Vail, Colorado but cheaper and more Italian. After our fill of pizza, we bought our 16 hour bus tickets toUshauia , Argentina that left at 4am. 

On the morning we were to leave for a four day trip into the backcountry, Tim got sick with a fever, so we left the hostel dorm room we´d been sharing, and checked into a nice private hotel room with a bath and cable TV.  A few days later, Tim still wobbling but declaring to all within earshot that he was Just Fine, we headed out into the woods. And wow, what a trip.

Our 4 day trek on the Sierra Valdivieso circuit was probably the best hike I´ve ever been on, ever.  Not more than a faint hint of a trail, sometimes, we followed rivers around the mountains.  Up one river valley, up and over a couple passes and into a hanging valley, past several tarns and down another river valley, with a final bit through a massive bog, it was all incredible. We stayed in a litte refugio with a potbellied stove, scrambled over waterfalls, bushwacked up ridges, and edged precariously over shale-laden passes. It was a glacieated wonderland everywhere.  We spent part of each day wandering around, not really lost, just trying to figure out where to go or how best to get there.

About that bog.  When I heard bog, I didn´t really know what it was, one of those smile and nod things for me.  No more.  They´re bright red and bouncy, very soft and full of water and sphagnum moss.  Fun to walk on initially, until you get lost and end up waaay out in the middle of one.  We spent much of the fourth day trying to skirt around them, finding that happy medium between the bog and the slightly higher ridges full of downed trees due to the beavers.  Hopping over dead trees isn´t all that easy in large doses either.  But it was good fun, even when we were wet, cold and dumping the bog water out of our boots. 

Now, we´re back in Ushuaia, hoping to catch a lift on a private boat over to Puerto Williams for the Dientes Circuit.  That´s not looking too likely at this point, if nothing turns up we´ll head off tomorrow afternoon to the Paso de Oveja trek.

Check back later for pics from our Sierra Valdivieso trip...

photo album so far

Us in front of the Perito Moreno Glacier

On our way to Cerro Torre


Checking out Cerro Torre


The Torre Glacier


Mount FitzRoy


The Perito Moreno glacier, giant icecube right off the Southern Icecap