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The Travel Journal of Jacqui and Lars

 

Argentina - 9 January, 2002

 

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Location Latitude Longitude Elevation

Travel Distance

Start Campsite, El Chalten S4920.178' W07252.780' 399 m
Hike to Glaciar Torres . . . .
Finish Campsite, El Chalten S4920.178' W07252.780' 399 m 25 km (by foot)

Leg 2 Total:

2,875 km

Leg 1 Total:

9,010 km

Galapagos:

771 km

Grand Total:

12,656 km

 

Weather: Partly cloudy, occasional sun, cool/warm with very strong winds with gusts of up to 80-100 km per hour.  Cool/cold at night.

 

 

Today turns out to be a crazy day.  Things start off promising when we rise at 5:30 AM to prepare for our climb up to the glacier.  After a quick breakfast, we are ready to head off when the guide arrives just before 7 AM - except for the fact that one person is late and we need to rouse him.

 

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The skies are clear except for some clouds hovering around the mountains and we quickly strip down to our shorts and t-shirts as we climb up along the Rio Fitzroy in the direction of the Cerro Torre Base Camp.  But as we clear a ridge and have a clear view of the mountains and the glacier, it does not look so promising.  There is a huge storm cloud that covers the mountain.

 

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But the walk up to the base camp is still pleasant as we are in the sun.  We come across a red-crowned woodpecker pecking away at a tree.  The terrain slowly changes and we leave the large trees behind and enter the shrub land.  As we get closer, however, the wind continues to pick up.  We reach the base camp at Laguna Torre just before 10 AM.  At that point the guide is considering whether or not we should proceed.  He consults with other guides that are also leading groups up to the glacier.  The first major obstacle is crossing the Rio Fitzroy just where it begins at Laguna Torre.  We need to make a Tyrolean crossing (hanging from a rope and pulling ourselves across).  The wind continues to pick up.  The other groups make it, so we decide to proceed.

 

Argentina02_Fitzroy_Hike4_Crossing_Tessa_4262_Web.jpg (87853 bytes)

We walk the short way to the river and prepare for the crossing.  The wind is now really blowing.  We have to take turns getting hooked, along with our bags, to the rope suspended over the river and then pulling ourselves across.  We note with interest the sign that says in broken English that we should use a rope unlike the women who did not and died (she must have gone over hand-over-hand).  In the end, it is really very simple and we have a good time getting across.  Other than the strong wind, the weather is nice.

 

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Once on the other side, we proceed up along the ridge of a moraine.  The wind is now really blowing and we have to be careful not to get blown over.  We slowly pick our way along.  We are glad that we enter a forest, which blocks us from the wind.  The only downer is seeing another group returning early, with the guide carrying out one member who injured their ankle - they had not even made it onto the ice yet.  We also take this opportunity to have a lunch break before heading out into the gale.

 

When we re-enter the wind storm, it is howling.  We still decide to proceed and we slowly make our way down to the edge of the glacier.  The walk is tough due to the wind, which threatens to knock us over at any time.  Over an hour later we make it to the glacier, where we stop to change our boots and put on our crampons.  This sounds easier than it was.  The guide said that the wind was now gusting up to 80-100 km per hour.  We had to hold onto our shoes and bags otherwise they would blow away in the wind.  Balancing was impossible and we had to sit on the wet ice to get everything on.  Matt lost one of his borrowed gloves - it was lost in a blink of an eye, carried away by the wind.

 

But we were finally ready.  We did not have much time on the ice and we certainly could not do any technical stuff with this wind.  In fact, walking was difficult due to the gusts that would come at an irregular time.  Our feet would be firmly planted in the ice with the crampons and it was tough to be able to move them quickly enough when the upper body was blown over.  In fact, we fell a couple of times and Jacqui ended up with a few very nice bruises to show for it.  The ice is very hard to fall on.

 

We saw a few features of the glacier, including some of the blue ice, the cracks and the rivers of water flowing over and into the glacier.  But then we had enough and headed off the glacier.  We were the only group to make it onto the ice that day.  Once off the ice, we take off our crampons and change our boots.  Then comes the long walk back up and out of this place.

 

The wind just keeps getting stronger and the going is tough.  As we are scrambling over boulders it is knocking us this way and that way.  Often we drop to our knees to keep our balance.  Once again we are glad to make it back into the forest, but now it is a little creepy.  The trees are swaying and creaking with the wind and trees have fallen across the trail while we were on the glacier.  Now we know why there are so many died trees scattered all over the forest - they are blown over.

 

Back at the ridge we take an alternative route that shields us from the wind for most of the way.  But the last bit before the river is awful.  Jacqui is blown over and one of the guides gets blown off the trail (but he remains standing).  Sand and dust are blasting our face.  Straps from our bags are whipping us in the face.

 

At the river we find what shelter we can in and amongst the rocks as we wait our turn to cross the river.  This time when Lars hooks himself up to the rope, al he has to do is spread his arms and let the wind carry him across.  Once at the other side, he waits for Jacqui to come across (all the others head off to the base camp).  He needs to crouch behind a few rocks and feels like a soldier that is trying to hide from a hail of machine gun bullets.  Whenever he peeks up to try to see what is happening, he would be battered by dust, sand, water droplets, hail and small pebbles.

 

We head back down to the base camp with the wind at our backs.  At one point we walk near the river and are very careful that we do not get blown in.  We have a rest at the base camp before heading back down to the town.  Once we leave the camp and head into the valley, the wind dies down and the walk is very pleasant.  It was interesting how the storm was concentrated over the mountains and did not really move all day despite the strong wind.

 

We get back to the camp site at 8 PM - a eleven hour day.  We are ready for dinner, a drink and then bed.

 

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