El Chalten Part IV Cerro Torre

Having climbed 1,500 feet before breakfast in the dark after doing the same the night before, we still had a good 12 miles to lug the tent and gear to the next base camp at Laguna Torre in the hope of catching a glimpse of the notoriously shy Cerro Torre.

The hike to the next base camp was long, fairly uneventful and mostly filled by singing theme tunes from childhood cartoons, including a horrible rendition of the theme tune to the The Racoons by me in a vain attempt to a) make Soph remember because in contrast to me has a beautiful singing voice and I really wanted to hear it, and b) prove that it was by far the best theme song ever.

cerro torre el chalten patagonia

We got to base camp with the light fading and nothing but clouds in the sky and without even a glimpse of the peaks. The plan was simple, tent, food, sleep. I awoke to Soph shrieking “Its there, I can see it!” Bleary eyed I rushed out as after seeing how quickly the weather in patagonia changes I didn’t want to take the chance of missing it. It was indeed there and it is without doubt the most beautiful collection of peaks I have ever seen, there is something very different about it which is impossible to put into words.

cerro torre el chalten patagonia

With the moon still awake and the sun rising slowly behind us we made our way to the edge of the laguna.

cerro torre el chalten patagonia

cerro torre el chalten patagonia

Despite a couple of monster blisters and a good 6 hour walk back to El Chalten we decide to take the less trodden route around the side of Laguna Torre towards the base of Cerro Torre, which you can see below to the right above the glacier.

cerro torre el chalten patagonia

cerro torre el chalten patagonia

Autumn was in full swing as the peaks got closer and closer.

cerro torre el chalten patagonia

cerro torre el chalten patagonia

cerro torre el chalten patagonia

After sitting and listening to the epic sounds of tons of ice which has taken 100 years to flow to this point, crack and plunge into the water below we knew we should turn and head back. It was actually trekking home that yielded some of the best views of Cerro Torre.

cerro torre el chalten patagonia

cerro torre el chalten patagonia

The view straight up from and tent.

 

cerro torre el chalten patagonia

We got to see the views that we would of had the day before if the weather was a little more forgiving.

cerro torre el chalten patagonia

 

 

 

cerro torre el chalten patagonia

This was the last view we had of Torre and a chance to see the three big peaks that we had trekked to in the last few days. Cerro Solo on the left which we had me chipping ice off my lens. Cerro Fitz Roy which we had been up twice on the right and Cerro Torre sitting enigmatically in the middle.

cerro torre el chalten patagonia

 

We talked about steak the entire way home only to find that the town was almost completely closed for the winter…an amazing bottle of Malbec and a tub of dulce de le luche filled in nicely.

El Chalten Part III – Cerro Fitz Roy twice in 12 hours

After again consuming more than enough dulce de leche to take down Marlon Brando, we set off. The path leading up to the top of Laguna de Los Tres is very steep and made mostly of loose rock and ice, hence I took no pictures on the way up. However once at the top the view was worth it, although the light was already fading.

Laguna de Los Tres Fitz Roy Patagonia

We then scrambled down to the water and trekked off to the left to peer over the massive vertical drop down to Laguna Sucia.

Laguna de Los Tres Fitz Roy Patagonia

Laguna de Los Tres Fitz Roy Patagonia

With the light rapidly disappearing, we walked back around to take in the sun setting over the 3405m peak…

Laguna de Los Tres Fitz Roy Patagonia

…and with everyone else gone we thought it was just us, until this little fellow turned up and took a liking to soph.

Laguna de Los Tres Fitz Roy Patagonia

Laguna de Los Tres Fitz Roy Patagonia

Time for one last shot to take it all in before we headed back to base camp. We are in there, on the left.

Laguna de Los Tres Fitz Roy Patagonia

In the darkness the last bit of the trek back opened up for some long exposure images.

Laguna de Los Tres Fitz Roy Patagonia

Laguna de Los Tres Fitz Roy Patagonia

After an uncompelling nights sleep, we both made good on our promise to wake up early and trek to the top again for sunrise (I wouldn’t tell Soph about the mice that had got into our tent until it was light and we were a good distance away).

It was still pitch black outside…

Laguna de Los Tres Fitz Roy Patagonia

…but this made for a beautiful view once we broke out of the trees.

Laguna de Los Tres Fitz Roy Patagonia

After an hour of scrambling we reached the top with the moon still awake.

Laguna de Los Tres Fitz Roy Patagonia

We sat and ate breakfast (again) totally by ourselves and waited for the tips to turn pink…

Laguna de Los Tres Fitz Roy Patagonia

…behind us where the sun was actually rising was equally beautiful and changed every minute.

Laguna de Los Tres Fitz Roy Patagonia

Laguna de Los Tres Fitz Roy Patagonia

Some looked like they were painted by Dali.

Laguna de Los Tres Fitz Roy Patagonia

Laguna de Los Tres Fitz Roy Patagonia

It was at this point our friend from the night before appeared…

Laguna de Los Tres Fitz Roy Patagonia

… and even tried to photo bomb soph!

Laguna de Los Tres Fitz Roy Patagonia

With supplies depleted and very sore feet, it was time for one quick glory shot before people started turning up.

Laguna de Los Tres Fitz Roy Patagonia

El Chalten Part II – Trek to Base Camp Poincenot

With a long trek ahead of us, fully loaded with gear for a few nights camping in the Andes a high sugar breakfast was needed, luckily the Argentinians are known for their sweet tooth!

Argentinian breakfast

We were heading out to point 3 to make camp and then up to point 4 which you can see here to try to catch the sunset & then sunrise the next morning. As with all of Patagonia the route was just as beautiful as the destination and involved a myriad of environments. Starting on a glacial plateau we got to see the little town of El Chalten which sits inside it.

El chalten

Ascending through a forest we got to see some fauna (which was a bit of a rarity in Patagonia) in the form of the Magellanic Woodpecker.

A Male Magellanic Woodpecker Patagonia

After we broke out of the forest we just kept hitting vista after vista, and with Patagonia deep in autumnal swing the colours where just incredible.

Corre Fitz Roy

Corre Fitz Roy

Corre Fitz Roy in Patagonia, Argentina

Corre Fitz Roy in Patagonia, Argentina

Patagonia, ArgentinaCorre Fitz Roy in Patagonia, ArgentinaBridge to Corre Fitz Roy in Patagonia, Argentina

After finally making it to base camp at Poincenot we quickly set up our capacious living quarters…

Camp poincenot in Patagonia

…and after a quick bit of lunch, consisting mostly of Dulce de Leche we set out and were immediately confronted with the task at hand looming above us.

Corre Fitz Roy in Patagonia

Now we just had to get up there before the sun disappeared behind Fitz Roy and over the ice fields.

El Chalten Part I – Loma del Pliegue Tumbado

El Chalten was founded in 1985 to help secure the disputed border with Chile, but has existed ever since as a base for hikers and climbers hoping to explore two of the most famous peaks in Southern Patagonia.

It is a tiny town with one proper road and, as with most towns in Argentina, has a cavalcade of friendly but curious dogs, and the first person we came across as we wandered into town was this rakish fellow.

dog wearing jumper and neckerchief

Being out-dressed by a dog is not a great start to any holiday let alone a honeymoon, so off to the Visitors Centre we went.  Here they had this very useful diorama of the region we were heading into – I have labelled, for reference, a number for each major stop in El Chalten, we were off to number one today.

el chalten diorama map

As normal we set off at an ungodly hour towards Loma del Pliegue Tumbado, which is a peak just south of the main Fitz Roy range which offers (when the weather permits) the only 360 view of the area. Within no time this was the view behind us.

el chalten HDR

After this we entered a forest which was also just above the snow line. We could hear the famous Patagonian wind starting to howl above but were mostly protected from it until it blew masses of snow off the canopy.

Forest in el chalten

After an hour trekking we came out the other side, to a blanket of snow and the full force of the wind…time to buckle up!

el chalten Loma del Pliegue Tumbado

We had a lot of trekking to do in open snow, and it had some beautiful views back towards El Chalten.

el chalten Loma del Pliegue Tumbado

el chalten Loma del Pliegue Tumbado

When we finally got to the top after some pretty hairy moments, where all we could do was crouch down in the snow and wait for the gusts to pass, we were rewarded with a cloud covered Torre and Fitz Roy! You can see the base of Torre in the middle and a partially obscured Fitz Roy to the right.

el chalten torre and fitz roy

We pushed on and even though the weather was getting worse we were rewarded with an amazing view of Laguna Torre, where we would be setting up camp in a few days time at the end of our excursion.

el chalten laguna torre and fitz roy

The photographs don’t really convey how cold it was, with the peaks over 11,000 feet and some of the strongest continuous winds I have ever experienced! By this point we couldn’t feel our fingers so we decided to head home, but every time we glanced back it seemed to be a little clearer.

el chalten laguna torre and fitz royel chalten laguna torre and fitz roy

The Cerro Torre had completely disappeared but Fitz Roy kept dancing in and out of the clouds. At this point my lens was icing over faster than I could chip it off, hence all the aberrations in the top right hand corner.

el chalten  fitz roy

When the clouds change this fast not only is it hypnotic, it totally changes the structure of the scene – if you wait half a minute everything can look totally different.

el chalten  fitz roy

This is the last shot I took before Fitz Roy, for now at least, dipped below the apex.

el chalten  fitz roy

El Calafate & the Perito Moreno Glacier

El Calafate is a small town which is growing in popularity, as it sits half way between between the Torres del Paine in Chile, (the hiker’s Mecca) and El Chalten which is a highlight of the Argentinean Andes as well as acting as a base camp for the Perito Moreno Glacier.

The Glacier is a behemoth and one of only 3 glaciers in the Patagonian ice fields that are advancing. Almost 200 metres tall and 5 kilometres wide, I knew this would be hard to capture in a photograph, partly due to its size but also because one of the most humbling parts of any glacier I have trekked on is the sound, but I tried. Here is the south face…

perito merino glacier

…and the north

perito merino glacier

The fractal structure of the glacier close-up is hypnotic.

perito merino glacier

perito merino glacier

We stayed at an amazing hostel called Hospedaje Lautaro. Run by the amazing Belen and her husband, if you go to El Calafate and do not stay here you will have missed out, they were so welcoming and when we got back, cold and wet from the Glacier, they had left this in our room as a honeymoon gift!

el calafate hospedaje lautaro

El Calafate itself is situated on Lago Argentino, which like all the bodies of water in Patagonia is filled with glacial melt water, the amazing crystal grey blue colour of which we never fully adjusted to.

lago Argentino el calafate

Cloud Porn!

cloud porn

We only spent 24 hours in El Calafate as we wanted to get to the even smaller town of El Chalten before the worst of the Patagonian winter set it. This time we travelled by bus getting to see a myriad of different landscapes.

Patagonia Mountains

Patagonia Mountains lake trees

Patagonia Mountains

Patagonia Mountains

There are always a few captures you hope to get whilst you are away, this was one of them – my favourite part is the last horse just staring back as we flew past.

Patagonia horses

Buenos Aires

I got to spend most of April traveling around Argentina with my brand new wife Sophie. We landed in Buenos Aries with a ticket home in three weeks, a couple of thousands pesos and only one night booked into a hotel, with still over 7,300 kilometres to travel before we got to board the plane that would take us home.

We saw so many beautiful things, that I am going make a separate post for each place. We could not find a lot of up to date information before we went about many of the places we visited so I would encourage anyone who is traveling to any of the areas we visited to get in touch.

Floralis Genérica is a sculpture located in Plaza de las Naciones Unidas near downtown BA created by Eduardo Catalano. Sadly its broken but it did open and close during the day and even track the sun like a real flower. I couldn’t see any way to capture it other than the way the amazing photographer Trey Ratcliff did. I walked around it three times but couldn’t shake his version from my mind so it seemed the most honest way to shoot it.

Floralis Genérica in Buenos Aires

We landed (unintentionally) on the 30th anniversary of the Falkands war. While everyone we meet seemed more concerned with my lack of interest in football than the conflict itself  the topic of the Malvinas was bubbling away visibly and more than once we found ourselves amongst a rally or protest against the British Rule of the islands.

Bridge Malvinas Graffiti

We walked all the way down to La Boca which is, like in most cities, the more dangerous but more interesting area of BA. It is the barrio that has built up around the ship yard, which has given it its most vibrant feature. When a ship was finished the residents would take the left over paint and splatter it over the local houses.

La Boca Buenos Aires - Colourful houses

La Boca Buenos Aires - Colourful Houses

La Boca Buenos Aires - Colourful Houses

Bus stations are always replete with bleak scenes, and main station in BA with its 75 stations is like purgatory and this poor fellow summed it up perfectly.

Buenos Aires bus station

The main artery leading to Downtown BA and you can just see the Floralis Genérica to the right which I was hoping to see illuminated as I hadn’t realised it was being left to rust yet.

Traffic in downtown Buenos Aries - Long Exposure

We flew out form the small domestic airport to El Calafate down in Patagonia. Crossing from the upper east coast to the Andes in the lower west we got to see the land beneath us change from verdant grasslands through barren dessert to snow capped mountain ranges .

Plane Buenos Aires

clouds

peninsular

One of those pictures that doesn’t look real but is straight out of the camera.

above the clouds

My wife is incredibly good at falling asleep while traveling, and skill that fills me with jealousy and rage every time we are on a plane and I am so tired but unable to sleep that I could kick a kitten through a turbine engine.

sleeping on a plane

24 Hours in Brecon

Took a very quick trip out to Brecon on the weekend to test out some gear for Patagonia. We forgot half of our tent but luckily the incredibly nice people at our campsite lent us one! I can massively recommend the place which was probably the nicest site I’ve ever stayed at, complete with 2 gorjus dogs, technicolour wheelbarrows & chickens providing fresh eggs! info here campingatynysfaen.co.uk.

As usual we walked until it was dark and the stars came out and were up before the sun, which was well worth it, but we are gonna have to set the alarm even earlier in patagonia to get to Cerro Torre in time for sunrise but I think we are game although there were no Pumas in the Brecons to hamper progress!