Patagonia travelogue 2009: hiking fitz roy 3

Day 6, in which we go downhill.

6am. Time for what the guidebook describes as the “obligatory pre-dawn hike to the Laguna de los Tres”, one of the highlights of the trek. There are few contexts in this world where the words “obligatory” and “pre-dawn” are found in the same sentence. . Again its freezing outside. I shake off sleep. La policia are stomping around outside, rousing people in search of some missing hikers named Veronica and somename.

I call out to wake Mel. She replies, “how high is the ascent today?” “450m. Just twice yesterday’s.”. “You go without me. I’m not up for it. I am having trouble getting quality sleep at night.” WTF. Highlight of the trek and I have to go it alone. Just as well.

I am delayed due to eye wear issues. Clear Care did not do its chemical magic. I rip my contact lens out when it begins to burn, and i scratch my cornea. Lovely. I have a tearing red puff ball in my right eye socket. Rest, water, fresh lens.

Head out in darkness with water, food, camera, headlamp, and poles. Still 7am, and have an hour til sunrise to reach the top. I’ll barely make it? At parts, I turn off my headlamp, and trot the trail in full moonlight. It’s surreal and I love it. The climb turns trecherous higher up, where ice on stone steps causes slips. Poles save me. I see mount fitz Roy peek out over the hill, and I break into a full sprint for the last 100m. The ascent is said to take 1.5 hrs; I made it in 50 min, just in time for the pink light. The view of mt Fitz Roy is set against blue skies and is astoundingly clear (no cloud cover at all, so rare!). I am deliriously happy and take 10,000 photos of the same thing.

Back at camp, I wake up Mel, make lunch (annie’s mac and cheese), break camp by 1pm. Mel discloses that she generally has sleep troubles, an issue made more acute by our, well, sleeping in bags and tents every night. In other words, Mel is now telling me she now realizes she dislikes camping. This is what I get for taking a first timer with me. I am furiously making mental notes to revise my Potential Tripmate Questionaire to include the apparently non obvious question “#10. Do you generally like the actual activity which we are about to travel great distances to partake in?”. This joins the other recent amendment “#9. Will you for the love of God just eat this food please?”

4 hours north towards refugios del troncos, or Pierda del Fraille. A guide hanging around camp mentions the trail is poorly marked and technically leaves the park territory and enters private land. In light of Mel’s disclosure, we consider scrapping the last turn into Cerro Electrico, and instead heading for a shortcut to a hostel near the road. We will see how we feel when we get to the turn? What’s the worst that can happen?

Trail hugs the morraine, a boulder filled valley. The rain from the previous days has flooded parts and forces us to pick our steps carefully. We reach a sidetrip turn off to see the Glacier Pierdas Blancas, which maps says is 30 min from our starting point. I look at my watch; we’ve been walking for 2 hours. Fuck.

We pick our way around a bend and lose the trail markings. Impassable swollen river. Takes us another hour to backtrack over rocks, looking for markings for a crossing point. Found it. Cross. Fuck, I am so wiped.

We turn on the afterburner to make up for lost time. The trail turns sharply. Stone pile markings head in the opposite direction. Okay, this must be the shortcut fork. I cede to mel’s wish and decide to head for the hosteria. We follow the stone pipes. Across boulders. Across wire fences. The stone piles begin to pace farther and farther apart. I can’t find the next one but continue to head in the right bearing. We are in the middle of a valley, and we’ve completely lost the trail. We’re losing daylight. Fuck.

And so, in the middle of some rancher’s property, we make camp near a stream (water) and a grove of trees (cover). Not exactly how I envisioned the trip on day 3. Hopefully we can backtrack and find the trail and catch our 6pm bus tomorrow.


  • katie Says:

    oh MAN. well, could be worse, no? i also got lost/disoriented in the area you describe. i felt some serious moments of panic as i was all by my lonesome on the hike (and it was broad daylight!), but regained my cool and ended up making my way down the río eléctrico to the backside of fitzroy (i think where you decided not to venture).

    nice work on laguna de los tres. looking forward to fotos.

    i love both oatmeal and nuts and offer to be a trip mate on a future adventure.

  • mel Says:

    so i guess never having gone trekking and never having gone camping would make me a newb. …and would make this vacation a bit aggressive–but totally worth it.

    i’m keeping my trip questionnaire:
    – doing something new? check
    – going some place new? check

  • Selfish Crab Says:

    I didn’t mind the inexperience at all.

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