Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Closer and Closer

Like a carrot to a donkey the Fitz Roy massif has drawn us in.  It has been our familiar view while navigating wind swept lakes, boggy trails and remote borders. 

Fitz Roy and Poincenot.

After finishing up nearly 1000km of beautiful, wild riding on the Carretera Austral in Chile it was time to cross back in to Argentina.  An adventure all its own.

It would start with a rather expensive boat ride across Lago O’Higgins, where we received our first glimpses of Fitz Roy, and a visit to the O’Higgins Glacier.

Glacier O'Higgins.   Fitz Roy in the distance, from Lago O'Higgins.

Braving the strong winds on deck and tiny Fitz Roy in the distance.

Glacier O'Higgins.   Whiskey with glacier ice.

A rare sight; blue ice broken off from underneath the glacier prevents us getting too close, but is stunning in itself.  Jenn enjoying the complimentary whiskey served on the (glacier) rocks.

A wavy eight hours later we arrived at the south end of the lake in the settlement of Candelario Mansilla.  We were a little motion sick, but none the worse for wear.  We took care of our Chilean exit stamps and began the 25km trail separating us from Argentinian customs.

Hike up from Candelaria Mancilla.   We could even ride some parts of the 4x4 track on the Chilean side.  Always with a view of Fitz Roy.

The Chilean side is a rough 4x4 road which is mostly rideable in the flat sections.  Fitz Roy growing in the distance.

Welcome (back) to Argentina!   No bridges on the Argentian side.

Then we entered Argentina and things changed…

Bad trails necessitate carrying most of the weight on our backs so we can lift the bikes.   Carrying the bike across a stream on sketchy logs on the Argentinian side.

We took most of the weight off the bikes and packed it on our backs to make maneuvering the bikes easier.  A good tactic for log crossings like this.

Nearing Lago del Desierto and the end of this hike-a-bike.

Five hours later we could see the north end of Lago del Desierto, Argentinian customs and the boat that would take us across.

We had heard reports that the boat across Lago del Desierto was no longer in service and the alternative was an even worse trail around the lake taking two days for only 16km.  So we ran down the last few kilometers of severely rutted trail to arrive at customs just after the boat left.  In true Latin American fashion the border guard radioed it back for us and had our passports stamped and ready to go just as it pulled up.

Bad ripio, but the views make push onwards.

After another nauseating boat ride, all that stood between us and Fitz Roy was 40km of really bad dirt road.

First good catch, made of a delicious dinner.

So we stayed the night, camped alongside the river and caught this beautiful Rainbow Trout for dinner.

Fitz Roy looming over El Chalten.

Arriving in El Chalten (the town name is the original indigenous name for Fitz Roy, which means “smoking mountain”).  Fitz Roy dominates the horizon.

We ended up staying in El Chalten for almost a week.  Resting on the bad weather days and hiking on the nice ones.

Laguna Torre, Glacier Torre and Cerro Torre hidden in the clouds.  So much wind!

Taking in Laguna Torre and the glacier on a less ideal day.  Maybe we can’t see the famous tower of Cerro Torre, but we can “enjoy” the notorious wind.

Fitz Roy and glaciers panorama.

Good weather means spectacular views of the whole Fitz Roy group and Piedras Blancas Glacier on the right.

Fitz Roy Mirador.   Bird in front of Fitz Roy.

Fitz Roy and Laguna Sucia panorama.

Views of Fitz Roy on the hike up to Laguna de los Tres.

Overall we were lucky with the weather and very lucky to have met wonderful folks like Florencia and Mario.  They hosted us in El Chalten with open arms and open hearts.  They taught us how to make empanadas and a bit about the local flora and fauna.  Mario also repaired Dave’s “franken-rack” for the fourth time.


Florencia, her son Franklin, Mario and Dave enjoying a visit to the waterfall near town.


We are sad to turn our backs on Fitz Roy and say good-bye to our friends here as we continue South into the dry and windy side of Patagonia.  This brings us one step closer to Tierra del Fuego (The Land of Fire) and our final destination of Ushuaia … now less than one month away.


  1. Fitz Roy is astonishing. What makes rocks do that? Some kind of fight with gravity? A couple of plates smashing into each other?

    I hope the wind isn't like that when you're on your bikes. It looks like you could make great headway IF you were going in the proper direction.

    Only a month until the end of the world! Hey, wait a minute . . . are you planning on arriving December 21st? ;-)


  2. Fitz Roy is amazing as Mark mentions, and every where you continue to make friends, if not as amazing just as much a pleasure as the mountains.

    You two have certainly earned the wonders of the trip, God's speed for the next leg!

    Take Care ... JPP

  3. Haha, I love the picture of Jenn leaning into the wind! Your pictures are beautiful! Thanks for sharing :)