Wednesday, February 13, 2008

El Chalten - Ice Hike

El Chalten is Argentina's newest town. In fact, it is so new that its cemetery is just a vacant plot of land. It is near this town that we were told was some of Argentina's best ice hiking action. We wasted little time getting down there stopping only at a tea house for cake, hot chocolate and a photoshoot with the resident (and very friendly) guanaco.
In order to get to the glacier we had to hike for several hours but we hardly minded, look at the backdrop!
Just to keep us on our toes...or off for that matter, we took a flying fox across this river.
IMG_4473 IMG_4481
Here you can see our first view of the glacier...
We just had one little problem...
With our crampons securely fastened to our boots, we were ready to kick some ice.
Although significantly easier to climb the icey hills in crampons, we all needed a helping hand crossing the ridges.
The glacier was a lot less flat than we were expecting. It looked a bit like a rough sea that had been snap frozen in time...
IMG_4513 IMG_4518
But not all of it was snap frozen. We could clearly see icey blue water through the cracks in the ice, although we couldn't always tell where the cracks were or if we going to create some ourselves.
We "duck walked" down a steep decline and landed up in a rather deep section of the glacier looking up at tall thick walls of ice. The only way out was to scale the walls with ice picks.
Here Jez makes it looks easy...
IMG_4523 Glacier Scale
We still had a full day in El Chalten and decided to check out Mount Fitzroy (a rock feature similar to Torres Del Paine). Unfortunately we had a few problems the night before. We had picked up some bed bugs from a hostel we had stayed in El Calafate and unknowingly carried them with us to El Chalten in our clothes. They came to feed on us at about 3:00am (as they had done for the past few days) making sleeping a bit of a non-event. Naturally we weren't so excited to wake up bright and early the next morning to see Fitzroy.  When we did finally get our act together we realised we were never going to have time to go all the way there and settled for a hike to a view point only a few hours away.
As usual, the high speed Patagonia winds paid us a visit. See the cap fastened to TZ's jeans? That was the last time she saw it before the wind ripped open the Velcro and carried it away. (p.s not that anyone is counting but this was the 5th hat that had to be replaced...)
When we reached our viewpoint, Fitzroy was mainly shrouded in a thick cloud...
This was rather disappointing of course and so we turned around and headed back to the town to consol ourselves with something yummy...
The topping on the waffles is actually made from a special kind of berry which is found in El Calafate and aptly called Calafate Jam.
Stay tuned for our visit to the penguin colonies of Punta Arenas, our last stop in Patagonia.

No comments: