Best Hike Ever!

Trip Start Dec 26, 2009
Trip End Dec 22, 2010

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Flag of Argentina  , Patagonia,
Saturday, March 20, 2010

Volcanic rock, cooled, forming an unusual shape, a unique texture with extra grip. This town El Chalten, is surrounded in tall cliff faces inclusive of these special rocks. A climbers paradise, Jellyman would love it here.

The famous mountain peak of El Chalten doesn't show itself in all its full glory often; only one day in January. My mission, to watch the sunrise give it life. Sadly this was not to be. Strangely, clouds seemed to hang around the tip of the mountain. Like that loud guy at the party no body likes. Everywhere else clear blue sky's, Hu? Its like a parcel, unwrapping itself slowly. But Christmas never comes, know matter how patient you are. Later that night, I was rewarded like the good child I was, Santa had finally given me a short moment with an opening in the clouds. The anticipation, giving the feeling of gratitude for the moment.

After 2 days of hiking the normal popular route, we were back in town preparing for a more challenging 4 day hike. We stopped at the bakery to consume fuel for the hike. Its great value for money. 2 epanadas oven baked, made with a pastry outer, shaped like a large dumpling. Inside mince, egg, chicken and spices. As well as 3 sweet pastries with either chocolate, jam, nuts or my favorite, custard!. All this for 9 Argentine pesos, $3.50 NZD.

Emerging from a forest, similar to one in NZ. I was struck by a mountain, Holume. Pure white snow on top of volcanic gray rock. The gray gradually turning into light red sediments, before the invasion of the green moss. A wonderful change in colour. I wasn't expecting such beauty. Once again, pleasure from the unexpected. Maybe my favorite mountain so far, the photos don't do it justice.

Up early the next morning, we had to cross a river without a bridge. Its easier to cross in the morning; originating from the glacier, the river gets bigger during the day The problem, it was cold..fucken cold. You lose feeling in your feet as soon as you step into it, increasing the risk of injury. Luckily we met a cool guy from Buenos Areas, named Ignaseo. He had a spare pair of shoes and said we could use them. What a legend!

We decided to cross at the mouth of the river, where it splits into heaps of smaller rivers. Utilising random branches for stabilisation, one person crossed, threw the shoes over, then the next person crossed etc. The worse part, walking over the rocks between rivers with no feeling in your feet and no shoes to protect them.

One foot on volcanic rock, the other on solid ice. I advance in excitement, for the first time in my life, I'm walking over a glacier. Crossing it, I see its beauty close up. A deep foot print to the right. The hole it created, dropping down into deep blue nothingness. With no track to follow, I suddenly feel the seriousness of the situation. Small streams trickle in front of me whispering to the ancient ice as it flows by, calving the glacier into peculiar shapes. My path suddenly doesn't seem so clear. Moving forward, I cautiously advance, one step at a time. I still cant believe I'm crossing a glacier.

After 50 minutes of crossing the glacier, I turn around with no sight of Johannes........"shit!" 15 minutes later, he appears over a lip in the glacier informing me "Fuck, I took a photo, looked up and couldn't see anyone" Noticing the serious expression on his face, compounded with  the lines on his forehead. I didn't have to ask him how he felt.

Stepping off the glacier, a feeling of comfort sweeps through my body. What an amazing moment, the best things in life are free.

We sit at a lookout point of our choosing. Glacier Viedma to our immediate front, stretching as far as the eyes can see, left and right. Over the glacier, A continental ice shelf separating Argentina and Chile. In the far distance, a large mountain range, Chile.

I observed on my left, the distinct shape of a mountain slope. Clearly created by a glacier in the past, where did it cant help but think... Johannes and I had a discussion about all the beautiful glaciers in the world eventually melting and the sadness of it all.

"Bro it will be sweet, just walk between the mountain range to our left and the glacier to our right, we cant get lossed" These where words I would soon regret. Maybe it was over confidence, the distraction of the surreal glacier or the fact that I didn't check the map. But two hours later we found ourselves on the edge of a cliff face, looking down a 500m drop into ice.
"I think we are suppose to be there" Johannes pointed at a steep volcanic mountain slope with loose looking rocks. "but... that looks kind of dangerous...and how on earth do we get there" A quick resection old school army stylz to confirm our location and where we should be, we soon found ourselves back on the track 1 hour later.

Dropping my pack, I rushed up the hill. I know the view is going to be spectacular. Panning from my right, Glacier viedma, amazing brown racing strips weaving through its middle. Its end at my front dispersing ice bergs into a grand lake. Following the captivating lake, my eyes pan left, stopping at the dry barren Patagonian hills....BEST VIEW EVER!

The so called "track" marked with rocks to the side, one on top of the other. Seemed to have a mind of its own. Diverting sporadically in different directions. The markings, sometimes non existent for kilometers.... At times I looked down in disappointment after finally noticing the copious amounts of rabbit shit " um, this isn't the track bro, its a rabbit track"

Out comes the map, orientates it to north. Find a knoll(mountain top) to the front thats on the map. Its grid map bearing 40 deg, take away the magnetic variation 15 deg, giving you the magnetic bearing 25 deg. Walk on that bearing until you reach the track. Wow, army training did come in handy....

Towards the end of day four. We came across the same river we crossed in the early hours of day two. But this time it was mid afternoon and we were at its end. "its not going to be a pretty crossing"  I mumbled. A beautiful old bridge wreck, torn and broken from past river rushes. Yeah it was intriguing to look at but..common, they could of fixed it.

It already took us 1 hour to get to the middle of the river. I looked at my watch whilst standing on a bed of shingle. 1 40pm, we need to catch the bus at 2 30pm then another at 6 30pm. Johannes crossed the river shakily, took of the shoes, tied them to a rope and attempted to chuck them over "splash" they submerge into the river. Hes successful the second time. He holds a tree branch in a javelin like manner. "splash" followed by my "shit" I watch my stabilisation stick float down the river, hope for a smooth river crossing faded.

Utilising a knot from the shoes, tightened from Johannes failed throw over the river. I grabbed Ignaseos walking sticks and crossed. My spot selection wasn't good. I almost lost it twice. Upon reaching the other side. I carried out the same procedure as before, but this time tieing the walking sticks to one end so Ignaseo can pull them over. Putting on my shoes, I run to the bus at an attempt to delay it.

2.25pm, I'm sitting on the steps of the bus. no sign of Johannes or Ignaseo, Just I give up hope, they appear running around the corner, wow just like in the movies.

What an amazing end to an amazing hike. My now favorite mountain, my favorite glacier and my favorite hill. Two river crossings and a one hour trek across a glacier

Thanks Patagonia

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