Walking on ice and scaling a glaciar!

Trip Start Sep 20, 2007
Trip End Dec 20, 2007

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Thursday, December 6, 2007


Got rather a lot of backdating to do as I've been too busy to write this week, and that wasnt helped by the stupid internet cafe I went to this morning! I wrote nearly this whole entry and then after an hour the computer shut down and I lost the whole lot. GRRR! i suppose I should have saved it, but still really annoying! And the staff were really rude and miserable. Anyway, so this was going to be brief, and now will be even briefer as I have a whole week to write about and dont want to be here all night! So here goes...

On Monday my Supertrek began. Unfotunately I didnt get a t-shirt but it was still awesome fun. Incidentally, in spanish unfortunately is desgraciadamente which has 7 syllables, the most of any word I know! Back to the point... We left El Calafate early on monday and drove to El Chalten by minibus. I got to sit next to the driver to best appreciate the views :o) one of the advantages of being a girl travelling solo! We stopped at a few viewpoints for photos and also a very nice little coffee shop where I had a yummy homemade cheesecake with dulce de leche (caramel type stuff) and a vanilla, honey and cacao flavour tea - suprisingly tasty! We got to Chalten around 12.30 and were pretty much given a map, shown where the camp was and left to our own devices. I set off straight away by myself. It was a good walk, steepish to start with but mainly flat or downhill. I reached the first mirador (viewpoint) after an hour from which there should have been an amazing view of Cerro Fitz Roy and the surrounding range. Unfortunately it was so cloudy that only the bottoms were visible, but what i could see was very pretty :o) I also met a woman at the mirador who was in my dorm in Puerto Madryn, these things happen regularly on the gringo trail! We had a good chat about the differences between Argentina and Bolivia, and both agreed that although its prettier here, its also too european and a touch bland. Bolivia is more exciting, more of an experience and more "different". Still enjoying it here but after bolivia it all seems rather easy. Anyway, after leaving the mirador it was an easy walk through forests, saw a glacier and some nice (very cold) lakes. It was all going great til I'd been walking about 4 hours and managed to lose the trail, oops. In my defence, I got to a section of loose gravel and shrubs and it wasnt clear where the path went, so i followed the footsteps I could see. Obviously they had also got it wrong cos the path got less and less well defined! I could see a stream and I knew that reaching my destination involved following a stream so I cut down to it and wandered along the banks for a bit until I found a path again. i followed this until I reached Lago Torre, a stunning lake nestled between the snowy mountains with a glaciar at one end, and icebergs floating on it. Unfortunately although it was a great sight, reaching it meant I had gone too far so my path must have been the wrong one and I had missed my turn! So doing a bit of emergency navigation I scrambled to the top of a hill and had a scout around. Its hard to see tents in a forest! Luckily I saw a path between the trees in about the right place, so I followed the ridge I was on until I found the end of the path and then followed it, and thankfully after 5 mins or so i spotted the campsite! Yay! So apart from about an hours detour, all was good. The plus side of being on an organised tour was that my tent was all ready for me, and so was tea and biscuits :o) there were only two other people in my group, an irish couple whose names I wont try to spell, and they arrived not long after me having taken the right path. We spent the evening just sitting chatting in the very large and cold dining tent, they were nice enough but she whined too much! Still, for walking on the glaciar it was good to have a small group. I went to bed with two sleeping bags just in case and was toasty warm :o)

The next day we had a fairly unexciting breakfast (bread as usual, yawn) and met our guide Matthias for the first time. he didnt speak much english but he obviously knew all the vocab necessary for glaciar trekking and with that and my spanish we communicated pretty well. We got fitted for our crampons and put harnesses on and then set off for the glaciar. The first fun was crossing the Rio Fitz Roy by a flying fox style rope bridge - essentially clipping your harness to a rope stretched across the river and then pulling yourself across. It was actually much easier than it looked :o) once we'd all made it across we set off on the 2hr walk to the glaciar, including scrambling up rocks and sliding down scree slopes. I managed to slide on to my bum three times in about 20mins, oops. When we got to the edge of the glaciar the wind coming off it was bitterly cold so we wrapped up warm and got our crampons on. A quick lesson in how to use them (walk penguin style uphill, straight feet downhill, walk with flatfeet) and then we set off! We didnt have any route as such across the glaciar, more wandered in circles to see various things but it was really fun :o) we saw big holes made by melt water eroding the ice, and streams running down deep blue channels. the colours were awesome, very deep blues. Walking in crampons is really fun, it felt very secure and i was wandering up and down some steep slopes that i would have struggled with on normal terrain. After wandering for a while we had a lunchbreak while our guide went to set up a rope for us to go ice climbing :o) the wall wasnt huge, maybe a similar height to a smallish indoor climbing wall, but it had a bit of an overhang at the top. the climbing was suprisingly easy, unlike normal climbing you obviously dont need to search or stretch for handholds. Towards the top the ice got looser and it became harder to get the crampons to stick in. The second time I went up I was holding most of my weight with my arms trying to get my feet to stick when my picks came out of the wall and I fell, oops! The guide wasnt really watching according to the other guy in my group so i fell about 3ft which was fine, but i think it scared Matthias a bit! Anyway I made it to the top both times and he said I was very good at it. That may have been rather an exaggeration but still good to hear! Its quite tough on the feet having all your weight on your toes and good exercise for the arms :o)

After the climbing we headed back to the edge of the glaciar, took of our crampons and then walked back the same route to camp, including crossing the river again. Got some more tea and biscuits and then the 3 of us walked back to town. It was an easy couple of hours, the scenery wasnt as nice as the day before but it was a nice walk. We got back and went for a quick dinner before the bus home. Unfortunately I was desperately short of money as the cash points in calafate had run out of money on Sunday (every single one in town) so had to make do with a toastie but it was nice. Just as we were leaving on the bus the cloud that had been hanging around all day suddenly lifted and we got the most amazing view of Cerro Fitz Roy and the surrounding range, it was stunning :o) unfortunately I couldnt get a photo as I could only see it out the back window, but it was good to have finally seen it before leaving!

So, got back to Calafate and had to quickly pack for my trip to Torres del Paine the next day! One entry down, more to come....

Ciao xxx
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