Thursday (1/26) night’s heavy downpour in El Chaltén gave way to sunshine and blue skies all day Friday, perfect for views of Fitz Roy and the surrounding mountain range. There are many experiences we are excited about during this trip, but seeing Fitz Roy has been at the top of Alastair’s list for years. This area is home to world-class rock climbing routes where big-name climbers can come to show off their skills. Alastair had pictures of this mountain range on his desk at work for the past five years (no pictures of his wife, just mountains). Though I do enjoy a nice mountain view, this part of the trip has always been his thing.
On Friday (1/27), however, I gained a new appreciation for just how spectacular Fitz Roy is. With an excellent weather forecast, we hiked from our campsite up to Lago de los Tres, a 15-ish mile hike roundtrip with just under 3000 feet elevation gain (about a third of which was saved for the last mile). The end of the trail placed us at the edge of a gorgeous alpine lake with an unobstructed view of Fitz Roy. The scale, prominence, and sheer rugged appearance of the mountain range is an impressive sight. It’s the kind of landscape that makes you feel tiny and it’s easy to see why it calls so many people to the area. Kudos to Alastair for bringing us here.
We spent time lounging in the sun, taking pictures, inspecting the topo map, people-watching/listening, and eating lunch, then made the long trek back to camp. The return trip was uneventful and we made good time on the descent.
Saturday (1/28) was another hike, this time from camp to Laguna Torre. We were hoping for stellar views of Cerro Torre, another summit next to Fitz Roy, but clouds prevented us seeing anything more than its base. The trail was much easier than the previous day’s, with a meandering and undulating path, less than 1000 feet elevation gain, and about 12 miles roundtrip from camp.
With less than a half-mile to the laguna, I felt a sudden, sharp pain in my left ankle which radiated up my shin. I took a couple more light-footed steps but the pain persisted. I loosened my boot, thinking it was pinching, but it did nothing to ease the pain. I tried using the trekking pole we brought along (and figured we wouldn’t need) to take some of my weight when stepping but I couldn’t find any way to make it feel better. I was so close to the laguna that I could see the people who were already there, but knew I needed to start heading back to camp. I told Alastair to continue on to the laguna and take pictures while I hobbled along in the opposite direction. It felt ridiculous (and exceedingly frustrating) to be so close to the goal and make the decision to turn around.
When Alastair met back up with me we sat together to have a rest and eat lunch, and whipped out the first aid kit to load up on Ibuprofen for dessert. I’m not one to take medications, but this was not an occasion to fight it. Alastair was also quite the gentleman and took most of the weight from my backpack. We then began the (slow and boring) trek back to camp.
Thankfully, working as an Occupational Therapist has taught me ways to adjust my gait and use the trekking pole to my best advantage when walking with an injury. That knowledge, combined with the meds kicking in, made the pain ease up after another mile or so. We eventually made it back to camp without any further injury or exacerbation of whatever happened to my ankle. The jury is still out regarding a diagnosis, but beer and pizza seemed to help.
As Alastair said, “Well, you’ve just earned yourself a few rest days.” The good news is that Sunday (1/29) was always intended to be a rest day because our friend Sean was flying in to town and most of the day would be spent driving to/from the airport and running errands in the nearby town. The bad news is that we’d planned a few day-hikes over the next several days, and a week-long backpacking trip starting on Friday (2/3) which we had to make reservations for and which cannot be rescheduled. We’ll be altering those plans, although we’re not quite sure how yet. In the mean time, Alastair and Sean will continue exploring the area around El Chaltén via day-hikes while I hang out with Michael Jackson, practice my Spanish, and catch up on reading and drafting blog posts.
P.S. As of Monday (1/30), my ankle is feeling much better but I am still babying it and resting as much as I can to hopefully enjoy a few days of hiking next week.