Sunday (1/29) started with an early morning drive from our (wild) camping site east of El Chaltén toward the airport at El Calafate.
Our friend, Sean, had flown down to join us for a couple weeks while we continue exploring Patagonia. It’s nice to have another familiar face in an unfamiliar environment and to have a change of pace in conversations.
Once we were all cozied into the van we went for a drive to see the Perito Moreno glacier. This impressive spectacle is nearly 200 feet tall and 2.5 miles wide at its face. One of the things that makes it so popular is that tourists can get up close and personal views via a short shuttle ride and an easy walk. We got to see huge chunks of ice regularly calve off and fall into Lago Argentino below with a loud crack and rumbling boom in the process.
While Alastair and Sean hiked down a trail for closer views of the glacier, I walked along the wheelchair accessible ramp to a nearby viewing platform in an attempt to not over-stress my injured (but feeling better) ankle. Although it felt like a tourist trap, I was still impressed with the scale of the glacier and appreciated witnessing such a dynamic, ever-changing piece of nature. I think Alastair and Sean were less impressed due to their mountaineering experiences which have led to both of them being on and in glaciers on multiple occasions. They still enjoyed the experience but the glacier was more awe-inspiring and had more novelty for me.
On our way back to El Chaltén we stopped in El Calafate to run routine errands like gas up the van, check tire pressures, buy groceries, and cross our fingers that at least one ATM in town would accept our card and was stocked with cash. Once successfully completed, we went back to the same wild camping spot where we had stayed the previous night. We attempted to park the van strategically so it would help shelter Sean’s tent from the wind. It helped, but the winds here are famously strong and the only way to completely shelter yourself is to be inside a building. Even when the van is parked parallel to the wind we can still feel its affects as it rocks us side to side.
Thankfully the mornings are usually relatively calm, which was the case for Monday (1/30). We got to El Chaltén and set up camp under ominous looking skies. I stayed at camp to continue babying my ankle while Alastair and Sean went for a short hike up a nearby ridge which gave glimpses of some climbing routes and views of El Chaltén from above. The afternoon was spent looking at weather forecasts and maps so Alastair and Sean could make a game plan for the upcoming days, and I made a to-do list of all the things I plan to do in and around camp while resting my ankle.
The next several days were fairly uneventful but thankfully had nice weather and clear skies to allow for mountain gazing. On Tuesday and Wednesday, Alastair and Sean repeated the hikes to viewpoints of Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre which Alastair and I had previously done, while I stayed near camp to continue my ankle resting regime. I went through a couple books on my Kindle, met a few nice people around camp, and was able to find enough wifi to catch up on some correspondence and research logistics for next week’s altered hiking plans (although not a strong enough connection for uploading blog posts).
By Thursday (2/2) I was eager to get back on the trail and test my ankle. Since Alastair and Sean had plans for a longer, steeper hike, I went on a solo trip back toward Laguna Torre. Armed with my day pack, a trekking pole, and (barely) enough Spanish to speak with the park ranger at the trailhead who would inevitably stop me to make sure I knew the trail rules, I started the ascent. I kept a slow pace at first but gradually sped up as my ankle allowed. My initial goal was to Mirador Cascada Margarita, less than 1.5 miles from camp. I made it to that point in good time and without pain so I kept on going to my next goal of Mirador Cerro Torre. Again, I made it in good time and without pain but decided to not push it any further since I did not know how the descent would feel. By the time I got back to camp I could feel a slight fatigue-type ache at my ankle but no sharp pains or signs of re-injury. This was enough for me to earn celebratory high-fives from Alastair and Sean when they returned from their hike. It was only about 4.5 miles roundtrip but I’m pleased to feel like I’m on the mend with good potential to keep up with our hiking plans for next week.