It rains in our alpine paradise. Where yesterday the sky was blue and the evening had a golden glow, a light drizzle is now hanging in the air. We hide inside and try to make smart plans, skimming info from all other climbers we can find, turning the pages of the guide book back and forth. This route maybe, or this?
We’re abruptly figuring out just how many factors we must take into account when planning what granite spire to (try to) climb. In Patagonia the weather that matters is not just if it’s sunny or rainy. It’s winds and temperatures and days of sun vs days of rain. It’s the aspect of the rockface, the depth of the cracks, the amount of ice and snow, the temperature of the rock, the humidity of the air. Is the approach over a glacier or in skree? Can you rappel the route or will you be going down an unknown face? Will your gear freeze up? Can you back of anywhere should the weather turn bad? Do you walk in and set up camp closer to the spires, or is it more efficient to do a monster day from town all the way up a mountain and back down again in one push?
From El Chaltén we can se the spires of Fitz Roy and friends soaring high, a dreamy skyline of grey, brown and white. That is, if it’s not raining. And most of the time Fitz Roy is clad in clouds anyway, being a tower that creates its own weather system. It’s original name, Chaltén, means ”the humid mountain”. (It wasn’t until 1899 that someone proved the mountain wasn’t just a volcano, spewing out smoke).
Tim and I have no intention of trying to climb this famous mountain. We don’t have the skills not the equipment or the time to do it. Plus, when I look at the full Fitz Roy range and my eyes come to rest on Poincenot I know that’s the one. That’s the most beautiful of them all. I wanna be an ice princess, climbing and hacking my way up that spire! It’s so clean, it’s lines so neat. Another year, perhaps. One can never have to many dreams…
To achieve a dream it’s a good idea to go about it all in small steps. I know that I need to keep on practicing my climbing skills on both rock and ice to be able to competently and safely make my way up those beautiful high walls. This time around we will therefor first try our luck on smaller peaks like Guillaumet, De L’s and Medialuna. Some 500 meters of climbing in proper icy alpine conditions is enough for now. I’ll save my first vertical kilometer for later. The approaches alone will be strenuous, with tens of kilometers of walking up sandy trails to thalus slopes and over glaciers, 8 hours or more one way.
It all sounds like a very fun day or two in the mountains, non?
Ah. The alpine paradise. Patagonia. The Chaltén massif, home of Cereo Fitz Roy, Cerro Torres and other beauties. It’s a true pleasure being here in this real world Narnia. You see, it’s not just the mountains which are special, it’s the whole scenery with gnarly old southern beech wood trees, a gazillion of yellow flowers on spiky bushes, a blue green glacial river snaking the bottom of the U-valley below us and condors soaring above our heads. It’s a drop dead beautiful place. If we get to climb, that’s great. If not, we’ll happily enjoy the natural magic.
//Your little andinista