Patagonia Trekking and Climbing - Fitzroy and Cerro Torre Area
Team members get to the program site by flying via Buenos Aires to the town of Calafate on the edge of Lago Argentino. On the first full day of the program, we visit a portion of Los Glacieres National Park, driving to Perito Moreno glacier which, in its massive movement down from the ice cap, blocks the outlet of Brazo Rico, a tributary of Lago Argentino. The water's flow is blocked, but it seeps under the ice and creates a tunnel that gradually enlarges until the huge ice roof collapses in a thunderous fall. In addition to getting great views of the massive glacier, we typically spot and photograph a good number of condors in the area. That evening participants travel from El Calafate to El Chalten, the small settlement just east of Fitzroy where we stay in a lodge.
Glacier Torre, Cerro Solo, and Mirador Maestri
The next day we drive north to the settlement of Chalten and there meet our gaucho and the llamas that we'll use to get gear into our first camp. We begin our trek by traveling west through beautiful beech forests above Rio Fitzroy to Campamento Bridwell at Lago Torre. Though we have seen Cerro Torre from the pampas, our first close-up views here are stunning. The size of the tower, the sheerness of its walls, and the incredible summit ice mush-room combine to make it one of the most inspiring mountains in the world.
Heading out for a non-technical ascent on a nearby peak, with the NE Face of Fitzroy in the background. Greg Horne
Before doing a glacier tour, we spend the morning working on alpine climbing skills including ice axe positions, cramponing technique, and glacier travel procedures, and we do it on what is probably the most impressive glacier "classrooms" in the world, that is the Torre Glacier. We access it by Tyrolean traverse across the Rio Fitzroy on a fixed steel cable, and once we scramble along the lake, climb the glacier's lower slopes, and emerge onto the top of a compression zone, we suddenly gain truly awe inspiring views of Fitzroy, Cerro Torre, and their surrounding towers.
Once team members have reviewed glacier skills, we move north up the Torre Glacier, and while technically and physically easy, our day's exploration has to rank as one of the finest in the world. We reach the point directly between Fitzroy and Cerro Torre where we stand beneath two of the most magnificent rock towers in the world. We have plenty of time to explore the glacier and photograph the many towers that run along both sides of this remarkable valley.
We make our first climb the next day on the glaciated Cerro Solo, so named because of its dramatic isolation from the main ranges. After the Tyrolean traverse, we climb through a short section of beech forest and then scramble rock ravines and slopes to reach the Solo Glacier. We climb on a mixture of snow and ice at an easy angle with short, steeper steps to reach the summit.
We look down onto the Torre Valley and enjoy some of the best and rarest views possible of Cerro Torre, Fitzroy, and their accompanying towers.
The next morning, before leaving this cirque, we rise early for the short hike to Mirador Maestri to capture the alpenglow of sunrise on the rock walls and ice of Cerro Torre, a spectacular ending to this part of our trip.
Next we trek around to the east side of Fitzroy and establish ourselves at the edge of Rio Blanco at Campamento Poincenot from which, on the next two mornings, we enjoy remarkable sunrise colors on the east faces of the entire Fitzroy group.
Climbers on the Glacier de los Tres approaching Cerro Velluda with the East Face of Fitzroy in the background. Dunham Gooding
From here we make our ascent of Cerro Velluda which lies directly between our camp and Fitzroy. We rise early and climb to Lago de los Tres, then traverse easy rock slopes along its margin to reach the Innominata Glacier. The views here are tremendous, with the sheer walls of Aguja Poincenot and Torre Innominata bursting from the glacier to our left and the immense southeast face of Fitzroy rising straight before us. We move to the glacier flowing off Velluda, crossing or circumventing crevasses, then climb towards Col Superior and gain a ridge that takes us to our peak's small summit rock tower (an easy scramble). From the summit, we have excellent views of the entire Fitzroy group and across the pampas to Lago Argentino.
The next day we walk north through the beautiful grove-like beech forest that borders Rio Blanco. Here we see torrent ducks and Magellanic woodpeckers and have the pleasure of browsing on tasty Calafate berries. We hike to Laguna Piedras Blancas and enjoy great views of the Blancas Glacier that flows from Cerro Electrico. Later in the day we reach a trailhead and make a 5 kilometer drive to Fitzroy Adventure Camp, a complex of beautiful log structures along the shore of Las Vueltas River where we enjoy showers, comfortable beds, and chef prepared meals. Views of the north face of Fitzroy augment the quality and effect of our afternoon and night of rest and recuperation!
Marconi Pass, Punta Fina, and the Patagonian Icecap
Our program continues as climbers move up the valley of the Rio Electrico and establish camp at the west end of Laguna Electrico and the following morning ascend a large scale glacier to Marconi Pass. On our ascent, we first scramble easy rock and soon reach the bare ice of the lower Marconi Glacier. Here we crampon up moderately angled slopes that are not very broken up but where we must skirt occasional crevasses.
The climbing gets steeper (up to 30 degrees) for several hundred feet, then eases back as we approach the crest. At the end of the day we arrive at our campsite below our goal, Cerro Marconi Sur, and we are only an hour away from the Southern Patagonian Ice Field itself. The pass itself is broad, and from it we have expansive views; among the many peaks we can spot is Cerro Lautauro, one of the few active volcanoes on the ice cap.
Conditions allowing, the next morning we make a snow and ice ascent to the summit of Cerro Marconi Sur. The route involves a series of snow slopes ranging up to 35 degrees with occasional short belayed sections over steeper ground and intermittent easy rock sections. With clear skies, we get tremendous view of the Fitzroy and Cerro Torre massifs and far out onto the Patagonian Field. If conditions for the climb are unsuitable and climbers prefer, we also have the option to travel onto the ice cap instead of making the climb. The next day we descend the glacier and the Electrico Valley and return to the Fitrzroy Adventure Camp for shower, rest, and more great food.
Enjoying the view near Marconi Pass.
During the Marconi Pass portion of this trip, trekkers make three hikes, the first to Loma del Diablo, a small hiking peak north of Fitzroy a little under 900 meters (3000 feet) in elevation. It provides great views of Fitzroy and the surrounding towers and is the best viewing point of the range from the north.
For our second hike we drive back through El Chalten to the trailhead for the Loma del Pliegue Tumbado, a chain of three round, rocky summits at 1340m, 1420m and 1550m. (4396 feet, 4659 feet, and 5085 feet). The Fitzroy Valley runs north of these summits, and overlooking that valley, these summits provide a panoramic view of the Cerro Torre and Fitzroy groups from the south. Many consider this to be the single best view of the whole range.
On the third hike, we drive to Lago del Desierto and make a short hike to the beautiful Laguna and Glacier Huemul. Lago del Desierto is a narrow and long lake located in the middle of the range. A steep trail and hike of just forty-five minutes through a beech forest leads to the tiny Huemul Lagoon and to the hanging Huemul Glacier. If weather is clear, we will get excellent views of the north face of Fitz Roy and its satellite peaks, as well as the entire lake. We return to the lodge for lunch and enjoy a free afternoon for more hiking, a rest, or time in a kayak at Condor Lagoon.
On the final day, trekkers hike up the narrow and steep-sided Electrico Valley, where beech groves give way to grasslands and excellent views towards Marconi Pass and the surrounding peaks. We should meet the climbers descending from the pass and return together with them to the lodge.
The next morning is free, with options for mountain biking and a descent of Las Vueltas River by Kayak. After lunch we return to El Chalten where we have our final dinner together. The following morning, the last day of the trip, we travel to El Calafate and begin the journey home.