From one huge glacier, to many smaller ones - my next stop was the gorgeous little climbing village of El Chalten, a little further north still. I knew I´d like the place as soon as I saw it, nestling in the valley with mountains towering all around. The clouds parted as I arrived, showing the two main mountains, Cerro Torre and Mt FitzRoy, in all their glory, and the sun shone the entire time I was there. I was incredibly lucky, and made the most of it, hiking my heart out. How to describe the scenery - the photos hopefully will do it some justice! The first couple of days, I explored everywhere I could with Sue-Ann, a Canadian girl I met on the bus. And she killed me. An avowed knitter, smoker and avoider of all exercise at home, I practically had to run to keep up with her on the hills... and I had thought I was fit!
After climbing to a lookout point on the first day (first photo), we then hiked to see Mount Fitz Roy on the second day (the big, solid mountain behind me), and then every valley around... It was amazing - huge mountains everywhere, beautiful lakes, trails meandering (usually uphill) through enchanted-like forests, and crazy glaciers tumbling and falling off the mountains into the lakes, sparkling in the sunshine. Stunning.
Cerro Torre itself is a crazy mountain - tall and pointed with a snow-cap on top making it a nightmare to climb. I can´t imagine how you´d even begin! I was more than happy looking at it from a distance!
The glacier leading to it though was cool - and I got to fulfill another long-held desire: to use crampons and an ice-axe. Having hiked our legs to exhaustion on the first two days, Sue-Ann and I decided to give ice-climbing a try, and headed up to the glacier. True to form, she made it look incredibly easy, dancing up the ice on her first attempt. It didn´t come quite so naturally for me, but unfortunately, I think I´ve found a new sport... I loved it! The guide was great, teaching us everything we wanted to know about climbing techniques, knots, putting in the ice-screws and the like, and then we went hiking on the glacier. Now I just have to find some more ice to go and play on!