Already on the traverse of the Lago O’Higgins we had seen the iconic peak of Fitz Roy from the far distance. The closer we got the more impressive it became with its sheer granite faces towering over the adjacent scenery. But also the wind picked up with every kilometre we travelled towards it.
The first night we stayed on a camp-site 20km before El Chalten (Ricanor), surrounded by mountains. The wind was sometimes non-existent and sometimes came in strong gusts from any possible direction. A few times we woke up in the middle of the night and tried to support the poles of our tent with our hands.
The next day we started a 2 day hike through the park from El Chalten and our first target was the Laguna Torre, well known for its easy access and good glacier views. The closer we got, the more tourists we met who were hiking to and from the viewpoint. The wind was picking up again and people were struggling to keep on the trail. When we finally reached the glacier lake, there were only a few brave people any more, hiding behind stone barriers. The wind was that strong that Dorit couldn’t stay upright on her legs, not even with the help of her walking sticks. Little stones were flying through the air and it was nearly impossible to take a look at the nearby glacier.
Dorit was very disappointed and ready to return to El Chalten for a wind-proof accommodation. But I convinced her to keep going and head for the camp-site Poincenot on the foot of the Laguna de Los Tres. This meant leaving the crowded hiking autobahn and as soon as we did, the wind dropped, the sun came out and we enjoyed a beautiful walk along the Laguna Madre and the Laguna Hija. We only met a couple of people and felt like in hiking heaven, that is until we reached the camp-site and set up our camp next to about 30 others. Poincenot is the site of choice for all those that want to climb the Fitz Roy viewpoint at sunrise with a small chance to see the granite towers cloud-free and glowing in fiery colours – exactly our plan.
During the night the wind picked up again and it was hard to sleep. Long before each gust hit our tent, the trees above us started howling like an approaching train. When the alarm went off at 4 am, the wind was still blowing strong, but a few stars at the sky were creating hope for a decent sunrise. Dorit was put off by the wind though and so I started the climb with two guys we had been travelling with since Villa O’Higgins. The first 30 minutes we had to use our headlamps until the first bit of sunlight lit up the path. Reaching the mirador, we experienced some very strong gusts again. It was hard to take shelter behind the stone walls, since the wind seemed to come from all directions again. The beautiful lagoon at the foot of the Fitz Roy granite tower made the wind spectacle visible. The wind seemed to drop vertically onto the lake and then with increasing velocity flew off horizontally in random directions.
The sunrise that we got to see a little later, wasn’t as spectacular as we had hoped for. The clouds opened up too late, but the light on the lake and the granite walls was still fantastic.
After a good breakfast at the campsite we hiked along a little trail towards the fairly unknown Piedras Blancas, a number of huge white rocks next to another glacier lake. There is no marked trail leading from the valley and so we climbed and jumped over the white rocks until we reached the cold milky lake with plenty of little icebergs floating about. At the other side of the lake the glacier towered high above the scene and little avalanches raced down the slope every now and then. The wind had dropped to 0, the sun was out and was keeping us nice and warm. A little burbling stream originating from the lake created a nice ambience with some ice blocks gently hitting the rocks. We were the only ones for the 2 hours that we stayed at this stunningly beautiful place, lay down on the warm rocks, took plenty of photos with the varying sunlight. After this experience we decided that we would skip the famous but crowded Perito Moreno glacier altogether. This had been our own glacier for 2h, 2 magical hours and it couldn’t possible get any better.
Later we walked further north along the Rio Blanco and then into an enchanted forest towards Rio Electra. Then we returned to our campsite of the first night, saddled our bicycles and made our way to El Chalten to find shelter in a little hostel.
The next day we continued our bicycle trip along Lago Viedma and eastwards to Argentina’s famous route 40. It felt like Fitz Roy was pushing us away from him with all the power he had and so, with strong tail winds, we flew along the concrete road and kept looking back to see Fitz Roy rising and rising above El Chalten and the adjacent hills. A surreal scene. Fitz Roy… or Freak Roy, as we started calling him, and his magical forces of the wind.