Next stop on the roller coast of astonishing Southern Patagonian sights it was time to head to the iconic ‘smokey mountain’; Fitz Roy. Unfortunately, we had no idea whether it was smokey or not. We arrived to thick cloud covering the range and after we nipped to the tourist office it began to rain, and rain, and rain. Abysmal.
Undeterred we pitched up at a quirky French run campsite on the north side of the mountain and sat it out. Time passed (2 days), Baileys got drank, cards were played and the fire roared as told in “By the fire”.
We did use the time constructively though – honest. From our trusty Lonely Planet ‘Trekking in the Patagonian Andes” Guide we identified two routes to see Fitz Roy, both day hikes, that we could have a go at – assuming the weather improved…
Attempt 1 – We woke to decent weather so we donned our walking gear and got on our way. The route took us from our campsite over a large stream with no bridge, a forest with dodgy signs and a valley with no path! As you can image their were doubts as to our whereabouts and as time rolled on – and the clouds gathered – what was originally intended as a side trip became the main event. Good job Laguna Piedras Blancas and the beautiful hanging glacier above it were worth the toil. Although the ascent turned out to be pretty tricky, more of an unmarked boulder scramble really along a raging stream.
As the weather closed in and we plodded back we realised we had seen just 5 other people on the whole 8 hour walk. I guess we were the only people daft enough to be out there. Back to camp to consolidate and plan the next effort…
Attempt 2 – it rained again the day after so attempt 2 was put back a further day but after checking at the tourist info the next day’s weather was expected to clear and so we thought sod it let’s get up early and have a go again. This time we parked the van at the southern entrance to the park. Our alarm went off at 7am, quick omelette and off we went. We could not have been better rewarded.
We followed the trail past Laguna Capri and an hour in…there it was… Fitz Roy in all it’s glory. Not a cloud to be seen. Brilliant. We cracked on and followed the route to the Laguna de los Tres viewing point which whilst a very tough final climb is immensely rewarding.
Before we wandered back down, we watched some brave climbers trudge down the the mountains snow covered face like slow motion ants. Then on cue, wispy clouds began develop around the peak of the mountain and it became clear why Fitz Roy is known to the indigenous peoples of these lands as El Chaltén – the smokey mountain.