March 6, 2010

Back to El Chaltén

March 6. The morning dawned like it ended, with clear skies overhead and clouds covering Cerro Torre. For those who awoke before dawn and walked to a viewpoint, Cerro Torre wasn't hidden. There was one of us who told that story, but she didn't have her camera... Still, we believed her.

We left camp at the usual time, headed down the Rio Fitz Roy's interesting valley toward El Chaltén, where we'll spend the next two nights (showers! Internet!). From the camp, the trail rolls over a series of moraines, more than I could count, until we reach the last one, which is anchored near the current course of the river by a huge, stubborn block of rock. Beyond that, the trail steepens downhill, though not seriously, and enters a canyon, with cliffs and benches reminiscent of eastern Oregon. Throughout the hike, we were treated to wonderful views, as Cerro Torre continued to tease us, while the rest of its neighbors went in and out of view. Further along, Fitz Roy began to appear over the ridge to the north– cloudless, as is usual, I understand, compared to Cerro Torre. Just before we overtopped the last ridge before the canyon – our last chance – Cerro Torre gave us a view of its summit, though not the whole length.

We reached El Chalt é n and the Pudu Lodge at mid-day. The lodge is new and quite big, even architecturally interesting. It's built with very nice fixtures and good materials, but poor craftmanship. The best thing, though, was the clean clothing in our suitcases, the showers in the room, and the promise of a cold beer at the cerveseria down a few blocks.

John and I cruised the town for an hour or so, checking out the new construction, the restaurants, the Internet cafes, and the hosterias. We found the trailhead for tomorrow's hike, over the river by the National Park building. The building had a fine set of the usual national park exhibits, but including all of the climbing routes up the many peaks in the area, with their first ascents. One of the exhibits was about the huemul (sp?), the local, small, and endangered deer species.

We had dinner with Paola at La Tapera, a nice little restaurant on this side of town. Martin dropped in with his daughter for a beer. He smiled a lot more in that 30 minutes than he had in three days, I think.

There was a lot of talk about coming back down here for another trip amongst the group on the walk back to the hotel.

Tomorrow, we meet early for a hike up to a viewpoint above town for one last attempt at Cerro Torre (just the view, thank you).

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