March 7. Today's hike was up a ridge named for the “ recumbent fold” in the rock along its length. To the summit, at 1500+m (4950+'), it's 12.5 mi. round-trip from the national park guard station. Add to that the walk the length of town, at least a kilometer, and we have almost 15 miles and over 1000 m elevation gain, both the most yet, and also our high elevation point of the trip.
The day started quite unpromising. The famous Patagonian wind that everyone talks about (and the evidence of which you can see in every tree) finally arrived yesterday afternoon. By this morning, it was very steady and accompanied by rain. As I write this, it's howling still, even to shaking this rather substantial building I'm staying in. Add to that an early start – breakfast at 6:30, hiking start at 7:00, and still dark for both – and you had some mild grumbling.
The wind was at our backs to get us to the trailhead. As we looked ahead, to the south and east, the skies were clear. As we looked behind us, to the north and west, the clouds were low on the mountains and rain was falling in the upland valleys. Still, it was warm enough.
The trail runs up a canyon to a bench, through some mixed woods and meadows, onto a ridge. It then climbs through forest and onto the ridge at treeline. From there, you're exposed to whatever views and weather are there for you and your party. For us, there were dramatic views of the Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre ranges, mostly engulfed in whipping clouds, and serious wind. Probably a steady 25 mph, with gusts of up to 10 mph more. As we climbed, the views expanded, the wind became a greater factor, and the terrain became almost entirely rocks.
There were some low plants and a few birds, but the most common, visible, animals were fossil ammonites. For stretch, there were quite a few of them, seen by just looking for a while.
We stopped most of the way up, had a snack, and separated the party, as some people didn't want the extra climb to the top. By the time we did start the final, 30 minute climb, only one person elected to go down. This is a good group.
The top was spectacular: fully 360° views, with the peaks to the south of Cerro Torre now in view, along with another huge glacier, footed by a glacial lake, and drained by a broad, braided river, the Rio Túnel. To the north of that, the Cerro Torre and Fitz Roy groups shrouded in clouds. To the north, the Valle Rio de las Vueltas and the peaks at its end. To the south, the huge Lago Viedma and peaks further south. A huge panorama of clouds, rock, trees, and lakes, all formed by glacial action.
All this time, of course, the wind was howling from the northwest. And, by the time we reached town, it was raining. At this point, we bade farewell to Martin, our excellent guide. Our path back to the hotel was straight upwind, into that rain, and at least as difficult as some of the trail sections of the day.
We finished the day at the restaurant Patagonicus, a pizza-focused menu, with some variety. We had a pretty good time, with beer and wine being shared around the table.