Sunday, December 5, 2010

First Days in El Chalten...

We have made it to El Chaten, a quaint and eclectic little town at the southern tip of Argentina.  The town is scattered with houses full of color and friendly town dogs cruising the gravel roads.  People walking around the streets are typically equipped in Gortex jackets and hiking boots or climbing approach shoes pegging each person for what they have come to Chalten for.  
We heard the weather was supposed to be clear yesterday so we were up with the sun, which happens to be a bit after 4am.  After breakfast and making sure we had our crampons and harnesses in our packs we were out the door and headed out of town on foot filled with excitement and slight delirium.  Moving swiftly we covered ground and coming upon a ridge the Torres and the surrounding glacier and mountains were laid out majestically ahead of us.  I gasped and I’m pretty sure my heart sped up.  I didn’t know what to do or say other than laugh.  I started moving again, running a little to catch up with the others, still processing the terrain I had just seen.  This was the first glacier I had ever seen with my own eyes.  The amount of snow and white stuff and ice boggles my mind still.  On top of that is the unique and grand form of the Torres.  What an amazing creation.  We kept hiking and coming upon different views, which made me more and more excited each time.  The trail brings you to a river with a tyrol (sp?) to get you across.  We sat down to eat an empanada and put our harnesses on and clipped onto the rope.  Moving along we arrived at water trickling down and rock and filled our water bottles, sipping cold and delicious fresh spring water.  Onward we went and found ourselves atop a talus and scree field and switchbacked our way down onto the Torre Glacier.  Tommy and Jay decided to make their way to Nipo Nino, a climber area at the base of El Mochito.  Kaci, Susan and I chose to tromp around the glacier in our crampons, enjoy the warm sunshine and gaze in awe at the mountains.  
The wind started to pick up and we made our way off the glacier and to the trail.  We started back, refilling water bottles at the fresh water again and then over the river.  After the river the hike started to seem like the hike down from Long’s...never ending.  We remembered certain parts of the trail from the morning, and didn’t remember other parts.  As each person passed us going in the opposite direction we greeted them in different languages to entertain ourselves.  Alas, we got to the point where we could see town and rejoiced with a hoot while our legs hobbled on.  Back at the house it was difficult getting up out of our seats once down.  Heavy eyes fought to stay open and we forced our legs to bring us to the panaderia to get some empanadas for the guys’ return.  
“Tres empanadas de jamon y queso, dos maiz y dos capresse por favor” I sputtered out to the lady behind the counter.  She spoke quickly back to me and my brain strained hard to understand.  I paid, thanked her and waited while Susan and Kaci ordered.  
The guys got back a couple of hours after us and I started dinner.  After food and some wine, the sun was finally going down (10pm) and the whole house crashed hard and we slept deeply.
Howling winds swirled around the house and Fitzroy wasn’t as clear this morning as it was yesterday.  Apparently this is more the average weather this time of year, so it feels a bit like home but with warmer temps.  Today is a day of relaxation.
The weather is not looking well for the mountains this weekend so we will spend our time around the house and around El Chalten bouldering, sport climbing and I’m thinking probably at the Chocolateria, too!  I’m really trying to learn Spanish, and last night dreamt in Spanish!  I have learned a little each day, and thanks to my 2 years in high school I have an okay base.
Tommy is doing push ups right now, which means he is getting antsy and we should probably get moving and go for a walk or something!  Not great internet for uploading pictures, but I hope to find some way to do it so I can share the beauty!  It’s really unbelievable!!


  1. What a great account of El Chalten!
    My husband and I will be heading there in a few days, your descriptions have really helped us prepare for our trip.
    Do you think a water filter is necessary?

    We hope to bump into you guys there, as climbers we're big fans of your hubby and now you as well :)

  2. the water is pretty clean and very drinkable most places outside of town heading into the mountains...we filled up just out of the rivers. i suppose it depends on where you are heading, but we didn't use one! enjoy your trip!! it's great down there!

  3. Hi Becca, I hope you are still answering comments to your blog. I am heading to El Chalten in February with a couple of friends. I'll be there a week before continuing on to Torres del Paine in Chile. Although I saw you mention sport climbing and bouldering outside Chalten, I cant find any actual guide books. Are there any maps that I should get in advance to help plan and make the most of my time or will the climbing options just be obvious chatting with other travellers once I arrive? Also, I was hoping to rent gear (sport rope/draws or boulder pad) instead of packing it all. Do you know of anyone successful renting gear there? I'm so glad you have this blog, its making me excited for Patagonia and for climbing elsewhere. Cant wait to read more. Thanks for any help you can share. -Carrie