El Chalten (18th Jul, 2017) – Hiking to Cerro Torre base (20th Jul) – Hike / camp at Lago de Los Tres, Fitzroy (22nd /23rd Jul)
It’s -10C as I lie in the dark, waiting for the next 100 km/h gust. Each one worse than the last. Then it hits… A surge of adrenaline courses through my body as the tent is flattened against my entire body once again. The violent tent flapping is deafening. Seconds pass that feel like forever, and the gust does not abate. I have been unable to stake out the tent on the hard rocky ground, and it feels like I might get blown off the mountain. The wind subsides briefly and I consider packing up my tent in the dark. The idea of heading down near steep drop offs across ice and deep snow in the pitch black convinces me otherwise. I must suffer it out for hours until the first glimpses of light….
El Chalten is home to Cerro Torre and Fitzroy, both staggering examples of nature and understandably notorious amongst the mountaineering community:
Lago de Los Tres is a magnificent piece of nature that is about as close as you can get to Fitzroy before you start needing some pretty reasonable mountaineering skills. It is highly exposed and I was unsure whether camping up there was a good idea…
From my limited anecdotal experience, the default climatic condition in Winter appears to be one of precipitation and extremely high winds. With their tower like structures, Cerro Torre and Fitzroy are also highly effective cloud magnets so you need to keep an eye out for good weather before heading up there. Here is an account of my time in El Chalten:
A few days of rain follow until a sunny morning tempts me into borrowing a backpack and heading back to the hills.
It’s a calm night that drops to below -10C but at 6 a.m. a storm starts brewing with wind gusts that rapidly become stronger and stronger. Every couple of minutes I have to stick my hand out into the excruciatingly cold wind to re-attach the violently flapping tent door to a rock (the hard ground means it impossible to stake out the tent). It feels quite unsafe and I make the decision to pack up at the first glimpses of light. I need to get out of the situation, and fast. It’s hard to convey the sense of urgency I feel as I frantically stuff everything into my backpack with a 100km/h wind whipping up snow and blowing the tent onto my face. It’s -10C and it takes a certain amount of determined effort not to freak out.
I find temporary shelter behind a large rock and wait for the wind storm to pass then suddenly develop a very inconvenient upset tummy. With a 100km/h snowdrift you can imagine the complications in such a scenario. After two hours of hanging about the peaks are still covered in cloud…
You can hike to Laguna Torre or Lago de Los Tres (longer) in a day quite easily if you leave early. I would only suggest camping if there is a high chance of good morning weather to enjoy the light of the sunrise hitting the rock. However, in spite of poor weather I enjoyed my experience immensely (more so in hindsight!).
I wasn’t sure at the time but it’s not really permitted to camp at Lago de Los Tres. Even though there was no one there in Winter (most people just do the day hike) it’s probably best to adhere to this rule.