Thursday 17 December 2009

ARGENTINA - Southern Patagonia (Lago Desierto-Los Glaciares NP)

In El Chalten after crossing the Chile/Argentina border from Lago O´Higgins across a worn track to Lago de Desierto. It was a hard but spectacular trip. Camped the night on the northern shores of Lago Desierto with great views of Cerro Fitzroy 30 kms away.

A map of the route - with 2 boat journeys and 2 hikes

Here are some photos of the trip from Lago O´Higgins to Lago de Desierto.

Alain, a French cyclist riding his high recumbent bike to the dock on Lago O´Higgins.

The bikes aboard the pirate ship. This year the owner doubled the fare (from US$40 to$80) for the 3-hour voyage up the lake. So the pirate banner was the appropriate flag to fly from the mast.

Iceberg floating on Lago O´Higgins, which has broken free from the O´Higgins glacier, one of the icy tongues dropping off the Southern Patagonian Icefield.

Roel and Yolanda, cyclists from Holland (who we nicknamed `Double Dutch´) negotiating their way along the single track route. Judy is bringing up the rear.

Alain riding his recumbent with BOB through the beech forest with nonchalant ease.

Me getting squeezed on the narrow track

On the descent to Lago de Desierto the track turned into a rutted mess and made for difficult riding. Luckily I had high panniers as riding with low riders was impossible. Many cyclists opted for horses to carry their gear..hence the eroded and deeply trenched track.

The campsite at Lago de Desierto- a nice spot next to Argentinian customs and gratis!

Lago Desierto and reflections of Cerro Fitzroy.

View from the boat and Lago de Desierto

Judy trying out Alain´s recumbent

The Magnificent Seven - a group of French cyclists we met in Chaiten and who have cycled behind us down the Carreterra Austral. The oldest is 69 years old and the average age is 58 years. We often met up with this tough and jovial bunch at campsites along the way. They belong to a French group called CCI (Cyclo-Camping International).
From left to right: Alain, Francis, Mathilde, Christine, Florence, Augustine and Serge.

Judy riding in the shadow of Cerro Fitz Roy

Then we hid the bikes en route to El Chalten and walked into Piedra del Fraile via Rio Electrico to climb up for close look at the north face of Fitzroy. Overnight camp and then a steep climb to 1500m to the lookout.

Mt Fitzroy (north face) 3400m

At 1500m below Mt Fitz Roy looking west to the vast expanse of the Southern Patagonian Icefield.

From El Chalten we got up at the sparrow´s fart on a windless blue sky day and hit the tracks well ahead of the crowds. Made it to the murky glacial Laguna Torre and the famous spire of Cerro Torre, seen here reflected in a pond.

Cerro Torre and Laguna Torre

Then we hiked across the slopes covered in beech forest and dog orchids and up a boulder-strewn stream to the beautifully deep blue Laguna Sucia sitting under an immense hanging glacier and the looming fortress of Cerro Fitz Roy. Fitz Roy was named after the surly `Beagle´ captain of the famous Darwin voyage but in the local Tehuelche nomenclature it was known as El Chalten, `the mountain that smokes´ after the wisps of cloud clinging to and hovering over the summit.

South face of Fitz Roy

Mt. Fitz Roy and Laguna Sucia - fantastic landscapes on such a perfect day.

Austral parakeet or cachaña, feeding on dandelions in the afternoon sun.

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