On Sunday, we completed the first of three days of trekking from our base in Chaltern. We walked 11 kilometres into the lake at the end of the glacier beneath Cerro Torre (Big Towers) – a part of the Fitzroy Range. We came back the same way, making a return trip for the day of 22kms.
The track began near our hosteria and commenced with a 200m climb up to the side of a gorge. From there, the track became fairly flat and followed a widening river valley up to the glacier. We crossed over four or five hills as we walked – each being a pile of terminal moraine from previous recessions of the glacier.
In addition to Roman, our tour leader, we also have a local mountain guide for the next three days. Both have a very good knowledge of botany and natural science and were able to answer most of the question that we had had about the vegetation and the environment. The track was clear and well signposted. There were lots of people walking into the camp site by the lake on overnight trips for climbing or walking on the glacier.
The weather cleared as the day progressed. In the morning, we tried to photograph each glimpse of the towers as the cloud cleared, but as the day went on the cloud lifted completely. We had a beautiful Sunny day although it was very windy. The temperature was about 15 degrees, making it a very pleasant walking day. On the moraine by the lake, it was so windy that at times it was difficult to stand. Our guide told us that the towers had been clouded in for the previous week and that many people refused to believe that they in fact existed.
Behind the mountains that we could see, lies the great Patagonian Ice Cap – over 320 kilometres of ice that is up to 1500m deep. That area gets over 40m of snow each year from the westerly winds hitting the Andes as they come off the Pacific Ocean.
Some of the vegetation here is similar to areas in New Zealand. We are at a similar latitude (53 degrees) We walked though stunted Beech forest and could see similar lichens and saprophytes such as Old Man?s Beard on the trees. The scenery here though, if you can believe it, is just a bit more spectacular than NZ.
We were rather tired at the end of the day and had one injury. Patrick has twisted his knee very badly and is in a lot of pain. Ann found the walk very difficult but persisted will a great deal of determination. Our next day is a walk into Mt Fitzroy.