We flew from Buenos Aires to El Calafate, the jumping off point to see the illustrious Perito Moreno glacier. El Calafate also had a lake with a nice marsh for birds including flamingos! Seeing the flamingos in their natural habitat was a nice surprise.
After our day tour to the glacier, we headed for El Chaltan for some hiking. Driving into El Chaltan, we were struck by Mount Fitz Roy and the surrounding mountains, which looked like a natural castle. We spent the next few days hiking around, and Jen did a day tour to the Viedma glacier to go ice climbing! Jen got lucky with good weather and a small group, but unfortunately a back injury from falling in Bariloche prevented her from really getting after the ice. Jen got to go on this expensive adventure while Jon enjoyed another hike, since he had used up his adventure cash mountain biking.
Next, we were really excited to meet up with friends from Boulder: Jenn (who also met us in Beijing!), Andrea, her husband Ryan, and Harlan. They were joining us to hike the famous W track in Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia! We had already had a few winter ski hut adventures with Andrea, Ryan and Harlan, so this was not our first backcountry adventure together.
We arrived in Chile a few days early to plan, buy food, and pack. We hiked in to the first campsite on our own, and headed up the hill to try to see the gorges “Los Torres” peaks while the weather held out. Torres del Paine is famous for severe and changeable weather, so any sun is a blessing! We waited and waited for our friends to arrive at the Refugio, and they finally made it around 9 pm due to some South American antics. Since they were on a shorter (and more luxurious) vacation, they opted for staying in the refugios and paying for cooked meals, while we camped and cooked for ourselves.
The next morning, the rest of the group hiked up to the Los Torres peaks, and later we all took off for our next campsite at Los Cuernos. The next day, we hiked up the French Valley to some of the most amazing views of the hike. Unfortunately, the photos from this part of the hike did not turn out due to some snow and low lighting, but we could hear either glacier calving or avalanches thundering as we hiked towards the glaciers hanging off of the huge mountains. That night, we relaxed by joining our friends in their backcountry hot tub that came with the cabins that they booked. Unfortunately, we did not make it up to the glacier at the end of the lake (to complete the W) due to 80 km/hr winds which kept us up all night by literally slapping us with the tent. We will be back to hike in this park again! Patagonia with its granite rock formations was probably the most stunning scenery of the trip.
We had an amazing time with our friends, but they were heading to Buenos Aires and we headed to Brazil in time for CARNAVAL!