A fine shroud of dust hung in the air in front of me, drifting slowing to one side and catching the late morning sun in its ethereal cloud. The trees on either side of the path were absolutely still, with nary a hint of breeze in the air, which was still cool from the night. Trudging ahead on the path, not quite certain if we were headed in the right direction, I stopped to admire the view and tranquility. Surely this had to be the right path, it did fork about half an hour ago but the other path seemed so unlikely, it did not look like it had had much traffic recently, with some of the undergrowth starting to creep towards the centre of the dirt track.
We had to be on the right track.
With 2 hours of walking behind us, and another 2 more before we reached our goal of Laguna de los tres, at the foot of Cerro Fitz Roy. Apart from a couple of hikers heaving massive backpacks headed the other way, we had not encountered anyone else on the hike so far. They must have been returning from an overnight stay at a refugio somewhere ahead. The coolness of the air betrayed the heat that would come later on, in any case, I was not complaining, according to the park rangers, we were fantastically lucky with the weather, it could just as easily have been raining or Cerro Fitz Roy could have been blanketed with cloud, as the name Chaltén, or ‘smoking mountain’ implied. But for the moment, the skies were all clear and Fitz Roy beckoned.
We forged on.
We had started our hike from the little mountain village of El Chaltén, deep in Argentinian Patagonia and the hiking capital of Argentina. Set at the foot of both Cerro Torre and Cerro Fitz Roy, El Chaltén is a rustic base for the many hikers and climbers that come from far and wide. The final hour of the hike was by far the most challenging, with a forty-five degree climb up a dusty trail and loose stones and rocks constantly slowing our progress. It has been awhile since we last hiked and it is evident in our ever slowing pace. Hikers coming back the other way were ever encouraging. “¡Un poquito más!” (Just a little bit more!) The vista finally opened up and stole our collective breaths away. Set before the sheer granite shard of Cerro Fitz Roy, reputedly successfully climbed by only one person per year, lay the turquoise coloured glacial lake, Laguna de los tres. It seemed almost artificial in its perfection. Our tired legs were temporarily forgotten as we stood in awe, taking in the view, until we remembered that we had to make our way back the same way we came.