El Chalten is famous for the Fitz Roy range of mountains and the hiking is reputed to be the best in Argentina - a bold statement. As Fitz Roy is 3405 metres and the cloud cover starts at 0 metres I could be hiking in my own back garden and see more, but..... there´s not a lot else to do in Chalten a town of about 1000 people, so I head for the hills.
The hike is a really nice route starting right out of town and climbing through beech forests to Torre lake where there are supposed to be stunning views of Cerro Torre - 3100m high towers of rock. I see clouds, Hmmmmmm.
And I´ve found another hiking machine trying to kill me. Nadia, an Australian from Sydney has a bus to catch and is on a mission. We make the lake (4 hours according to the guide) in under 2 hours and are rewarded by great views of Glacier Grande on the far side. There´s a snow covered ridge that takes us closer and as we´ve made such good time - it would be a shame to miss it.
We meet several people who turned back in the snow, and Irishman "David" at the top, replete in his straw boater hat (a de riguer piece of hiking equipment in Galway - apparently) and a waterproof jacket safely contained in a carrier bag. As it´s probably below freezing and the wind is pure ice, I just go along with the old stereotype about the Irish being crazy. At least the inside of his carrier bag is fully waterproofed and won´t be getting cold.
The scene is amazing and 3 sets of footprints in the snow is proof that we are the only ones to enjoy it that day. Shame about the cloud cover obscurring the mountains though.
The hike down is a blur - Nadia ("I don´t like going downhill") runs down all the steeps - apparently it´s easier that way and protects the knee joints. So we complete a 7 hour hike in 4 hours. She´s another one I need to take out on a bike to get my own back!!