About • Pics • Travelog • Contact
Maps • FAQ • Resources • People  • Thanks

Add your Email to my List:

The Fitz! The Fitz!!: Stalking the King

Apr 12th, 2006

As the morning sunlight first hits my face, I'm cooking oatmeal with Argentine dulce de leche (milk caramel) on a campfire stove. For the last hour, I've been at a rocky lake at the foot of the peaks awaiting the "sunrise of fire" on Mt. Fitz Roy, a 3405m peak in Parque National Glacieres, down here in the Patagonia. For the hour before that, I climbed from my frozen campsite 1000 feet below on a trail winding through boulder fields and up frozen streams. For much of it, I navigated by starlight and the coming dawn.

Mt. Fitz Roy, like many fraternal peaks, maintains a microclimate as a custodian of several glaciers. To see the mountain clearly through its companion clouds is rare, and inspires jealous stares among other travelers. To see it alone from this perch at brilliant sunrise, even better.

Below me, the sunrise is winding the color dial to the right. Here, the otherwise barren yellow Patagonian steppe sprouts forests around the cool blue rivers and lakes from its glacial reserves. In autumn, squat beech trees blaze red, orange and yellow. Colors simply too spectacular to flank jagged mountain spires. Further below the beech forest, my campsite, where new friends, Chara and Alan are peering out the front door of their tent at the same glowing tower of rock.

The couple, a sturdy pair from New Zealand and England are travel pros. They've trekked all over Asia, and actually met in Vashisht, the same Himalayan town in India where I met Kailash the ghost dog. For the entire year, they are camping through Patagonia, Peru and Bolivia. In gearing up for the trip, they've bought an industrial strength tent and sleeping bags to match. The net effect: granola gypsies, lugging all their hemispherical belongings and up to 18 days of food on the big trekking circuits. Instead of racing towards the exit before the canned tuna and boxed wine run out like younger trekkers, they wait out bad weather with pasta and chocolate. Their budget boggles the mind, at just $7 per day per person, including transport.

After licking the bowl clean, I suddenly remember that I'm just four hours walk from El Chalten, the base camp town. Unique to this park, the star of the show receives daytrippers. Soon, the brazen of small backpack will ascend and spoil my solitary communion. The sun, lukewarm and blinding, ignores this realization. The Fitz, in its guile, was listening. He pulls shut its curtain of clouds, shy for encores. No Porky to remind us that that's all folks.

(All Argentina)
Condor a-swoopin!
Laguna de Los Tres
The Fitz
The Fitz!@ The Fitz!!
Cerro Torre, not so bad either
. .