Climbing in Patagonia
This December 2023 alongside Lorna I was lucky enough to visit the Fitzroy massif of Patagonia. Lorna had set herself a number of challenges this year to celebrate the milestone of turning 50 and this was to be the penultimate challenge before a hedonistic New Year’s party in Rio!
This almost mythical range is world famous, both for the quality of clilmbing and the ferocity of its weather. The wind in particular howls off the icecap here for days and you need to be careful not to be trapped or committed in one of its storms.
I arrived from the EU to a small 2 day weather window and so sent the message to Lorna that we needed to go straight in to take advantage of this (she was coming in from Antarctica and we rdv’d in El Calafate).
So that’s what we did. It was hard, slowly walking the steep, rocky and dusty trail with heavy loads but the views kept appearing and as we left the main trail and campsites behind we encountered nobody. This was the theme for the next two days. It felt like we had the massif to ourselves and a sense of space and wilderness rarely encounted in the European Alps.
The bivouac site (cave) was still full of snow so we pitched our small tent on a small area of flattish rock and settled in amongst the surrounding granite peaks. We woke before dawn hoping for a re-freeze but the snow soon started to give way and it was simply hard work, albeit in great surroundings breaking trail. We left the glacier and scrambled up to the summit peak where a couple of pitches led to the final summit block. We climbed this in perfect conditions with hardly a breath of wind and sun, surely rare here. We then had a scramble down, including abseiling the climbing pitches then a long, difficult snow descent before finally reaching our camp.
We then had to re-trace our approach with still heavy bags and tired legs. We definitely went around in circles as we approached one of the camps and when I took a short cut later I actually added a good hour to the day. 15 hours later, tired and hungry we staggered back in to El Chalten where of course, the locals were just starting to eat.
The rest of our time we hung out, ate and rock climbed around El Chalten (there wasn’t a further weather window). Climbing in Patagonia with condors was a pretty special, iconic moment and a great memory of a wonderful trip.