What is the most difficult hike you’ve ever done?
We thought we had seen our biggest hike when we scaled the ridge to the Torres Del Paine lookout. However, we had our work cut our for us at Fitz Roy!
Most of the hike was just fine. It had some gentle ups and downs, but it was mostly level. It wasn’t until the last kilometer or two – straight up – that we had any issues.
Perhaps it was the sheer distance of the day – in total, we clocked nearly 17 miles. Perhaps it was the fact that we underestimated it, thinking there was no way it could be as strenuous as Torres. Or perhaps it was because we preceded it with a 19-km hike the previous day…. but it was rough.
We decided to do it as a through-hike instead of an out and back. By taking a taxi up to Hostel Pilar, we could just hike our way back into El Chalten, with a detour to the viewpoint. This route provided us with more variety, and it cost only the taxi fare.
The morning was rainy, but this also gave us a beautiful rainbow. Along the way, we got to see another glacier – Glaciar Piedras Blancas. And still well within backpacking country, we passed a few camps. Next time, we would love to camp at the base of the final climb so we might see Fitz Roy at sunrise.
By hiking this direction, we had the added benefit of not seeing the spires until we reached the river just below them. Therefore, as we cleared the trees, we were surprised by the stunning vista before us.
The clouds had cleared, and the tips of Fitz Roy called to us.
The ascent was grueling. Countless rocky switchbacks lay before us, and the incline was relentless. This sign gave us hope that we were almost there, but it felt much longer than one kilometer. It wasn’t until after we got home and I took a closer look at the photo that I noticed the writing underneath. It reads, “son como 2km no sueñen”: “it’s like 2km; don’t dream.” Ha!
We finally reached the top…. just to find it wasn’t really the top at all. There was still one more rise!
Despite the disappointment, the final view was completely worth the agony. The weather was picture-perfect, with just a few spots of clouds to break up the monotony of blue sky. We were beside ourselves with the remarkable beauty of the place.
Many who visit stop there. However, we continued to the top of the little hill, which grants an amazing view of Fitz Roy, the two glacial lakes on either side, and the expansive view down into the valley. If you do this hike, don’t miss out on this extra gem!
The descent was obviously much faster, though we did have a bit of a traffic jam with those cautiously navigating the rocks. Mountain-Goat-Dad wasn’t shy about bounding around the crowd, and before we knew it, he was long out of sight. We caught up with him back at the river, though, taking a power nap in the afternoon sunshine. He was in complete heaven with the sound of the bubbling brook behind him, and one of the most spectacular views above him.
Everything was mostly downhill from there, through dried lake beds and open fields. We also came across a fork and opted for the path with the camp and lake view. Looking behind us, the distant Fitz Roy was still beautiful. We were glad the surprise wasn’t spoiled for us before we were right in its shadow.
And reaching the last stretch of trail, we were thankful we took it the direction we did. The last two miles or so was straight down.. which means if we had done an out and back, we would have started with two miles at a steady uphill. We’d much rather go down it.
Nearly 17 miles later, I had logged my very first 45k step day, and my feet were beat. The brews were certainly well-earned that day.. if we could limp our way to the brewery!
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