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Tim Mueller’s winter round up for 2018 / 19 in the Alps in Switzerland.
In late October 2018 I drove up in the Engadin which is an array of valleys in the canton of Graubünden in Switzerland. First the plan was for some hiking in the mountains. As we arrive in the morning it was raining and it carried on all day, then over night it temps dropped and it begin to dump snow all night long waking up to 80cm of fresh powder, realizing my car was parked outside, I had the joys task of digging it out! That day everything was closed from lifts to mountain passes due to avalanche danger so we sat tight with our feet up and the fireplace lit.
Overall it was a strong start to the winter season. We where graced with some sever cold snaps in January creating stellar ice to climb on! Thought out this season, I’ve gotten out on the touring skis, race ski’s and freeride planks. Even explored unclimbed lines, of cracking granite it but more often than not some sever alpine chosss, never the less all is a learning experience and character building!
This season also showed once again, how always to expect the unexpected, with a regular snow drop and many bluebird days, we where out freeriding down some of our local shoots, with 10 tracks already ridden one might have the feeling of safety that the snowpack is solid, even after digging a snow profile it seemed totally solid! However as we are prepping to ascend the right side of the face to hit the lines, the whole slope releases and slides down the mountain leaving only a thin band of powder in the middle. We where safe on the rocks just right of the face. This did bring to light yet again how fast conditions can change when the sun is shining strong on a south facing slope in the mountains. We did end up having a cracking day of riding even, tho there wasn’t much snow left on our original objective!
Stoked now to transition back in to spring alpine climbing mode! Already snuck in an early seasons snow accent of the Kline Myrhen!
Warmer temps have got us getting out of bed earlier and exploring as the sun rises. Here are our favorite early-morn activities.
Especially as summer approaches, early morning becomes an ideal time to fish. Water temperatures will be at their lowest before the daytime temperature soar, and you’ll have the place mostly to yourself!
Uncrowded trails means less people to dodge. Early morning runs will also help you avoid the afternoon heat. Keep in mind though your body will be more rigid in the morning, but those sunrise views will make it worth it. Pack a head lamp and get in those miles before most wake up.
Headed to a popular trail? Get up early and be the first to the trailhead. You might even reach your destination in time for sunrise. Hiking in the am is definitely a go-to for us, right before heading into the office!
Is your climbing gym packed in the morning? Grab your climbing partner and head outside. As the weather warms up and the snow melts in Colorado, we are getting pumped for early morning climbs.
Well this is more of an evening to morning activity, but there is no greater way to start your day than waking up in a tent in the wild with your friends. Pack some food and coffee and enjoy a true breakfast of champions.
While we will certainly miss our beloved winter, we are dusting off our climbing shoes and fishing gear and are getting ready for a rad spring and summer!
We have loved participating in Pink Vail for the past few years, helping to raise money for Vail Health and their Shaw Cancer Center programs and patient care. Below is a recap from this year’s pink out conditions written by Vail Health.
Vail Mountain was literally transformed—from a team of rainbow unicorns on the chairlift to survivors skiing in triumph and waves of people riding in honor of their loved ones—the spirit of Pink Vail was everywhere. And, with over 4,500 donations from all 50 states and 12 different countries, people from all over the world learned about some of the great things happening at our small but mighty cancer center in Edwards, CO.
On behalf of Shaw Cancer Center, THANK YOU for being a part of Pink Vail this year and helping us raise over $875,000 for patient care and programming for all our patients. Because Pink Vail is underwritten by Vail Health, 100% of the donations from the event go to ensuring every patient—no matter their gender or cancer diagnosis—has access to complimentary exercise training, nutrition coaching, emotional support, outdoor adventures, a nurse navigator, massages, integrative treatments and much more. These services are shown to improve outcomes and dramatically impact patients’ quality of life, but are not typically covered by insurance.
What if I told you there was a place where trains travel nearly 200 miles per hour, snow is measured by the foot rather than the inch, sushi is bottomless and costs next to nothing and every toilet seat is heated? You’re probably thinking, “Doesn’t exist,“ right? Wrong. This fairytale place is real and you can find it in the future, just 16 hours from Mountain Standard Time. Welcome to Japan.
Japan is known for cherry blossoms and its beautiful spring and summer landscapes, but in winter, it’s all about the snow, and I’m on a quest to find it. Journeys like this are always better with friends, so I had to bring Michaela, our personal photographer who also happens to be a doctor, and Kristin and Stephen, a couple who quit their jobs last spring to travel full time, learn about the world, and write blog posts for jealous people back home.
Stepping off the plane in Tokyo, we rushed through insanely busy-yet-orderly train stations to jump on the bullet train, or Shinkansen, up north to the region of Hokkaido. Most people have heard of Niseko, but we’re headed for a paradisiacal resort that’s slightly off the beaten path but worth the extra effort. I’m talking about a little place called Rusutsu. I’ve been to Japan before, but this is my first time to Hokkaido. Flying north through the countryside on the smoothest train ride of my life, I drifted off dreaming of what was to come slashing through perfectly spaced trees and bouncing off untouched powdery pillows.
On the hour-long taxi ride from the train to the resort, I watched as the small snowbanks on either side of the winding mountain road gradually turned into walls. The resort area of Rusutsu is fairly small, but it’s got tons of amenities. They have a wide variety of restaurants, convenience and souvenir shops, a wave pool with a waterslide, an onsen (think traditional Japanese group hot spring, suits not allowed), an arcade, and even a couple reindeer hanging out at the base. We were lucky enough to stay in one of their private ski-in/ski-out log cabins, complete with a beautiful fireplace and cozy pajamas. As we settled in, we were as stoked as kids on Christmas to see the snow outside piling up.
The next morning, we woke up early to see what gifts Mother Nature had brought. Powder panic hit us hard when we realized she’d delivered nearly a foot of fresh snow overnight, and she wasn’t done yet. We couldn’t wait to get out and explore. As soon as we stepped off the gondola, we quickly realized you don’t have to be a local to find the white stuff because the snow everywhere was EPIC! Some of the best pillows are directly under the gondola and with every new run leading to the discovery of fresh snow we were convinced it was endless. The only sounds cutting through the beautiful, heavy silence of the snowy trees were whoops of joy. It was hard to stop even for a moment, but we had to get a few shots to try and capture the magic.
The trees looked like huge cotton balls, it was like being Willy Wonka’s Chocolate factory and wanting to try everything and being overwhelmed with excitement. The crazy part was we re-lived it day after day. Japan was delivering the powder it is famous for. For three days in a row we were able to find new and fun terrain all over the mountain. We didn’t want to stop, we rode until our legs were jelly but another great perk of Japanese resorts is the time spent warming up to refuel.
Guys, now’s time to tell you about the food. Resort food has a reputation for being overpriced, mass-produced, and not what you’d consider fresh by any standard. Not here. For less than half the price of most resorts in the states, you’ve got made-to-order choices of fresh food to warm your insides up, such as ramen, udon and Japanese curry. At night we constantly amazed at how good the food was at the resort restaurants. We couldn’t go wrong with anything we ordered even if we didn’t always recognize what they put in front of us.
When asked what their impression of Japan is, many visitors simply say that their expectations were met 100%–that literally it’s as good as advertised. Rusutsu is no exception. This natural playground’s abundant snowfall and accessible tree lines are begging to give you the best pow runs of your life. Throw in hardly any lift lines, incredible food, the nicest people and a crazy cool culture and you’ve got the winter adventure of a lifetime.
Mother Nature blesses this land with over 42 feet of light and fluffy snow each season. I’ve shown you the future, so what are you waiting for?
Whether you actually get a spring break or are heading out of office, it’s a great time of the year to get out and explore. From sun-soaked beaches to snowy mountains and locations near and far, adventure is waiting to be had.
We took a page out of the travel journals of our Ambassadors and Employees to round up some seriously rad vacay spots. With vistas this good, there’s no reason to stay inside.
Home Sweet Home, Colorado
After an incredible snow season, winter sports up in the mountains are far from over. An influx of travelers is pretty much guaranteed in Colorado, so get creative and find those less well known spots to shred. Ski touring and hut trips are the perfect way to get out in the backcountry and immerse yourself in the scenery. (PS check out this blog on our favorite huts!)
The Pacific Northwest is a great travel location for anyone who enjoys a good rainy day. The quaint beach town of Bandon along the Oregon Coast is definitely somewhere we’d like to stop and be PNW moody in. And while you’re in the area be sure to hit up the other nearby Oregon Coast hot spots and have your camera ready!
Head up to the desert if climbing is your thing. Right outside of Moab (where you should definitely spend some time) is Castle Valley, “the place to go for your baptism into desert towers”. With relatively temperate weather in the spring, this area will warm you up from the winter and get you stoked for climbing season.
Best to wait till late spring for this one, because once warmer weather truly arrives, the Wind Rivers Range provides a lot of incredible hiking and climbing opportunities. Make it a road trip and hit up the nearby Tetons and Yellowstone because #TheRoadIsLife.
Or really any of the islands (shoutout to the Southwest sale). Fewer crowds, good ocean conditions and pleasant weather make spring the ideal time to explore the islands. Endless hiking, surfing, and exploring awaits just a short distance across the pacific.
Immerse yourself in the remote landscape and experience the magic of Southern Patagonia first hand. If you haven’t gone, maybe this will be the year! We recently posted the 9 Day journey of Colton Stiffler, and it’s got us thinking of heading south to the land trekking dreams are made of.
A skin in with a view like this? Sold. Enjoy spring skiing abroad in Chamonix. Considered by many to be the best freeride resort in the world, this terrain is begging to be explored by those not ready to let go of winter quite yet.
A real deal tropical wilderness awaits in one of the world’s most intact, well-conserved, and impressive rain forests of the world. Exploring the Danum Valley will be one of the wildest adventures you go on. Learn more about Court Whelan’s ecotourism trip in this blog post.
The legendary peaks of Peru’s Cordillera Blanca are a slice of the best alpine climbing and some of the greatest undiscovered bouldering in the world. The Blanca is the stuff of dreams. To touch them is magic – a chance to feel the world as one might wish it to be. Join Zeal Ambassador Olivia Hsu, Abbey Smith, Pete Takeda, Jeff Rueppel, Mick Follari, and Dawn Kish as they journey up the deep valley of the Quebrada Ultar to explore and taste the potential of out-of-the-way corners of the Andes. Put on a VR headset and you’ll feel what it’s like to travel so far for something that might not exist; to gamble it all for the dream and the possibility of a whole world complete…
The adventure began in Huaraz, a vibrant, idyllic mountain town catering to trekkers and climbers. Nestled at the feet of the Andes (10,000 feet) Huaraz is a living breathing showcase of Incan mountain culture. Mountain tourism is a major part of the local economy—a system threatened by shrinking ice caps and collapsing mountains.
Meet the Beast | The Imaginary, Part 1 (VR180) - YouTube
In early July, Takeda and Follari checked out area the amazing untouched boulders in a pristine zone between up to 16,700 feet in elevation prior to the main group’s arrival. They also assayed an ideal basecamp and approaches to Huascaran (22,205 ft.), in the heart of the biggest tropical ice-covered mountain range in the world.
What they didn’t expect to find was a tremendous recession of the Schneider Glacier in recent decades. Towering moraines and vast fields of loose rubble complicated the already complex and strenuous terrain. A mere kilometer’s travel often took over an hour.
No Guarantees | The Imaginary, Part 2 (VR180) - YouTube
In mid-July, the team, acclimatized in Huaraz and trekked from the trailhead, bound for basecamp at the 15,600 foot level, below Huascaran. Though some members suffered from colds and altitude sickness, they arrived in the proposed basecamp. They awaited hours for the arrival of the burros only to discover discovered that the animals had became lost and disoriented for below.
The next day, the burros again turned back this time due to the untracked and rugged terrain. The team compromised by putting basecamp in a broad, bucolic alpine valley, cut by several streams and strewn with boulders.
Big Mountain Bouldering | The Imaginary, Part 3 (VR180) - YouTube
For four weeks, the team lived, played and worked in elevations up to 19,000 feet. When you’re that high the solar radiation is intense! Eyewear choices were more than stylish – they were vital pieces of equipment. One lens covered travel, mountainous treks, rock climbing at extreme altitude and alpine climbing in the blinding glare of glaciers and 20,000-foot high peaks.
Despite a five-day period of rain and snow, the team began developing the exceptional boulders in the area along with exploring the higher environs up to 16,500 feet. They accomplished several of the most aesthetic problems in their collective experience.
Magnificent Yet Incomplete | The Imaginary, Part 4 (VR180) - YouTube
Takeda and Follari attempted a big new route on the rarely visited Southwest Face of Chopicalqui (20,846 feet). Only a handful of climbing expeditions have attempted this face. In a six-day round trip they experienced dangerous conditions, difficult avalanche-prone snow and a really nasty case on on-route diarrhea. They ran out of food—and clean underwear–forcing them down around four pitches from the summit ridge.
A Curious and Unfinished Course | The Imaginary, Part 5 (VR180) - YouTube
Our traditional climbing expedition evolved into an intense exploratory trip with some very significant climbing. Exploration is every bit about the unknown and unanticipated as it is about summits and successful sends!
Spring is in the air, but thankfully winter sports in the mountains are far from over. For us, the late season is the best time to hit up the backcountry for ski touring.
1. Here Comes the Sun
Abundant sunlight and longer days gives more time to reach your destination. There’s less worry about getting there by nightfall. And then each day you can strive for grander ski objectives and spend more time out in the light.
2. This Place Is Packed
Denser snowpack with a daily rhythm of freeze and thaw means spring avalanche danger is easier to predict and avoid. Regardless, don’t let the lower risk remove your guard and caution!
3. All The Way Up
Above 2000m, good ski conditions are fairly reliable. A whole season of winter snow lies below as a steady and dependable base.
4. Spring Snow
Certain slopes will be rock hard in the morning and soften throughout the day, as the sun warms the pack. This softened layer over a deep, firm base is super fun and easy to ski on.
5. Timing Is Everything
Early morning, the crust will likely be very hard; however between 10 am and 1 pm, the snow will soften and give you that ideal spring situation. The going could get rough around 3 pm so be prepared for that. Ideal time for après!
Best Spots To Tour:
Vail Pass – the iconic alpine vibe
Golden Horseshoe – between Frisco and Breckenridge
Dillon Reservoir – great for snowshoeing too in good snow years
Swan Mountain Road – the “shortcut” between Breckenridge and Keystone
Independence Pass – east of Aspen
Maybe it’s the desire in us for winter to never end, but we at Zeal are definitely fans of spring touring and hope to hit up quite a few trips these next couple of months.
And with all the extra time out in the sun, give your eyes some relief with Sunglasses and Goggles.
What is it exactly that comes to mind when you think of Patagonia? For me, I always think of those iconic photographs of the tower of Torres del Paine in Chile, or the Fitz Roy Massif in Argentina. But beyond that, I really had no idea of exactly how much more there was to that place. That is, until I had a chance to immerse myself in the remote landscape and experience the magic of Southern Patagonia first hand.
My friend Jackie Nourse (https://travelingjackie.com/) presented me with an opportunity to photograph a group of travelers on a three week journey that would take us over 140 miles on foot, covering the W Circuit of Torres del Paine National Park in Chile, as well as to Perito Moreno Glacier, Fitz Roy, and Cerro Torre in Argentina.
Jackie Nourse, a.k.a. Traveling Jackie (@travelingjackie). Chief motivator and world travel guru. In her happy place at La Chocolatería in El Chaltén, Argentina.
This is my attempt to summarize that trip. Enjoy!
Day 1: Torres del Paine National Park
After 30 hours of air travel from Bozeman, MT, an overnight stay in Punta Arenas, and a 5-hour drive through endless rolling hills of the Patagonian countryside, our first destination finally came into view as we arrived at the entrance of Torres del Paine National Park.
Our first views of the towers, near the entrance of Torres del Paine National Park.
There are few national parks that offer such vast wilderness and captivating magic as Torres del Paine. The park covers nearly 1,000 square miles, and the views of rugged, seemingly inaccessible landscapes and turquoise lakes are epic in scale. The park is known for its three iconic towering spires of rock at its center, the tallest of which rises to an elevation of 9,350 feet.
Once arriving at Torres del Paine National Park, we headed to our lodging accommodations at EcoCamp Patagonia (http://www.ecocamp.travel/en) where we stayed for two nights in unique geodesic domes. These 100% sustainable domes are inspired by the ancient dwellings used by the native people in this region, and while there is power available to charge your electronic devices, there is no cell service or wifi, which also mean there is nothing to distract you from taking in the beautiful surrounding views.
(Left) The Welcome Dome at EcoCamp, nestled in front of a picture perfect view of the towers in the background. (Right) One of the many geodesic domes available for lodging at EcoCamp, under the unbelievably clear night skies of the southern hemisphere.
Day 2: Mirador Las Torres
From here, we embarked on a 9-hour, ~15 mile round-trip day hike that led us over variable terrain, eventually reaching Mirador Las Torres located at the base of the towers. This point undoubtedly has the best unobstructed views of the towers in the entire park and is well worth the effort to get here.
(Left) En route to the base of the towers. (Right) Local gauchos (Chilean cowboys) bringing supplies to Refugio Chileno.
Nothing makes Jackie happier than being out on the trails.
Jackie, taking in the views at Mirador Las Torres.
After our lunch break near the base of the towers, we began our 4-hour trek back to EcoCamp. Once there, we took in some much needed rest, enjoyed the local cuisine, and prepared for our next day’s adventure, which would kick off the start of the four day hike known as the famous W Circuit.
Day 3: Los Cuernos
We had a casual morning before beginning the first leg of the W Circuit from EcoCamp to Refugio Los Cuernos, a rolling 7-mile hike that would lead us around the base of the impressive granite peaks known as Los Cuernos (The Horns), walking along the beautiful turquoise waters of Lago Nordenskjöld.
The turquoise waters of Lago Nordenskjöld.
Along this trail, I often found myself feeling overwhelmed by the raw. natural beauty and splendor of this area, nearly unable to comprehend the size and scale of the landscape. Large Andean condors with wingspans up to 10 feet wide were frequently seen off in the distances, flying effortlessly in the thermal updrafts created by the massive cliff walls, undoubtedly searching for the remains of guanacos and other mammal carcasses to feed on.
A large condor glides effortlessly above the massive cliff walls near the base of Los Cuernos.
On the W, there are impressive views in every direction along the way.
After what turned into a fairly long day on the trail, we finally arrived at the picture perfect destination of Los Cuernos, a series of quaint, well kept cabins overlooking Lago Nordenskjöld, tucked up in the mountains against the base of the towering Cuernos. Our group was exhausted from the day, and a hot meal accompanied with multiple cervezas and pisco sours was exactly what we needed. After dinner, we tucked ourselves into our cozy cabins for the night and prepared for the next day’s adventure.
Guest cabins at Refugio Los Cuernos. Can it get any more perfect? With views like this, I would be more than happy to stay forever.
Day 4: French Valley
After a good night’s sleep, we rose early, ate breakfast and headed out on the trail, knowing that we had a long day ahead of us to make it to our next destination at Refugio Paine Grande. For the fourth day in a row, we were pleased to see that the weather was calm and clear, as it had been for the duration of our trip. This is contrary to the extremely volatile weather that we expected to encounter during the hike, but none of us were complaining. We continued down the trail, following the shoreline of Lago Nordenskjöld, eventually reaching a junction in the trail that led up to the French Valley. From this point, it was a 4-hour out-and-back and we soon found out that the hike up, although immensely beautiful, was punishing. With each step, I fought through the pain as we ascended through steep, rocky moraines, passing by massive hanging glaciers, before finally reaching the heart of French Valley.
Bill (@williamesloan) feeling small in a massive landscape, headed up towards French Valley.
“Spectacular” is an understatement. Looking into the heart of French Valley.
Our group, smack dab in the middle of French Valley. Was it a difficult hike? Yes. But the stoke was high and the smiles were wide.
After descending back down from French Valley, we continued on towards Refugio Paine Grande on the shores of Lago Pehoe. The trail was not technical, but after the previous 9 miles of difficult hiking, it seemed to go on forever. By the time we finally made it to the refugio and sat down for dinner, we had logged nearly 15 miles for the day, and the feet and legs were tired.
Los Cuernos and Lago Nordenskjöld. Looking back at how far we’ve come and still many miles to go.
Patrick (@runwithpatrick) basking in the golden hour light, en route to Refugio Paine Grande near the shores of Lago Pehoe.
Day 5 & 6: Lago Grey and Grey Glacier
I woke early and headed down to the shores of Lago Pehoe to write in my journal and breathe in the fresh air. With a glance over my shoulder, I spotted the half-moon setting behind Cerro Paine Grande. The quality of the light hitting the jagged cliff faces of this mountain was hypnotizing and jaw-dropping.
Early morning light on Cerro Paine Grande.
By this day, there was no doubt that a majority of the group, myself included, were starting to feel the extent of our travels. With blistered feet and sore knees, we pressed onwards toward Lago Grey and Grey Glacier, which is the largest glacier in Torres del Paine National Park. We walked at an extremely leisurely pace today, taking nearly 6 hours to cover 7 miles of rocky terrain, following the eastern shoreline of Lago Grey, occasionally stopping at elevated vistas to enjoy the bird’s eye views of the surrounding area.
Jackie in her natural habitat above Lago Grey, with the massive Grey Glacier in the background.
At Refugio Grey, we unloaded our gear and immediately headed down to the shore, where we met up with our guides from Bigfoot Patagonia Adventures (Link) for a kayak trip through frozen waters to the edge of this impressive glacier. After changing into dry suits and receiving a quick safety briefing from our guides, we set off.
Our guide for the excursion, briefing the team on how to stay safe out in icy the water.
Slowly drifting towards Grey Glacier.
Sunshine and smiles. Jackie enjoying the calm weather before we were broadsided with gale force winds and white-capped waves.
Kayaking out to Grey Glacier was a stark reminder of just how fast the weather can change from calm to chaotic in Patagonia. After an hour paddle towards the glacier with perfect weather, we were suddenly broadsided with gale force winds and a relentless attack of waves forcing us to retreat back to safety. Needless to say, there was a great sigh of relief once our feet were planted firmly back on the ground. We changed back into our clothes and headed to Refugio Grey for dinner, drinks, and another early bedtime.
The next morning, we opted to take a boat ride around Grey Glacier, as opposed to hiking back on the trail that we had covered the previous day. This gave us a fresh perspective of the glacier, and dropped us off directly at the shuttle for our transfer across the border from Chile into Argentina. A much needed rest day for the legs was a huge win in my eyes, plus the boat had delicious pisco sours served with ice cubes sourced directly from floating ice in the lake.
Our sweet ride for the day…
Up close and personal with Grey Glacier.
After a two-hour tour of the glacier, we headed towards our shuttle location, loaded up in our van and began the long ride across the border towards El Calafate, Argentina.
Day 7: Perito Moreno Glacier in Los Glaciares National Park
We woke early, grabbed a quick breakfast, and loaded on a shuttle bus that took us towards the boat launch at Lago Argentino for a day of ice trekking on Perito Moreno Glacier. After boarding the boat and crossing the lake, we were fitted with crampons and set foot on the ice, where we navigated through the labyrinth of crevasses and seracs.
A difference of perspectives looking at Perito Moreno Glacier.
My head spins when I try to think about the size of Perito Moreno Glacier in the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. One of the most mind-blowing facts that I learned during my visit here, was that the entire footprint of the city of Buenos Aires (the fourth-most populous city in the Americas and home to nearly 14 million people) could fit within the space that is occupied by this glacier, with nearly 20 square miles to spare! Another interesting fact was that unlike a majority of the glaciers remaining on this planet which are receding, Perito Moreno is considered stable (neither receding nor advancing). One can only hope that it remains this way.
A sectional portrait of the Perito Moreno Glacier, with a random group of people thrown in for size.
(Top) Me. (Bottom) Jackie. There is something humbling about being Immersed in a landscape like this, created entirely by slow moving ice.
After our ice trek, we ate our box lunch and relaxed in the sunshine, waiting for our boat to arrive to take us back to the bus. Once there, we headed back to El Calafate, transferred to our van, and hit the road towards the small mountain village of El Chaltén, located at the base of the Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre.
Day 8: Fitz Roy
I set my alarm for 3:45 a.m. and hit the trail by myself in the dark, with the hopes that I could catch the first rays of daylight illuminating the face of Fitz Roy. After a 1.5 hour hike, I finally reached Laguna Capri, in perfect time to catch the rising sun. The day was perfectly clear, and there was not a whisper of wind in the air, creating a near-perfect reflection of Fitz Roy in the motionless water. I snapped a few photos and then sat on a rock, completely speechless and in awe of the view in front of me.
A red flash sunrise and perfect reflection of Fitz Roy at Laguna Capri.
Fitz Roy looks like something straight out of a dream; a place designed entirely by someone’s wild imagination. I don’t know how many times along this trail I stopped in awe of this impressive mountain, my jaw to the ground and my head shaking in overwhelming disbelief. I frequently found myself asking if and how what I was seeing could possibly even be real. There were even times that I wondered if what I was seeing WAS just a dream, but a quick pinch on my arm served as a reminder that this was, in fact, very real.
I continued up the trail towards the Laguna de los Tres, the lake at the base of Fitz Roy. For a brief time, the trail follows the slow moving water of the Arroyo del Salto, which provides ample opportunities to take a break and enjoy the surrounding views.
Cascading waterfalls and slow moving water along the Arroyo del Salto.
The final ascent to Laguna de los Tres is challenging, to say the least. It is a steep ascent over loose scree that gains over 1,200 feet of elevation in less than 1 mile, and it is the final hurdle to overcome before reaching Laguna de Los Tres. Once there, these views of Mount Fitz Roy and Poincenot make the effort well worth it.
Mount Fitz Roy and Poincenot as seen from Laguna del los Tres.
Day 9: Cerro Torre
On our final day in El Chaltén, we decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather and head up the trail to Laguna Torre near the base of the famous Cerro Torre. This easy hike meanders through rolling hills and old growth forests before finally reaching Laguna Torre.
En route to Laguna Torre near the base of Cerro Torre.
Once we arrived at Laguna Torre, we were pleased (and surprised) to discover that we had the entire place to ourselves! For the next few hours, we amused ourselves by scrambling over the rocky hillsides, soaking in the warm sun, and snacking on empanadas and alfajores. The day was nothing short of pure perfection.
Jackie headed towards the perfect rock in Laguna Torre.
Afternoon delight, and not another person in sight.
Jackie, jumping for joy under Cerro Torre
There is nothing more perfect than a Cerro Torre reflection.
As the sun began to set, we slowly started making our way back to El Chaltén, stopping every 30 feet to look behind us at the beautiful place that we had just left. I couldn’t help but feel filled with an overwhelming amount of gratitude, both for this day, and for the entire trip that now seemed to have passed by in the blink of an eye. In addition, I was sad to think about leaving this amazing place, and to know that by tomorrow at the same time we would be well on our way back to the States, with visions of Patagonia fading farther into the rear view. But if there’s one thing that I know for sure, it’s that this place has changed me for the better and has become a part of who I am. Since being back home, the gravity of Patagonia continues to pull at me with an ever-growing intensity. Even though it feels like I just left, I know in my heart that I will be back to experience these landscapes once again.
Winning a ton of rad gear from brands that we love. From fueling our travels and staying caffeinated, to trail runs followed by days sending it on snow - and camping - no matter the season we put ‘em to the test and only use the best.
These products give us all the feels. ❤️
Enter for a chance to win over $700 in gear from us and some of our faves: Alpine Start, Altra Running, Biolite, and Big Agnes!