Friday 11 February

Low cloud over the hills

There is low cloud across the sky this morning as we break camp. Half of our luggage is packed into trekking bags for the next few days. The rest will be stored at the Fitzroy Expeditions office until our return.

A minibus arrives to take us back down the road to the start of the trail at the Hosteria El Pilar. From there it is easy trail walking through a wooded valley. There is a fine drizzle but it is not cold. Due to the low cloud there are no real views today, and at around noon we reach a shelter with a corrugated metal roof. There is the option of an hour walk up to Laguna de los Tres, but given the weather we would be most unlikely to be able to see anything from there.

Laguna Hija

We eat a leisurely lunch, and then continue south. The trail takes us past two lakes. The first, Laguna Madre, is a little larger. On a slightly higher level and separated from it by a bank of scree is Laguna Hija. The sun is just managing to fight its way through the clouds so we sit down next to the second lake and watch the serene water lapping gently at the rocks. Pam decides that a swim is in order, so disappears behind a bush, shortly to re-emerge on the other side paddling out into the water.

After a long, lazy break, we continue on to camp. As we drop down into the Fitz Roy Valley, we get our first really good view of Cerro Torre, a needle of rock jutting up into the sky, wispy cloud blowing slowly around it.

Campamento Prestadores de Servicios is in the woods just below Laguna Torre. It is quite a busy camp site, but Fitzroy Expeditions have their own area set up on the far side. There are not many obvious flat spaces between the trees suitable for tents. I find what seems to be a reasonable spot and start clearing debris away.

(magnify) Cerro Torre

The horses bringing the tents have not yet arrived and Helen is thinking about trying to find the lake. I offer to accompany her and Luqui gestures vaguely towards the trees and says something about crossing some scree.

We disappear into the trees, looking for anything that might qualify as a path. There’s nothing obvious but we press on more in hope than expectation. We begin following a dried up river bed, which, further up, has quite a decent water flow along it, presumably diving underground before reaching the campsite. I’ve no real idea where we are going, but we can’t get lost if we keep to the river. A sort of a path becomes discernable next to the river and this seems as good an option as any.

We leave the river where it finally breaks out of the trees and I place a large arrow on a rock to make sure we don’t miss the way back. We scramble up a steep slope and realise that we are on the wrong side of a small valley. There’s a scree slope leading up to what looks like a reasonable vantage point to my right, so I scramble up alone until I can see the lake behind me. I give Helen a wave and then slide back down.

Find the arrow and then follow the path back down the river. We remain on the path as it parts company from the river that we were following earlier, and presently it joins what we assume must be the main path up to the lake. But it’s too lake to go up there now so we return to camp.

The horses have arrived and Lawrence has got the tent pitched. Unfortunately, some of the bags have been damaged. David’s is particularly badly torn, but as far as he can tell nothing is missing.

Cerro Torre in late evening

Toilet facilities at the campsite are sadly not up to the high standards to which we have recently become accustomed. Water is piped from the river to a single tap in the centre of our camping area. The toilet tent is partly hidden in a small gully and the sign advises us to leave the lid closed so as to help the ventilation system to work properly.

A sort of meat paella for dinner – very tasty.