Sunday 13 February

Lakes Madre and Hija

After yesterday’s exertions we have a leisurely breakfast. Luqui gives us the choice of a walk back up to the lake, a walk to the ridge above the camp, or just a free day at the campsite. We choose the ridge walk. For lunch, Theo has a surprise for us – steak sandwiches!

We set off from camp away from the glacier and towards the two lakes we passed on the way in. Presently we make a left turn off the path and start climbing up through the woods. As we negotiate a fallen tree, someone points out to me that there is a rip in the seat of my trousers. Unfortunately my only other long trousers are back at Chalten in the left luggage.

(magnify) Condor

Emerging above the tree line, there is a wonderful view up the valley towards our previous camp site one way, down the valley towards Chalten the opposite, and the glacier and Cerro Torre over the ridge the other way. I have some cotton in my first aid kit, so I nip behind some low bushes to take a look at the damage to my trousers and put in a few stitches to stop it getting worse.

The others are eating lunch as I return to the group. As I draw near, I see a condor flying low over the ridge, so close that I can clearly see the white markings on its back, and the ‘fingers’ on the tips of its wings. A few moments later after I have sat down and started eating my sandwiches, more condors fly in, swooping low in the valley. I had never expected to see condors so close. They are magnificent creatures.

(magnify) View towards Chalten
Pam, self-confessed ‘sturdy shetland pony’

We finish lunch, then Pam, Helen and I make a quick push for the summit to see the view before we all descend. The top turns out to be rather further away than it looked from our picnic spot and we don’t go all the way, but just far enough for a great view over the glacier that we walked on yesterday, and the two lakes where Pam swam.

We all make our way down the hillside to the valley path. Most of the group turn back to camp, but Helen, Don, Pam, and I decide to walk back to Lago Hija hoping for a swim.

It’s a tad chilly getting into the lake, but once in, it is bliss. Afterwards, I lie on the slate shale beach at the end of the lake to dry off.

(magnify) Cerro Torre again

Back at the campsite, I investigate the state of my trousers. It is more serious than I thought. The left hand side of the seat has suffered catastrophic structural failure and a patch seems to be the only option. I pressgang the lens cleaning cloth from my glasses and get to work with the needle and thread.

An hour later, and the final result could possibly best be described as functional. I hope it will last me until the end of the trek.

I join the others waiting for dinner. There’s a tantalising aroma of frying beef wafting over from the kitchen tent. An American group, also with Fitzroy Expeditions, is sharing our campsite tonight and we wonder who is going to get the steak.

It’s us! Theo has done beef steaks with red and green peppers, and onion. For dessert, another Argentine speciality – something like rice pudding but less sticky and starchy, with chocolate pieces broken up on top.