Wednesday 16 February

A little rain during the night. In the morning I remove the flysheet and drape it over a large rock in the middle of the field next to the campsite. Pam says she thinks it looks like a modern art installation.

(magnify) Celia and Ian

Finish packing after breakfast. The Americans are away first and we follow at a respectful distance. Easy walk down the valley, passing the brook where we came in two days ago. Then we begin to climb gently as we skirt round the hills between us and Chalten. Behind us we can see the col, Windy Pass, and behind that the snow-capped mountains within the ice-field, yesterday shrouded in cloud, today pristine against the clear blue sky. To our left the snow-capped peak of Cerro Solo, the needle of Cerro Torre, and the towering bulk of Mount Fitz Roy are coming into view.

We stop for lunch on the gently sloping hillside with a superb panorama of the peaks in whose shadows we have been walking for the past week.

(magnify) Peaks of the Fitz Roy National Park

The day is hot and the dust kicked up from the path is irritating as we descent gently through woodland, always with views of the peaks to our left and the blue expanse of Lago Viedma ahead to our right.

(magnify) Mount Fitz Roy

Finally reach Chalten mid-afternoon, and Luqui leads us straight to the ice cream shop.

Our hotel is right over on the far side of town. The room that Lawrence and I are sharing is clean but fairly basic. When I draw the curtains, the wooden rail comes crashing down on my head, but I soon get the hang of it. The toilet seat won’t stay up and the shower head swivels round when the water is turned on. But a shower is a shower. Feeling rather smug that I left most of my clean clothes at Chalten, I go straight into the shower, while Lawrence waits for the expedition horses to arrive with his.

Wash my hair with soap, but have to make do without a comb. At least my situation is better than Helen’s, who comes downstairs after her shower with her long hair covering her face. Don offers his comb, but she opts to wait for the luggage.

(magnify) Guacho-style BBQ

This evening we have a celebratory traditional gaucho barbecue. We walk over to a barn on the edge of town where a whole lamb is stretched out on a rack and is roasting over a flaming wood fire. There is a large flue above the fire, but it doesn't seem to be doing much to remove the smoke from the barn. We sit around a long wooden table, with round wooden platters as plates. There is an excellent selection of salads, and our host has prepared a special bean casserole for Helen (which disappointingly, given the effort made, is rather bland and tasteless). The lamb is very tasty but extremely fatty. We help ourselves from a tray next to the fire where the cooked meat is placed.

After dessert, I’m feeling slightly chilly so I get up to put on my fleece. I’m rather surprised when everyone else follows suite, and suddenly we are leaving. On the way out, we shake hands with and thank our host the head gaucho.