|On Saturday before sunrise we headed a further 4 hours up the Andes into another area of the Glacier region known as El Chalten. A tiny little town known for its rock climbing and trekking. Arriving in the middle of winter we hadn´t realised that the town closes down for the month of July but we found the only hostel open, dumped our bags and set off on a trek to see the famous Fitzroy mountain. It was a beautiful day but quite cold as we headed up the mountain. We were told by the owner of the hostel that we probably wouldn´t make it to the top because of the snow and that most of the tracks were frozen over.
We were not´t going to let a bit of ice stop us and we set out determined to go as far as possible. Halfway up the track we stared noticing the ice and came across 2 girls who had left the icy track and were stuck on the side of a mountain to scared to go on. They were wearing sneakers which can be slippery at the best of times and their friend who had made it past this section was telling them to go back. They told us how much they wanted to keep going and we offered to try and help them not knowing how much further we could actually get. We had a lot more to go than we first thought but after a couple of tumbles and slides on the ice we made it to the lookout together and they were so grateful for our help. The lookout was just beneath Fitzroy and it was well worth the effort looking at this huge mountain spearing up into the sky.
A couple of photos later the girls headed off without us, trying to make it back in time for the 5.30 bus, as we sat down to take in the mountain a little longer. 10 minutes had past before we heard them screaming our names. Thinking the worst we grabbed our bags and raced back down the track imagining compound fractures or one of them having slipped of the edge of the icy slope. We found them lost and scared not able to find the tracks under all the snow and were wandering aimlessly. We almost felt obligated to take them down and cautiously made our way down the slippery tracks. Everyone stacked on the way down (except Ryan) especially the two American girls who really took some bad falls and one of them ended up sliding on her bum the rest of the way down the icy slopes. we made it past the dodgy tracks and onto solid ground and found a lovely clear stream running down the mountain. The water was so clean and fresh that we were able to drink 1it and Ryan snapped off frozen icicles for the injured to suck on they were delicious! There were condors on the way down and beautiful views of the valley and we made it back just in time for the girls bus.
We stayed there that night and the next morning walked up another track to a lookout over Chalten known as vista de condor. We got to see more condors and noticed huge storm clouds in the distance. Later that afternoon we headed back to Calafate. Not long into the bus ride it began to snow, lightly at first and then all of a sudden it was like a blizzard. Our bus was at a snails pace, stopping regularly because of poor visibility and our 4 hr bus ride turned into 8. when we finally got back to El Calafate it was completely blanketed in snow and the town we knew had turned white. It was just beautiful and we decided to stay a few more days to enjoy it.