Twice, when I was younger, I went on week-long backpacking treks in the Appalachian Mountains. A seven mile day (measured as the crow flies) was considered a good day of hiking.
Yesterday, we hiked a half-marathon, 13.1 miles!
Around here, the hike we did is known as the Laguna Torre, Mirador Maestri. The trailhead is right at the edge of town at the top of an abrupt rise. Being fresh, we made a quick ascent, then the ground leveled out for a while, opening up a pretty vista of the Cerro Solo, a 7,000 foot high, snow-covered peak to the south of Cerro Torre:
After a couple miles, the trail descended slightly and the panorama opened up to include the base of Cerro Torre. Unfortunately, it was an overcast day, so we were unable to see the peaks of either Corre Torre or Monte Fitz Roy.
The hike in was mostly on a well developed trail on level ground, alternating between open, arid grassland and shaded forest. Approaching Laguna Torre, which sits at the base of Corre Torre and is fed by its glacier, we came to a fork in the trail. Most hikers take the left path to the lake, perhaps because it is the easier route. We took the right fork, the path less traveled, which passed a supply camp from which the local guides work. We liked their dome tents and their smiley-face lichen welcome sign.
From here, the trail ascended steeply up the back of rock and dirt pushed up by an ancient march of the Glacier Grande, the glacier on this side of Corre Torre,…
…where we stopped, briefly, to have a snack and put on our jackets and gloves. Notice the ice floating in Laguna Torre.
Our destination was the Maestri viewing area at the top of the ridge that ran along and above Laguna Torre. That’s it, way out there at the end on the right, just above the glacier. No room for error, hiking along this trail.
We were disappointed that the low cloud cover prevented us from seeing the peak of Cerro Torre, but the view of the glacier made up for it.
At the overlook, another hiker offered to take a picture for us with the glacier as background.
It had been a 3-hour, 10.7 km (6.6 mile) hike in, although the guidebooks all say it should take 4 hours. We could tell we had a pretty fast pace going because we were passing nearly everyone, but we didn’t realize we were going that quickly – the advantage of long legs.
We decided to go back the way most people hike in: along the river, the Río Fitz Roy, which is fed by the Glacier Grande and Laguna Torre.
This trail follows the ridge of the mass of rocks and dirt pushed up by the former extent of Glacier Grande down to the shoreline of Laguna Torre. If you look off in the distance in the next photograph, to the left you’ll see a knob-like hill; that’s our destination.
The walk along the river was relaxing, but hiking the rock ridge to Maestri lookout had really done a job on our feet.
After a couple miles, the trail left the river and climbed up and over that knob-like hill where I stopped to take a picture back toward where we had been, Cerro Solo on the left again, Glacier Grande and the base of Cerro Torre, still covered by clouds, in the center of the picture:
Another couple miles and we were back in El Chaltén.
We had left at 9:30 a.m., hiked three hours to Mirador Maestri, taken an hour for lunch and to admire the glacier there, then hiked three hours back, arriving at El Chaltén at 4:30 p.m.
Quite a day: a 13.2 mile hike – the equivalent of a half-marathon – with a 1,300 foot elevation rise thrown in for good measure!
I can’t think of a better way to spend the last day of my 57th year.