I hardly knew which way to look. One magnificent vista after another unfurled as my transport shuttle sped toward Patagonia, the Argentinian region so famous for its spectacular mountains, vast glaciers, and pure turquoise lakes. As we neared El Chalten, the scenery became even more breathtaking. The pinnacles of Monte Fitz Roy (often anglicized to Mount Fitz Roy) and Cerro Torre thrust up behind the town like a thumb and four gloved fingers. I snapped a few photos with my iPhone, but tinted windows and the heads of other passengers did not make for the best photos. No worries, I thought, I have three days here to hike and take photos. I should have heard the weather gods laughing as that thought flitted through my mind.
By the time we pulled into El Chalten, threatening clouds had cloaked the peaks and winds were roaring through the valley. I hopped out of the shuttle and was nearly blown off my feet as I grabbed my luggage. The storm raged all night. It rattled the windows in my room so loudly that it was impossible to sleep and repeatedly extinguished the flame of my space heater. At dawn, I parted the curtains, hoping for a glimpse of Monte Fitz Roy. Not a speck of the mountain was visible. For the next three days, gale force winds continued to rage and the mountains stayed hidden. It became apparent that the morning of my departure would be my only chance to see Mount Fitz Roy. I set my alarm for 5 a.m..
Miracle of miracles, the day dawned sunny, with puffy white clouds forming a backdrop for the mountains. Skipping breakfast, I dressed in multiple layers and fast-walked the 1.5 miles from my hostel to the Visitor’s Center at the entrance to Los Glaciares National Park. Just across the Fitz Roy River I turned and was rewarded with this gorgeous view of Monte Fitz Roy, thrusting up behind colorful wooden houses at the edge of El Chalten. It was to be my only view. I barely had enough time to get back to my hostel before my 11 a.m. shuttle arrived.
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