Mount Fitz Roy: A Mountain Day Dream for Hikers and Climbers

Scattered among the usual errands between the condo and the new super supermarket wearing a comfortable pair of loafers with tassels, I do what I enjoy most – pretending I am getting ready for a eco adventure I don’t have the time or money to go on.  Where now?  Mount Fitz Roy (11,073 ft./3,375 m.) in Argentine Patagonia.

Patagonia is romanticized a great deal for its rugged and basic qualities.  Charles Darwin made observations there that lead up to his theory of evolution.  The weather is legendary for being capable of intense wind, intense rain and intense sun, and never when you prefer it.  The landscape is mixed forest, tundra and alpine mountains, comparable to the Dolomites in Italy or parts of the Karakorum in Pakistan.  But what makes it so beautiful is the contrast of the vertical spires of granite against crisp, lush blue skies and green landscapes.

It is a land of mountains without being exclusively or isolated among the mountains, such as in the heart of the Alaska Range or parts of the Rockies.  You can find isolation if that is what you seek, no problem, but the towns in the region, like El Chalten, can provide some amenities for those of us traveling with significant others and children that prefer to “hike” and “climb” from a rocking chair and binoculars (not that there is anything wrong with that).

Fitz Roy is so iconic for Patagonia that if you’re a climber there are few new things to do; all news about climbing Fitz Roy is about variations of routes or linkups, like the climbs Freddie Wilkinson and Dana Drummond made in February 2008.  Regardless, it has been a great day dream.  Here are some facts that I have accumulated about Fitz Roy over the years in case you decide to go:

  • Location: Parque Nacional Los Glacieres, Argentina, South America
  • Summit Elevation: 11,073 ft./3,375 m.
  • First Ascent: February 2, 1952 by the great French alpinist, Lionel Terray with Guido Magnone
  • Traditional Climbing Routes: 15 accepted “standard routes” have been established, including the Franco-Argentine route, 600 m., VI/VI+A2, and most new ascents are actually only variations of established climbs on Fitz Roy
  • Hiking Trails: Several trails can take travelers to backcountry locations with spectacular views like the Laguna de los Tres trail
  • Camping: Several campgrounds including near the village of El Chalten; a climbers-only camp is located en route to Laguna de los Tres
  • Getting There: Fly (US$3,000-6,000 airfare from North America) to El Calfate and board a bus for the ride just under four hours to El Chalten
  • Outfitting: Suppliers carry most goods, but do not depend on isobutene fuels for your stove.  Instead pack a multi-fuel stove like the Whisperlite International
  • Recommended Reading: Mountaineering in Patagonia by Alan Kearney (1993)

I hope this provides some inspiration or at least some escapism.  Now it is time for me to head for the subway and grab a latte from the café before work.  Have a good week, everyone!

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