Friday, 31 December 2010

Last Day of 2010 - Riding towards Monte Fitz Roy

Spectacular views from a horse on our final day of 2010.  Ahead is the highest peak of the Fitz Roy Massif in Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina.

MJC sat on Numero Uno, discussing finer points of Patagonian dressage with guide Carlos. 

ALB on Nicolas about to cross a section of the Rio de las Vueltas which runs along the eastern side of the Fitz Roy Massif.  More images of this incredible place next year.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Hazard! Crumbling Glacier in Argentina

Just a few tens of tonnes of ice crashing from the front of the Perito Moreno glacier, with the roar of a firing cannon.

This is just one half of the glacier's width.  It's one of the few Patagonian glaciers which is advancing, not retreating.  To get an feel for the glacier front's height, look for the teeny tiny ship towards the far side of Lago Argentina.  

Here's us on board earlier in the day.   We got here with a 90 minute bus trip from the charmless and touristy town of El Calafate. The Patagonian town's only virtue and raison d'etre is that it's near, by local standards, to this magnificent and boisterous rio grande of ice.

Looking at the Perito Moreno's vertiginous and unstable leading edge, across its crevasse riven surface and up to the mountains and ice field from where it flows.

We saw and heard lumps of ice the size of cavarans topple from the sheer face.

The sunnier the weather and the later in the day you visit, the more spectacular the ice falls.  Chunks hundreds of tonnes in weight sometimes calve off.  A few visitors have been killed by flying chunks of ice.  However it seems to be pretty safe if you stick to the network of boardwalks that run up and down the mid section of the crumbling face.

Torres Del Paine National Park - Trekking around the Massif

MJC suggests putting on the Wagner to view these pics. 

Between 17th and 21st December, we trekked around the central massif on this incredible piece of Patagonia.  This was the route called the W, with distances between 10 and 20 kilometres each day.
We did it from East to West.

So Day 1 meant a trip up and back to the granite Torres of the national park.  The three summits are between 2000 and 2800 metres high.

Heading back towards our first refuge of four on this 19 kilometres walk.

A Long Tailed Meadow Lark on second day of trek.

En route, ridiculously blue lakes.  Day 2 entailed a modest 11 km walk above the northern shore of Lago Nordenskjold and under Cerro Almirante Nieto.

The summit is at 2668 metres.

Spot the Andean condors, circling over the high glaciers.

The Andean condor is the world's largest flying bird.  We saw them everyday.  Almost commonplace by the end.  We encountered nowhere else in the Andes other than in southern Patagonia.

Bit further west, the 'Cuernos' peaks of Torres Del Paine.  Not far from here is the refuge for our second night. 

The views on the third and longest day's walking were the most spectacular.  They included the Glaciar del Frances.

As we walked up Valle del Frances, every now and again, great blocks of ice on the glacier would tumble and cascade in avalanches.  Boomed around the valley as thundering detonations.

Bit of nostalgia for former guests of the Explora hotel.  On the far shore of the second lake back.

The views got ever more amazing as we climbed further up the Valle del Frances, into the interior of the massif.

Dead forest below the 'other side' of the Cuernos.

Us at the mirador towards the top of the valley

Vistas and local weather very exciting.

Celebrations with a pisco sour after a fabulous day's walking.  A strong PS is also one way to face the sleeping arrangements.

To be honest, this is not the refuge where MJC posed with the pisco sour.  This 8 person dorm was at the refuge where a delightful American lady took 3 minutes to find and silence her alarm which went off at 2.30 am.

The approach to the far westerly point of our W trek.  The front of Glacier Grey.

This glacier is more than 7 kilometres at its widest and yet another icy tongue of the humungous Southern Patagonian Ice Field.  This is one of the many Patagonian glacier which is shrinking.

We didn't do this trek without some serious stumbling and killer climbs.  Most days we had about 15 kgs on our bags.

We faced winds that make the trees grow like this.   On day 4 they blew cold rain in our faces all day.

But enough whinges.  We would love it to do it all again and many more of the trails in the stunning Torres Del Paine National Park.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Another Patagonian waterproof outfit

MJC in the next otherwordly scenario here in southern Patagonia.  The silvery waters belong to the Rio Serrano.

Our Zodiac which is to take us on the Rio Serrano and Last Hope Sound to see parts of Bernardo O´Higgins National Park.  People from a lot of different parts of the world have had their fingers in the Patagonian pie.

Only us and a couple from Barcelona were fool enough to make this excursion yesterday.

Those red outfits were essential.  The weather was filthy.

But glorious sights.  This is Balmaceda glacier - another outflowing from the Southern Patagonian Ice Field.

Sealions cowering in a nook under a cliff.  At least they've got blubber.

I looked more ridiculous in this outfit.  ¿Why did no-one tell me about the hat?

Another view through the murk to the peaks of Torres Del Paine National Park.  Almost there.

Kayaking off the Last Hope Sound, Patagonia

Visiting mother ship positions to beam up volunteer specimen of Earth's dominant species.

 Here, MJC is not actually being difficult.  Guide Carlos is helping him into his kayak skirt, while Fernando gets the boats ready.

Afloat on Eberhard Fjord.  It was freezing but wonderful.

This region of Patagonia is a little like the Western Highlands of Scotland but X number of times more beautiful and wilder.  Also there are added flamingos and condors.

And zillions of these smart Upland Geese.

It´s REALLY windy though.  MJC and Carlos demonstrate, on top of hilly island in the fjord.

Lots of these orchids (about 4 inches high) on the east facing side of the island.

Our Ms Campbell requests to see more of our "handsome guides".  Carlos on the left and Fernando right.

To be frank, Fernando is doing most of the work here.  As was Carlos in my kayak.

View to some of the mountains in Torres del Paine National Park where we are trekking for 6 days, very soon.  EXTREMELY excited about this.