And "many" hardly describes the throngs of people who flock to this magical place. This typically well heeled gaggle of travelers is here for an often once-in-a-lifetime experience, and the high costs reflect that this reality is well understood by the locals. Tourism is a huge industry down here, and there are no end to the opportunities to explore the rivers, mountains, glaciers, and seas of the area. Photographers with monster lenses and pro gear nearly outnumber the point-and-shooters, and photo safaris from all over the world seem to congregate at the logical spots.
Parque Nacional Los Glaciares is nothing much, really. Just created in 1985 as a remote outpost for Argentina to protect its border with Chile, Chalten now has become a hub for trekkers and climbers here to explore the park, home to the largest ice field outside Greenland and Antarctica, and feeding 47 glaciers.
The bus ride started out fairly routinely, but soon became spectacular as we neared the park. Views were terrific, and the bus driver told us how lucky we were to get such a clear day. They just kept getting better and better...
|Cerro Torre massif on left, Fitzroy on right|
This bus ride had the highest pixel-to-mile ratio of any we've taken, as all of the photographers were huddled around the driver and in the doorwell. He finally pulled over to let us take a few outdoor shots!!
|Cerro Fitzroy over Lago Capri|
We arrived at the ranger station in Chalten in mid afternoon, and went in for the mandatory rangers briefing on park safety, especially fire, as well as recommendations for the best hikes in the park. The weather was so incredible, especially for Patagonia, that he advised us to take every advantage of the window, as he felt we only had a couple of days before it closed in again. It stays light so late down here that we were able to go for an easy 6 mile hike up to a beautiful lake in front of Cerro Fitzroy, before coming back down for a late dinner.
|Chalten at 9 :30 pm|
Its gotten much easier these days. Today, climbers can wait in Chalten for a good weather forecast of a 2 or 3 day window, and then make a quick, light jaunt to camp at the base of the climb. From there, most of the routes are climbed in 1 to 3 days. But its still some of the most difficult rock climbing in the world, and attracts the world's top climbers. While we were there, around 12 parties were registered with the ranger as being out climbing. No routes are given, as on-wall rescues are impossible. Self rescue here is the only way.
|Crested cara cara looks for dinner below|
Next, our exploration of Patagonia heads to Chile, and the Torres del Paine. (...and the hits just keep on rolling !!!!! )