Mid August

Electrico Valley

I’m definitely someone who appreciates a map, especially a topographical map, it’s very easy to view the contours on a map and get a mental image of the topography. My Los Glaciers map is one of my favorite maps, together with detailed contours the map is accurately shaded to give dimension. For instance, the vast Continental Ice Field lying to the west of the Fitz Roy range and is shaded blue whilst glaciers are shaded in white. Many parts of the park will forever be inaccessible to me, in some way I find that alluring, I know for a fact I’ll never stand on the summit of Mount Fitz Roy yet the map allows me to dream a little. For a long time, I’ve held off visiting one area of the park. The Rio Electrico Valley is the gateway to the ice field. A mere day hike up the valley and a climb up to Paso Marconi and you can be on the third biggest ice field in the world. I’ve held off visiting the valley for a number of reasons, one of which is the price. The landowners charge the equivalent of $40 U.S to go across their field. I’d begrudge paying $5 so there’s no way I’d pay eight times that. Fortunately, in winter there’s nobody there to take your money so my friend Sebastian suggested he take me to Piedra Negra which is the base camp for many climbs in the north of the park.

Wind and snow but a happy warm glow

Wind and snow but a happy warm glow

Sebastian tells me that the Electrico Valley is for sale, apparently for twenty million dollars. What might happen if a new owner decides to ban access to his land? This scenario really irritates me and I for one would pay no attention to any restrictions. Beautiful mountain countryside is there for everyone to enjoy and should not be the private reserve of the rich.

Our departure for the Electrico Valley was delayed a few days due to bad weather but when we finally had a weather window it was on a cold crisp and bitterly cold day. Initially, it was extremely windy with flurries of snow blowing from the north. From the valley floor, we began a steep climb and soon reached the snowline. Without heavy climbing gear we made good progress, however, as the incline became steeper I began to wish I’d brought an ice axe. The snow was soft enough to give some purchase underfoot without allowing you to sink so much as to make passage a slog. Several sections were a bit worrisome especially sections where the snow was really hard and steep. Without an ice axe, there’s no telling how far you’d slide before coming to a halt, and no knowing what would cause that halt. When we reached Piedra Negra the north side of Fitz Roy was hidden in the clouds, we sat for a while

The clouds part to reveal the north face of Fitz Roy

The clouds part to reveal the north face of Fitz Roy

sheltered by a huge boulder. Sebastian pointed out the names of many of the lesser peaks, several of which he’d climbed including Aguja Guillaumet,

This is the best map for Los Glaciers National Park

This is the best map for Los Glaciers National Park

which is prominent in typical views of Fitz Roy from the town. Thankfully just before we made our descent the clouds parted to give a remarkable view of Fitz Roy’s northern face.

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