It’s a pretty short journey from No 3 in my list of mountain treks to No 2. From Torres del Paine National Park you need only skip across the border into Argentina to find yourself at the foot of Monte FitzRoy, less than 200km away. Perhaps the single-most impressive mountain I’ve had the pleasure to ogle, FitzRoy is an enormous bubble of rock – its summit escarpment is more than 1km in height – rising out of the fierce Patagonian Andes.
It’s been 10 years since I hiked here, and still the walk and the landscape live with me. It was a hike of both expectation and frustration, since I walked for almost a week in FitzRoy’s shadow before the clouds parted to grant a glimpse of the mountain I’d travelled half the world to see.
My typical view of Monte FitzRoy, with Cerro Poincenot peeking through the cloud.
My hiking route was vague, with no real definite goals or plans. For a week I simply ambled across the mountain’s base. I headed up to various lakes. I followed the Rio FitzRoy for a fleeting glimpse at the awesome Cerro Torre. I climbed to the summit of lower Cerro Madsen for a spot of peak bagging. All the while I waited for FitzRoy to show up. Hiking with me was a friend who, 10 years before, had attempted to become the first Australian to climb Monte FitzRoy. His experience added perspective to a mighty, if yet unseen, bit of geology.
Each day I looked up into cloud, which often rolled in waves over the shoulder of FitzRoy. The absence of anything solid seemed only to add gravitas to the mountain. Beside it, Cerro Poincenot regularly pierced the cloud, making unfulfilled promises that we might soon see Monte FitzRoy.
Finally, it emerges…
On our final night, as we readied to walk out and away – disappointed and yet impressed – the cloud cover suddenly tore open and Monte FitzRoy bulged through, lit by the setting sun as if by flares. In the lake below our tent, the reflection of the mountain and the parting cloud glowed just as brilliantly.
I’d walked a week for this and it was worth every step.