Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Patagonia - Episode 4 - Mojon Rojo

We were getting antsy in town and when a six hour window showed up on the meteogram, we were more than willing to take our chances and hike into the base camp.

We planned on climbing De La S from the east and hiked towards Laguna Sucia.  It is a relatively flat hike on the main trail for about 8 km.  After 8 km, the trail follows the Rio Blanco through a relatively well marked boulder path.  Luguna Sucia is reached after boulder-hopping for about an hour.  It is a spectacular lake that is this amazing blue color.  The Fitz Roy Massif surrounds the lake and the glaciers frequently release massive chunks of ice that fall off into the lake.  

Hiking along the Rio Blanco
There were a few stream crossings
These mountains are active!
Once at the lake the real work began and about 1500 feet of rugged terrain is passed through.  There are carins every now and then but we botched the approach a bit a probably made it more difficult than necessary.  It felt very much like a burly approach in the Cascades or SE Alasks complete with loose boulder fields, steep scree slopes and stream crossings.  With heavy packs, it was a rather strenuous hike to the bivy cave and also had me on edge as I remembered the last time I was in a boulder field in Patagonia.  And that outcome was rather poor.

Boulder Field walking - my nemisis
Finally after about 5 - 6 hours of hiking, we made it to the cave.  And it literally is a massive cave, with rock walls and everything. After resting and drying out our sweaty gear, we settled in for the night.

The bivy cave!
We woke at 3 am to clear skies and a starry night as predicted.  We continued the hike up the rocky slopes and eventually made our way onto the Rio Blanco glacier.  After a couple hours, we arrived at the base of our chosen route.  Jonathon racked up to lead and the first obstacle was getting over the berghshrund. Unfortunately the snow hadn't froze and Jonathon fell in up to his waist as he tried to navigate over to the base of the route.  He tried a couple more times and then I tried too but still we couldn't make it over the 'shrund.  

View of De La S, St. Expupery, Poincenot and Fitz Roy
Not wanting to waste our time, we started to make our way towards a Mojan Rojo, a scrambly little peak that translates to meaning Red Turd.  It was essentially a mountaineering objective and offered one 80 foot 5.6 pitch near the summit.  It was stunning views of the entire Massif and into the Torre Valley.  We could see the clouds building over the Torre Valley and we quickly began our descent back to town.  

Heading up towards Mojon Rojo

Jonathon walking up Mojon Rojo

Leading the final pitch to the summit

Jonathon descending off Mojon Rojo

As we hiked back on the trail, we got to watch the front build over the mountains or 'the wall of hate' as it is affectionally called.  The big grey clouds started traveling over the range, the winds picked up and there was intermittent but light precipitation.  And that was it; our window was over and we were safely back in town warm, showered and well fed.  

Look! Its South America in Laguna Sucia!

And now South America turned into Central America

Taking it all in

The wall of hate building over the Fitz Roy Massif

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