Testing True Patagonia Weather at the end of the Trip
Arose in the morning truly thankful that I was at El Pilar as opposed to out at the campsites of the previous two evenings. The rain was still coming down steadily, pitter-pat against the windows of my room. Wasn't sure what we were going to do today with the weather as nasty as it was. We had a ride back down to El Chalten around 4 PM to then pick up the late afternoon bus from El Chalten to El Calafate. A quick glance outside gave little indication that the rain was about to stop any time soon.
I went down to breakfast, and had already missed Jim and Susan. Ate some food, drank some tea, and went back to pack up. Back down in the main room, David had arrived and asked us what we wanted to do. Today's trek was just an out and back up the Rio Electrico valley towards Marconi Glacier and Marconi Pass. The Glacier and Pass are the main entry points for trekkers heading to the ice cap itself behind the mountains like Cerro Torre and FitzRoy. On a clear day it was possible to have impressive views of the glacier and of the north face of FitzRoy, but it was pretty obvious that we were not going to have any clear views today.
After some discussion we decided to go out and trek in the chilly rain. For me it was my last true day of hiking on the trip and I had not yet experienced that miserable weather that Patagonia is supposed to throw at you. So this would be my last real opportunity. And besides since it was out and back if things got too rough it was an easy decision to just turn around and come back. All the waterproof gear came out and was assembled. Time to go then. Out the door into the Big Wet.
There's not a whole lot to say about the hike. We walked. It rained. We could see the trees around us, but the expansive views of the past several days were non-existant. It was difficult to differentiate the trail from the stream we walked along in a few places. We did see a pair of Magellanic Woodpeckers flitting about and I got a few (admittedly poor) pictures of the famous birds finally. The rain never did let up and by the time we returned to El Pilar about 3.5 hours later I was pretty soaked. On the outside at least. Inside, the waterproof gear had done its job pretty well. I was for all intents and purposes as dry as one could expect to be after having been out in the rain and wind for several hours.
The staff at El Pilar drove us the 10 miles or so back to El Chalten where we said our goodbyes to David and boarded the bus for the journey to El Calafate. As we left the shadow of the mountains the rain finally stopped and the sun actually came out again. It was truly amazing how the mountains really did block the precipitation from getting much more than a few miles over the eastern edge of the range. Here we were in clearing skies but back to the west the mountains were completely obscured by clouds to the extent that if you didn't know they were there you would have completely missed them.
Returned to El Calafate, headed to our hotel and grabbed some dinner. Checked up briefly on the real world just to see what was going on. It had been a long day and tomorrow was an early start to Perito Moreno Glacier and my final day in Patagonia.