Just a short 4hr bus journey to El Chalten - The mecca for 'pro trekkers,' kitted out in all the gear and gadgets imaginable. Zip off trousers are a must as were walking poles for any occasion...yep even to walk down the street evidently - Gem and I felt slightly under dressed. El Chalten is the base town for visiting The Los glaciers national Park, the home of the staggering Fitz Roy mountain. If you are here, you're here to hike. There isn't even a cash point. So hike is exactly what we did. We booked ourselves onto a 12hr trek the following day, which included a 2hr trek on a glacier before heading back.
Headed off at 7.00am. Just a small group of 5. Gem and I, A token Israelli guy, one German girl and one Austrian girl. the weather was perfect when we left. Even the relentless Patagonian wind had eased. We trekked uphill and down, over hills and through forests for 4 1/2 hrs to reach the glacier. On the way we had to take a zip wire to cross a river and parts of the trail were so steep we were virtually crawling. The trek brought us down onto the glacier. We all had to wear crampons to enable us to walk on the ice. You had to slam your foot down really hard on the ice for them to take hold. The plan was to walk over the ice until we found a suitable spot to climb.
It was very tricky going. The surface was by no means flat. we had to negotiate steep mounds of ice and deep crevices. Gem and I commented at the time how much riskier it was than we ever thought. The Scenery was spectacular tho. The pools of water on the ice were vibrant blue and it was so bright, sunglasses were essential. The instructor commented that she normally climbs at one place but as we were such good walkers we would go to another - famous last words. Shortly afterwards Gemma slipped and fell and bashed her shin really hard on the ice, she was in agony and couldn't move. we all thought she'd broken it.
Cue the mountain rescue. the guide radioed for help, the only way out of here was by foot. We were 5hrs hike away from anywhere, and not a road in sight. All the guides came over from the other groups on the ice and took it on turns to carry her on their backs, until they met the stretcher, which was on its way, also by foot. I don't know how they did it. The track was barely negotiable for solo walkers. To make matters worse it was now pouring down with rain. It was incredible teamwork.........Although Gem had it easy. The rest of us had another 5 hrs to trek back.Me and my friend Igal made sure to take plenty of photo's, we were hoping to sell them to the 'El Chalten times' but no such luck.
So New Years eve we spent in hospital. I guess it was quite novel. Thankfully nothing was broken, just severely bruised bone and with a stash of pain killers and a pair of crutches she was free to go, but had to rest for three days. Looks like we were staying for longer than planned. We did make it to a restaurant for cowntdown, which resulted in the most lack-lustre celebration ive ever witnessed. One guy got slightly excited and stood up with his wine glass and shouted, 'happy new year!' the rest of the restaurant turned and look at him as if he was crazy, the braver ones sheepishly raised their glasses. Then everyone got on with dinner.
So with Gem bedridden, ish, I spent the day changing tickets etc. Everywhere I went i met members of the rescue team or people that had heard the story, she was quite the local celeb. We didn't stay for as long as we were meant to, we were sitting on a bus for 2 days next anyway, and this town isn't really geared for just hanging out it. I hooked up with another girl I met and did a smaller hike uphill for 3 hrs to a panoramic viewpoint. It was the clearest day yet and we had a staggering view of Fitz Roy and the surrounding landscape and we barely saw one other person.