Sunday, January 24, 2016

Honeymoon in Patagonia and Mendoza

When Bart said that he could take two weeks off in December for our honeymoon, I instantly knew where our honeymoon would be: Patagonia. Southern Argentina and Chile have been at the top of my travel list, and there's a small 'optimum hiking weather' window available because of the extreme temperatures. Ever since hearing about Patagonia from a hiking buddy I met in the Himalayas, I couldn't get this image out of my noggin:

Patagonian icefields: It's absolutely mesmerizing! I could look at this photo for days on end! 
*Sidenote: Patagonia is one of the windiest places on Earth, and the north-south orientation of the Andes mountains forms an extensive rain shadow over Patagonia. Add to that its location between the anticyclones of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, and you've got a region that sees a ton of precipitation! Raincoats, check!

One of the oh-so-many wonderful things about Bart is that he's completely happy being told where to go and what to do, as long as it doesn't involve swimming in a pool or looking at pictures/videos of babies or a cat on a Roomba. So when I proclaimed to Bart that we would take a flight 21 hours south to Patagonia and camp in Torres del Paine National Park for our honeymoon, he said, "OK. But you have to hike fast so that I don't have to wait."

Then he added a second request: "Make sure I get at least 4 days in wine country."

Done and done. I was so excited about our honeymoon that I planned our Patagonia and Mendoza itinerary before planning the wedding events. Hey, picking trekking routes is so much more fun than being price-gouged by wedding vendors!

Condensed itinerary below: 


Full album here
Highlights of the trip: 

1. Hiking to the famous Towers in Torres del Paine. 



2. Outdoor rock-climbing for the first time near Salta (in Mendoza province)



3. The W Circuit in Torres del Paine - although it's a long bus ride to get down to Laguna Amarga, the trailhead of the W Circuit, the scenery is absolutely spectacular. It's so far south that the sun set at 11pm and rose at 4:30am. What a treat!

Hiking towards the next campground! 
Day 1 of the W Circuit - still smelling fresh

Gaining altitude 
Hiking towards Cuernos 
The glacial water was so delicious - best water I've had! 
Giddy to be hiking! 
At a very cold lake 
Snow for Christmas! 
Our last day, as we were taking the catamaran back, the clouds parted and revealed the peaks! 

4. Having a white Christmas - we set out on a grueling 10-hour hike on Christmas morning. The weather instantly turned on us - we were soaking wet from cold rain, which turned to snow at higher altitudes. A white Christmas is magical - but we were soaked, every body part was freezing, and we were combining two days of hiking into one. Even our snow-covered tent was welcoming at the end of the day!

So cold...I couldn't feel my fingers, and our 'waterproof' jackets were soaked through!
Smiling behind chattering teeth
5. El Chalten - magical mountain town host to plenty of day hikes! The best of the best: Loma del Pliegue Tumbado and the hike to Laguna de los Tres. 
Vista of El Chalten 
We kept waiting for the clouds to reveal the peaks! 

6. Steaks and wine - the perfect recovery fuel! 
Parilla - this is a carne-lover's dream! 
Start of Asian glow at La Garde winery 
Malbec grapes 
 
Views of the Andes at a vineyard 
7. Glacier hiking and ooh-awwing at the crevasses

Glaciar Perito Moreno - it made us feel so small! 
This pic and angle doesn't begin to capture how enormous the ice walls were on Perito Moreno 
Hiking on Glaciar Viedmas in El Chalten 
Glaciar Viedmas in El Chalten 
Viedmas in El Chalten 
Ice climbing on Viedmas 
8. And finally, even though we'd gone to Mendoza to gorge on vinos and great steaks, we were only an hour and a half away from Cordon del Plata, which many mountaineers use to train for Cerro Aconcagua, the highest peak outside of Asia! We had to get in a hike, of course!, and made it as far up Cerro Plata as time would allow, getting to Campo Salto. 

The first few kilometers were extremely easy...



but then the greenery disappeared, and the path got steeper.

This was the only time besides the Himalayas when I suffered from the first symptoms of high altitude sickness. Ugh. 

But we made it to Salto! Disappointingly, the clouds were completely shrouding any peaks. 
Descending back down from the clouds! 
The trip was a blast; we spent Christmas in the mountains and a cozy tent, and New Year's with Argentinian neighborhood kids blasting fireworks in the streets. We suffered through wind that nearly blew us off the trails of Patagonia, snow and rain that made me whimper, and altitude that made my breathing extremely shallow - but we were rewarded with amazing vistas, glacial freshwater, steaks and wines that were served with gracious smiles, and a great first two weeks of wedded bliss! 

Next adventure planned: We're attempting to summit Mt. Washington in NH with four other burly men. Feb 20 is set as our attempt date! It's a gamble; Mt. Washington holds the record for highest wind speed at 231 mph. Um...don't worry, mom! I'll be safe! 

Here's a best-case scenario pic of Mt Washington in February: 


and a worst-case scenario pic: 



Wish us luck! 


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