Argentina / Pic of the Week / South America

“Pic of the Week”, December 18, 2015: The Fitz Roy Massif, El Chalten

03 El Chalten 2014 (224)

For many years I’d wanted to see one of the most famous peaks in the world with my own eyes, namely the Fitz Roy Massif (aka Mount Fitz Roy or Cerro Fitz Roy).  In fact, seeing the mountains of Patagonia was my greatest motivation for visiting the southern reaches of South America.

This mountain is very near that small Argentinian town of El Chaltén, which abuts the Southern Patagonian Ice Field.  The Massif is situated around the poorly defined (and often disputed) border between Argentina and Chile, although the Argentinians claim it as theirs.  The mountain was named in honor of the famous captain by Argentine explorer, Francisco Moreno, in 1877.  Captain Fitz Roy and his ship, the HMS Beagle, traveled extensively around and charted much of the coast of South America, including Patagonia.  On one of his voyages, Captain Fitz Roy had a famous scientist guest aboard, Sir Charles Darwin.  Darwin wrote a book about his voyage on the Beagle, copies of which I’m sure you can still find.

The region around El Chaltén is popular with hikers, trekkers, backpackers and mountain climbers.  First summited in 1952, the sheer granite face of the Fitz Roy Massif makes it one of the most challenging mountains to climb anywhere.  The weather around the mountain is windy and volatile, adding to the challenge of reaching the summit. Some years only a single group of climbers might reach the top of Fitz Roy.

To me the Fitz Roy Massive is the symbol of Patagonia.  Not just the clothing company that uses its silhouette in its logo, but the rugged pristine beauty of the region.


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