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I’ve been a lover of mountains for as long as I can remember. I grew up on the painfully flat plains of Manitoba (and I mean f-l-a-t, like a pancake), and still vividly recall seeing my first mountains when I was a toddler of about 2 or 3 years old. These were the amazing Alberta Rocky Mountains visited on one of many family vacations to Banff. I was fascinated by mountains then and remain so to this day.
I have seen many beautiful and interesting mountains in my life and have a list of favorites — the Matterhorn, Kilimanjaro, Ama Dablam, Mt. Assiniboine, Cascade mountain, Mauna Kea, and so on. But there is no mountain formation I find more interesting than …
Lovely Lake Tahoe! It has been described as the “gem of the Sierras” and it’s hard to argue with that.
Its statistics are impressive. Lake Tahoe is situated in the Sierra Nevada mountain range at 6,225 ft (1,897 m) and straddles the California/Nevada border. At 1,645 ft (501 m) deep, it is the second deepest lake in the United States — only Crater Lake in Oregon is deeper at 1,945 ft (593 m). It holds more water than any lake in the US, excluding the five Great Lakes.
And the scenery is spectacular. As are the hiking opportunities around the lake!
(Click on thumbnails to enlarge, right arrow to advance)
The Torres del Paine are three distinctive towering granite peaks of the Paines Massif (see above photo). Extending up to 2,500 metres (8,200 ft) above sea level, these towers dominate much of the landscape of the park, as does the horned part of the mountain known as the Cuernos del Paine. The Patagonian steppe abuts the mountains.
We arrived in Torres del Paine in the afternoon and had only a few hours to spare that day for a hike. I had hoped to hike to the base of the towers, for there is a lovely glacier and lake there, but did not have the time. Among the feasible options, we decided to hike along the hilly steppe and take in the views …
We approached Torres del Paine National Park from the east, entering Chile from Argentina. Many people drive down the Chilean coast and enter the park from the west, so their perspective would be a little different than ours.
Our trip took us through large stretches of hilly and uninhabited grasslands (the pampas). The first views of the National Park are among the most memorable of any mountain region I’ve ever visited (and I’ve seen many in my days). Torres is a popular tourist destination, with good reason. Among its most iconic sites are the 3 granite towers from which Torres del Paine derives its name.
Situated close to the small Argentinean town of El Chalten is Lake Viedma, a large glacial lake. You can take a boat tour to visit the largest glacier in the Southern Patagonia Ice Field, the Viedma Glacier, from a dock on the northwestern shore of the lake, near El Chalten (which you can reach by bus from town).
The following overview photo, courtesy of NASA, will help orient you a little better. Viedma Lake is obvious, as is the Patagonian Icefield. The Viedma Glacier is at 12 o’clock in this photo (actually direction is west). The boat launch is in the little thumb at the top right of the lake at about one o’clock. El Chalten is in a non-snow …
Our next stop in Patagonia is the small town of El Chaltén in Argentina. This town rests in the rain shadow of the massive spires of the Patagonian Andes and is a dry, windy and cool place.
The region around El Chaltén is part of Los Glaciares National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and is very remote. It is usually reached by taking the bus or driving from El Calafate some 220 km to the south, El Calafate itself a remote town which we’ve previously discussed here.
The town resides in a glaciated valley adjoining the Rio de las Vueltas. The most dramatic aspect of El Chaltén is the beautiful mountains that frame it to the west, including the amazingly steep and narrow spire …
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 …
The small town of Aspen is a beautiful if somewhat unusual place to visit. The gorgeous mountain setting is something you’d never tire of, but the town is quirky. It’s a blend of hippy, cowboy, the frontier, and recently a lot of Hollywood (I don’t believe I’ve ever driven by an airport with more private jets parked in it than Aspen airport). Aspen’s transformed itself from being a rather simple mountain town to an upscale trendy resort.
The town is well know for it’s great winter skiing and in the summer has become a popular family vacation destination. It’s got excellent restaurants, all types of shops, and lots of outdoor activities. For me it’s a fun day-trip destination.
Since I’ve started collecting …