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Day 81 – Loma del Pliegue

December 30, 2010

Location: Loma del Pliegue, El Chalten, Patagonia, Argentina

Date: Thursday, December 30, 2010

I appreciate travel. I don’t take for granted that I don’t have to rush back to work after two weeks. It’s better than being trapped behind a desk or drowning in paperwork. Being on the road is a privilege.

That said I’m a little spent on Patagonia. (Side note: Isn’t “that said” a sneaky way of saying, “But” or “However” or “Here’s the part where I poop on everything in the last paragraph”? Gotta appreciate what you learn from four years of college or two hours of watching ESPN.) Really. I’m tired of the cold, the freak weather, the mountains, and the hours on buses just to climb those mountains.

That said (double fake out!) Loma del Pliegue is incredibly beautiful. It’s reported to be the best way to see the famed mountain range that includes Cerro Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre. While most hikers head up to Laguna de Los Tres to see Fitz Roy, Loma del Pliegue tops that hike in this respect: it lets you see all three of the famed peaks at once.

The Loma del Pliegue hike happens to also exemplify the madness of Patagonia. Starting out from the ranger station, you climb out of the scrub land and hills. The wind is strong and steady, keeping you cool during the ascent.

Out of nowhere appears a forest canopy. Hiking through the trees, the air goes still and suddenly the climb up the mountain feels like a jungle trip because of the humidity and mosquitoes.

But just after you decide to shed your cold weather gear, the forest breaks into an open prairie. It’s as if the trees and the field have signed a treaty and agreed to a strict border.

The prairie doesn’t last for long, though, because the grass’s territory only lasts for a few hundred meters—turns out rock doesn’t just beat scissors, it kicks prairie butt, too. From there, it’s rock to the top. And wind.

The strangest part of the hike isn’t the alternating sun, clouds, rain, or neurotic terrain, it’s the flies. They’re huge and relentless. Bigger than your thumbnail and undeterred by wind, these bastards follow you through the pseudo-jungle and stay with you to the top. They seem attracted to skin which sucks because your ears happen to be made out of the stuff.

So, all that said, (a triple fake?!) it’s a beauty but a harsh one. And just like my previous experience with an inhospitable splendor, I sure could use a beach.

GALLERY: No bonus pics today.

Mervyn is a traveler who brings too much, eats too much, and writes way too much.  To learn more, read some of his excessive writing here or flip through the archives.

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