Straight south of Piedra del Fraile is Col. Electrico (1880m). Just a baby. However, it’s a 1000m four hour slog straight up a somewhat maintained trail to the base camp @1500m (with another hundred or so to the viewpoint at Paso del Cuadrado). This last trek in Patagonia is a good example of why it is often recommended to keep Fitz Roy at the end of the itinerary. After several weeks in Tierra del Fuego and Torres del Paine, you’ll be more that fit enough to crush this ascent without breaking a sweat. Budget a day for a return hike to Paso del Cuadrado from Piedra del Fraile.
Roughly a quarter of the way up. The hike is terraced, so you’ll run periods of severe slope followed by periods of wonderfully flat, grassy meadows with ponds and crispy glacial water.
Following several terraces one will arrive at the rocky climbing base camp. Climbers of Fitz Roy and the surrounding peaks will base out of this camp for weeks at a time. There were not too many when we arrived. Like most base camps, trekkers are certainly the lower life form, so don’t expect too much in the way of conversation. We did manage to pull some route advice to the pass. In addition to post-hike debriefs from an American couple at Piedra del Fraile, we were able to feel confident enough to traverse the glacier without crampons or ice axes.
I found the traverse similar to a glacial crossing in India I had done several years ago. Dig in, stick to the rocks as much as possible, stagger yourselves and avoid the visible crevasses. The best part was coming down. In retrospect, we probably should have had crampons, ice axes and rope, but neither Dan nor I were newbies to this sort of thing.
Paso del Cuadrado
Col. Electrico (somewhere in there). You could hear the climbers shouting to one another high above the pass. However, their approaches were masked and I wasn’t able to be entertained by the cliffhangers)
One of the terraces on the way down.
Piedra del Fraile, nestled in the Rio Electrico Valley.
On the way out to Highway. Once on the highway, the only way back to El Chalten is walking the 20km, hitching or calling a taxi. It usually isn’t too hard to hitch in Patagonia, but we exited on to the highway at the same time as a bunch of other trekkers, which makes landing a ride a bit more difficult. Looking to disperse away from this crowd, we wandered down a side road to an upscale resort where we hitched a ride back to El Chalten with a school teacher and her family.
Back in El Chalten I ended Patagonia off with several pints of beer and a massive Argentinian steak.