Pliege Tumbado

Lago Torre and peaks from summit

Loma de Pliege Tumbado is probably the best value-for-effort hike out of El Chaltén. It is the first of a line of unremarkable peaks on the ridge separating the Rio Fitz Roy and Rio Tunel, with a trail to the summit from the visitor center just south of town. It has mostly unobstructed views of both Fitzroy and Cerro Torre, nearly as good as those from its higher neighbor Cerro Solo, but with much less difficulty and effort. It felt like a waste of perfect weather to just do a hike, but I had spent eleven hours fighting a headwind the day before, and was not feeling up for a full day or an alpine start.

Final summit grind

I rode down to the visitor center, locked my bike, and headed up the trail. Perhaps a quarter-mile in I met a ranger, who asked me where I was going and if I had a map. Perhaps I was supposed to register, but she seemed fine once I told her I had the map on my phone. I continued grinding up the trail, passing a few people also headed up through the woods, as well as some “savage cows,” which I was not supposed to approach. Breaking out of the trees, I entered an open meadow with Fitzroy poking out, as it does from almost everywhere here. I followed a trail marked with stakes to the summit, passing more people on the final, steep grunt, tagged the highpoint, then retreated to a windbreak just beyond to relax away from the “crowd” of ten or so people.

Condor on ridge

I could have turned around there, but I would have felt lame, and there was another red dot on Peakbagger farther west. I continued along the ridge, now without a trail, finding mostly easy walking and a bit of easy chossy scrambling. I spied a condor perched on the crest ahead of me, looking much bigger than they do when up in the sky with nothing else for comparison. It took off before I got too close, but circled for awhile before getting bored and heading off southeast. The final bit of the ridge was made of a sort of “millefeuille” rock with many thin layers, which created plenty of loose debris but was actually reasonably solid underneath. The view from the summit was similar to that from Tumbado, but there were no people and a pleasant place to relax, so I took in the views of nearby Cerro Solo, and Huemul across the valley to the south, then took a short nap before heading down.

Rio Tunel

Rather than return the way I had come, it seemed more interesting to drop south toward the Rio Tunel. There is a trail along the river that forms the start of the popular Huemul loop, and the terrain looked mostly easy. I continued south along a ridge, then dropped to the Arroyo Piedritas on ledges and easy scree. I could have dropped all the way to the trail, but it seemed like it might be quicker to contour high and pick it up where it crosses to meet the Tumbado trail. This mostly worked, though I had to do more side-hilling than I had hoped to avoid some very dense and woody brush.

I was hot and tired by the time I returned to the ranger station. I had heard that they were knowledgeable and helpful, and perhaps they were for trekkers, but when I asked about climbing objectives, the woman I spoke to impatiently told me to look at, Rolo Garibotti’s site. That was better than the likely Chilean response of “you’re not allowed to do that,” but still disappointing. As I prepared to ride back to the Casa de Ciclistas, another park ranger asked if I were selling my bike. I gather that Argentina has huge import tariffs, so foreign goods are expensive and hard to come by. I had to tell the ranger that, sorry, I very much liked my bike and planned to keep it, but it did make me think that if I return, I should come with gear that I would be willing to sell or give away. I could save myself the trouble and money of flying back with it, and dramatically improve some Argentine lives.

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