Cerro Madsen

Fitzroy from Madsen

Cerro Madsen is one of the easiest summits in the Chaltén area, though slightly harder than Tumbado. From Lago de los Tres, a semi-cairned route climbs talus to an easy ridge, with a final few moves of scrambling to a summit block that requires an exposed mantle. With a bit more rest and another day of perfect weather, I needed to increase my ambition. I originally planned to climb the nearby glaciated Punta Velluda, then try to traverse back along the ridge back to Madsen, but fellow cyclist Oli, whom I had met on the ride to town, was interested in joining me and did not have an axe and crampons. I wasn’t sure how experienced he was, but he had brought rock shoes on his bike tour, so I suspected he would be fine on the rock part.

Poincenot City

We left the Casa de Ciclistas slightly later than I had hoped. Oli was wearing shorts, which seemed like a bad idea to me, so I encouraged him to change, and said I would meet him on the trail. He caught up sooner than I expected, and we continued at a fast walk along the trail toward Fitzroy. As usual, Fitzroy is so huge and dominant that it is an impressive sight for most of the approach, its glaciers coming into view as one approaches the Rio Blanco. I did not know it at the time, but Lago de los Tres is probably the most popular hike in the entire El Chaltén area. Poincenot, the last campground before the lake, was a virtual tent city, and there were perhaps thirty people already at Lago de los Tres, all taking the same photo of the the turquoise lake and Fitzroy’s white granite, partly obscured by an intervening choss ridge.

Madsen from lake

Heading toward Madsen, I picked my way up the talus, eventually locating a line of cairns and bits of trail. Madsen is mostly made up of the red and black rock common to the Chaltén foothills, more friable than the main peaks’ granite, and therefore usually reduced to talus. We made our way toward a more solid rib, where we found some decent scrambling on large blocks and bits of narrow ridge. Toward the top we crossed an incredibly loose gully, then found slightly harder scrambling to the summit block, with one move perhaps fourth class. The final move to the summit was an exposed mantle, reminiscent of Clarence King in the Sierra, but considerably easier.

Lower Fitz Roy Glacier

Madsen has the view the Lago de los Tres tourists don’t know they’re missing. It is high enough that the choss foothills do not block Fitzroy or its surrounding glaciers. Looking around to the north, you can see the confusingly-named summits of Cerro Electrico, the impressively broken tongue of the East Fitz Roy Glacier, and farther away, Cerro Vespignani and Lago del Desierto. To the south and east are three levels of lakes: Los Tres, Madre and Hijo in the forest, and the huge Lago Viedma fed by the Viedma exit glacier. The start of the ridge to Velluda looked tricky, and I could not see enough of it to tell whether it would go for me, and I would certainly need to cross some glacier to get off Velluda, for which I was not equipped. I think my original plan would have been a good day, but… oh, well.

The ants come marching

We retraced our route back to Lago de los Tres, where Oli, sensing my impatience, told me to go ahead while he spent some time at the lake. By now the tourists had arrived in force, with probably a hundred people at the Instagram spot, and a solid line along the trail. Many were the expected European tourists, but there were plenty of Argentinians and Chileans mixed in, including a few overweight older women with walking sticks they had picked up along the way, going all-out up the steep, eroded trail. The crowds put me in a bad mood, but it was hard to be resentful or contemptuous of people who are totally unprepared, but still giving maximum effort to see their country. I was back at the Casa de Ciclistas by mid-afternoon, wasting hours of windless daylight, but part of me was glad for this, as it would allow me to recover more before the next day, the last of the current perfect weather window.

2 responses to “Cerro Madsen

  1. Scott Fife says:

    Sean, you continue to make the ‘Total Badass’ routine look and sound like the mundane, and even though I understand that all human physical activity is relative, I also know that what you are doing is anything but mundane. Please carry on, while I continue to live vicariously from the safety and security of my comfy chair!

    1. drdirtbag says:

      Thank you for the kind words, Scott, and I’m glad you’re enjoying the ride. Like the Ranch, El Chaltén is a place that fills me with energy to get out and do as much as possible. The main unfortunate difference is that all the big peaks are much harder than I can handle, seemingly at least 5.10a by their easiest routes (though I gather the Supercanaleta on Fitzroy is mostly much easier). Still, there are more than enough outlying peaks to keep me busy on this trip.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *