Today I left C.A.B pretty tired. Yesterday turned out to be more exhausting than I thought. Despite the fatigue, I was happy that I got myself up at a decent time unlike yesterday. I had at least 7 hours of daylight for today’s hike. It was expected to rain with the highest probability late in the evening. At least that is what the forecast said the day I set out. This morning the weather was pretty good though so I was hopeful it would last.
One of the things I noticed in the day time was that the pile of rocks I ate on last night was probably part of the refugio at some point. There were roof tiles and some wood that looked like it supported the roof interspersed amongst them. The refugio’s wood had also apparently been used as firewood for some time. This is what is left of that refugio which serves as a mouse nest now.
A little after packing up camp and heading down the trail I saw this really cool star-like flower with white leaves. It was one of the more interesting plants I had seen in a while.
A little way up the mountain I could really appreciate the lake below. From where my campsite was, you really didn’t have a good vantage point to it.
After, I continued to climb up to this ridge.
Once up top, the clouds rolled in. I picked up my pace as I did not want to descend on wet talus. No pictures were being taken at this juncture. My focus was to get down quickly and avoid the storm coming in. I lost the trail several times but found it again by looking at the map and taking several best guesses. During this time there was a sprinkle here and there, some snow, and some hail. Nothing too bad until I got about 30 minutes from an intermediary campsite in between C.A.B and Laguna Creton. At that point it was raining heavily. From this midpoint campsite I had visibility up to the mountains I had to ascend. You couldn’t see the top of them and it didn’t seem prudent to continue up at this point.
While I waited out the weather I had some lunch. The rain only continued to pick up in its intensity so I decided to give myself a 4:30 cut off for ascending. The cutoff came and I set up my tent as quickly as I could. I wanted to avoid getting everything wet. It was impossible to prevent it totally but I did the best I could. After my home was set up I headed to the closest water source to stock up until the morning (just in case the rain did not let up). The stream was a small one so I used my filter. I have not been filtering my water much because many water sources in Argentina and Chile are safe to drink, at least for now. With that water I made some hot soup and some tea. All of which were intended to raise my body temperature as I had a good chill by this point. Even though I had a rain jacket on I did not have water proof pants and they were pretty much soaked through. That evening I knocked out to the sounds of the rain hitting my tent.
I got up and heard the rain still falling. I made myself breakfast with the water I had collected yesterday and when the rain lightened up, I took down my tent. Today was supposed to be a lighter day of rain but the clouds were still going pretty strong and obstructed the mountain I needed to climb. I knew if I did not get to the campsite today, I would have to change my itinerary. I am pretty sure I have enough food but I don’t know the weather forecast past Monday and the latter part of my trip would take me off trail. Sunday (tomorrow) was supposed to be the driest day which meant I needed to use that day to cover a stretch where I would need visibility for orienteering. Under normal circumstances I would not have continued up. This is what the visibility was this morning.
I hiked up and before I got into the clouds I took a shot of the valley in which I camped. You can see the snow sprinkled on the adjacent mountains.
As I climbed up I encountered snow, something I had anticipated since I had seen the powder on all the surrounding mountains. The footing was tricky at times but I was feeling pretty good about overcoming the conditions. Although hiking with a good temperament, the clouds did not retreat and visibility started to become reduced. I was still able to navigate with the visibility I had in the photo below but when it got worse I would lose the trail repeatedly.
Once over a prominent ridge the conditions changed dramatically. The snow started to come down harder, the trail markings were completely covered and I was starting to have problems finding my way. The wind was blasting me pretty hard causing me to get a good chill. I knew the general direction of where to go but I could not see the terrain far ahead enough to set on a path. I thought I should drop down as I heard rushing water. I presumed it was the lake I was heading towards emptying out as indicated on the topo map. At this point I was no longer hiking but was doing some mountaineering, the snow became deep and more difficult to navigate. There were times I would dig out a little snow just to make sure that there was a cairn underneath. I pulled out my phone and decided to use the map application to see exactly where I was. I was unsure whether to drop further, or head back up along what looked like a really exposed cliff. To my surprise the phone indicated I was about a mile off my target, meaning dropping down now (which is what I wanted to do to restore visibility) was not in the cards. I took the compass out and it looked like the path would be through that exposed cliff. I was done climbing, sliding, and going knee deep in snow. I made the painful decision to turn back. My attempt to get to laguna creton was foiled by the weather.
I retraced my footsteps and because of the snow that was easy. However because of the snow descending was not easy. There were plenty of unintentional slides and missteps. I fell a few times. I was also pretty damn cold from all the stopping to check directions. I became happy once I got to the point where there was only light snow. This area was also wind protected so at that point the tension was reduced dramatically. I allowed myself a snack of cashews and a granola bar at this juncture.
Needless to say I made it down safely in the rain and set up my tent in a different area just to vary a bit. Tomorrow was supposed to be a better weather day and I would be using it to backtrack some more. After seeing the conditions and knowing that I could expect similar weather Monday, I was left with little desire to go through uncharted terrain virtually blind. Better I get crap weather on a trail I’ve been on than not. Plus that damn lodge was calling me back!