I recently returned from a fantastic two week adventure to near the southern tip of South America with my friend and fellow nature photographer Marc Adamus. After two full days of travel we arrived in El Calafate, Argentina, on the heels of the first big snowstorm of the winter season. To take advantage of the forecasted snowfall, and periodic clearings, we drove to El Chaltén and made two overnight trips to photograph Fitz Roy, one of the most beautiful, and technically challenging, mountains in the world.

Click any image for larger view!

Stormy Fitz Roy, Patagonia Skyline, Panorama

Patagonia : Prints Available

Fitz Roy (right) and Cerro Torre (left), the classic panoramic Patagonian skyline, emerge from stormy skies at sunset.

The storm brought almost two feet of wet and heavy snow, which covered the lenga beech trees (Nothofagus pumilio) with a thick white blanket. Our hike took us through several miles of perfect winter woods, and up the slopes of Fitz Roy’s foothills. The snow was so thick at times that we were practically swimming through it to move forward!

My friend Marc on his way up through the forest.

My friend Marc on his way up through the forest.

Tent, Patagonia, Winter

Winter Camp : Prints Available

My tent in the winter wonderland of Patagonia. 

I’ve been told stories by people who have had to spend over a week waiting here for weather to clear before they saw the mountains, so I felt fortunate that we didn’t have to wait more than a day for some views. We were joined by a friendly little bird, who couldn’t have picked a more photogenic place to spend the winter (if you think you can identify it, let me know!).

Snowy Fitz Roy, Patagonia, El Chalten

Quiet Contemplation : Prints Available

A small bird contemplates the enormity of Fitz Roy, in Patagonia, which has granite faces of over 4,000 vertical feet, complemented here by fresh snowfall in early winter.

Bird, Fitz Roy, Winter in Patagonia

Feathers and Fitzroy : Prints Available

A friendly bird poses in front of the impressive Mount Fitz Roy in Argentina's Patagonia region, in winter.

Monte Fitz Roy was named by Francisco Moreno in 1877 in honor of Robert FitzRoy, captain of the HMS Beagle. The Beagle was, of course, made famous by Charles Darwin’s presence on the ship, which traveled around South America (exploring Patagonia) on its way to the Galapagos, and then to New Zealand before returning home to England between 1831 and 1836.

Unfortunately no image can do this mountain justice; it’s just too big. Even being there in person it was difficult to fathom how enormous it was. The granite spires reminded me of the outstretched fingers of a hand reaching out from the Earth, grasping for the stars. Those “fingers” are each 3-4,000 feet of vertical granite rock, protruding from another several thousand feet of glacial terrain. The summit is well over a vertical mile above Lake Sucia at its base. If you have seen El Capitan in Yosemite, imagine that, but as an isolated pinnacle, and then put three of them next to each other, and put all that on top of another El Capitan made of ice.

With another storm on its way, we hiked back to El Chalten to dry out our gear. There, in the rain-shadow of the enormous mountains, we cooked up some dinner with a spectacular view of the mountain range.

Grasses, Patagonia, Argentina

In the Rainshadow : Prints Available

Grasses catch sunset light in the rain shadow of the mountains of Argentina's Patagonia region.

What do you do when you forget your chef's knife? Use an ice axe! (warning: only works when your vegetables are frozen)

What do you do when you forget your chef’s knife? Use an ice axe! (warning: only works when your vegetables are frozen)

The storm had forecast just an inch or two of snow, but this being Patagonia, an inch or two can quickly turn into a foot or two. We spent the day watching a nonstop stream of enormous snow flakes drift past the windows of the only open hostel in town. The next morning, with everything dried out, we set out for another trip. That night the temperatures dropped to below 10° F, which produced beautiful ice formations along one of the streams in the valley below Fitz Roy.

El Chalten after the storm.

El Chalten after the storm.

Snow Forest, El Chalten, Patagonia

Snowy Embrace : Prints Available

Snow covered trees shortly after a large storm passed over the forests above El Chalten, Argentina.

Reflections of Fitzroy, Winter Frost, Patagonia

Reflections of Winter : Prints Available

Dawn on Fitz Roy, accented by winter's fresh snow and frost, in the Patagonia region of Argentina near El Chalten.

Up next: Torres del Paine National Park in Chile, a place where just about every sunrise and sunset is guaranteed to be beautiful.

Tags: , , , , ,

17 Comments to “Fitz Roy – Winter in Argentine Patagonia”

  1. Mike says:

    Floris –

    A great summary of your Fitz Roy adventure. I am looking forward to the Torres del Paine entry. You are very lucky to be able to experience such adventures and document them!


  2. Doug Haass says:

    The bird appears to be a Rufous Hornero http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L....._Argentina, http://www.arkive.org/rufous-h.....ius-rufus/ which is the national bird of Argentina.

  3. Doug Haass says:

    Sorry, got distracted trying to identify the bird for you. Your photos, with the narrative, certainly tell a nice story of the trip. While they can all mostly stand on their own, the first and last shots are my favorites.

    While the first one shows a raw beauty I love to see captured, with the rising sun penetrating that dark and foreboding landscape; the last is just a beautiful scene. Clear and cold, with a natural beauty.

  4. Doug Haass says:

    The bird appears to be a Rufous Hornero, the national bird of Argentina. I posted this once and I guess it didn’t stick.

  5. Thanks Doug! It looks like the Rufous Hornero is more in central / northern Argentina though, and might not make it all the way south to Patagonia?

  6. Floris, that was an awesome story. The images look GREAT! The best images I’ve seen from the area. Can’t wait to see what else you guys brought back from this trip. Excellent work!

  7. Remarkable work, Floris! It’s amazing to see shots of that country in such conditions, and the images have a real feel of adventure.

  8. Boyan says:

    I will break rank with the crowds and throw my vote behind “Snowy Embrace”. While the others are certainly very nice images, they don’t scream “Floris”, as in “I can make something out of nothing practically anywhere”. “Snowy Embrace” certainly stands out from the pack in that respect.

  9. Nicholas Lee says:

    Epic shots, as usual! Definitely amazing to see this place in the snow, but I bet that hike in to the lake was brutal!

  10. Juanli says:

    Fabulous trip!

    Can’t wait to see more images and reading more stories about it.

  11. I was supposed to be there this winter too but had to postpone. I’m very much looking forward to making a fall and winter trip to the El Chalten and TdP areas. Having already shot in fall, spring and summer winter is now the last season and I can’t wait. I just hope I get some good images like you did.

  12. Hi Floris, thank you for those great photos!
    I suppose the bird it´s a Gaucho (Agriornis sp.), maybe Gaucho Andino (Agriornis andicola) or Gaucho Serrano (Agriornis montana).
    But i didn´t have the books with me right now to certified to you.

    Thank you again.

  13. Thanks folks for all the kind comments, I really appreciate it!

    Leo – thank you for the identifications, I think a female Gaucho Serrano seems most likely to me!

  14. Alister Benn says:

    Stunning work as usual Floris – looks like you two had a blast…



  15. Rafael Rojas says:

    Wonderful pics and story Floris! I am so glad you and Marc had such a wonderful time… and fond memories which will last forever.

  16. Dene' Miles says:

    Wow Floris, what an enriching experience that must have been. Loving your commentary and the variety of images are to die for. Thrilled to see the weather was favorable. Thanks for letting us live vicariously through you. 🙂

  17. Daniel Álamo says:

    Pretty adventures, with good weather indeed though troubling wet snow; and amazing photographies (“Reflections of Winter” rocks) for a trip on a lifetime.