Wind like you have never seen, heard, or felt in your life (unless perhaps you have been in a hurricane, which I have not). Wind that whips your face raw. Wind that will knock you right over (truly), if you don't crouch low and stand your ground. Wind that (several times) made me want to quit, turn around and find the nearest shelter.
El Chalten boasts the title of "National Trekking Capital". People come from around the globe to this tiny town in Patagonia to conquer the many hikes it has to offer. And it couldn't be easier to develop an itinerary. They hand you a map when you arrive, trailheads start right in town, and there are no park entrance fees. Just zip up your jacket (and hat and gloves and glasses) and go.
During our four days there, Reece and I hiked a total of FORTY miles (two fairly easy 2-3 mile days, and two monster 17-20 mile days). I didn't know I had that many miles in me.
The second day, we challenged ourselves to the beast that is Laguna de los Tres, found at the top of a 3400 meter, snow-capped mountain called Fitz Roy. The last half mile of our five hour ascent was straight uphill, up boulders rather, rocks tumbling beneath each wobbly footstep and fierce winds threatening to toss you off the side of the mountain at any time. It was excruciating. And the reward at the top, along with an incredible turquoise-blue lake and breathtaking views, was the lack of any hillside to protect you from the worst the wind has to offer. Just standing still, every muscle in my body ached as I braced myself against the power of it. It was unreal.
On the way down, it began drizzling, so we forewent our picnic lunch and made our way as quickly as possible over the most dangerous section and into the relative protection of the forrest a mile below. After eating, our feet hurt unlike anything I've ever experienced, and we still had about three hours of hiking ahead of us. I can honestly say that Fitx Roy was more difficult, physically, than any single day on the Inca Trail.
Am I glad we did it? Absolutely.
If I knew how hard it would to be, would I still have done it? Absolutely not.
Yet, that didn't stop me from doing the second most strenuous hike (Cerro Torres) two days later...