Saturday, March 23, 2019

Backpacking in Patagonia

In December 2018, we went on a spectacular 2-week backpacking trip to Patagonia – one of the world’s premier trekking destinations, where the peaks of southern Chile and Argentina offer dramatic glacier-strewn vistas, notorious raging winds, and a welcome summer respite during the dark winter months of the Northern Hemisphere.


1st Hike: 87-mile Torres del Paine Circuit Backpacking Trip



A world-famous Chilean trek with fantastic peak formations, massive glaciers, and flower-covered fields dipping into ocean-like lakes.  All viewed via a very accessible trail:  highly maintained, low-elevation, relatively flat, and extremely popular, with flush toilets and hot showers, requiring advanced reservations.

Hiking out on the last day, we also got our first real glimpse of the beast known as the "Patagonian Wind": see Michael’s creative parody song ‘Patagonia’, in both Russian and English, inspired by this windy day.



2nd Hike: 5-Day Guided Ice Hike and Gorra Blanca Summit near Fitz Roy, with “Mountaineering Patagonia


Fantastic trip near the famous Fitz Roy area outside El Chalten in Argentina: trekking up a stunning valley towards Lago Electrico and onto Marconi Glacier, with fantastic views of Fitz Roy, Patagonian Ice Field, and surrounding peaks. And in the middle of the trip, summiting 9,500ft Mt. Gorra Blanca.


*          *          *


Extra photos from our first Torres del Paine Trek:

The “las Torres” – the iconic granite towers for which the park is named

The spectacularly-colored black-tipped "los Cuernos", or "the Horns"

Wild llama-like "guanacos" roam across South America
Right after trekking over the John Gardner Pass through a cold drizzly rain, we were greeted by an incredible rainbow stretching out over the massive Grey Glacier – quite an amazing reward!



And a few photos with us in it:










Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Patagonia song

In December 2018, we went on two spectacular backpacking trips in Patagonia.

After a week of hiking in Torres del Paine (the first of our two trips, a week-long 87-mile circuit in Chile), the combined effects of the scenery and wind inspired a song.  See the embedded video below, which I put together to a slideshow of thematically-picked pictures from the trip:

YouTube:  https://youtu.be/vtehfCz6OzY
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/zlatkovsky/videos/10100579665083825/


Let's face it, though:  Just one song isn't enough to describe how beautiful Patagonia was!  To try to remedy that, here is its musical cousin, with the same melody but with the lyrics in Russian (which is actually how I had originally conceived the song – the translation to English came second, during the second week of hiking, and was quite a fun challenge!)


YouTube:  https://youtu.be/aCBawvL0IAg
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/zlatkovsky/videos/10100579694784305/


If you liked it, and think that your friends might too, consider sharing it on Facebook  :-)


We took many more pictures than could fit into a single song, and we also had a whole second trip that we went on, near Fitz Roy in Argentina.  We'll be posting a compilation of those photos in the next couple weeks.


Lyrics: Patagonia (English)

Wind is howling, wind is raging –
Shrieking past each rock and tree
Like a wild mountain spirit
That was chained, and now broke free.
If to see Torres del Paine
You had traveled far and wide
Soon you'll be on first-name basis
With this beast, that's at your side...

Patagonia, Patagonia.
Over peaks and ice fields, Patagonia.
Patagonia, Patagonia.
Pata-pata-pata Patagonia!

But how beautiful the mountains!
And how splendid to behold
All these ridges, all these textures,
Every line so crisp and bold!
And when at each rocky cliff face
Glaciers with blue ice abound
Its no wonder that to hike here
Folks come from the world around.

Patagonia, Patagonia.
Over peaks and ice fields, Patagonia.
Patagonia, Patagonia.
Pata-pata-pata Patagonia!

From the glaciers water trickles –
Thus a river gets its birth
Down the cliff sides it rebounds,
Gurgling with frigid mirth.
Through the valley it meanders,
Polishing the ancient stone
While spring flowers at the foothills,
Add some beauty of their own...

Patagonia, Patagonia.
Over peaks and ice fields, Patagonia.
Patagonia, Patagonia.
Pata-pata-pata Patagonia!

From one valley to another,
On we walk through rain or shine.
On the face of the Gray Glacier
See a rainbow quite divine.
Walk through forests, where the tree trunks
From the wind stand halfway bent
We're just guests in wind's dominion –
Blow, wind, to your heart's content!

Patagonia, Patagonia.
Over peaks and ice fields, Patagonia.
Patagonia, Patagonia.
Pata-pata-pata Patagonia!



Lyrics: Патагония (Russian)

Ветер дует, и бушует
И ревет со всех сторон.
Будто бес в горах родился,
И с цепи сорвался он.
Коли ты к Торрес-дель-Пайне
Снарядился в дальний путь
Ты тут с ветром породнишься,
От него не увернуть...

Патагония, Патагония.
За горами, ледниками, Патагония.
Патагония, Патагония.
Со снегами и ветрами, Патагония!

Но какие здесь вершины,
И какая красота!
Впечатляет что рельеф их,
Что наклон и высота.
А когда на каждом склоне
Разместились ледники
Не спроста со всего мира
Сюда едут знатоки…

Патагония, Патагония.
За горами, ледниками, Патагония.
Патагония, Патагония.
С озёрцами и ручьями, Патагония!

С ледников стекают капли –
Так рождается река.
Не спеша она в долине
Обмывает гор бока.
Ну а склоны – вот красотки! –
Нарядились все в цветы,
Добавляя свой оттенок –
Нежной, пестрой, красоты!

Патагония, Патагония.
За горами, ледниками, Патагония.
Патагония, Патагония.
С многоцветными лугами, Патагония!

Перевал за перевалом,
Так неделю мы идём:
То под тучей, то под солнцем,
То под солнечным дождем.
То под радугой проходим,
То в густой ныряем лес –
Ну а кроны так и ходят,
Дуй же дуй, бесплотный бес!

Патагония, Патагония.
За горами, ледниками, Патагония.
Патагония, Патагония.
Со снегами и ветрами, Патагония!



PS:  Finally, if you can't get enough of travel-inspired songs by Yours Truly: see last year's Geothermal-themed "I Will Survive" parody, from our travels to Rotorua, New Zealand.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Alaska adventures, August 2018

(Written by Katrina)

In early August, we went to visit Alaska and Michael’s parents for a short visit, and also got to re-meet-up with Erik’s family.

Our first day: Michael, Erik, and I took the scenic Alaska Railroad from Anchorage to Placer River, where we hiked 3 miles to Spencer Lake.
Bridge across Placer River, along hike towards Spencer Glacier

Michael and Katrina

Michael and Erik

At Spencer Lake, we packrafted on the lake to the terminus of the Spencer Glacier, exploring the fascinating way the ice spills into the water. 
Spencer Glacier, viewed from the lake

Exploring Spenscr Glacier by packraft
Erik in yellow boat, Katrina in green


Erik eating a chunk of glacier-ice
Erik on Spencer Glacier (having managed the difficult extraction from packraft onto the ice)

Exploring the ice caves created underneath glacier chunks




From there, we paddled past icebergs of fantastic shapes, where I could easily imagine creatures of all shapes and sizes frozen by enchantment, but ready to spring back to life with the right spell (like the Narnian courtyard filled with stone sculptures of animals waiting for life to be breathed back into them).

Icebergs towards the end of Spencer Lake

Distant view of icebergs from far shore of Spencer Lake

Paddling through some of the larger icebergs

We then paddled on the Class II Placer River back to the car – though the rain unfortunately obscured what would have been beautiful mountain views.  (If you're curious what it looks like in good weather, see the bottom third of Michael's blog post from two years ago, when he did this trip with his dad:  http://blog.michaelzlat.com/2016/08/alaska-2016-hiking-rafting-and-more.html)

* * * 

On the following day, I had long been looking forward to the rare adventure of going ice climbing at the Matanuska Glacier. Michael and I got a quick glimpse into ice climbing on a trip to Mt. Kazbek last summer, and found it to be remarkably awesome. But without more knowledge about glaciers, ice, anchors, and assembling the right gear (including ropes and climbing-specific crampons and ice axes), ice climbing is not something we would attempt by ourselves. This guided adventure with NOVA was an excellent and more thorough introduction into the sport, along with a great tour of the glacier. The location itself was incredibly scenic, with the Matanuska glacier melting into various pools and mudflats in the beautiful mountain-surrounded valley. And as an added bonus, Ariel – also visiting Alaska – was able to join us for his first experience with ice climbing.

Michael (with his new go-pro camera on his helmet), Katrina, and Ariel

On the Matanuska Glacier

We each had four climbs total: two climbing up a low-angled wall, one being lowered towards a crystalline-blue pool and then climbing back up, and a final, a more challenging climb that involved being lowered into a crevasse before climbing back up the fully vertical, very hard ice (its crust having never been softened by the sun). It was an awesome experience!

First and second climbs, on the same, low-angled wall:

Katrina on the first of her four ice climbs (complete with crampons on feet, harness, helmet, and two ice-climbing-specific ice axes)

Michael being lowered after completing his first ice-climb

Michael being lowered after first ice-climb
 3rd Climb:
Katrina being lowered down in order to being third climb
Katrina after having been lowered beside the crystalline-blue pool filled with melted glacier-water, ready to begin her third climb

Michael about to begin his third climb, with the ice-climbing-specific ice axes

Ariel finishing his third climb:

4th Climb:
Michael being lowered towards a crevasse for the fourth climb

Michael being lowered deeper into the crevasse

Michael deep in the crevasse, about to begin his fourth climb

Michael climbing back up from the crevasse

Continuing to climb up

Success! The most challenging of the four ice-climbs completed!

Video clips of Michael's climb:


Video of Ariel climbing:


Katrina being lowered for her fourth climb

Katrina being lowered towards the crevasse

Deep in the crevasse

Katrina climbing up

And continuing to climb up...
Video clips of Katrina's climb:



Beautiful views of the Matanuska Glacier, which is incredibly scenic in its own right:
Matanuska Glacier 
Beautiful pools at the base of the glacier





Michael with his new go-pro camera

Ariel in crampons

Ariel

 * * *

On the following day, we went to one of my all-time favorite hikes: the start of Crow’s Pass, this time with low-lying clouds and mist blowing through:


Can you spot the mountain goat?


Our third glacier seen in three days: this one terminating in a rushing waterfall

Before leaving Alaska, we enjoyed driving up to Talkeetna where we stayed with Erik and his family at a cabin by the lake.  It was a lovely quick jaunt to Alaska!