Global Adventures | Going Home to a Place I’d Never Been

In this piece from Mountaineer magazine, take a Global Adventure to Chile and Argentina, all the while never feeling closer to home.
Raymond Huey Raymond Huey
28-year member
April 02, 2024
Global Adventures | Going Home to a Place I’d Never Been
The Fitz Roy Massif (right) and Cerro del Torre (left). Photo by Raymond Huey.

In 2019, I joined a Global Adventures trip – first to Torres del Paine in Chile and then to the Fitz Roy Massif in Argentina. I was 76 and rather long in the tooth for a backpack classified as “very strenuous.” But Fitz Roy was a mountain I’d wanted to see since my late teens. This was my first chance. Jump!

Fitz Roy entered my life when I was in early college. I’d grown up hiking and scrambling in the Sierras and San Jacintos in California and devouring mountaineering books. Among my favorites was Maurice Herzog’s Annapurna, the story of the first ascent of an 8,000m peak. In 1964, I learned that Lionel Terray (a key member of the Annapurna team) was giving a lecture at the American Alpine Club in Los Angeles. I took the light rail from Long Beach to hear him.

Terray was physically imposing: his shoulders appeared almost as wide as he was tall. He showed films of his pioneering climbs, including the first ascent of Fitz Roy in 1952. I was stunned by one photograph he shared of the stark, beautiful peak. The image imprinted on my brain - I knew it was a mountain I needed to see in person.

But college, grad school, and academia intervened. I stopped hiking and reading about mountaineering. Even Fitz Roy rarely entered my thoughts. Just before retiring in 2014, I realized I needed to revisit mountains and trails. Backpacking had evolved since my teens, so to catch up I took The Mountaineers Backpacking Building Blocks course run by Cheryl Talbert. Then in 2018, Cheryl told me about a Global Adventures trip she was organizing to Torres del Paine and the Fitz Roy Massif. I knew had to go.

I didn’t expect to see Fitz Roy until after we finished our trek to Torres del Paine. But as we flew over the South Patagonian Icefield, I looked to the east and saw a row of rugged peaks: Fitz Roy, Cerro Torre, and their pointy friends. It was not a view I’d ever seen. Terray’s photograph – and all others I’d seen over the decades – were taken looking west, but even from its "backside," Fitz Roy’s silhouette was unmistakable and magnificent. I teared with surprise and excitement.

Ray at Fitzroy Glacier. Photo by Cheryl Talbert..jpgRay enjoying Fitz Roy. Photo by Cheryl Talbert.

After we finished the O-circuit of Torres del Paine (itself as wonderful as advertised), we bused to Argentina. Suddenly, Fitz Roy loomed in the far distance. Cheryl stopped our bus. We piled out and marveled at the peak. Almost 54 years had elapsed since I’d first seen Terray’s photo. I teared again.

We spent a magical week backpacking around the Massif. I immediately felt at home there and was delighted to share this adventure with other Mountaineers, our guides, and the mountains. We saw stunning sunrises and sunsets, used ziplines to cross rivers, found fossils, and experienced the notorious Patagonian winds.

Before dawn on our second day, we climbed the steep moraine to a “mirador” (overlook) just below Fitz Roy, wandered past the reflection lakes below, and watched the sunrise turn the peaks and snowfields vivid orange. I could see the route that Terray might have taken to the base of Fitz Roy’s face many decades before. I felt privileged to walk in his footsteps even for a little while.

I was lucky to still be fit enough to make this long-desired trip, and I’m grateful to Cheryl and The Mountaineers for making this dream come true. Most importantly, I learned that you can go home again, even to a place where you have never been before. I realized Fitz Roy had been home for most of my life.

This article originally appeared in our spring 2024 issue of Mountaineer magazine. To view the original article in magazine form and read more stories from our publication, visit our magazine archive.

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