So here we are in Bariloche, Argentina. The best way to describe it is it is Argentina´s version of Lake Tahoe...A tourist haven complete with expensive shops and restaurants on the shore of a gigantic lake. It also offers all sorts of outdoor activities including skiing in the winter.
We chose to take a bus 2 hours southwest of the city, leaving the arid high plataeu, penetrating the mountain range off in the distance. Finally, here was the Andes experience I´d been hoping for. Mt Tronodor! A huge mountain capped by several growing glaciers. From our first sight of the mountain we could see dozens of waterfalls cascading 100´s of feet down sheer cliffs, atop which sat chunky rivers of ice. It was straight out of the Lord of the Rings.
Our plan was to hike up a valley that skirted the base of the mountain giving us access to a high pass aptly named ¨Paso de nubes¨ - pass of the clouds. Perfect weather graced us our first day out. We camped within short striking distance from the top of the pass, chosing instead to enjoy a mellow sunny day near an amazing waterfall.
In terms of our goal it turned out to be the wrong call as rain forced us to spend the next whole day in the tent. The following morning the promise of patches of blue sky motivated us to try for the pass. After racing across a huge bog, our muddy, wet feet carried us up a steep trail. The blue sky was quickly erased as we found ourselves hiking into a cloud. Damn! Since we wouldnt be able to see anything, we turned around and went to pack up camp.
We made our way out of the side valley to where the trail met the cutoff leading to a different destination, the refugio, or mountain hut, which sat high on a ridge close to the glaciers. Even´though we were pretty gased we decided to go that way and salvage a bit of our trip out there. The trail was long, about 12 kilometers and 4 hours. 1 hour of which was truly straight up. the switch backs really didnt switch back too much.
As we climbed the lush forest gave way to a barren Mars like terrain. And the increasing wind chilled the sweat earned from the steep parts. Finally we reached the refugio, completely spent. Inside we found a cozy fire warmed womb to recharge ourselves. Since it was getting late we only had an hour or so before we had to go down. We could have pitched our tent but the temperature and more importantly the wind kind of made the decision for us.
By the time we reached our starting point at the ranger station, we figured we had hiked around 45 kilometers, or about 27 miles in 2 days. 36 of those kilometers in one day! Not bad for off the couch.