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Turning 30 South American Style With the dreaded 30th birthday looming, I ran away to South America to celebrate the landmark birthday in style.

Trekking in Bariloche

ARGENTINA | Tuesday, 26 February 2008 | Views [1428]

I used to think that trekking was for pansies and old people. After unwittingly climbing three peaks arround Bariloche in four days I have a new found respect for red socked ramblers and a terrible aching pain all over my body. You think we would learn our lesson after climbing Cerro Catedral, but no. With just a days rest we launched into a three day hike up Cerro Negro, Cerro Bailey Willis to Laguna Negra and across to Colonia Suiss. Day one started nice enough, we legged it up hill carrying the tent, food provision for three days and lots of fresh water. Arriving at the top in just two and a half hours, we saw the most spectacular views across the whole of Bariloche. We met a mountain guide from Stockport, chatted about weather conditions, bought an astonishingly expensive can of Heineken and watched the sun set and moon rise over the moutains. It was ace.

Full of enthusiasm, we set off the nect day in the wrong direction. What we thought would be a nice walk around the mountain turned out to be a really nasty little climb over two moutain peaks, carrying pots, pands, tents, sleeping bags and food. It was awful. The first bit was OK, quite exciting really and the view from the top of Cerro Negro was really worthwhile. You could see right across the national park to the snow capped Mount Tronador and volcanoes in Chile. Really breathtaking and it was such a clear day. A little ice remained at the top and people coming in the other direction were skiing down it in their trekking boots. BUt it was quite literally down hill all the way from there.

The unseasonaly warm and dry weather this year has melted all the ice from the tops of the peaks, so what is normally a straight forward walk up compacted snow turned into a scramble over loose shale. Their was no where to put your foot, you really did have to suck it in and just surf rock slides down the very very steep mountainside. The more expereinced climbers were skitting past us, sticks in hand, or almost jogging it. But Steve and I were carrying lots of weight, well Steve mostly, and being hoplessly inecperienced were sliding around and falling all over the show. At one point I truly did think there was no way of getting off that mountain alive! The worst was we could see the next peak in the distance and knew we had to go up and down that as well.

When we finally surfaced at the other side, we spotted the lovely Laguna Negra and a house on the far side which looked nothing like the Refugio in our picture. I was so utterly tired and convinced that we were lost I almost cried. We were fine, had plenty of water and shleter and a cooker, it was just the thought that we might have to climb back up the way we came the following day. But turns out we were in the right place, we just had to rock climb for another hour around the lake to get to the campsite.

All was well in the end, we got there beofre sunset completing the whole route in around nine exhausting hours, cooked our dinner and fell asleep. The following day I headed into the refugio to get some water and the lady told me just to dip my bottle into the lake as that is their source of fresh water. It was really lovely in the morning, a pool of melted ice, crystal clear relfectign the ring of mountains around it, leading to a cascading stream into the valley 1000 meters below. I couldn´t resist bathing my aching feet in it for a few minutes, but not before I filled up on water for the day. Cool, clear and refreshing, beats Davyhulme´s finest tap water any day.

The final leg of the journey was all downhill, descending into the valley through a lovely woodsy area, walking beside the stream for most of it. Although utterly exhausted and aching all over, we did rather enjoy this bit having learned to let your feet run with it as you go down hill and just jog it, so much easier. We ate our remianing crackers and cheese by a little waterfall, refilling our water bottles and them emerged at the road side, what an anti climax after the past two days. No bus either, we had to catch a lift back into town on the back of a pick up truck with a jolly fat couple and their dog with its head stuck out of the window, tongue out. Perfect.

Tags: argentina, bariloche, cerro bailey willis, cerro negro, colonia suiss, laguna negra, mount tronador, mountains, trek, trekking

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