Hiking into the night – Adventures across Argentina

by Dan Fey on April 25, 2012

After two weeks in Argentina, I’ve hiked nine hours from day to night in Patagonia, hitchhiked six hours with a gas truck driver who spoke only Spanish, and spent a day touring and tasting wines via bicycle. These adventures have allowed me to understand just a taste of Argentina’s beauty and amazing culture.

Sunset on Nahuel Huapi Lake in Bariloche

Sunset on Nahuel Huapi Lake in Bariloche from my hostel, Penthouse 1004

In this firstof three posts about these adventures, experience Bariloche’s beautiful hike starting on the ski mountain Cerro Catedral, through a rocky mountain pass down to the picturesque Refugio Frey, and through a valley, hiking through the night to get off the mountain.

After my first week in Spanish school in San Carlos de Bariloche, I wanted to explore the beautiful mountains that I had been staring at from my hostel.

Fortunately, Ingjald (Norway) and Suzanne (UK), my friends from the Spanish school were heading out on a trek up the Cerro Catedral ski mountain, to Refugio Frey (a refuge in the mountain where you can stay the night) and down. They invited Arneb (UK), Carlijn (Netherlands), and myself from the hostel. I gladly accepted the “five to eight hour” trek thinking it would be a nice and easy trail hike.

Climbing up a steep slope on Cerro Catedral

This is how I felt after climbing up a steep slope on Cerro Catedral

We planned on catching the 10:30am bus, but it didn’t come until 11:00am.  We arrived at the mountain around 11:30am to start our hike. When I say we started our hike, we started our hike, straight up a very steep, grassy slope, where there wasn’t much of a trail. Our legs weren’t warmed up yet and quickly tightened up as we ascended, taking frequent rests to catch our breath and take pictures.

After an hour or so of hiking, we reached a well-defined trail and followed it around and up onto the ridge of Cerro Catedral. We were met with beautiful views of the Lake Huapi and the other side of the mountain.

Breathtaking views of Lake Huapi

We were met with breathtaking views of Lake Huapi as we rounded the corner on the ridge

We stopped at Refugio Lucia to grab a hot chocolate and eat our lunch sandwiches around 1:30pm. We continued on, but Ingjald warned us we needed to pick up the pace to make it to Refugio Frey and off the mountain. After reaching the peak of the ridge, our next obstacle was traversing an extremely rocky mountain pass.

Carlijn looking down onto the lush valley

Carlijn looking down onto the lush valley and our difficult path ahead

We were happy that the steepest parts of the climb were over, but were met with what looked like impassible, jagged boulders with a steep drop off to our right. Though we did traverse the pass quite slowly, we had fun with it and really enjoyed the beautiful view of the lush, green valley below, which contrasted the desolate, unforgiving rocky mountain pass.

After over two hours traversing the mountain pass, we were met with an equally rocky and very steep climb down to a crystal clear mountain pond and then down to the lush meadow valley nourished by the pond. At the end of the valley, we could see Refugio Frey. The easy and flat walk through the valley was gorgeous, but we saw sun starting to dip below the jagged rocks that we just climbed down. We snapped a few pics and continued on.

Sun receding at Refugio Frey

The sun was dipping below the rocks as we just climbed down when we got to Refugio Frey

It was about 5:30pm and we had what we thought was one and half to two hours of hiking left. Since the last bus from Cerro Catedral was leaving at 7pm, we decided to choose the route down which was 30 minutes longer, but had a bus running all night.

It was all downhill from here, and we traveled as fast as we could, but the terrain was fairly steep and a little rocky. Our legs were also tired from two hours of the steep climb up, two and a half hours of the rocky mountain pass, and one and a half hours of climbing down into the meadow and to the refugio.

Cerro Catedral just before the sun went down

Last photo before the sun went down, we had "about an hour and a half left"

As we descended the bushes turned into trees and it became gradually darker and darker. We kept asking Ingjald how much longer was left, and the answer always seemed to be “about an hour and a half”.

About 7:30pm, it was night. Fortunately, Ingjald brought along a head light and we were out of the difficult rocky terrain. We continued for another hour before FINALLY making it out alive. Just as we stepped out onto the street, the bus was pulling up. Perfect timing!

We rode the bus back into town and went straight to Mamuschka for some amazing hot chocolate to revive our body and soul after the physical and mental exhaustion. Looking back, I really enjoyed the whole hike, it was physically demanding, beautiful, and at the end, it was almost like we had to “survive” and make it off of the endless mountain (though it really wasn’t that dangerous, we could see the lake we had to get to).

Eating fondue at Marmite

Later in the week, I had fondue at Marmite with (left to right) Carly, Tim, Amy, Cam, and me

I had more Spanish classes the next week with evening adventures on the town (two for one “hasta la vista” drinks are trouble) and some delicious cheese fondue with meats and chocolate fondue with fruit.

At the end of the week, I embarked on my next adventure, hitchhiking via gas truck six hours followed by a 14 hour bus ride to Mendoza, Argentinian wine country. Keep a look out for my next post.



Where was your favorite hike? Where’s one place you would love to hike? Leave a comment here.

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