In our whirlwind visit with Paul and Christine, we made some short trips to see different parts of the awesome Nahuel Haupi National Park around Bariloche. Our first trip was to Pampa Linda, to see the massive Mt. Tronador (it means thunderer in Spanish). We camped in Pampa Linda (it froze at night, our water bottles had ice in them in the morning!) and made a few day hikes from our base camp there. Pampa Linda has great views of the mountain.
Our first hike was up the Río Alerce towards the Paso de los Nubes for intermittent views of the glaciers and hillsides from the creekside trail that climbs towards the pass and connects with trails to Chile. We came to a waterfall and steep cliffs before heading back to camp. We didn’t make it all the way, it seems like a nice trek to do if you have more time to be in the area. We tried to hike up to a lake as a side trail, but the underbrush was very thick and there wasn’t much of a trail.
The next day we hiked up to a valley viewpoint (with great views of everything except for the volcano). Then we hiked backed down and then up a glacial fed stream in a flat meadow towards the mountain to relax and soak in the views. We soaked our tired feet in the freezing cold stream, but we could only stand to soak them in the freezing water for short periods of time. The mountain is covered with large glaciers, which periodically break off, grind along and shift, all of which give off intermittent rumbling sounds, hence the name Mt. Thunderer.
Our next trip was to hike up near Cerro Catedral and on to Refugio Frey. We took a bus to the ski lifts at Villa Catedral, and cheated by taking the tram up to the top of the mountain ridge with our packs. Once on the top, we had awesome views of the massive mountain peaks. We picked our way along the rocky mountainsides and then some steep, rocky slopes to our final destination at Refugio Frey next to an awesome lake surrounded by steep mountain spires. The hiking was more like clambering over boulders, and the next day we made our way down towards Lago Gutiérrez and eventually out by bus.
Many of the national parks in Argentina are attributed to the work of Dr. Francisco ‘Perito’ Moreno, and many of the streets in various Argentine cities are named after him. Along with Emilio Frey (a surveyor and engineer for whom the refugio is named), Moreno worked to explore the mountains of Patagonia and to determine the precise border between Argentina and Chile. There is a museum in Bariloche with many of their works and tools on display. They helped to create the national park service and the local Club Andino, which continues to provide information to hikers and maintains the refugio system in the mountains.
Next we’re off on a another long bus ride to Mendoza in the north…