Tales from today, preserved for tomorrow.

Crossing the Andes back to Argentina

About an hour after we were told that they had no cars available at the Puerto Montt airport, despite my reservation, I was over the initial frustration. This wasn’t completely unexpected for me, as I’ve read many stories of this happening at other small places. Regardless it meant we couldn’t go to Cochamó and had to find a backup plan. Puerto Montt wasn’t very appealing to us so we decided to give Puerto Varas a try.

It didn’t take long for us to realize we made the right choice of leaving Puerto Montt. Though touristy, PV definitely is more attractive and kind of reminded me of Jackson, WY with a beach with the picturesque Volcán Osorno as a backdrop. We walked into the Casa Azul and made reservations for 3 nights and set out to figure out what we would do for the next 3 days.

I really wanted to climb Osorno with Ange and a guide because I figured it would give both of us good exposure to volcano climbing with less risk. Not to mention apparently guides are required now after two Frenchmen died in crevasse last month (still need to verify this story). Unfortunately we discovered once again that prices have skyrocketed since my guidebook was published. All of the companies wanted at least USD$360 per person, which was almost double the USD$200 my guidebook reported. Next option was seakayaking which was still expensive but 1/3 the price so we booked it.

Sea Kayaking in Reloncavi Sound

We were picked up in van and taken to the top of Seno Reloncavi, but with a stop at their HQ to pick up the ‘yaks and gear. Along the way we met our guide Matias, Maria (from Boston but now a local), and Jeremy and Jessie (father daughter duo from San Francisco).

We put in under the watchful eyes of several vultures perched nearby and were shortly paddling across some of the flattest water I’ve ever seen. It beautifully reflected the clouds and mountains, disrupted only by the wake behind us. After only 15 minutes Ange spotted a sea lion (or Lobo del Mar as Matias called it, literally Wolf of the Sea) so we paddled over. It was a small baby but we got within several feet when it waddled down to the water and disappeared under our kayak. Matias complemented Ange on her keen vision. I was hopeful to see more but we only saw one more basking on a buoy holding rope for the mussel farms.

image

We had lunch at a small country home of a farmer and his wife, whom I think host kayakers for an extra source of income. By the time we were done, Matias was a little embarrassed when he realized we almost lost the kayaks to the rising tide. Fortunately the waves which were much larger now kept them at shore. We paddled across the entire fjord to reach the other side. We continued through many mussel farms until our end point at Cochamó. So we made it to Cochamó after all, but only the tiny fishing village and not the huge Yosemite-like valley 20km inland.

We endured the longer ride back, again stopping in Ensenada to unload the kayaks, and were dropped off in Puerto Varas.

Cruce Andino and Bariloche

The Cruce Andino is an entire day alternative to crossing the Andes into Bariloche, as opposed to the 6 hour less interesting bus ride. I reluctantly booked round-trip since they were having a promo and one-way was the same price. The tour consists of 4 buses and 3 ferries across lakes in the Andes.

The morning I departed was the same morning of Ange’s flight home so she escorted me down to my bus and we said our goodbyes. I thought the trip would be fine by myself until this point, but now that it was finally time I wasn’t so sure as the bus drove away towards Petrohue.

The rest of the journey is more for the eyes than anything so I’m going to breeze over it. The best part was also the shortest, a 20 minute ride across a small lake at the base of some amazing looking cliffs. I briefly considered jumping out, spending a few days putting up first ascents, and finishing the journey another day, but ultimately decided to push on.

image

image

image

We made it to Bariloche rather late so I basically just checked into my hostel and went to bed. The next day I was out doing laundry and failing at finding mountaineering partners and rental gear when I ran into Michael and Thatcher from the Cruce Andino who were on their way to Cerro Campanario. I had wanted to check out this small mountain with apparently one of the top 10 views in the world (according to a Nat Geo publication) anyway, so they were willing to wait for me to run to the hostel and meet them at the bus stop.

We quickly ascended the free trail next to the ARS$50 chairlift and made it to the cafe on the summit. It was beautiful but that means the view from Roy’s Peak in New Zealand and the Grand should also be in the top 10. For the third time I ran into an older couple from England. They rode the Navimag with Ange and I, and the Cruce Andino, and now were on Cerro Campanario. They told me to bugger off already so we descended the trail to the bottom.

The next day I reserved for planning a 2 night trip up Tronador. Though the Club Andino Bariloche was pretty useless in helping me find partners or rental gear, they made this very easy (I think they mainly deal with trekkers) and I probably didn’t need the entire day. It was good though because I wasn’t feeling great and it was good to rest and do a few errands (grocery shopping and some paperwork for Amazon).

Monte Tronador

When Chile and Argentina were having border disputes, the final resolution was to basically connect the dots of the high peaks of the Andes. For this reason, there are many summits that are shared between the two countries, Tronador included. Monte Tronador is located East-Southeast of Bariloche and is a 2.5 hour bus ride from the Club Andino Bariloche office. It is an extinct and heavily glaciated statovolcano.

I had Tronador on my hit list for a long time, particularly for climbing. Since I was unable to find a partner from the US, I went to the CAB office in hopes that they could connect me with other climbers and rental gear. I left a bit disappointed as it seemed they could care less about my plight and would rather just connect me with a guide for USD$800 (cheaper with 2 or 3 more people). Additionally it is apparently difficult to find rental gear in Bariloche, particularly climbing boots (and even more so since apparently size 11 is huge by Argentine standards). A day on a mountain is better than a day in a city in any case, so I set out to spend 2 days on the mountain at Refugio Otto Meiling anyway. I booked my bus ticket and the following morning I arrived in Pampa Linda around 11.

The trek to the refugio was approximately 12km long and goes up about 1200m. It is relatively easy with the only semi-difficult part being switchbacks that covered a little less than half of the vertical distance. The rest was a low grade and easy traveling. I wish I could say I really enjoyed the ascent, because the scenery of hanging glaciers, waterfalls, and towering forests was outstanding. However, the fact that I had at least 20 horseflies buzzing me nonstop was very demoralizing. When moving they were simply a nuisance, but when stopped they landed and started penetrating skin and biting. I trucked on and made very good time to the refugio, neglecting to stop for any breaks, water, or food for the 4 hour ascent. It was a relief to get into the wind above the treeline because all but a couple of flies were gone.

image

image

image

image

The refugio is tucked nicely just below the summer snow line in-between two glaciers. I was impressed at how well stocked it was. Steaks, wine, beer, and nearly anything you wanted but at stadium prices ($5 for a bottle of sprite). I brought my own stove and food so I only ended up paying for 2 nights in the bunk room. The first night at the lodge was short for me. Everyone there was speaking in Spanish very fast and I was unable to follow along. I read some more of the sequel to The Hunger Games and went to bed pretty early.

My plan was to relax on the middle day, since the only direction you can go without hitting crevasses is down. However, only 3 hours into the day, I realized that I’m not cut out for relaxing and started doubting my slow pace in Chile now that Angela had left. I made a list of new options and the one I liked most was a side trip to Brasil. Without WiFi I was unable to do much planning, and now it was too late to go down and catch the 17:00 bus. I forced myself to relax and had a nice huge dinner in strong winds, finally giving me the feel of an alpine mountain. Later I found myself chatting with the only other non-native Spanish speakers: a South African/Polish couple from London, and a girl from Norway. The London couple had just visited the Pantanal in Brazil and made me even more eager to go.

The next morning I could see the wind gauge spinning at full speed and could hear the rain hitting the roof hard. Most people were hanging around in hopes that the rain would subside, but I figured we were just in the rain shadow of Tronador and decided to tough it out. I thoroughly enjoyed the next hour of high winds and horizontal rain while traversing this high rocky ridge. The more I climb and hike the more I realize that bluebird conditions can be quite boring. The truly memorable moments for me have typically involved nasty conditions. One of my favorite moments at Seneca was when Buttercup and I were practicing for the Grand and we got drenched in a huge storm that snuck up on us just as we were finishing the 2nd pitch of Gunsight Notch to South Peak. I couldn’t see anything except the 3 foot wide summit ridge.

I was happy with my decision to venture out because after the first hour it was gorgeous and I was rewarded with a few rainbows and zero flies. As the day went on I would peek back at Tronador and it further backed my choice; it remained under a grey cloud the rest of the day, whereas I was now dry.

image

Unfortunately I was unable to find WiFi at Pampa Linda to do any Brazil planning and spent the next few hours reading and talking with the Norwegian I met the night before. The rain returned and when I finally got back to Bariloche it was a steady rain for 2 days straight, and continued into my return voyage on the Cruce Andino until we hit the western side of the Andes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *