trip report by site editor Rick McCharles
The main hub for hikers in the Argentinian lake district is Bariloche.
The population of 130,000 plus tourists stretches along the busy lakeside highway. It should be another Banff, Chamonix, Queenstown … but isn’t. Many (including myself) become disenchanted with the place after a while.
Super popular with hikers, however, out of Bariloche is a one night adventure to climb an extinct volcano called Tronador (Thunderer) 3,470 m, the highest peak in the area. A 1200m ascent from the valley trailhead.
Argentina can be frustrating for tourists. Mucho problemas. But one highlight is Club Andino Bariloche (CAB). It’s an excellent organization which runs a number of alpine huts (refugios) and campgrounds.
Though the Government Parks office in Bariloche is often closed, CAB seems to always be open, staffed with friendly, English speaking experts.
At CAB, buy a return hiker’s shuttle bus ticket to Pampa Linda for about $40. Pampa Linda is the trailhead for Tronador.
We departed Bariloche 8:30am. It’s a bumpy, dusty, but scenic 77km to Pampa Linda close to the Chilean border.
Here you fill out a mandatory, free registration form.
I hung around Pampa Linda letting the largest group of hikers get started ahead of me.
The trail is a road to start. But green and tranquil.
Hoping to shortcut I jumped on to a smaller trail … It turned out to be the side trip to Mirador del Valle, a valley view point. Oops.
It took me 20 minutes or so to realize my mistake. But rather than admit I was an idiot, I dropped my pack and carried on up the little used, overgrown trail.
I never did make it to the viewpoint. But here’s a photo looking back to the valley.
The main trail does get steeper in places. There are stairs and switchbacks.
After spending 4 days above tree line on my last hike, it was a nice change to walk in bamboo forest shaded by huge trees.
Still, I was looking forward to views from up high. It was exciting to finally reach the big vistas.
Perhaps most impressive were waterfalls coming off the glacier.
Weather was deteriorating rapidly so I didn’t stop.
I’ve seen condors many times, but it was still thrilling to see two flying by very close. They circled the alpine hut, too.
I rushed up to choose my (semi-protected) campsite for the night. I wanted to get as close to the glacier as possible.
It began to rain just as I set up the tent. So I didn’t do much sightseeing at dusk.
Instead I read my book. Then headed over to the famed Otto Meiling hut.
As a solo English speaking hiker I don’t much enjoy stepping into these cramped, expensive refuges, but Otto Meiling is better than most in Argentina. It’s quite cosy indoors.
Otto Meiling (1902-1989), a German immigrant and carpenter/mountaineer, built the hut in the 1950s. He climbed the mountain 15 times. At age 84, he made an ascent from Pampa Linda and returned in one day! His fondness for mountaineering led to founding the Club Andino de Bariloche which is thriving today.
I’d neglected to carry wine so hoped to purchase one glass to celebrate inside away from the drizzle. Unfortunately this hut only sells wine by the bottle. I had a $5 hot chocolate instead. Food and drink are good, but understandably expensive, in alpine huts.
Not lasting long I retreated to my cozy tent to watch an episode of Fortitude. Then listen to my (excellent) biography of Leonardo da Vinci.
Friends had been up a few nights early in perfect weather. No moon. Here’s how it looked.