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How a Law Student in Paris and a Designer in Tokyo became Guardians of a Mountain Refuge in the Alps
When packing for your stay at Refuge Entre Deux Eaux, we recommend leaving your neon lycra pants and tinned food at home. Upon arrival, you’ll meet your hosts Clara and Björn who will probably greet you in ripped jeans and sneakers, and then offer you a slice of local, organic blueberry pie hot from the oven.
Perched 2200m above sea level in Vanoise National Park, there stands a one hundred year old mountain refuge situated “entre deux eaux” (between two mountain streams) which richly rewards those who venture out to find it.
From June to September every year, Clara and Björn ascend into the French Alps to assume their seasonal role as caretakers of the refuge, creating a haven for hikers and travellers who stop by for anything from a glass of local wine to a night’s stay complete with dinner and breakfast service. For those few summer months, the old house is filled with the aromas of country cooking, the sounds of different languages and occasional accordion jam sessions which have been known to break out spontaneously in the communal kitchen.
Today at the Refuge Entre Deux Eaux, travellers can enjoy organic blueberry pie from the tiny nearby village of La Chappelle-du-Bard, buttery tomme cheese from a local fromagerie and natural locally made wines by families who have practised their art for generations.
Guests who wish to stay for a meal are treated to dishes characterised by simplicity and showcase products from the region like pork sautéed with baby carrots and turnips, veal blanquette and hachis parmentier, France’s answer to shepherd’s pie.
The kitchen also happily caters for vegetarians on a daily basis, to support individuals who wish to minimise the impact their food choices have on the planet. “Our dishes are designed around local products and from environmentally friendly agriculture,” says Clara. “We’re committed to investing in the local market and supporting producers by paying them at the right price. When food is sourced, produced and prepared sustainably and locally, it tastes better. And isn’t eating well the most important thing on a mountain expedition?”
Next morning was sunny. Mendoza enjoys 330 days of sun a year.
With only a 3-4 hour walk in gaining about 400m, I packed heavy.
There are 3 buses a day from Mendoza to the Aconcagua Provincial Park. Go early to the Mendoza bus station and buy a ticket in advance on the Buttini Bus. Seats are assigned. Ask for a window on the right side of the bus. Cost one way in 2018 was AR$130.
Roberto sat down beside me on the bus. He’s a rafting guide from Guatemala who’s worked all over the world. 15 years on the Arkansas river in Colorado, for example.
In 2018 he’s finally guiding the Grand Canyon. Those trips are decided on by a lottery system. He jumped off at Potrerillos where he was visiting a friend, another guide.
I was headed back towards Santiago, Chile on the same scenic highway I’d traveled on an express bus. My local bus stopped everywhere taking 4 hours to get back to close to the border with Chile.
The Parque Provincial Aconcagua office on the highway is quite well organized. We had our permits checked and strictly informed that all trash must be returned in a numbered bag back to this office.
Day hikers can walk a short way up the valley towards the big mountain for $10. (foreigners $25.50)
It’s a popular stop for tourists.
In fact you get quite a good view of Aconcagua from the highway. For free.
You need to walk up a paved road to the parking lot before getting started.
I was to be surprised how many helicopters race up to Aconcagua every day. Two are parked here at the entrance. Ready to go.
Only those with trekking permits can cross the river. I felt I was finally on the Francia trek.
Excited, I rushed up to Confluencia camp (3350m) as quickly as I could.
It looks much more impressive from a distance than up close.
In fact, it’s rather crowded and dirty.
Guided clients sleep in one of the company fixed tents.
When not in use they are protected.
I do like their big bright shared areas.
It was late afternoon, the sun already passed behind the mountains.
On arrival you check in with the camp guards. They directed me to the tiny area where independent campers are allowed to pitch. We are definitely second class clients here.
Toilets are BAD for guided clients as well as independents.
Chilled and surprisingly tired, I crawled into my sleeping bag and had a nap. I had a slight altitude headache but no other symptoms.
Eventually getting up, II wandered around early evening, enjoying nightfall.
There’s a convenient picnic table with good water supply for independent hikers. I had my standard Knorr soup with instant mashed potatoes. Barbecue chicken mixed in.
Cheeky Andean fox tend to show up at campsites about dusk. I saw this one hanging around at dinner hoping for leftovers. And another two in the early morning. BIG day tomorrow. I tried to get as much sleep as I could at 3350m.
Half the crowded camp wanted to rest. The other half to party. Bring headphones or earplugs.