Hielo Azul circuit, El Bolsón, Argentina

trip report by site editor Rick McCharles 

Click PLAY or get a glimpse of my 3 day circuit on YouTube.

Getting to the trailhead at Camping Hue Nan is the most challenging navigation challenge.

You can road walk from El Bolsón as I did — 3 boring, dusty hours — or ask for bus directions to Camping Hue Nan. That trailhead may be changing. Check before you go. It was open to me February 2018

Look for the Acceso Refugio Hielo Azul sign.

I used the free Maps.me app and it worked perfectly for the entire circuit. On the other hand, I wished I’d hired a taxi or found the bus rather than done 3 hours of road walking.

Alternatively, there’s a way to start and finish a circuit by bus at Warton. The most popular trailhead.

You could reverse my route too, of course

El Bolsón, population 19,000 plus tourists is an excellent hiking town. It’s only 2 hours by bus from Bariloche, the bigger hiking destination in Argentina. Many hike both towns on the same trip.

Free registration is required. You don’t need to stick to your planned itinerary.

There are gear shops with camping fuel and fairly large grocery stores in town.

At the Mountain Information Office I bought a $4 amateur hiking guide partially translated to English. It’s not enough to navigate, but did provide some background information.

I was shocked to see some of the bridges here.

They are slowly being replaced by modern metal alternatives.

It was at least 1000m ascent and 4 hours up to Hielo Azul Refugio. My favourite alpine hut by far.

I was so happy to get there — and felt so warmly welcomed by the woman who greeted me — that I signed up for an 8pm $20 stew meal. My most expensive dinner in Argentina. (I brought my own wine.)

It really is paradise up here just below the glacier.

I paid $5 to tent.

Next morning I first registered at the mountain hut then scrambled the steep, 90 minute route up to the glacier. Beautiful.

I had some lunch on my return. Then set off on the clearly marked trail to Refugio Lago Natacion. An easy add-on.

From Natacion down to the Azul Canyon, however, was surprisingly steep and overgrown. Not many people do the circuit, I suspect, because this one section is quite challenging.

The canyon is impressive once you finally get there.

At one point you can straddle the gap, a long way above the crystal clear water!

I was reminded of Tiger Leaping Gorge. A tiger could easily leap this gorge, but not the one in China.

Tired, I decided to illegally wild camp by the river rather than walk the extra hour down to my designated refugio campground.

The trail out to Warton is a road accessible to motor vehicles. Swimming this river is the attraction, not the trail itself.

If my directions sound too sketchy, consider buying a map for about $10.

Aoneker 1:50,000 El Bolson 
(covers the following refuges: Co.Lindo, Hielo Azul, Natacion, Atillio & El Reramal)

Aoneker 1:120,000 Comarca Andina del Paralelo 42°
(covers all the refuges in the El Bolson region)

related – A Guide to Trekking in El Bolson, Patagonia

hiking Tronador to Otto Meiling – day 2

trip report by site editor Rick McCharles 

day 1 | 2 | video | info page

Happily, the rain quit sometime during the night. It dawned clear though clouds swirled around the high peak.

Beautiful.

I went wandering up towards the glacier as high as I could.

There was no rush getting back down for the 5pm bus. It was a leisurely day in every respect.

On the descent I took a long break overlooking the gorgeous waterfalls.

I also took the side trip to see the bottom of the falls on the Glaciar Castano Overo trail. Beautiful.

Climbing down 1200m was much easier than ascending.

Originally I’d considered doing a second night camped up the other trail out of Pampa Linda. Lake Lion.

But the weather was too uncertain.

I got back to the trailhead at Pampa Linda with about 90 minutes to spare. After dropping my registration confirming my return, I washed up in the river. Then ate the rest of my camping food.

These colourful birds came by seemingly looking for a handout. There are many big, beautiful birds in Argentina.

The shuttle buses left promptly at 5pm. It seemed nobody who had booked was missing.

I couldn’t keep my eyes open for much of the 2 hour ride back to Bariloche.

Click PLAY or watch the video on YouTube.

day 1 | 2 | video | info page

___

A much better trip report than my own was posted last year by another old Canadian, Ramblin’ Boy:

The Hike To Refugio Otto Meiling – Getting Close To Cerro Tronador

 

 

 

hiking Tronador to Otto Meiling – day 1

trip report by site editor Rick McCharles 

day 1 | 2 | video | info page

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.

Otto Meiling (Cerro Tronador)

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.

Otto Meiling

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.

– by Peter Battelli

day 1 | 2 | video | info page

 

 

hiking Fitz Roy, Laguna Torre and Perito Moreno Glacier

Backpacker’s Review was in Chile December 2017 to trek some of the best hikes in the world:

We spent two nights in El Chalten and hiked to Laguna de Los Tres (13.6 miles, +/- 3,200 feet of elevation) and to Laguna Torre (12.6 miles, +/- 1,700 feet of elevation).

Then, we spent two nights in El Calafate and explored around the Perito Moreno Glacier. Highlights included much of what Patagonia offers including: massive glaciers, dramatic mountain peaks, glacier fed lakes, and green forests….

Jump to: Day 1, travel
Jump to: Day 2, Laguna de Los Tres and Mount Fitz Roy Hike
Jump to: Day 3, Laguna Torre and Cerro Torre Hike
Jump to: Day 4, the Perito Moreno Glacier
Jump to: Day 5, travel

LOS GLACIARES NATIONAL PARK, PATAGONIA – MOUNT FITZ ROY, CERRO TORRE, AND THE PERITO MORENO GLACIER

related – our Fitz Roy information page

movie – first kayak descent in Greenland

Into Twin Galaxies

These three are crazy.

Erik Boomer, Ben Stookesberry and Sarah McNair-Landry.

National Geographic:

The intrepid trio, composed of previous Adventurers of the Year, kite-skied across the Greenland ice sheet and paddled the first descent of a wild Arctic river to win our first ever Hall of Fame award. …

Click PLAY or watch the trailer on Vimeo.

I saw the film on the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour in 2018.

related – Making of Into Twin Galaxies

Manaslu Circuit Trek, Nepal

This is a fantastic hike. But you can’t do it independently. Guides are required. Finding the right person is high priority.

Yondering Soles:

… I did my trip in September-October 2017, which is during the peak season in Nepal but just slightly before the real crowds.

Before reading this, please first read my post on the guide to Manaslu Circuit Trek. It is important to first understand about the regulations and requirements for the Manaslu Region. There is also more information on the side-treks you can do. …

MANASLU CIRCUIT TREK : DETAILED ITINERARY

related – our Manaslu Circuit information page

Trekking to Aconcagua’s Plaza Francia INDEPENDENTLY – Day 3

trip report by editor Rick McCharles

day 0 | 1 | 2 | 3 | info page | video

Up early again. Coffee as the sun rises.

Rather than doing any more hiking I enjoyed a lazy morning at camp. Toying with my electronics. Listening to my Spanish lessons. The sun was HOT.

There are all sorts of characters coming and going. Some carry huge backpacks.

The craziest of the crazy are trying to summit Aconcagua independently and unsupported. Somehow transporting 70kg of gear or so up the mountain with multiple shuttles.

Around 11am I finally packed up the tent.

I figured it would be an easy walkout. No rush to catch the 5pm bus.

On a rest stop I laid out my basic gear to dry.

I’d expected a quick 2 hour 400m descent, but the walk felt long. Full pack. I was tired.

It was nice to finally reach vegetation.

If there’s something green here, there’s plenty of water.

Laguna de Horcones (2950m)

I checked out at the park entrance. Turned in my permit. Handed over my trash bag.

My Aconcagua trek was a success.

With a couple of hours before the bus arrived, I walked the highway …

… down to Puente del Inca (2740m).

…a natural arch that forms a bridge over the Vacas River, a tributary of the Mendoza River. … 

In March 1835, Charles Darwin visited the site, and made some drawings of the bridge …

In the old days people would walk across the bridge to reach the stone church.
It’s a tourist trap with overpriced junk and yappy dogs.

I decided to wait to eat in Mendoza.

There are a couple of hostels and a campground, however. A good emergency stop. Or hikers could sleep here one night before heading up towards Aconcagua.

I slept well on the bus. Then got myself a big chunk of Argentinian beef to celebrate back at the hostel.

Trekking to Aconcagua’s Plaza Francia INDEPENDENTLY – Day 2

trip report by editor Rick McCharles

day 0 | 1 | 2 | 3 | info page | video

I was up early. Drinking coffee. Watching the sun catch high peaks.

I waited until 8am to start and was still first to depart Confluencia.

In fact I wasn’t sure of the route as it wasn’t signed at the start. A couple of people pointed me in the right direction.

Very soon the signage began. It’s clear. You can’t easily get lost (though people have). No GPS, guidebook or map is needed. Follow the cairns.

With about 1000m to climb I carried a fairly light pack. I was in the shade of the mountains for the first 2 hours.

You see the big mountain appear early on.

WOW. This must be one of the best days of the year. Very little wind.

Was I in Nepal? Or the Andes.

Once you get above vegetation there’s no way to tell.

Many people finish at the second of two viewpoints. The view is as good here at 4126m as anywhere.

But, alone, first hiker of the day, I continued another 45 minutes on to French Camp.

As you can see, it was t-shirt weather.

The only reason to hike the final rugged stretch after the viewpoint is to get an even closer view of the massive south face wall. The hanging glaciers. It’s not easy to believe that’s a 3km drop from the top.

I couldn’t guess what line they’d climb. It looked impossible.

Turns out they’ve climbed many impossible lines.

This same day a guy I met later was on the other side of the mountain slogging through metre deep new snow. His entire group turned back at 6600m aside from one character who did (somehow) summit.

Excited I’d been so lucky with my weather, I turned back quickly. Perhaps I could hike some of the trail towards Mule Camp before dark.

Vistas in the other direction are beautiful. I’d not looked back much on the way up.

I’d expected plenty of water but you should carry up all you need. It’s a desert. And most of what’s running is silted.

On the way down I took time to observe the glacier. Most of the trail is on glacial moraine.

Almost nothing can live up here. This thorny bush is hardiest.

THIS astragalus arnottianus somehow survives too.

By the time I got back down to the main trail I was exhausted. There’d be no more hiking for me this day.

It was 8 hours tent-back-to-tent moving quite quickly.
I again climbed into my bag for a nap, but this time also to get out of the sun. Though careful with face and head, I’d managed to sunburn my hands and forearms. There’s very little shade available.

That evening I went over for my mandatory doctor’s check-up. He listened to heart rate. Blood pressure. Asked a few questions. Then signed my permit.

In the tent that night I listened to Coffee Break Spanish language podcasts and got into a hilarious book about character named Hard Luck Hank.

Two tents of noisy independent Russians had arrived. They argued and shouted late into the night. With headphones on, I didn’t care.