Trekking in the Andes

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Posted by admin | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 08-04-2006

A report by Clare ‘Clarita’ North….

Before we left England I photocopied some information on a trek near
Bariloche from a guidebook. It sounded like it could be hard in places but
fun, and so we decided to give it a go the other day. We spoke to the old
guy at the hostel who said it was very beautiful but kept saying ‘ojo, el
viento’, whilst pointing to his eye- literally meaning eye, the wind, or
watch out for the wind!

He let us leave our backpacks at the hostel and we headed off with lighter
packs and sleeping bags on the bus to Cerro Catedral. This place is normally
a ski resort but was completley dead. The lift we wanted to take was under
repair but luckily another was going so we were able to get up into the
mountain.

The trek takes you to ‘refugios’ or mountain huts and the book described
some ‘minor hand climbing’ on the 1st section. In reality we basically spent
4 hours climbing over massive boulders and rocks with a sheer drop to one
side. It was terrifying and knackering! There was then an incredibly steep
climb down to an amazing lake and just when i thought it must be nearly over
another scramble down a mountain side to a bigger lake where the refugio
sat at the far end.

It has to be said that the scenery was incredible but I couldn’t really
believe that they let people with no experience climb this – it was so hard!
The refugio was very basic with bunk beds and a wood stove, no electricity
and I wont even mention the toilets(!) but the quiet and solitude of the
place was immense. We sat out for a bit in the freezing cold that night to
see the stars – so clear and bright, you could see the whole milky way. My
thermal vest has proved itself to be a worthy addition to my backpack!

The next morning was a dilema whether to go on to the next refugio (7 hours)
or duck out along an easy path home. My muscles were aching like mad, but I
knew deep down Dave really wanted to go on so we went for it. The first part
involved climbing back up past the 2 lakes which was relatively easy. The
next part however was virtually impossible. A steep steep descent over loose
rocks and scree, falling down into a mountain valley with the wind howling
in our faces. In the end Dave gripped my hand really tight and we literally
surfed down the mountain side. I’m sure it was highly dangerous- I fell over
a few times and have the bruises on my bum to prove it!

The next part was through a beautiful wooded valley with amazing autumn
colours and actually flat walking for a while (more how I’d envisiged a trek
to be!) However it was soon another huge climb and equally trecherous
descent over the next mountain. By now my whole body was completley
exhausted but the refugio was in sight down by another stunning mountain
lake.

We eventually made it down to the hut which was actually pretty nice. We
treated ourselves to a meal which was great, cooked up by the hut caretaker
on a wood stove and served by candlelight. Sat with a cool Isreali couple.

The next day we decided we couldn’t do any more of the hike as we were aching
so much, so we took the gentler route back to the road. It was still 6-7 hours
walking, but through a valley with beautiful forest and a winding river. At
luchtime we met the couple from the night before who invited us to share
their lunch. They cooked up soup and mashed potatoe on a camping stove – it
was great and a lot nicer than the dry crackers and biscuits we would have
otherwise had!

We walked the rest of the way back with them and eventually caught a bus
back to our hostel in Bariloche. The hostel owner gave us the funniest look
when we arrived – we were sweaty, smelly, sunburnt, bruised but happy! I cant
actually believe I managed to do it, although it will be a few days till I
can walk normally without pain in my quads again!

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