Monday Tuesday and Wednesday we took a 3 day trek into the Patagonian mountains right outside Bariloche with two californian girls, Ana and Dalia, to keep us company and give us some comedic relief.
The bus dropped us off at the base of Cerro Catedral at the ski slopes, no snow yet. We hiked 3 or 4 hours pretty much uphill the whole way to Laguna Tonchek where there is a man maintaining the Refugio Frey there. The guy was a bit scruff and upon arrival he simply told us “no tiras piedras a la laguna” (dont throw rocks in the lake) apparently it freezes overnight and he ice skates on it and doesnt want anyone disturbing the ice formation over night, it was only 1/3 frozen when we got there. He didnt even ask us if we wanted to stay in the refugio, I guess noticing our huge backpacks and assuming we had a tent, and he pointed us to the other side of the lake to the camping area.
That night we cooked a hearty warm pasta dinner and rushed into the tent to fight off the cold with some more rounds of Hearts and funny wine-aided convro, mainly directed towards my poor card skills (I swear it was just bad luck).
Man, that was a long cold night, I woke at 5 am with my tummy doing strange things… I had to run up the hill and dig a hole to do the deed in the early morning cold frosty air. Yeah, that wasnt the last time either, it came back at least three times before I finally woke at 9 am. The refugio guy was skating on the lake and it was quite impressive. We fixed a breakfast and after everyone got a fairly slow start we were on the trail by 11 am… pretty bad considering this would be our longest day, supposedly an 8 hour hike.
We hiked up about 1500 feet passing a few more small glacial lakes and arrived at a pass behind a false summit of Cerro Catedral with an excellent view of Cerro Tres Reyes. Then we slipped and slid down about 2500 feet in loose rock and sand to a nice green valley. We went up the valley and climbed out the other side at about another 2500 feet (altitude around 5-6 thousand at the top). The girls were pretty hardcore doing the whole trip over rivers, rocks, and snow in wet sneakers, whereas paul and I were sporting our comfy leather gore-tex boots with gaitors on as well. They had a few more spills than we but I think we were all very equally exhausted when we reached the second refugio.
This refugio was supposedly closed but they left the door open to the bunk room so we all piled in and put some logs on the stove and cooked up some pasta. It was quite a surprise to see the refugio caretaker, Daniel, show up quite late at night as he was hiking in from a horse ranch in some far off place. He was much more friendly than the other scruffy guy and he played some cool music on his solar power generated stereo including a Bob Marley tribute album from brazilian Gilberto Gil… highly recommended. The refugio was very rustic and it was perched up on a rock overlooking another glacial lake. We drank the pure water straight from the lake (finally fresh water!) I’ve still got a bit left in my camelbak even now and thus far no intestinal problems… hope for the best :)
The last day we hiked down the valley along the river for 6 hours to the big Lago Nahual Huapi and caught a city bus back the 8 km back into town.