Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tour de Refugios

I have spent the last month trekking in Bariloche, hiking to many of the refugios. Refugios are small cabins located in the mountains that offer full service kitchens and a warm place to sleep. Argentina and Chile have both embraced this European tradition of mountaintop refuges and the Patagonias are sprinkled with these little home-away-from-homes. Refugios also mean that trekkers don't need to carry a tent or cooking supplies...great news for tired feet and sore backs. Also, if you're willing to shell out some pesos, almost all refugios offer high quality dinners and breakfasts made in house. You can get a piping hot meal of grilled trout and veggies or a hearty steak dinner while soaking in the wilderness.
These high altitude hostels are all definitely worth the walk:

Refugio Frey: Frey is probably the biggest and most well-known refugio. It's located in the ski center Catedral and is the only refugio in the area open year round, with great skiing in the winter and great biking in the summer. High granite "fingers" create a climber's paradise and travelers flock from around the globe for some of the best climbing in South America. Frey, perhaps more than the other refugios, seems to host a kind of community. People come and stay for stretches of days or weeks versus simply passing through.

View from Frey

Refugio Frey

Dusk walking around Frey
Refugio Lopez: Lopez is a great refugio to visit if you're short on time. The entrance to the trail is located close to the picturesque Colonia Suiza, a quaint little village with a market that has an array of local handiwork and food. The market is open on Wednesdays and Sundays and I HIGHLY recommend the waffles with raspberries and cream or dulce de leche and cream. Lopez is a relatively short climb that takes you up to amazing views overlooking the Lake Nahuel Huapi. You don't really need to do an overnight stay at Lopez because it makes such an easy day trip.

Refugio Lopez

View from Lopez

Refugio Italia: This refugio is located at Laguna Negra. The entrance for the trail up to Laguna Negra is also close to Colonia Suiza, but the trek is longer than that to Lopez. However, the majority of the trip is through the forest along a relatively flat plane. Only the very end gets steep and rocky. Refugio Italia is hidden away next to an impressive--you guessed it--black lagoon. Reward yourself with an artisanal beer after your hike brewed in the refugio.
Refugio Italia at Laguna Negra

Refugio Jakob: Jakob is a picturesque wooden cabin transplanted directly from some kind of fairytale. Jakob is the kind of place that just makes you want to frolic. It is a warm, tranquil escape compared to the hustle and bustle of some of the other refugios. The family that runs the refugio have been there for over 25 years, and the smiling, bouncing, half-mountain-goat children of the refugiero add to the fairy-tale feel of the place. All the refugios in the area are connected by paths winding through the forests and mountains of Bariloche. I did a hike from Frey to Jakob, from which you may also continue on to Laguna Negra.
Refugio Jakob
Inside Jakob
Path down towards Jakob
Refugio Otto Meiling: Meiling is located en route to Mount Tronador. The entrance is at Pampa Linda, a little paradise worth a trip all on its own. Mount Tronador has many glaciers and the roaring calving of the ice gives the mountain its name: "Thunderer." The refugio is clean and efficient, with a disco ball and surprisingly advanced sound system hinting at potential high altitude revelry.
Refugio Otto Meiling (note the condors flying above)

Me on the glacier near Meiling

Meiling by morning

No comments:

Post a Comment