Last week Matt, Yumi and I to do something different than the usual day hikes near Bariloche and decided to go further. We found out about Cerro Tronador, an extinct volcano located on the Chilean border, about 90km South West of Bariloche and decided to give it a go, get to the Otto Meilling refuge and camp there before coming back the day after as the kids (MAtt and Yumi) have school on Monday.
The downside of travelling light is that Yumi and I have no camping equipment, so we bought a camping mat and rented sleeping bags. Matt had the tent and stove, so we were ready.
It takes about 2.5h to drive the 90km (60miles), most of it on dirt roads and we arrived in Pampa Linda. We had to register and the queue was fairly long as people were not only registering but asking for some info! What a waste of time... anyway, we have plenty of it. We met Laura and Claire in the queue (or "line" for our American readers) and asked them if they wanted to join us.
So here we were, 4 Americans and a Frenchman getting on our way. From the valley you can see the Castano Overa glacier and it is quite impressive. You can hear bits of ice falling off the glacier and it makes a thunder like noise, which is were the Tronador ("Thunder") gets its name from.
On the way up we had a geology class given by Matt who is doing a Phd in a rather small Californian University. It's realy interesting as Matt can speak so beginners like Yumi, Claire, Laura and I can actually understand what he says.
The first part of the hike was in the forest. It could have been anywhere but the sound of the falling seracs reminded us we were in the Andes.
We stopped after 1.5h to eat. There were flies everywhere and luckily most of them were going towards Yumi. At the end of the weekend we counted 33 bites on both her shoulders! That was the not so nice part of the hike. Damn flies! Time's not fun when you are having flies!
Little by little we got above the trees and started to walk on Mars, before getting across a snowy section. We were not far away from the refuge and the views were stunning.
As we arrived at the refuge, we looked for a place to pitch our tent, eat before sunset and enjoy the rest of the evening, while Claire and Laura found some space inside the refuge. They were plenty of rocks next to our tent so we decided to set a kitchen area, with a table and chairs. We felt and probably looked like the Flintstones by then and deserved to eat.
The sunset was amazing as the sky went from blue to yellow-ish and orange and purple before turning dark blue and black. With not a cloud in the sky, we were probably the luckiest hikers around.
We woke up at 5.45am to watch the sunrise and it was almost as pretty as the sunset, but it was freakin' cold!
As soon as the sun showed up it was time to take off some layers and eat breakfast, before returning to Pampa Linda...and have a nice cold beer.
It was a great weekend with probably with the best scenery we've witnessed so far and we were in great company too which makes any trip so much better. Claire and Laura are now back in Santiago, and we will probably see them there on our way to Bolivia.