The Argentine Lake District

Parque Nacional Lanin
1) Day hike to South Face of Volcan Lanin – Starting at Puerto Canoa on Lago Huechulafquen we hiked up through forest and by a gurgling stream before climbing steeply to 1700m on the south side of Volcan Lanin. From this height and angle the volcano looked pretty imposing, and there were nice views back to the lake. (18km, 6h, 800m ascent/descent)

2) Day hike on Cerro Chivo – The park rangers told us this climb was steep, but this very short walk still surprised us. After 1 hr, we were 900m horizontally from our starting point, but had climbed 515m, on a very steep path through forest. At this point we weren’t anywhere near the top of the hill, but had reached a “prohibido pasar” sign. There looked like there were plenty of loose rocks on the route further on and I guess they’d had a few accidents resulting in the closure of the path. (2.8km, 2h, 515m ascent/descent)

3) 2 day hike up Volcan Lanin (3,759m) – We´d been able to see this beautiful volcano for over a week from the bikes, and had set our hearts on climbing it. So we hired crampons, ice axes, radio and helmets (all obligatory equipment, and the park rangers won´t let you on the mountain without it) in Junin, and cycled the 66kms into a headwind to camp at the base of the mountain at 1,150m. In the morning we took 6 hours climbing up to Refugio Caja (a very basic structure that looked like a metal ridge tent, where the floor was covered in 30cm of ice which melted with our body heat in the night) at 2600m on a good path. The second day we left at 04:15, climbing up a snowy couloir which reached 45 degs at its steepest, getting to the summit at 07:45. From here there were stunning views for miles and miles – to Monte Tronador near Bariloche to the south, Volcan Llaima to the north, and we towered above Volcan Villarica, not far away to the west. It took 5 1/2 hours to descend the 2,600m to the road, where we jumped back on our bikes and cycled the 66km back to Junin. We arrived very very tired. (20km, 15h, 2700m ascent/descent)

Some GPS Co-ordinates for Volcan Lanin

Description Lat Long Alt
Trailhead 39.58925 S 71.42983 W 1,133m
Refugio CAJA 39.62130 S 71.48828 W 2,593m
Lanin Summit 39.63748 S 71.50277 W 3,758m

Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi
1) Day hike up Cerro Falkner (2,023m) – On Christmas day we walked up this hill from Lago Villarino. The first part was through forest, and when we emerged from this we lost the path and ended up doing a fun circuit along the summit ridge. Views from the summit were spectacular – Lagos Villarino and Falkner, Volcan Lanin to the north, and hundreds of snowy peaks to the south and west. (13km, 6h, 1,100m ascent/descent)

GPS Co-ordinates for Cerro Falkner Summit: 40.46766 S, 71.54984 W, 2,023m.

2) 3 day hike to Refugio Frey and back – We’d hoped to do a 5 day traverse of the mountains south of Nahuel Huapi lake, but ended up frustrated. The first day we walked up to Refugio Frey from Villa Catedral. Though we arrived early it was a beautiful spot so we decided to stay the night. The next day the weather was bad and the hutkeepers advised us not to try and continue the walk. So we spent a few hours walking round Lago Toncek, and up to Laguna Schmoll. Then we spent about 6 hours building a wall big enough to prevent our tent being blown away by a gale. Luckily our tent survived, but plenty of others at the campsite didn’t. That night was hogmanay so we had a fun night in the crowded hut, saw a beautiful full moon at midnight, then couldn’t be bothered to continue the walk the next day, opting to walk back to the road at Lago Guttierez. All in all not one of the better walks we’ve done, and on busy trails. (27km, 10h, 1,400m ascent, 1,600m descent)
3) Day hike from Pampa Linda to Refugio Otto Meiling – A walk that followed a jeep track up through woods for a few hours, before becoming more fun up on a ridge, walking through the snow. This was on the flanks of Monte Tronador, the “Thunderer” and there were frequent roars as blocks of ice fell off the hanging glacier that gives the mountain its name. At the hut (1,880m) we had great weather, and views. We could even see Lanin to the north, 173km away. (20km, 6h, 1,100m ascent/descent)

Near El Bolson
1) Hike up Cerro Piltriquitron (2,279m) – 3 days – We could have walked this in a day by getting a cab up from town to the end of the road at 1,100m and walking from there. Instead we decided to walk from town (300m) to Refugio Piltriquitron (1,500m) in the rain. We didn’t see much on the way. The second day we left early even though the weather was still bad, climbed up on easy paths, then up a steeper scree slope to reach the summit in just over 2 hours. It was a bit chilly on the top, and visibility was about 10m. We descended to the refugio and the weather improved, so we had great views and a lovely sunset looking west over town, the Rio Azul valley and the mountains beyond. The third day was a miserable walk back to town, again in the rain. (38km, 12h, 2,000m ascent/descent)

GPS Co-ordinates for Cerro Piltriquitron Summit: 41.98539 S, 71.45960 W, 2,278m.

2) Hike from Wharton to Los Laguitos and back – 5 days – This was by far our most disappointing trek of the trip so far. While the lake at Los Laguitos was a nice spot, it took 2 days to walk to, almost completely in forest with no views at all, which we found pretty dull. The highlights of the walk were seeing a couple of huge alerces – massive sequoia-type trees, which were a few thousand years old and about 3m in diameter at the base; and crossing into the Encanto Blanco valley on the fourth day of the trek which meant climbing up 400m on a crazily steep path, hanging onto tree roots and bits of bamboo to help haul ourselves up. (66km, 22h, 2,500m ascent/descent)

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