The “Saint Moritz” of Argentina, San Carlos de Bariloche, is a town full of chocolate shops and wooden houses, in an impressive landscape with countless lakes and mountain peaks (Nahuel Huapi National Park). Like every other tourist, I enjoy the incredible view from the Cerro Campanario, a hill just outside the city, which even has a chairlift leading up to the summit. You can see a tangle of lakes (Lago Nahuel Huapi and many smaller ones), islands and peninsulas, with mountains in the background.
A few 100 m further on, I rent a bicycle and ride the so-called Cirquito Chico through this landscape. It takes me half a day for the not even 30 km, because I always stop at viewpoints. Especially the southern half of the loop is very beautiful.
Much more exciting, however, is a hike through the mountains in the hinterland of Bariloche, with rocky peaks and cirque lakes that really do remind one of the Alps (only not of the Dolomites, it is a mystery to me how the authors of the hiking guide came up with this comparison. I’m thinking more of the Adamello).
I try the “Nahuel Huapi Traverse” and first climb up to the Refugio Frey. It is beautifully situated by a lake, behind it the rocky spires of Pico Catedral. I am reminded of granite landscapes in the Alps.
In the evening I arrive at Laguna Jacob (Refugio Martin). From here I wanted to cross a mountain over to Refugio Italia, but it is still too early in the year, I only get as far as a little above the half-frozen Laguna de los Tempanos. There is still snow in a steep gully, and as there is a rock face below, I can’t go any further without an ice axe and crampons (I would even have had the latter). There were also no tracks to be seen yet … So I have no choice but to hike down the long valley.
At the bottom I hitchhike to the end point of the traverse, my plan B is to do two small ones instead of one big semicircle. In the evening I arrive at Refugio Lopez, with a great view of Lago Nahuel Huapi. The view from Pico Turista, where I stand the next morning, is even better. The lake with its countless branches lies 1000 m below me. For a few minutes, the Tronador also emerges from the clouds, towering over all the other mountains by quite a bit.
Next to the rock walls below me, a condor circles together with several smaller birds of prey. The condor comes within a few metres of me, remains motionless in the air for a few seconds and looks sceptically into my eyes …
After crossing two passes, I am sitting at Refugio Italia, below the black rocky peaks at the Laguna Negra, which is also black. A waterfall falls from here into a basin, on the other side of which is the mountain I failed on the day before. I now follow the valley down and look forward to the shower …
Actually, I wanted to do another trek, but because of the horrible weather forecast, I spontaneously booked a flight that will take me 800 km south to El Calafate tomorrow.
By the way, I came here by bus from Pucon (Chile) via Martin de los Andes, a really beautiful route. At the border you wait with a perfect view of the cone of Lanin and later the Routa de los siete lagos curves from one mountain lake to the next.