The third highest mountain in Patagonia (after Cerro San Valentin and the Lanin volcano) rises as a mighty wall of ice and rock above the Patagonian steppe. A mighty sight, and yet hardly any tourists come to this remote area. Hardly anyone knows Cerro San Lorenzo, although it is clearly highter than the famous peaks in the south.
The mountain lies just outside the Perito Moreno National Park (not to be confused with the glacier of the same name, which lies a few hours south along Ruta 40, nor with the village of the same name, which lies a few hours north along Ruta 40, and then there is also a lake of the same name further away, near Bariloche). A rather lonely area, on my overview map there are even tiny settlements marked along Ruta 40, consisting of only three houses and a petrol station. At intervals of 100 km. And from this road it’s another almost 100 km on a bumpy track. But the long trip is worth it.
(Update: A few months later, the national park was extended to include Cerro San Lorenzo).
I climb a small panoramic mountain, the Cerro Leon (1.5h up), and an incredible panorama of lakes and mountains spreads out before me. Below me is Lago Belgrano, which encloses a circular peninsula like a pair of pincers. It’s amazing that I’ve never seen a photo of it. These are often the most beautiful moments of a trip, when you are surprised by a wonderful sight you didn’t expect.
The starting point, the ranger station El Rincon, is also the best starting point for a hike to Cerro San Lorenzo. I hike 5 h up the valley on a path that is hardly used and pitch my tent at a former hut with a view of the east face of the mountain. From here it is worth making a detour to a glacial lake under the east face (1.5 h to get there).
The main valley continues in a curve to the north-east side of the mountain, where I pitch my tent near the blue Lago Hermoso (3.5 h). There are a number of turquoise glacial lakes to explore in the surrounding area.
On the other side of Lago Hermoso, I climb up a moraine the next day and am surprised to find that the glacial lake on the other side is much lower than the floor of the main valley and obviously drains into the valley leading north. On the shore, the glacier is easy to reach, I even find two small ice caves there.
On the way back, a strong wind comes up, so strong that I almost have to brake climbing up the steep moraine. I worry about my tent, will the bushes be enough wind protection? At the top, the tent is actually not visible! Finally I find only my stove, the pot, an empty tuna can and pegs scattered around, no sign of the tent. I find my cup in the bushes, which brings together everything that was in the awning. When I see the spray whipping across the lake, I’m not surprised. And the clouds chase across the sky at a pace that makes me dizzy, only the one that shrouds San Lorenzo remains in place. Searching and cursing, I follow the wind, finally finding the tent a good 200 m down the valley in the stream. The sleeping bag is so soaked that I have trouble getting it out of the water, but that’s probably my luck, otherwise it would have flown even further. Books and toilet paper are nothing but papier-mâché, the bread has turned into an indefinable mass. The rest can be dried quickly and the tent looks pretty battered, with bent poles and minor tears, but with a bit of luck it should last the last week.
I squeeze as much water as possible out of the “bread” and choke down the mass with a few bites of cheese. Not tasty, but I still have 7 hours to get back, which I’m sure I won’t make without lunch. Then I wrap the dripping sleeping bag around my backpack and march back almost without a break. At El Rincon I put up the battered tent, cook something tasty and fall onto the mat, exhausted but somehow satisfied. I don’t really care that it’s raining now …