Cerro Lopez, Parcue Nacional Nahuel Huapi, Argentina

In the mountains around Bariloche there are many different walks. I had originally planned a hike called The Nahuel Huapi Traverse. This is a-4 day hike through the mountains from Cerro Catedral to Cerro López, starting about 20km from Bariloche. But since it’s almost winter much of the trail is closed because of extreme ice and snow. There is, however, still access to some of the refugios that I’d have been staying in. So, I have split the hike into two shorter ones. The first is what would have be the final day of my longer hike, up Cerro López to Refugio López.

From the hostel in Bariloche three of us from the hostel, two ladies and I, have to catch a bus the 20km to the start of the walk. It’s sunday and we have to put money on our loaned bus card and when we get to the store to do that, it’s closed. So we have to run 5 blocks to get to the next store. It’s very cold this morning, but after a five block run in my warm clothes, I’m more than hot.

Forty minutes later we arrive at the beginning of the walk and it feels icy. We headed off through the forest on a rocky trail. The wind is very brisk and there’s a mix between being hot from sweat and being frozen.

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The climb began steeply up the mountain and was challenging, especially after a few weeks of little hiking. We pushed on in the light but chill wind and stopped for a break to look back at the lakes…

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After 5 minutes, the sweat down out backs had turned to ice, so we pushed on following the red dots…

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The first 1/3 of the climb was perhaps the hardest and steepest, the second 1/3 flattened out a little, although was still fairly intensive until we came over the ridge to a lodge over looking the lakes. The lodge was closed for the season.

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The scenes of the lakes was just too vast below us to fit into one photo. Looking back towards Bariloche, the lake actually looks bluer than the other portions.

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On the peninsula below us there’s a clear patch where Hotel Llao Llao is situated. For some reason the sun only wanted to shine on this particular area.

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From the Lodge, we continued walking steeply up the hill and as we walked could see the pink Refugio Lopez perched on a ridge high above the autumn coloured trees.

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We followed the trail that became a slippery dirt trail. It lead to a 4WD track and we followed it for a while before it rounded the top of the gully and headed up steeply towards the refugio. Another 20 minutes later and after a short scramble we arrived. We knew it was going to be closed, so didn’t plan to stay longer than to eat some lunch.

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We could have continued walking up the mountain to the top, there are markings, but it’s not recommended because of the new snow…

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After a while we headed down again, faster than the climb. The slippery part was more difficult coming down and I slipped, skidding down on one knee, but kept my graces by not actually falling over.

Once we arrived at the bottom, we realised that we had 2 hours to wait for the bus. There’d been two other groups on the trail, one being two local guys waiting for a ride. One of the girls in my group asked it they had room in their car and next thing we knew we were being driven into town. The locals here are fairly friendly…

Today was a good if not strenuous walk with fantastic views of the lakes, and while it was supposed to rain it held out. Even more thankfully, it hadn’t snowed, although a few flakes had fallen. For the next week I’m taking a spanish course, then one of the girls and I are planning an overnight hike up to Cerro Cathedral, what would have been the first part of the traverse.

The Trail Wanderer

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