Nahuel Huapi, Bariloche, Cerro Cathedral, Tronador
Trip Start Jan 26, 2000
30Trip End Jun 14, 2000
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The next morning I awoke to intermittent splattering of rain together with view through to blue sky on what was a cold and windy day. I had two mountain passed to climb that day, both over 2000m (6500ft), with a possible campsite in between, so I decided to proceed, returning if the weather got too bad. The first pass gave superb views of Cerro Cathedral and the valley I'd be descending into. After a very steep decent, I had a 3 hour walk through a valley filled with the changing colours of autumn before another steep ascent over pass number 2. The wind at the top of this pass was very intense and I found myself, together with a German guy, having a lot of trouble staying on our feet. The views from the top were again stupendous, we had a marvelous view of a dark blue lake with huge granite mountains towering up from it`s shores. From this vantage point we could also spot our campsite down on the lake shore.
That night going to bed hungry (I managed to spill most of my dinner on the floor!) on a cold night I awoke at times to what I thought was rain splattering on my tent. It was only when I woke in the morning and opened my fly sheet that I discovered we`d had about 5cm of snow overnight! This threw a spanner in the works for my plans for the day, I had wanted to hike over a very high exposed rocky mountain ridge which wasn't a marked trail, not a good idea with all that snow. In the end I took an alternate 2 day route which took me out of the park and and back in a different way to arrive at the same point. Our campsite was at 1500m, once we descended to about 1200m the snow has all but disappeared, a good omen for the next day, I was sure it would have all melted by then.
Day 4 and I hoped to hike over a 2000m mountain top, Mt Lopez, which was suppose to offer out of this world views of the surrounding mountains. The weather was perfect and there was no way I was going to miss out on this view. The first part of this hike offered some superb views back over Lago Nahuel Huapi and I made it up the first 800m to about 1600m altitude without any problems, there was snow but nothing over 3cm. The next 200m of the trail was mainly climbing up a steep rock face, snow was coming up to the bottom of my calves in places where it had drifted, but nothing I couldn't handle. One problem I was encountering was I couldn't see the trail markers as they were covered with snow. Not to worry I could use a map and find my way. Apparently not! As what I thought was my last 200m turned out to be the wrong route to the wrong mountain top. On the way down through knee deep snow and feeling very annoyed I hadn't seen the views I`d expected I made the decision that it was too late to find the correct route and I would return to a good campsite at 1500m for the night. Back down at about 1800m I spotted the correct way. It was about 4pm and about 2.5 hours to my next suitable campsite (it got dark about 7.30 at this time of year). Mainly out of frustration that the weather was so good and that I`d taken the wrong route, I decided the small incident of getting lost and a bit of snow wasn't going to stop me on my mission to reach the summit. For some reason it didn't bother me that I could see nobody else had walked this route for the last 2 days, that it was late and if I got lost again I was going to spend a very cold night camping in snow on top of a mountain, that I was by myself and if I slipped and hurt myself there would be nobody there to help. In that moment I decided I was going and that nothing was going to stop me! Again the ascent was mainly a scramble up a steep rock face, snow in places coming up to my knees. The climb wasn't too bad though and the views from the top were absolutely phenomenal, superb panoramic views that allowed me to see Cerro Cathedral, Tronador, volcanoes and all the beautiful lakes down in the valleys.
I was a happy person, but my day was far from over. The descent proved much more difficult than the ascent, there were very sharp rocks about the size of footballs and there was much more snow on this side of the mountain, up to my thighs in places. With such a steep ascent over loose rocks, most of which I couldn't see because of snow, there was a very real chance I could twist an ankle or worse slip and fall 400m to the valley. Slowly I made it down to the bottom and to camp with very cold wet feet. After setting up camp and eating I was in bed by 8pm hoping the mountain I had to climb next day would be easier.
I woke dressed and reached outside for my boots, they were rock solid and had frozen over night. They were so hard I couldn't even get my feet inside them. The first thing I had to do was boil some water and pour it over them to defrost them. Even after that it took my 10 minutes jogging on the spot before I could feel my toes again. The climb up and down Cerro Bailey Willis that day wasn't too bad and I through all my problems were over, but one big obstacle remained. There was one more rocky spot where I had to sidle round the edge of a lake to get to a refugio. There was some rope on the rocks for help as it was very steep, but the big problem was ice had formed on the rock and there were a few moments where I thought I`d be taking a dip in the lake! Once I made it to the refugio I saw a sign saying it and all the trails passed this point were closed. I completed my final 4 hour hike out grateful that I had made it alive!