Sunday, 25 February 2007

Paso De Los Nubes- The Clouds Pass

This trek goes along the valley north of Mount Trondador from Pampa Linda and over a pass (Paso de los Nubes) to Laguna Frias where you can catch a boat back to Bariloche.

We caught the Club Andino Bariloche minibus "Meiling Express" out to Pampa Linda south-east of Bariloche. Having had Mount Trondador ("the thunderer" named after the sound of falling pieces of glacier on it's side) watching over us for pretty much the whole time we've been trekking around the lakes district we were finally going to it's base!

Our first day was a little cloudy preventing a view of the summit but we could see the huge snow covered base as we walked from Pampa Linda to see a black glacier and the Devil's Falls. These two features are well and truly on the tourist trail and sadly we were sharing the road up with tour buses and tourists training to be rally car drivers. The forest itself is pleasant and the reformed glacier interesting. Basically black glacier refers to all the rock and gravel trapped in the ice that reforms a glacier at the base of the cliff when the Manso Glacier drops in huge blocks over the edge. The patterns in the ice are interesting even if the brown lake isn't the prettiest I've seen. The falls were not as spectacular as I'd hoped but this may have been the constant line of people we were part of walking up and back.

By contrast the next day was spectacular. We went up to Refugio Otto Meiling which sits at the edge of the permanent snow line at between two glaciers at 1920m on the side of Mount Tronador. The refuge is the CAB's base for ascents to the summit and a friendly lodge just to enjoy the view which looks over the valley to Pampa Linda and across mountains in every direction. On the way up we stopped for lunch at the falls at the base of the falls below Castello Overo Glacier. These falls were very pretty and we had a great view up to the glacier with fingers of ice teetering at the edge of the cliff ready to drop onto the valley floor.

Day 3 was perhaps the highlight of the whole trip for me as we went out onto the glacier with the friendly and patient mountain guide based at the hut, Morisio. In the morning we went with a group out onto the glacier to get close up view of the crevasses and try a little ice climbing in one of them. It was very exciting. In the afternoon we cut the trip down to the Paso de Los Nubes from 9 hours going down into the valley and back up into an afternoon across a glacier and down a ridge with great views the whole way of the surrounding mountains and lakes. Check out the photos on smugmug. I've tried to paste them here without success! Note the huge pack Marisio carried across to the Pass - his paraglider so he could try and have fly with the condors after dropping us off!
After camping with views of Glacier Frias at the well set up CAB campsite we walked out to Laguna Frias in the morning. Day four we could see why this is called the Pass of the Clouds walk with clouds shrouding the tops of the mountains. Thankfully it didn't rain until we arrived at the port though as while the trail is well kept there are many logs to clamber over which would have been very slippery. For this last day we had the pleasure of walking with Camilla from Norway who is working on a book on Patagonia and has been walking especially in Southern Patagonia for the last 5 seasons. Not only knowledgeable but also lots of fun to chat to making the journey pass quickly.
While our trek had finished the trip back is a long one. The boat-bus-boat combination you need to take is the last part of the Cruce del Lagos tour that goes from Puerto Montt, Chile to Bariloche, Argentina. It's definitely got a regimented tour feel with lots of waiting around it is when you're trying to move several hundred people. The little trip up to the Cascada del Condora was rainy but we did see an Alerce tree which is supposed to be a million years old which had a fantastic and expressive trunk.


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