Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Acotango (6,071m) - Departamento de Oruro, Bolivia

After climbing Sajama we thought we may as well try the fourth 6,000er in the park - Acotango. We'd heard it was an easier climb than the other three, so decided to cycle to base camp and climb it on our own.
As with Aucanquilcha, the cycle to base camp at just over 5,000m proved to be the hardest part; first we chose what turned out to be a sandy route from Lagunas to the turn-off for the mine road at about 4,300m, then the road was often steep and as we had heavy bikes with all our food and water for the climb on them we had to push quite a bit to base camp.
When we arrived there we were so tired that we decided to have a rest day, during which Harriet stayed in the tent while Neil cycle/pushed his bike up the mine road to 5,509m.
We planned on leaving for the summit at 04:00 the next morning, but when Harriet began being sick in the middle of the night we abandoned any thoughts of trying the climb. It seemed a shame though as we'd expended so much effort in getting the bikes to base camp, so when at 07:00 she began to feel better, we decided to give it a go after all.
The gradient was gentle as we climbed up sandy/rocky slopes to the east of the north ridge. Haz was going slowly and stopping regularly, but we continued on this route, joining the east ridge high up. This we followed for around 150m to the summit ridge, joining at about 6,040m.
As on our other climbs in the park the weather was perfect, so from here it was a nice 5 minute walk along the summit ridge to the summit at 6,071m. Despite Haz being ill it had only taken 4 hours from base camp - ah, the benefits of being well acclimatized!
Views from the top were superb (probably the best we'd seen in the park) - Parinacota and Pomerape along with Lago Chungara to the NW, Sajama to the NE, Huayllatiri to the SW, Laguna Macaya to the SE. We stayed a while, signed the Banco de Chile summit book, then descended quickly by the same route to camp.

Haz on the summit of Acotango, looking into Chile

Parinacota and Pomerape from Acotango

Some GPS points
Base Camp18.36402 S69.02806 W5,061m
Crossed 4WD track18.36494 S69.02905 W5,098m
On climb up E side of mountain18.36986 S69.03330 W5,302m
Met tracks coming from where jeeps drop off tours18.37396 S69.03613 W5,492m
Still on E face of N ridge18.38085 S69.04118 W5,794m
Joined summit ridge18.38178 S69.04570 W6,041m
Acotango summit18.38275 S69.04828 W6,071m

Friday, September 17, 2010

Sajama (6,554m) - Departamento de Oruro, Bolivia

The weather remained good after our trip to the Payachatas, and as we were so well acclimatized, and still feeling good, we thought we'd give Sajama a go. At 6,554m this it he 15th highest mountain in the Andes, and the highest in Bolivia, but we were told the mountain was in good condition to climb, unlike many of the other 6,000ers in Bolivia this year.

Haz on the walk to BC

Our first day was very gentle - walking a couple of hours from Sajama village up to base camp at 4,800m. Here we met a couple whom we thought would be our only companions on the mountain - however the following day they didn’t even make it to high camp, so, once again we had a mountain to ourselves (we’ve been fortunate that of all the big mountains we’ve climbed this trip only on Lanin and Parinacota did we have other people climbing on the same day). We decided to maximise our chances of summitting by letting a kind mule carry most of our kit to base camp, then the following day we carried only 10kg packs and hired a porter to carry the rest up to high camp at 5,675m. There was a good path most of the way to high camp, though the last 100 vertical metres were quite steep and on loose scree.

High camp

High camp is perched on a lovely spot on the NW side of the mountain, and was 400m higher than we'd ever slept before. However after dinner we went to bed and managed to sleep ok until the wind picked up around midnight. We'd heard lots of reports that the mountain could be very cold, so this worried us a bit, but when we rose and left at 02:45 the next morning it was only -3C and the wind had died down.

We walked up the path above high camp, and at 5,950m put on harnesses and crampons and roped up as the climb became a bit harder. A short icy section was made easy as the ice had formed itself into convenient steps, then we had to use our hands a couple of times in reaching the ridge and then working our way along this, slowly gaining height.

Pikes on the summit at dawn

At 6,100m we entered a penitentes field, which didn’t prove to be difficult to negotiate as previous climbers had left a slight path. In fact, this was the most enjoyable part of the climb – striking the penitentes with our ice axes made them clunk like cracked bells. The penitentes ended at 6,200m, above which was a nice easy-angled (about 35 degree) snow slope to the summit. The last few hundred metres we began to feel the altitude a bit and had to pause every few minutes to catch our breath, but apart from a deep, but narrow, crevasse to cross there were no more obstacles on the way to the summit.

We arrived at the top of Bolivia at 07:00, just after dawn and 4h15 after setting off. After the disappointment on Pomerape a few days earlier we were delighted at having made it, and spent 20 minutes watching the sun rise further, and Sajama’s shadow recede from the Payachatas. The climb hadn’t been cold, but on the summit there was a chilly breeze, so after savouring the moment for a while we made a leisurely descent back to high camp and then base camp, arriving back in Sajama village by mid afternoon.

Some GPS Points
DescriptionGPS Point
Base Camp18.11125 S, 68.91687 W, 4,811m
High Camp18.10065 S, 68.89464 W, 5,675m.
Start of harder ridge18.10259 S, 68.89106 W, 5,947m.
Still on ridge18.10324 S, 68.89015 W, 6,029m..
Start of penitentes18.10406 S, 68.88889 W, 6,128m.
End of penitentes18.10523 S, 68.88868 W, 6,221m..
Sajama summit18.10820 S, 68.88261 W, 6,554m.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Parinacota (6,351m) and Pomerape (6,282m), Departamento de Oruro, Bolivia

We cycled through PN Sajama in late July, but didn't have time to climb any of the moutains before having to rush to La Paz to pick up Peter. This done, we cycled back to Sajama via PN Lauca in Chile, quickly organized a guide and transport and headed to the Payachata volcanos.

By Bolivian standards the 800Bs (U$115) charged in Sajama to hire a jeep for the return journey to Parinacota 'base camp' is a rip off, but we were short of time and cycling the 27kms on a very sandy road would have meant Peter missed his return flight to London. So we jumped in a 4x4, driven by a 13 year old, and were at the car park that comprises base camp within an hour. From there it was a 90 minute walk up to the high camp near the col between Parinacota and Pomerape at 5,140m, with a porter carrying up for us 4 days' worth of water.

This was the highest mountain we've tried to climb, but it turned out not to be too difficult.
We left at 03:00, when the temperature was a pleasant -1C, and climbed up steadily on the path that leaves the high camp heading W. As the mountain is climbed frequently the path is distinct and soon this is zig-zagging up the northern slopes of the mountain.

When we climbed there was very little snow, so the path peters out at where the snowline normally is, however from this point it is very obvious where to go and the remainder of the hike is simple.

We arrived at the lower of the N summits (6,346m) and then carried on the the point slightly to the W as it looked a bit higher. It was, at 6,351m. We stopped here even though the true, NW summit was further W round the crater rim, as we thought it was wise to save some energy for Pomerape the following day, and as Peter had stopped on the first summit and didn't seem too keen to continue further.
The views into the huge (about 300m deep) summit crater were impressive, but it would've been even nicer with a bit more snow around. As the weather was perfect, with no wind, we were able to stay an hour on the summit enjoying the views and the high altitude.
The descent was generally easy, on scree, though Peter was very tired by this stage and Ignacio ended up attaching him to a leash just in case he tripped on the steeper parts. We made it back to camp in 3 hours, 10 hours after setting off.

After resting 12 hours at high camp our alarm went off at 01:00 and we were off just after 02:00. After the previous day's exploits Peter didn't fancy another trip up a mountain, so he remained in bed while we set off with Ignacio.
Pomerape from the N summit of Parinacota
It was an hour and a half walking on rocks and sand until we reached the base of the glacier at 5,400m that leads up towards the summit. Here we put on our harnesses and crampons, roped up and began climbing up the glacier. It was an enjoyable climb - the glacier was reasonably steep, but not too steep at about 40-45 degrees the whole way. The snow was mostly in good condition with only a few slightly icy patches, and we made decent progress, finding ourselves at 6,000m by 06:00.
Here things began to become more complicated. The snow turned to ice, but as it was only at about 30 degrees we were able to continue upwards to 6,128m. Here we were at the base of a rock wall, and initially Ignacio said we might climb up this, until we realised that it was littered with lots of loose rock that would have made it too dangerous to attempt. The usual route from this point is to skirt round to the left of the rock and climb up a 60 degree snow slope, but with so little snow this season this route was all hard ice.
Ignacio with ice wall where we turned back mid photo
Looking at it we didn't think we'd be able to climb it, and eventually this proved the case, but we had a quick try anyway. Ignacio traversed across 40m of ice and secured a line for Haz to make her way across, while Neil sat in the cold for 45 minutes anchoring the other end. When Haz made it across the traverse and saw the 100-150m of 60 degree ice climbing that awaited afterwards we made the decision to turn back as we knew we weren't confident or competent enough to try and climb up this.

It had been a good adventure though, and it was nice to finally use the crampons that we bought in Mendoza and had been lugging around on the bikes for 4 months!
It took 3 hours to get back to high camp, Ignacio placing anchors and us abseiling down most of the glacier. All great fun.
We were back in Sajama in a few hours, and there had a well earned 2 day rest before setting off for the big one - Sajama itself.

Some GPS Points
DescriptionGPS point
'Base Camp'18.15866 S, 69.10130 W, 4,822m
High Camp18.15205 S, 69.12293 W, 5,143m

DescriptionGPS point
On the climb up the N slopes18.14850 S, 69.13022, 5,320m
On the climb up the N slopes18.15571 S, 69.13730, 5,962m
Hit the crater rim at18.16090 S, 69.14046 W, 6,296m
Lower of the N summits18.16087 S, 69.14153 W, 6,346m
Higher of the N summits18.16057 S, 69.14254 W, 6,351m

DescriptionGPS point
On the way to the glacier18.14463 S, 69.12362 W, 5,313m
Enter the glacier18.14111 S, 69.12586 W, 5,412m
On the glacier18.13776 S, 69.12656 W, 5,610m
On the glacier18.13419 S, 69.12700 W, 5,927m
High point18.13128 S, 69.12715 W, 6,128m

Friday, July 16, 2010

Volcan Aucanquilcha, Region II, Chile

We found out about this big volcano from Corax's mate Martin Adserballe's adventure page ( and as we weren't too far away thought it would make a fun detour.
After cycling through the lakes region in southwest Bolivia we took the good new road from Villa Alota to Estacion Avaroa, and from there hopped over the border to Ollague in Chile. There we camped for a few nights, and left for the mountain on a morning where the temperature was -17C.
Until 1993 Aucanquilcha was home to the highest mine in the world - a huge sulphur mine at about 6,000m in which worked 1,000 or so Bolivians in apparently terrible conditions. As a result there is an old mine road up the mountain to the mine.
Setting out from Ollague it's a gentle 10km climb on an ok road to the near-abandoned mine settlement of Amincha (the old caretaker still lives there). 2.5kms past this, turn right at a junction and the real climb up the mountain begins, on a road that soon deteriorates.
Although we'd tried to leave everything we didn't think we'd need back in Ollague, with 3 days food and 12 litres of water each our luggage still weighed about 30kgs and soon we were struggling on the bad surface and steep slopes. For that afternoon and the following morning we occasionally cycled but mostly pushed up 13kms to 5,130m. Here the road became so bad that we thought we wouldn't even be able to cycle down it, so decided that it wasn't worth the trouble of taking our bikes any further. We were happy enough with getting the bikes this far though - over 5,000m for the first time.
We transferred our kit onto our backs and walked the 2kms to the old miners' camp where we put up our tent in some old walls at 5,290m - the highest we've ever camped.
As we were 1,600m above Ollague we thought we'd be in for a bitterly cold night, but when we set off at dawn the next morning it was only -7C, though there was a bit of wind around.

We followed the old switchback road to the cable car station at 5,875m, then spent a while confused as to the way to proceed. Aucanquilcha is a complex volcano with at least 4 significant tops, and to us the one to our right looked highest. We'd read on the internet that we had to head up left though, and managed to scramble up some steep scree to a rock wall at 6,000m. Here we again were able to turn left and follow a road for a while before climbing the final 100m up a not-too-steep scree ridge to the summit. Until we reached the summit 4 hours after setting off from camp we were worried that we weren't climbing the highest part of the mountain, but when we did make it to the top my GPS said 6,188m and all the other 'tops' looked lower, so we decided we must've taken the correct route after all!
The descent was fast - retracing our steps to the cable car station, then racing down a 600m scree gulley to camp. As we didn't fancy another night up so high we got back to the bikes and cycled down (with the odd bit of pushing on the really bad sections) to 4,150m before heading back to Ollague the next day in time to watch my Spanish boys win the mundial.

In Ollague we ran into Belgian Siegfried Verheijke, a friend of Martin Adserballe's and the man who jointly holds the Guinness world 'high altitude cycling' record with him (they took their bikes up to 7,008m on Muztagh Ata and managed to cycle the grand total of 8m!). He had the ambitious plan of attempting to cycle from Ollague to the mountain, summit with his bike and return - all in one day. We ran into him in Uyuni a few days later, and unfortunately strong headwinds foiled his was an interesting idea though.

Some GPS points
Junction - turn R21.20972 S68.36083 W4,000m
Left our bikes21.19366 S68.45550 W5,130m
Miners' camp21.20032 S68.46946 W5,290m
Between cable car station and rock wall21.21722 S68.46958 W5,990m
Path between rock wall and summit ridge21.21733 S68.46847 W6,036m
On summit ridge21.21903 S68.46819 W6,108m
Aucanquilcha Summit21.22090 S68.46840 W6,188m

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Volcan Licancabur - Potosi Region, Bolivia

Ever since we'd been to San Pedro de Atacama in 2002 we'd fancied climbing the perfect cone of Licancabur which dominates the skyline to the east. So after a week resting, we spent a day and a half cycling very slowly up from town to Laguna Blanca - a climb of over 2,000m. There we ended up staying 2 nights, as the day we planned to go to Licancabur base camp the weather was unsettled and all the locals assured us it would snow.

When it didn't, we set off early the following morning for the base camp, 11kms away. We had vague thoughts that if we could get there within 2 hours, we might try and climb the mountain that day as we were feeling good and were well acclimatized. When we stumbled into the Inca ruins that comprise base camp 7 hours later we decided it would probably be best to put off our climb til the morning.

The journey to base camp turned out to be the hardest part of climbing the mountain. Fierce headwinds and a sandy road meant that we were forced to push our bikes almost from the moment we left our refugio at Laguna Blanca. Three and a half hours and 7kms later we decided to dump the bikes behind some rocks by Laguna Verde, transfer our kit to our rucksacks and hike the rest of way. We were so tired from the pushing that the 4km walk took us 2 hours.

We were delighted to find that the Inca ruins provided perfect shelter for our tent from the wind, and we passed a comfortable night as the temperature only fell to -2C. This meant we didn't have any trouble getting up early the next morning, and set off as the sun came up at 07:00. As the mountain is climbed reasonably often (though for the 2 days we were there we saw no other sign of life - human, animal, bird or even insect) there is a decent path for most of the way to the summit, and we followed this up a sheltered gulley to around 5,200m.
Here the path climbed up to a rocky ridge - much easier to climb up than the scree in the gulley. But much windier as well. For the next 2 hours we struggled up the path into the strong wind. Frequently we had to stop to steady ourselves against the gusts, and a number of times the stronger gusts knocked us both to the floor. We wondered a few times whether we'd be able to get up the steeper part of the climb between 5,600m and 5,800m with this wind, but fortunately this section was more sheltered and provided no problems.

We made it to the top 4h45 after setting off - which was longer than we'd expected it to take, but Haz didn't have any problems with the altitude as she had on Cerro Plata. We didn't stay long on the summit (even though the views were good and it would have been interesting to go down to the frozen crater lake) because of the wind, and soon began our descent. This also took longer than expected as we didn't find the fast route down scree to camp (we went into the main gulley but it was full of big loose rocks that we didn't like being on at all) so ended up going back down the path in the wind, arriving at camp 8 hours after we'd set off.     

Some GPS points
Inca ruins basecamp22.83209 S67.85630 W4,701m
Licancabur Summit cairn22.83315 S67.88270 W5,938m

(As most of the way is on a clear path that starts by the ruins, I didn't keep any other waymarks.)

Monday, May 24, 2010

Cordon del Plata - Mendoza Province, Argentina

Cordon del Plata
From Mendoza, we climbed 2,000m on the bikes to the ski resort of Vallecitos. There we left our bikes and set off up the main valley for a week to try and scramble up some of the peaks in the area.

1) Cerro Stepanek (4,114m)

During our first night of camping in the valley, at Las Veguitas (3,220m), our tent was nearly destroyed by katabatic winds which appeared out of nowhere. Luckily they only lasted half an hour, and our tent survived with just one very bent pole.
The next day we spent 6 hours walking from Las Veguitas, up the couloir between Stepanek (the peak above our tent in the centre of the photo) and Adolfo Calle (the peak to the left), then climbing both of these peaks.

The way up to Stepanek was a bit rough, with lots of loose rock, and our progress wasn't helped by 3 dogs that followed us for 2 days from Vallecitos. They were much quicker climbers than us, and we were constantly on the lookout to avoid small rocks that they were sending down on us!
This photo is of Haz on the summit of Stepanek, with Rincon (5,318m) the flat peak above her in the background.

2) Cerro Adolfo Calle (4,269m)

The climb up to Adolfo Calle was much more simple, on an easy angled path, and from the summit we had great views up the Vallecitos valley to Cerro Vallecitos (5,461m - on the right of the photo) and Pico Plata.
After moving our camp up valley to Piedra Grande (at 3,570m) and then to El Salto (4,280m) we planned on climbing Cerro Vallecitos prior to Cerro Plata. However on the day we'd marked for the summit of Vallecitos the weather was cloudy and windy, so we settled instead for an acclimatization walk up to the Pico Plata/Lomas Amarillas col at 4,920m.

3) Cerro Plata (5,962m)

We set off to try and climb Cerro Plata from El Salto at 05:30 - it was -10C in our tent, and whenever one of us touched the roof we were both showered with snow which had condensed during the night. Fortunately there was no wind for the first 2 hours of the climb, but just before dawn we were at 5,000m and the temperature was around -15C.
The day was clear and the sun warmed us for a while, until we climbed to the Pico Plata/Vallecitos ridge at 5,200m where we encountered a strong and cold headwind.
From here there was a good path, that climbed gently to about 5,500m, then rose more steeply to the summit. As we weren't that well acclimatized we found ourselves having to stop regularly on this final part of the climb as we quickly became out of breath. Shortly before the summit we came across a crashed helicopter - one of 2 (or maybe 3 - the locals told us slightly differing stories) which lie near the top of the mountain. From the summit there were great views of the surrounding mountains, and to Aconcagua and Mercedario further in the distance. Though it wasn't cold on the top we didn't stay long as Haz really began to feel the altitude. The descent took half the 6 hours we'd taken to ascend, and by the time we made it back to camp we were knackered, having walked 14kms and climbed/desecended 1,700m that day.

(Cordon del Plata trek: 6 days, 48.9km, 6,095m ascent/descent)

Some GPS points
Vallecitos ski resort32.98043 S69.35452 W2,788m
Las Veguitas camp32.97642 S69.37100 W3,220m
Stepanek Summit32.96914 S69.39412 W4,114m
Adolfo Calle Summit32.97315 S69.40024 W4,269m
Piedra Grande camp32.98131 S69.38917 W3,567m
El Salto camp32.97952 S69.41468 W4,282m
Cerro Plata Summit33.01594 S69.45501 W5,962m

Neuquen Province - Argentina

Area Natural Protegida Tromen
1) Day hike up Cerro Wayle (3,185m)
From Refugio Wayle, we climbed up a path, and looped round the summit crater of the volcano. It was a nice easy walk, with good views of Laguna Tromen and Volcan Tromen to the south, and Volcan Domuyo, the highest peak in Patagonia, to the north. (10km, 5h, 1,000m ascent/descent)

2) Day hike up Volcan Tromen (3,989m)
This was a far more challenging day hike, which we'd been told would take 12 hours. So we left our tent at 2,150m in a sheep corral an hour before dawn for the long climb to the summit. Up to 3,000m the walk was easy, on grassy then sandy slopes, but from this point onwards became far steeper. It took 2 hours to follow a steep gulley up to 3,800m, having the option to climb up on steep sand (2 steps up, 1 step back), or on steep rocks/scree (quicker, but with the danger of slipping, or the front person sending down rocks on the person below). We only found out on the way down that there was a path most of the way (though it was mostly sandy so would've taken a lot longer to climb up). On emerging from the gulley there was a clear, but still steep, path to the summit. There were better views from here than from the summit of Wayle, which we now towered over, though we were glad of the acclimatization the previous day's walk had given us. The climb took 5 hours, and we feared the descent would be as long and slightly dangerous, until we found the path, which made the descent relatively straightforward, and we were down in 3 hours. (13km, 8h, 1,850m ascent/descent)

Some GPS points
Refugio Wayle37.07871 S70.11876 W2,243m
Cerro Wayle summit37.05350 S70.11904 W3,185m
Volcan Tromen Basecamp37.10531 S70.09207 W2,148m
Volcan Tromen summit37.14059 S70.04919 W3,989m

The Far South - Patagonia

Parque Nacional Los Glaciares - El Chalten and the Fitzroy Range, Argentina
We had great luck here. After 2 months of terrible weather in the area, the clouds cleared, the winds dropped a bit and the sun came out the day we arrived in El Chalten, which allowed us to enjoy 3 of the best day hikes we've ever done.
1) Day hike to Laguna Torre and Mirador Maestri - A stunningly beautiful walk up valley to Laguna Torre, for great views of Cerros Torre, Egger etc. At the lake it was incredibly windy, but we walked up the moraine above it to Mirador Maestri where there was no wind and we could soak up the scenery. Amazing views - we haven't been so awed by the mountains since Pakistan. (28km, 7h, 720m ascent/descent)
2) Day hike to Laguna de los Tres - Another great walk up to a lake, this time to enjoy great views of Fitzroy, Poincenot and friends. Simply amazing. (27km, 8h, 950m ascent/descent)
3) Day hike up Loma del Pliegue Tumbado (1,517m) - Walking up this hill we were further away from the mountains, but this gave us some great panoramic views, enabling us to see Cerro Torre and Fitzroy at the same time. (24km, 6h, 1,200m ascent/descent)
Plans are already being made to return and trek a circuit around Cerro Torre, which means crossing onto, and walking a few days on, the Southern Patagonian Icefield.

Parque Nacional Torres del Paine - Chile
"The Circuit" - 8 days
Having first trekked the "W" here in 2002, we came back for the longer circuit. Unlike our last visit, we were lucky with the weather, and this, along with the company of Mateo and Tariq, made for a great trek. The first 4 days, round the back of the circuit were quiet and we only had to share the trails with a few other trekkers. The real highlights of the trek though are on the busier "W" part of the circuit, but luckily with some planning we were able to avoid the crowds, and enjoy Glaciar Grey, the top of Valle del Frances, and the Torres at dawn away from the crowds. Getting between these places meant being on pretty busy paths, but that's the price you pay for coming to enjoy South America's most famous national park. (139km, 61h, 7,000m ascent/descent)

Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego - Argentina
We came to this national park mainly to reach the end of the road on our bikes, but still made time for a really good day hike.
Day hike to Cerro Guanaco (974m) and the Senda Costera - The walk up this "Munro" took just over 2 hours on a good path, and from the top afforded great views of the Beagle Channel.
When we arrived on the summit we only had to share it with a Fuegian fox, but when a few noisy Americans and a couple of groups arrived we decided to head down. As the climb hadn't taken as long as expected, we tacked on a coastal walk in the afternoon. This didn't really live up to our expectations, and made for a very long day - we arrived back in camp well after dark and with very sore knees. (34km, 11h, 1,220m ascent/descent)

The Argentine Lake District

Parque Nacional Lanin
1) Day hike to South Face of Volcan Lanin - Starting at Puerto Canoa on Lago Huechulafquen we hiked up through forest and by a gurgling stream before climbing steeply to 1700m on the south side of Volcan Lanin. From this height and angle the volcano looked pretty imposing, and there were nice views back to the lake. (18km, 6h, 800m ascent/descent)

2) Day hike on Cerro Chivo - The park rangers told us this climb was steep, but this very short walk still surprised us. After 1 hr, we were 900m horizontally from our starting point, but had climbed 515m, on a very steep path through forest. At this point we weren't anywhere near the top of the hill, but had reached a "prohibido pasar" sign. There looked like there were plenty of loose rocks on the route further on and I guess they'd had a few accidents resulting in the closure of the path. (2.8km, 2h, 515m ascent/descent)

3) 2 day hike up Volcan Lanin (3,759m) - We´d been able to see this beautiful volcano for over a week from the bikes, and had set our hearts on climbing it. So we hired crampons, ice axes, radio and helmets (all obligatory equipment, and the park rangers won´t let you on the mountain without it) in Junin, and cycled the 66kms into a headwind to camp at the base of the mountain at 1,150m. In the morning we took 6 hours climbing up to Refugio Caja (a very basic structure that looked like a metal ridge tent, where the floor was covered in 30cm of ice which melted with our body heat in the night) at 2600m on a good path. The second day we left at 04:15, climbing up a snowy couloir which reached 45 degs at its steepest, getting to the summit at 07:45. From here there were stunning views for miles and miles - to Monte Tronador near Bariloche to the south, Volcan Llaima to the north, and we towered above Volcan Villarica, not far away to the west. It took 5 1/2 hours to descend the 2,600m to the road, where we jumped back on our bikes and cycled the 66km back to Junin. We arrived very very tired. (20km, 15h, 2700m ascent/descent)

Some GPS Co-ordinates for Volcan Lanin
Trailhead39.58925 S71.42983 W1,133m
Refugio CAJA39.62130 S71.48828 W2,593m
Lanin Summit39.63748 S71.50277 W3,758m

Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi
1) Day hike up Cerro Falkner (2,023m) - On Christmas day we walked up this hill from Lago Villarino. The first part was through forest, and when we emerged from this we lost the path and ended up doing a fun circuit along the summit ridge. Views from the summit were spectacular - Lagos Villarino and Falkner, Volcan Lanin to the north, and hundreds of snowy peaks to the south and west. (13km, 6h, 1,100m ascent/descent)

GPS Co-ordinates for Cerro Falkner Summit: 40.46766 S, 71.54984 W, 2,023m.

2) 3 day hike to Refugio Frey and back - We'd hoped to do a 5 day traverse of the mountains south of Nahuel Huapi lake, but ended up frustrated. The first day we walked up to Refugio Frey from Villa Catedral. Though we arrived early it was a beautiful spot so we decided to stay the night. The next day the weather was bad and the hutkeepers advised us not to try and continue the walk. So we spent a few hours walking round Lago Toncek, and up to Laguna Schmoll. Then we spent about 6 hours building a wall big enough to prevent our tent being blown away by a gale. Luckily our tent survived, but plenty of others at the campsite didn't. That night was hogmanay so we had a fun night in the crowded hut, saw a beautiful full moon at midnight, then couldn't be bothered to continue the walk the next day, opting to walk back to the road at Lago Guttierez. All in all not one of the better walks we've done, and on busy trails. (27km, 10h, 1,400m ascent, 1,600m descent)
3) Day hike from Pampa Linda to Refugio Otto Meiling - A walk that followed a jeep track up through woods for a few hours, before becoming more fun up on a ridge, walking through the snow. This was on the flanks of Monte Tronador, the "Thunderer" and there were frequent roars as blocks of ice fell off the hanging glacier that gives the mountain its name. At the hut (1,880m) we had great weather, and views. We could even see Lanin to the north, 173km away. (20km, 6h, 1,100m ascent/descent)

Near El Bolson
1) Hike up Cerro Piltriquitron (2,279m) - 3 days - We could have walked this in a day by getting a cab up from town to the end of the road at 1,100m and walking from there. Instead we decided to walk from town (300m) to Refugio Piltriquitron (1,500m) in the rain. We didn't see much on the way. The second day we left early even though the weather was still bad, climbed up on easy paths, then up a steeper scree slope to reach the summit in just over 2 hours. It was a bit chilly on the top, and visibility was about 10m. We descended to the refugio and the weather improved, so we had great views and a lovely sunset looking west over town, the Rio Azul valley and the mountains beyond. The third day was a miserable walk back to town, again in the rain. (38km, 12h, 2,000m ascent/descent)

GPS Co-ordinates for Cerro Piltriquitron Summit: 41.98539 S, 71.45960 W, 2,278m.

2) Hike from Wharton to Los Laguitos and back - 5 days - This was by far our most disappointing trek of the trip so far. While the lake at Los Laguitos was a nice spot, it took 2 days to walk to, almost completely in forest with no views at all, which we found pretty dull. The highlights of the walk were seeing a couple of huge alerces - massive sequoia-type trees, which were a few thousand years old and about 3m in diameter at the base; and crossing into the Encanto Blanco valley on the fourth day of the trek which meant climbing up 400m on a crazily steep path, hanging onto tree roots and bits of bamboo to help haul ourselves up. (66km, 22h, 2,500m ascent/descent)

The Argentine Pampas

Parque Nacional Laguna Blanca
Here we did 2 day walks.
1) Cerro Mellizo Sur
Climbing this volcano we arrived at what we thought was the top, only to realise that we'd ascended the lower side of the crater. As we were thinking about going up to the proper summit a thunderstorm appeared out of nowhere and we had to leg it down as quickly as possible, being bombarded by big hailstones! (8km, 3h, 420m ascent/descent)
2) Loop of Laguna Blanca
A pleasant 7 hour walk round the lake, with good views of the distant mountains, plenty of bird life on the lake, and where the weather changed seemingly every 15mins. Sun, rain, wind, sun, storm, cloud.... (22km, 7h, 450m ascent/descent)

Parque Nacional Lihue Calel
We spent a short day walking up the highest hill in the region - Cerro de la Sociedad Cientifica Argentina (587m), (from the top of which it felt like we were on top of a small island in the middle of a huge sea of Pampa - flat in all directions as far as the eye could see), and then wandering up a small valley to see some rock art. (15km, 4h, 250m ascent/descent)