Located near Argentina's popular lakeside tourist center of Bariloche, the Catedral Massif is best known for the Cerro Catedral Ski Resort, reputably South America's finest. Also famous is the rock-climbing around Refugio Frey which includes such classics as Aguja Frey, La Principal and Campanile Esloveno. The popular 48km Frey-Jakob trek from Villa Catedral to Colonia Suiza also receives many visitors every summer.
While better known for skiing, rock-climbing, and trekking, the Catedral area also boasts excellent off-piste peak-bagging and non-technical scrambling opportunities. Perhaps the most obvious such peak is Catedral Sur. Forming the southern terminus of the Catedral cirque, Catedral Sur can be climbed easily in a day from Frey, requiring only moderate scrambling. The summit provides some of the most spectacular views of the area stretching from Tronador to Campanile Esloveno and La Principal.
Catedral Sur is most commonly accessed via Villa Catedral and Refugio Frey. From Bariloche, buses depart hourly for the Cerro Catedral Ski Resort roughly 30 minutes from town. From the parking lot, a 3-4 hour hike climbs 900m in 10km to reach Refugio Frey on the shores of Laguna Toncek. For more details on the approach and other information about the area, see Summitpost page: The Frey (Cerro Catedral)
From Refugio Frey, cross the creek and follow an obvious trail through the woods and past several old campsites, skirting around the left of Laguna Toncek until reaching the first major clearing.
Climb up to an obvious col between Aguja Frey and La Principal. This col, officially called Col Parotidas, has cellular reception and is the approach for popular climbs on M2, El Abuelo, and La Vieja.
Follow a faint use trail down the scree slope to the base of La Tapia. Be careful not to lose the trail or you may find yourself burdened with some unpleasant bushwhacking.
Head up through the lenga forest, crossing several streams to another scree field at the base of Cohete Lunar, also known as La Banana.
Follow lightly vegetated scree up and over to Valle Campanile, a small meadow at the base of Campanile Esloveno with several campsites.
Slog up a long scree slope past several spires for the most direct and easiest access to the peak. For a more challenging alternative, head up towards the ridge earlier for a more interesting scramble requiring some route-finding creativity.
Although reaching the true summit appears to be quite difficult from many angles, the summit block can actually be climbed via a fairly easy scramble from the northwest.
From Frey, this hike should take about 3 hours up and 2 hours back down.
When to Climb
The summer season in northern Patagonia stretches from mid-December through mid-March. Conditions on Catedral Sur are generally best during that time. Spring and fall attempts should also be feasible, but be prepared for inclement weather and/or lingering snow. Refugio Frey is open year-round. Reasonable access from the ski resort's chair lift facilitates winter attempts.
Camping is free at Refugio Frey. Clean water is provided and use of the bathroom is permitted without charge. Use of the kitchen, overnight stay, and restaurant service are all available, but not particularly cheap. In Valle Campanile, there are some excellent bivy sites in a cave with water available nearby. Reportedly, a faint trail descends from here to the Arroyo Van Titter, meeting up with the main trail descending from Refugio Frey to Villa Catedral.