Well, not a very fun story I must say. A good one though. It was early jan 2010, first days of the project “work less, live more”. I left Brazil with big, huge plans and I didn’t had any idea what would be to perform the whole plan. Things change along the road as usual in a backpacking trip throwout South America.
After 64 hours inside a bus I reached San Carlos de Bariloche. Known city for ski lovers and crazy german doctors from the Second Great War to hide (not a joke).
Nahuel Huapi lake - San Carlos de Bariloche - Argentina
Got on my bus and with some delay it departed for my next destination, Junin de Los Andes, home of the great gorgeous cone shaped volcano Lanin. One of the highest of that area. Extreme northern Argentinean Patagonia. The thing is I didn’t knew back then, the bus cross the magic Enchanted Valley, rock climbing paradise. Great, breathtaking views. But all I could look at was the tip of Lanin volcano revealing itself at the far horizon. But this view I could see before the bus enter the enchanted valley and after it left, too bad. Even though I did a small video of the volcano just outside the valley, I was happy already just looking at it!
The bus ride was fast and I got to Junin De Los Andes. Small city, very, very beautiful and calm to be, that’s what I’ve been looking for! . Anyway, the first day I needed to find myself a good hostel and I did, at the end of the main street by Chimehuín river. Clear water and a lot of people bathing, fishing, having a nice lunch. Great, great spot. Just in front of the hostel there was a wood bridge to cross the river without get wet (the river is 1,5m deep at the center), and atop this bridge, I had a clear view of most of the volcanic cone of Lanin! How great is that?
Lanin - Just the tip of the sword
Of course, loads of shots from up there. Looking at the volcano and thinking about the climb. Some time later I went to the city center, there is a Information center for Lanin and climbing info, they provide the full list of mandatory gear, a list of permited professional guides for the climb and point you all the info you need for climb Lanin, everything indeed. Got myself the list and directions to a place two blocks down for gear rental. Perfect. Went straight to this place to rent crampons and radio, mandatory for the climb. The rest I had. While waiting in line for someone to talk to me I met a Spanish guy (Basco), Christian Pau. Very funny dude, talkative guy, and he was renting radio. So immediately we shared the cost for the radio and decided to hike together at least at the first day to the refuge (2.315m).
Together we went to the bus terminal and bought the ticket to next morning to the park entrance. Perfect! Now I wasn’t alone and half way to the climb itself. Next step was buy food. Nothing much since we need only one night to sleep for Lanin volcano. Some sausages, instant noodles, snacks and powder juice, that’s it. Ready, went back to the hostel and got some sleep after get my backpack ready.
Next morning I got up early and headed for the main square since we were supposed to met again there and head together to the bus terminal. Christian got there a little bit late but in time, backpacks at hand, here we go!
Just a couple hours of bus, nothing much. But as we got closer and closer I was very much in love for Lanin! I know every time I publish a trip report here I say “it was a dream” but all of them really are! Getting closer to Lanin was to get closer to a volcano I was looking at photos for at least 15 months before, and that’s a long time.
Finally the bus stopped at the park entrance, got down and went to the administration ask for my permit to climb. It was around noon and the limit to start walking is around 13:00h! Wow, we almost lost the day…Anyway, the guard checked all our gear, he literally made us empty our backpacks to check every single item. Half an hour later we were clear to start walking. The beginning for Lanin climb is a disturbing hike inside a little jungle, around 2 miles tops, but the problem is the huge alien flies that bite, and bite really hard! The cow fly (or Mutuca as we call it here in Brazil) is a huge fly also known as Horse fly (latin name: Tabanus bovinus), three times bigger than the normal fly, and it bites not only cow and horses but humans too seeking blood. Boy this bite hurts!!!
It was really hot and we couldn’t stop because we became lunch at breaks, so we had to keep moving and moving fast, even though several times I screamed swearing the damn flies! And at some point it became even fun, I started to kill them as revenge and I put down 29 flies!!! Hehehe
First look at Lanin!
Well, as soon as you get out of the jungle you reach the volcanic scree line where there is no protection against the sun and also the damn flies. We had to stop now, we were a little bit tired from the rush inside that jungle. But the flies did not. So the stop was just for a few seconds, hell yeah!
After a while we reached the “Espina de pescado” (or fish bone) ridge, very hard to walk on loose rocks as usual. Got really tired there but kept moving. More ahead we crossed to right on “Camino de mulas” (or mule track), a proper trail with trustable rocks and very well marked, going up at the Andean stile, left turn, right turn, left turn, right turn…At some point around 2.200 m I felt painful leg cramps, I couldn’t even stand up, it hurt so bad I felt like loose the leg behind! Christian tried to help me a little bit but I had no choice, the only thing I could do was stop, sit down and wait for a while until it passes. Christian loses his patience and left ahead. I stay on the ground in pain, too much pain to walk.
Some twenty minutes later I can stand up and do some stretches before keep going, painful again, boy that was awful I gotta say. Well at least I could walk very slowly, and I was already close to the refuge, around 20 minutes away. On my way up like a turtle I passed by a local party (about 8 people – 1 guide and the rest clients) and the guide knew already I had cramps, so he said I should go down, “I don’t wanna come back up tomorrow to rescue you so please go down”. But I wasn’t ready to give up, at least not yet. Kept going, the guy got pissed and turn his back on me guiding his group.
When I got to the refuge there was a couple army men talking to Christian, and they also knew I had leg cramps. All three of them laughing about my condition. I got there in pain because I should rest before to walk again and all I did was to sit down for about 20 minutes. Anyway, they offered me a bed inside the refuge. “No Sir, I have my tent and I’ll sleep outside of course!”.
Tent up, sleeping bag ready, Christian would sleep inside with me since he didn’t bring a tent. There is no harm in laugh about my cramps I know, but the jokes from the army dudes never stopped and after a while it became quite annoying, yes I got a little pissed. But I kept my mouth shut and never said a word about it. It’s normal for Andean people to make fun of foreign climbers since they know it is way harder for us to walk/ hike/ climb in altitude, and easy for them. So any time you go to the Andean, expect some jokes hehehe
There was actually one bet about my “quitting level”. One of them bet on 3000m and the other one 3500m just below the summit. They never said it to me but eventually I found about it on my way down.
Sometimes thing happen just to give us strength I guess, to give us more will of hard work, to give the blood away. That was the case, I got really pissed off by night fall and decided to start before the other parties. Around 2am. Everyone else at 3am. Well, one hour is just one hour and at this altitude the lack of oxygen is really easy to pass by, no big difference but that was the plan.
Summit day - too much for the knees
Summit panorama view.
For the summit day we went up apart. I walked by my way and Christian by his way, at the beginning he went left of the route and I was right of the route. Separated by at least a couple hundred meters, and that was the moment I did one of the best shots for the whole trip:
The sun was rising and he was alone at the ridge, the sky color was just impressive and I couldn’t let it go without the proper photo.
Fifteen minutes after I was at the summit of Lanin volcano with him, big hug, hand shake and loooooads of pictures. We could see I guess 200kms away since the weather was just perfect, I could see Pontiagudo volcano, Tronador, Osorno volcano, Chiles volcano, Quetrupillan volcano, Villarica volcano, Llaima volcano, and many more I not even know the name! Great view, just great…Fix my tie and took some photos with it.
By the radio Christian told the guards (it’s mandatory to talk on the radio every step you take) we reached the summit by 9am, seven hours after we set off. The altitude difference is big, 1.461 meters (4.793ft) of elevation gain. My legs never gave me any trouble along the way. Christian was the first one on the summit that day and I was the second. On our way down another party was coming up just below 3.700m, around 1.5 hours behind us and they said they started at 2:40am. We kept going and I shared with Christian I lost the GPS on our way up. He said to me, “Dude, I have a crazy luck on finding missing things, let’s say if y find your gps you’ll pay for me a stake back in town okay?”. “Okay!” I said full of hope. Glissading back down there was a small rocky section we had to walk and he walked a little bit, bend over and got my Gps on the ground, looked at me and said “stake, stake!!!” ahahahahahha, unfreaking believable, he found it! lol
Later, after several glissades down, at precisely 11:30am we got back to the refuge. When we got there the army dudes looked at us with a “surprise” face asking “cumbre?” (summit?) and after our positive response they said “Wow, it’s only 11:30h, fast round trip, good job.” and never said any jokes about what happened the previous afternoon again. Christian said I was a “Cabron”, a Spanish way of say “hard ass” or “tough guy”.
I got my backpack ready and after that we glissade more and more all the way down to the scree line again. Well, the flies were back in business biting us. The walk back was a never ending trail since we were both tired and that very same day we did 4.793 ft of elevation gain and 9.107 ft of down hiking. Too much, my knees were killing me by the time we got to the park entrance…
All we could do now was to wait for the bus resting by the sun doing some photosynthesis. Later that same day we got together at a restaurant at the main square and I paid his dinner! Fair enough, a bet is a bet! Lol
We became friends ever since and always keep in touch, he’s on my facebook and possibly we’re gonna climb something together in the future, I hope so. Funny guy…