Located near Argentina's popular lakeside tourist center of Bariloche, the Catedral area 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. One such peak that is accessible in a day from Frey is Pico D'Agostino. A combination of loose scree slopes, dense lenga forest, and challenging scrambling lead to a summit that boasts excellent views of Cerro Catedral, Lago Nahuel Huapi, and Bariloche.
Pico D'Agostino can be 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. From here, you have your best opportunity to scout the way you will be taking en route to the summit.
Head down the steep scree slope into the forested valley below. Descend slowly, traversing left and taking care to stay above the thick lenga forest. The idea is to aim for the lower meadows near the creek, not leaving the scree until the spot where the band of brush is at its thinnest. The penalty for leaving early is some pretty nasty bushwhacking.
Cross the creek and climb steeply up the other side of the valley. The best path generally follows a steep draw and involves a healthy mix of bushwhacking and rock-hopping. Eventually the route reaches a more open scree field that can be followed to the right of a prominent rock wall high above the valley floor.
Continue to climb up through a lengthy, but fairly stable scree slope, bearing to the right, to reach an obvious ridge that climbs from the valley between Pico D'Agostino and Catedral Sur. Make sure to recall the location of the aforementioned prominent rock wall to avoid confusion during the descent.
Follow the ridge up to the non-technical summit of Pico D'Agostino, marked with a small cairn. An exciting, airy traverse along the ridge leads to the true summit. In several spots, sneaking behind the ridge offers less technical, albeit more exposed scrambling.
When to Climb
The summer season in northern Patagonia stretches from mid-December through mid-March. Conditions on Pico D'Agostino 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. There is a bathroom and clean water without charge. Use of the kitchen, overnight stay, and restaurant service are all available, but not particularly cheap. There are also some rustic campsites in the woods in the valley beneath Pico D'Agostino. Reportedly, a faint trail descends from these campsites to the Arroyo Van Titter, meeting up with the main trail descending from Refugio Frey to Villa Catedral.