It is the last week end of the stay in El Bolson and I finally get round to do some serious treaking. There is a wealth of treaks around El Bolson and I initially wanted to go for the one that leads to the glacier Hielo Azul. Victor however advices me not to and to go for the rather more challenging hike of the Cerro Lindo. He has done most if not all of them and I find that it is better to follow local advice in things like these.
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I get a lift to the starting point, the Camping Rio Azul and cross the suspension bridge towards the unknown.
The hike shows itself for what it is from really early on. In the woods it turns upward almost straight away and I start understanding why they rate this as a difficult hike.
I am eternally grateful to Victor for lending me his walking poles, they prove to be an essential help in the walk that in places seems like a climb. The scenery in the forest however is great and I get to appreciate the sound of nature as the sound of civilisation slowly fades into oblivion.
The hours fly by and the count gets to three of constant ascent before I stop for lunch. I get overtaken by a group of East German who have a much better ascending pace which I proceed to copy. Sometime going slower means going faster, not totally intuitive but it works in the mountains.
Another couple of hours and I start getting a bit tired, the way is only up, but luckily signs start appearing heralding the soon to be reached Refugio. In the end I complete the ascent in a little less than five and a half hours when the advertised window is between four and seven hours.
The Refugio is at 1500 metres ASL (above sea level) and the starting point at 250 ASL, this means a neat ascent of 3/4 of a mile in a remarkably short time.
After I settle in I find it in myself to go for a little run around to the laguna just below the Refugio and take a few arty pictures as well as catching a little mobile signal.
I spend the evening chatting with the other guests of the Refugio around a campfire and turn in rather early, by local standards, at midnight.
The second day is the day we go to the “cumbre”, the top of the Cerro Lindo. I get up as the other are leaving and elect, with Mauro, to take a direct route up a dry waterfall to catch up with them after we have something to eat and drink.
The waterfall climb is fun and we get on to the other shortly after we get to the upper ledge.
After we catch up with the group we started the ascent to the top, stopping to take pictures as well as to be shown nice vistas by the very good refugero Raul. Raul and I also carried with us wood to be used to make fire at the top for the mate.
The ascent takes the best part of the day, as suspected. We stopped at the top for a mate which we made with the wood we had so diligently taken with us. Mate is a really cool thing, sort of a ceremony like the tea in the east. There are a lot of rules about how to make and drink it but the cooler thing is that it’s a social thing, you do it together, one at a time you get to suck up from the common straw called bombicha. Sounds very un-British and I think it is.
The descent is faster, some of the members of the group are going all the way to the bottom while I’m spending another night in the refuge. As we drop we go searching for all the plaques of snow we can find in order to do as much bum sliding as we can. I think we’re all thirty five and above and yet, given the opportunity we turn into overgrown teenagers.
The scenery continues to fill us with awe all the way to the refuge where I say my bye bye to Laura and Gabriela and go for a late afternoon siesta.
I spend part of the evening with Mackenzie Cody and Adam, three Canadian from Winnipeg that are camping next to the refuge. They took a semester off uni to go traveling in South America and they are some three months into it. Meeting them and talking to them reminds me once again how stupid it is this rat race we so often fall in that gets us to go strait from a level of education to the next, then from a job to the next only to reach retirement and not have the body to do all the things we could have done in our teens, twenties thirties and forties. If I manage to convince only one person out there to jack it all in and leave for the world I think I would consider me rather successful.
In the morning there are just two things left for me to do, go and see the waterfall that is just a few minutes walk from the refuge and descend to the valley making my way back to the hostel.
I meet the three Canadians at the waterfall and we talk a bit, I leave saying the final farewell not knowing that I’d see them again at the very bottom and that we’d share a cab to town from the end of the trail.
The descent is, obviously, not as tiring as the ascent, but it is much more challenging for the articulations. I like to say that is the reason we have two knee caps but in this occasion both myself and the other turned out to wear them both.
The most amazing thing of the descent was however thinking at how in the name of everything hard did I make it up there? On the whole it was great and it told me that the failure in the summer was just an hiccup and my hiking days are not over just yet.