Thursday, June 2, 2016

A Night Atop the Glacier of Mount Tronador - (Refuge Meiling) and the Hike Down

the peak of Mount Tronador in the morning- high on the glacier
the peak of Mount Tronador in the morning- high on the glacier
We arrive at the Refuge Otto Meiling not long before nightfall, surprising the two workers there who haven't had a visitor to their lonely abode in several days. We're the only ones on the mountain that day, the only ones visiting the refuge.
Edu drinks a beer I buy him, as I question the employees about what it's like being high up on the glacier for two weeks at a time.
They tell me it's an adventure, and during the summer, there a lot of people going in and out, trying to conquer the peak of Tronador, something we won't be doing as it would be too dangerous with the added recent snowfall; step on a crevice hidden by white powder and fall to your death.

a look at the Refuge Mieling- outside and in

I inquire how supplies are brought to this distant cabin.
"Once a year a military helicopter brings us supplies, the rest of the time we carry food, paper, beer, and other supplies up the mountain ourselves," he pauses for moment, almost catching his breath imagining it, and then explains, "It's hard work."
They get most of their power from solar cells, but occasionally have to run a generator, as they are tonight- it's winter and the sun is lacking.

Outside the wind howls loudly. The stars are covered by clouds and we're 50 miles from civilization, there is zero outside light filtering in. It's the Andes at their best and loneliest. No cell signal, no internet, I soon retire upstairs.
I take one of a hundred mats (it's busier in the summer) and roll out my sleeping atop it. Although the downstairs is a sort of luxury version of a high-mountain base camp for the assault on Tronador's peak, the second story is no frills, a large room with a roof over it, one halogen lamp hooked up to the electrical system.
I wouldn't want to be here when it's full, tired hikers coming to and fro, rising in the middle of the night, snoring. As it is the wind the screams outside so strongly you can hear the weightless apparition changing direction. In fact, the gale is so ferocious the walls shake, keeping me awake as I wonder how much more force it might take to blow us off the cliff.

We wake in the morning, and after trail mix, instant coffee, and dried soup mix, gather our gear and set-off. The wind whips us fervently, as the condors watch our every move from high overhead. I wonder how much they're actively rooting against us, or whether they're more like casino executives, knowing the odds dictate a certain percentage of the time we'll make a mistake in our climb, and they'll be feasting.
a view off the edge I dare not take another step towards
Inexperienced as I am, it takes me awhile to put my snow-shoes on the face of the mountain. Frustrated by inability to grip, I remove my gloves to give myself a better chance of connecting the straps. By the time I'm successful, my hands feel like they have frostbite. Time to start moving and circulate the blood.
first time on snowshoes

The rest of the hike down was merely one, often calculated, step at a time, with several stops to take in the majestic views which I leave you below.

a waterfall falls into the ravine below

beautiful Patagonia
beautiful Patagonia

still on the glacier Tronador
my backpack almost blends in

video: blue ice and the deep ravine under Tronador 

near the tree line
near the tree line

amazing ey?
up, up, and over the ridge
video: not much said here, but get a view from near the tree-line as we descend

Mount Tronador through the fall trees
Mount Tronador through the fall trees

getting closer to Pampa Linda and the trailhead


  1. Amazing article!!! I can see a great hard work here! I love this article and I really enjoyed!There's a variety of vocabulary! Thanks for posting!


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