Thursday, June 2, 2016

Ascending Thunder Mountain- Mount Tronador in Patagonia

on the glacier of Mount Tronador

I've been in Patagonia several days, absolutely awed by the vistas and beauty.
"All of the Bariloche area is stunning," Adrian, my awesome AirBnb host tells me, "but you know, you're missing out on some magical views."
"Where?!" I demand.
Excitedly Adrian pulls out a paper map, and points to a white area (indicating permanent snow and ice in the form of a glacier) "Mount Tronador!" he exclaims.
"I must go!" I shout, pounding my fist on the table for emphasis.
"You must go!!" responds Adrian with a crazy look in his eye, upping the energy.
"I'm going!" my loud voice echoing in the cavernous house.
"You're going to amazed!!"
"I'm going to be amazed!" I yell as Adrian and I do a couple chest bumps while we jump up and down.

However, my friend attempted to pour some cold water on the adventure-
  1. "The Refuge on the mountain for hikers closes in two days for winter. Need to go tomorrow as you'll need to spend the night on the glacier." - I'm in the middle of a strange land. I have no plans, I can squeeze it in. 
  2. "You'll need a professional mountain guide."- arranged with a few phone calls.
  3. "You'll need proper equipment." - Adrian loans me a head lamp, gloves, a hat, hiking poles, and a suitable backpack.
  4. "Snow shoes are a must." - rented downtown at a store
  5. "You'll need to buy lots of food for hiking in the cold and an overnight stay." -- immediate trip to grocery store.
  6. "The buses have stopped going to Pampa Linda (trailhead) as there is zero demand now, you don't have a way to get there." -  I rent a car.
All this is done in one day. A lot of work and $$ for an overnight mission up a mountain, but hey, that's what we live for, right? Right?? Okay, just me then ...

Okay, maybe that's not exactly how it went it down, but we're both pretty passionate about nature and the beauty of the area, and I was excited about the prospect of ascending the famous mountain.
fall colors

fall colors- Patagonia in snow
trees and snow- maybe about half-way up the mountain

Wake up early and drive two hours to the trailhead. Getting all our gear in order takes time, which worries my guide Edu as snow and ice slows any mountaineer, and the last thing you want is to be caught on a freezing glacier when the sun goes down; death from exposure.

When we finally begin our trek the fall colors are in full splendor, and without exaggeration, we are the only souls on the mountain face. Continual movement keeps us warm.
Other than the wind whipping us more strongly with each step we take uphill, the silence is palpable, the only company we have are the Andean condors circling overhead.

         video: condor on the ridge of the glacier

Getting closer to Tronador's peak
The air gets chillier, but the vistas become more splendid the higher we go. The reds and yellows against the sheer granite walls carved out by the glaciers, with snow accenting the tops of the mountains in a white veil, one can't help but feel a sense of awe in the midst of the beauty. It permeates the soul, and awakens a stillness within.
yellow, oranges, reds, granite and white
Unfortunately, we don't have the time to just sit there and admire the view, as making it to the refuge by nightfall is literally life or death. We climb through the snow, condors watching our every move, should we slip and fall into the deep ravine below, they'll be ready to take care of business. In the meantime, we just keep climbing.
check out the blue ice above the waterfall- my favorite shot of the trip
granite carved over eons by glaciers
granite carved over eons by glaciers

beauty of nature
yup, nature
Andean condor flying over the icy ridge
condor flying over the icy ridge
Eventually we reach the Refuge Meiling, having ascended 1050 meters and covered 14km of ground. Darkness falls shortly, the temperature dips below zero, and the howling wind blows with such force it makes two tired hikers munching on trail mix incredibly grateful to be inside.
spooky colors of dusk on a quiet "Thunder" Mountain

the waterfall off the side of the Mount Tronador's glacier

view climbing Mount Tronador

making it to the Refuge Meiling shortly before nightfall, you
can't hear much of what I say due to the wind, but enjoy the scenery
at the top


  1. Quite an adventure you had. This was beautifully written with beautiful photos.

    1. Thanks for the nice note Susan, it was an adventure. Especially being the only people in that entire area. Just the solitude, beauty, and quiet :)

  2. did you continue uphil to the "filo to see chile?"

    1. we went as high as the refuge. It was too dangerous with the crevices to continue to the peak at that time of year. It was stunning and lonesome and meditative. Cheers


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