Opening the curtains after a night in a proper bed revealed the magic of the mountain that was the challenge for the day. After a hard trek that never seemed to end the previous day, all promises of an easier walk were taken with a pinch of salt. The hotel at Pampa Linda was clean, but scary staff meant we were ready to leave with a huge packed lunch in our packs on time with no messing.
The path starts off as a wide dust track, slowly heading gently upwards with the option to follow the road the long way or use the foot bridges and footpaths to head up into the forest.
The forest is full of life and colour with streams for water refills and plenty of wild bits to keep the interest going. Condors were flying high above the trees, glimpsed as the path opened out. After two hours of track the path became narrow and the hard slog of switchbacks started. A slow and steady pace for an hour got us to the top where there was a really lovely glade in the trees, perfect for a short stop and time to recover.
After the switchbacks, the path opened out and became more rugged before reaching a large grassy view point. A perfect stop for lunch and the last place that the horses from Pampa Linda that some had used would venture. From here it was footwork to Refugio Otto Meiling.
Above the Tree Line
After a shot stop in the clearing the tree line receded and the landscape became rugged. Volcanic boulders and dust made the path interesting and as we headed higher snow started to appear.
The waterfalls from Glaciar Castaño Overo tumbled noisily to the valley floor below as we slowly trudged ever higher toward Monte Tronador. The streams were much smaller on the mountainside, but the flowers that were surviving on their rocky banks were compact and bright.
As the path neared Refugio Otto Meiling, the surrounding views became more open with panoramas in all directions.
The intensity of the path was insignificant with the stops for photographs and time to absorb how amazing the scenery surrounding the path had become. Coming in to Refugio Otto Meiling was a special time, the end of a hard day with Malbec waiting to be enjoyed very slowly .
Refugio Otto Meiling
Refugio Otto Meiling sits at 2000m on Cerro Tronador between Glacier Castaño Overo and Glacier Alerce. The location of this mountain hut makes up for the sleeping arrangements 100 fold. The views are stunning across the glaciers to Pampa Linda, Valle Paso de Las Nubes (the trek for the next day), Cerros López and Catedral. In the distance it is possible to see Lanín volcano as well as Cerro Yate in Chile. From the hut it is possible to explore Cerro Tronador further or traverse Glacier Alerce and follow the forest to Lago Frías. The biggest treat at Refugio Otto Meiling is the food. Cooked by the trainee mountain guides, this was possibly the best meal we had in Argentina. Knowing that the food is prepared in a small kitchen at 2000m with everything having to be carried in made it even more enjoyable!
Sunset and Sunrise Magic
Refugio Otto Meiling is perfectly placed to watch the sunset and sunrise as well as the magic of the night sky. The views to the south and west become magical as the sun sets for the day. The stars fill the sky over night, a perfect view of the southern night sky and a chance to take photographs of stars without any light pollution. Finally, as the dawn arrives the sky becomes pink and warm for the new day with a bright aplenglow lighting up the summit of Monte Tronador.
Leaving Refugio Otto Meiling
The options for leaving this remote hut are limited. A return trek back to Pampa Linda is possible, heading down the switchbacks and back along the valley following Rio Castaño Overo. The alternative is to traverse Glacier Alerce and then walk the two day route to Lago Frías. This follows the Paso de Las Nubes with an overnight stay at the new Refugio Agostina Rocca. Either way the views are stunning and from this point it is downhill all the way to Bariloche!