Bariloche report from late October 2021, and written by Pablo G. from the Explore-Share.com team
Mount Tronador is the highest peak in the Bariloche area (Northern Patagonia), and it is considered the local “king” for its majestic shape and presence. An extinct stratovolcano, it boasts three main peaks and a whopping eight glaciers on all sides, which added to its altitude 11,385-feet (3,470m) at the highest point), making it an amazing ski touring and climbing spot. In fact, Tronador gets so much snow throughout the winter that it can be skied up until mid-January, which in the southern hemisphere is peak summer season.
Argentina shares this mountain with Chile and boasts several peaks. One of them is the “International Peak”, right at the border between the two countries, but in recent years, climbing this peak has become very dangerous due to rockfall and seracs, so skiers coming from the Argentine side usually climb to the “Pico Argentino” (3200m) and ski down from there. That is exactly what Pablo and Neil did with Jorge, local IFMGA Guide (booking via Explore-Share).
They set off from the valley at Pampa Linda, skis strapped to their backpacks, and hiked all the way up to the flat section called “the pillow” where they put on their skis and continued on skins up to the Otto Meiling Hut, at 6,562-feet (2,000m), named after the famous German-Argentine mountaineer who was one of the “founding fathers” of the Bariloche mountaineering scene.
At the hut, they rested and had tea and coffee while enjoying the evening rays of sun, which painted the valley floor in deep orange and pink. They then got all their gear ready for the following day’s summit attempt. After an early dinner, they went to bed after setting the alarm to ring at 4 AM.
After a quick breakfast prepared by the friendly staff at the hut and a final gear check, they stepped outside, turned on their headlamps, and started up the mountain on skins under the bright moonlight.
They quickly passed a group of snowshoers who had left an hour earlier and by first light (around 6.30 AM) they had already ascended some 1,312-feet (400m) in altitude. They stopped to take some pictures and a granola snack. The views at this point were stunning, with the flowing sunrise making for an epic backdrop to their ascent.
They kept their pace up while the snow got deeper and deeper as they got higher, and by 10:15 they were at the col between the International Peak and the Argentine Peak, where they took off their skis, put on crampons, roped in, and headed up the steep snow section towards the summit.
The final 164-feet (50m) right before the top is around a 70-degree ice climb with a short rock section at the end, with a fair amount of exposure to the side, which they went through slowly but confidently to finally reach the summit.
The views in all directions are just spectacular, with many of the famous Chilean volcanoes visible to the West and North: Puyehue, Osorno, Villarrica, San Lorenzo, Puntiagudo, and the Argentine Volcan Lanin. After a quick celebration snack, pictures, and some water, they rappelled back down and walked back down to the skis. The sun was high and the snow conditions were perfect: time to descend.
Getting to ski down a mountain rather than walking down is a real treat, especially after hiking up for over six hours. The timing was just right and the snow hadn’t yet warmed up to “spring mush” making for a super fun descent. Plus, the group got to enjoy carving new lines on the fresh powder from the weeks before.
The initial part of the descent is the steepest, with a small ice bridge crossing, but after that, the angle decreases and the skiing becomes smooth, easy, and enjoyable, with miles of snow-covered terrain in every direction and the towering profile of Tronador behind you.
In less than half an hour after they put on their skis, they were back at the hut, tired but totally ecstatic from the epic descent. They had a quick bite to eat, gathered their remaining gear, and put their skis back on for the second part of the descent, back down into the valley.
There was enough snow that they were able to ski halfway down the forest path which made for some really fun “tree-slaloming” and tight switchbacks, until it was time to take off the skis and walk down the remaining stretch, for about an hour until the car.
Here they unloaded their packs, took off their boots and socks, and dipped their legs in the cold glacial stream, to help loosen the muscles as they talked and laughed about all they had just done.
The adventure was a total success, with a long-awaited summit and great weather and snow conditions. Pablo and Neil pointed out it was their first “big” ascent on skis and they got to learn a lot along the way, exerting themselves mentally and physically for the big prize at the end. It was a truly epic end to the winter season and an experience that’ll stay vividly in their memory for years to come!