To give you a little travel experience let’s take it back a little to Patagonia:
Patagonia is one of those places that you have to see to believe. I obviously have not seen all of it. It takes up the better bottom half of Argentina and Chile. These two countries, for those who don’t know, are separated by the Andes Mountains. The Andes are another one of those majestic magical things you have to see to fully appreciate. I spent 3 weeks immersed in the expansive Patagonian landscape and during that time experienced things that I never thought I would; meeting so many awesome people that they are hard to count.
For instance, the night my traveling companion Ed and I arrived in the small valley town of San Martin de Los Andes, tired and hungry. We traveled 3 hours to get there and were expecting to have a room ready for us at a hostel. When we arrived we encountered a friendly local, Diego, at the bus terminal who offered to give us a ride to our lodgings. When we pulled up to the hostel all the lights were turned off and no one answered the door or the phone.
Despite the fact that Diego had just completed a 20 hour bus ride, he promised to help us find a place. If none could be found; he offered his house. We drove around for about 30 minutes stopping at various places but all were at full capacity. By this time it was 11:30pm and we were all tired. The last place we went was a friend of his who had a small hostel on the edge of town. When we arrived an elderly hippie couple answered the door and warmly welcomed us in. When I stepped into the kitchen and saw hand painted mosaics of Marilyn Monroe and Che Guevara on the wall, I knew we landed at the right place, (come to find out the owners wife has a great hand at painting). Diego ended up being a good friend and person to know. He later showed us around town and took us out for a good time. Proof in practice from what I have told you before about the Argentinian people.
After 3 weeks of bouncing around from hostel to hostel and town to town, I ended the trip in a refuge in the Andes Mountains. I met a German guy, Vincenz, who is an avid snowboarder and skier. After talking for a week, I was convinced I needed to go experience the back-country of Cerro Catedral. (Catedral is the main ski resort in Patagonia. It is perhaps the most commercial as well, but it has some great slopes. You can’t blame the mountain for what people do to it). Refugio Frey, was waiting right on the other side of this mountain range.
The Frey Refuge is a 3 hour hike into the Andes. That meant hiking up and down hills, carrying all of our gear and whatever food we wanted and due to the conditions sometimes wearing crampons to hike with, (spikes that fit to your boots so as you can walk through ice covered terrain).
Upon arriving and seeing the refuge in the distance, I felt like doing a dance. It was a beautiful sight. When you crest the last hill, the refuge sits nestled at the top overlooking a then frozen lagoon. All sides of the lagoon shore up to the mountains, creating a sanctuary of sorts. It is called Cerro Catedral after all. Catedral if you haven’t guessed already means Cathedral and I truly felt like I was in the presence of God.
The inside of the Frey was very basic: A small kitchen, 3 picnic tables, a small wood burning stove with military style bunks upstairs. To use the bathroom you needed to carry a bucket of melted snow to the outhouse. The melted snow was so that you could flush the toilet.
The next day we woke up early ate a good breakfast and went out into the frozen landscape. Now the idea of back-country skiing and snowboarding is that you climb to ride. There are no chair-lifts. There are no tow ropes. There are no rules. You see it, you climb it and ride back down. Painfully amazing! Nothing tests you quite like making a 1-2 hour climb with gear on your back, up snow covered, (and sometimes frozen), slopes; just to arrive and ride back down in 10 minutes. You get about 3-4 rides a day in. Depending on how long your legs and will power will last.
We spent 4 days and 3 nights in the refuge. I went with a very heavy heart. I had a lot on my mind and needed the getaway. I am so glad I went. Thank you Vincenz for the extra nudge. There is nothing like sitting in the Cathedral and seeing the beauty of nature to confirm my belief in a creator. When it looks like this; there is no denying it.