Hiking around El Bolson. Different mountains but still golden autumn. 

​El Bolson – Warton – Dédo Gordo

In the morning I enjoy the good breakfast of my hostel La Casona De Odile before packing up again, a small bag to leave in the hostel and my backpack and food for hiking. A taxi brings Henrike and me to Warton. A number of refugios can be reached from here and while I go for a longer more difficult one, it’s time to say goodbye to Henrike who will just stay one night at a hut. We have to register at the start and then walk across a hill and over a bridge. I then turn to the right, reaching soon a small ranch. 

I continue on a well marked trail through a forest, all the time uphill. The trees are different here, not anylonger the tiny leaves of the lenga trees but a very German looking autumn forest. I feel like at home for a while, walking along a creek without seeing anyone. The hut where I want to go to is already closed and the few people who still go hiking here seem to go to the other huts. 

It’s quite warm here!

I didn’t see anyone at the farm so I couldn’t ask if I may camp at the hut, as advised by the ranger. I am sweating but enjoying the hike, taking my time and plenty of breaks. It’s supposed to be only 5h to the hut and I have a lot of time. 

I met two gauchos who had these cows transport a big log.
Another wood pecker

Although I feel slow, I already reach the hut after 4h. It’s a beautiful wooden hut. I explore everything, the small hut which has a stove, a seating area and a sleeping area under the roof with mattresses hanging (I wouldn’t want to use those!), a wonderful little wooden shower outside, some benches and tables outside,…. 

I also go to the miradores to enjoy the view of the mountains, valley and red trees before sitting in the sunshine for an hour, reading a book. 

Colours, colours, colours!!!

But then I continue. I don’t feel comfortable staying here, who knows if someone turns up later or at night. I also think there’s a better view point coming up where I can hopefully camp (it’s not allowed but it’s off season and no one is here). So I fill up on water and hike, further uphill. All the time along a stream, great that I am carrying 3l of water for tonight!

Up and up I hike, all the time checking for a place to camp, but I want a view so I continue. Until I reach the pass. Where I drop my backpack and go crazy about the view. On the other side a very steep drop and incredible view of the valley in the evening sun. The whole hike is already worth it. Sometimes I think I have already seen so much and it cannot get better, but then I get to see something new and unexpected and amazing again. It’s always worth exploring! 

After a while I take my backpack and now walk up the easier hill (off trail), deciding that the weather is good enough to actually camp on the top of it so I can see both sunset and sunrise. There’s no wind and it’s warm, I hope it’s not gonna drop too much in terms of temperature during the night. I find a nice spot for camping at 1800m altitude. 

Another great spot for camping

After setting up my tent I explore a bit further and then cook dinner in the evening sun, watching the sun go down slowly, making everything glow red around me. I am at peace with myself, happy again to be just on my own after resourcing the last 2 weeks with all the nice people I met. The stars appear and I lay in my tent in my sleeping bag, feeling cozy and warm but also a little bit scared, paying attention to all the noises. I didn’t camp on my own for a long time. 

Goodbye sun, see you tomorrow!

View from my tent

Dédo Gordo – Encanto Blanco – El Bolson The night was not too bad, warm but waking up many times. Finally it’s time for sunrise, I can see the lights of El Bolson shimmering down in the valley while the sun is slowly colouring the sky. It’s warm enough to just sit and enjoy with my breakfast. 

El Bolson seems quite big from here

I take a few pictures but suddenly my camera isn’t working anylonger, it’s still turning on but I cannot see anything on the screen. I can’t believe I have broken another camera! It had taken some damage when I fell back in El Chaltén but was working properly until now. 

Nevertheless, time to start hiking, down to the pass and then a very steep descent on scree, along a stream and more steep forest section. The view is amazing but my phone camera cannot cope with the shadow / light. 

After a while I reach the El Retamal Refugio, there are a few tents outside and the hut looks quite nice and cozy from outside. 

From there it’s just an hour to the next hut, Las Horquetas. The trail is now wide and easy along the river, beneath the pine trees. A quad is coming the opposite direction with a sheep in the trailer. The couple looks very tired and pale, asking me where I want to go. I say Los Laguitos and so the “conversation”  starts. With my very basic knowledge of Spanish this means I start putting out words instead of whole sentences, hoping to understand the answer. So the couple tells me something about “cerrado”, meaning the Los Laguitos hut is closed. Then I say Las Horquetas, to which they reply it’s also closed. I throw in “possible acampar” a few times but my understanding is that no, I may not camp anywhere. Asking about another Refugio where I planned to go tomorrow, they don’t know and I seem to be allowed to continue there. So while yesterday everything was still open, they just closed down today. 

I continue my way to the first hut, taking a short break in the sunshine there. 

I hike on, thinking about my options. There are two signs that Los Laguitos is closed and that it’s not allowed to continue, but most importantly the owners doesn’t want me to go there (at least I think so). So when I reach the junction much earlier than I thought, I decide to push on and do a long day hiking out of here. The distances are much shorter and tomorrow is no bus, if I hurry up I can get the 7pm bus today. But first, a real steep climb on a new looking trail that was just carved out of the steep hill, sometimes with a rope. It’s exhausting to climb up and I am soaking wet soon. 

The trail markers are handmade with love!

Magic purple mushroom??

Some 90minutes later I am at the top, enjoying the incredible view, it was worth it again! I am very happy about the itinerary that Javi from the hostel gave me. No one else out there but the best views just for me. 

It’s now 2pm, it supposedly takes 3-4h to the next hut and then 3h to the road. I am sure I can do it faster to catch my bus. The descent on the other side is great, not too steep but through beautiful forest. And through some labyrinth made of bamboo. Not sure why bamboo is growing here, but it’s a lot of fun making my way on the winding trail, meeting occasionally a cow. 

Trying to find my way through the bamboo labyrinth

At 4pm I am already at the Encanto Blanco hut which is empty as well but the owners left a note (which I believe to say they will be back, mate is in the kitchen). 

After another short break I continue, half an hour later I cross a scary bridge, a Passarella. Then along the river, up and down and up and down. 

I am very tired now and hate going up again, I somehow thought it would be easy once I leave the hut. Finally the trail opens up and leads gently downhill through the forest. I pick some blackberries and then apples, enjoying the fruits while continuing to hike. Then finally the farm and then the road. It’s 6.30pm, I can now relax at the bus station and do some stretching. My legs hurt and my body feels exhausted, but I am happy about the great trail! 

At 7.15pm no sign of a bus when a couple who was hiking asks me if I want to get a ride to El Bolson!  Of course, muchas gracias! They even bring me right to the front of my hostel, otherwise it would have been another 3km to walk. I get the last bed, a shower and some nice conversations. While checking again my camera I try to charge it, and see what happens, it works all fine again! Very reliefed I can now crash into my bed. 

El Bolson 

The next morning I decide to leave for Bariloche today, the other hikes around here are all difficult or expensive to organise plus the huts may also close. But first, a good breakfast followed by another yoga class, so good for my body and soul right now! At 1pm I leave together with Henrike and a British couple to catch the bus to Bariloche. Let’s see what my next adventures will be. I might even go for a bike ride! 

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