Patagonia’s Nahuel Huapi Traverse – Day 4 (Laguna Negra to Refugio Lopez)

Previous Post: Day 3 – Laguna Jakob (Refugio San Martín) to Laguna Negra 

Day 3 had been a big day made even more exciting thanks to a brain cramp on my part.  Less drama on the trail was my wish for the day! Sometime during the night I had woken up and plugged my iPhone into the battery charger; it was now fully charged and the GPS track was ready to be taken more seriously!

my tent spot near Refugio Italia at Laguna Negra and the trail sign to the refugio

As I crawled out of my tent space – super-well-sheltered! – I could see why it was still available at 9:20 the previous evening! I had bumped my head on some of the branches the night before as I put up the tent. Clearly everyone else had decided that it was too enclosed and too small a space. In the photo above it is barely visible on the left-hand side!

Refugio Italia and Laguna Negra

I walked down the trail to the refugio; it sits quite exposed on a long stretch of rock outcrop. I couldn’t get over my luck with the weather; every day so far had been clear and sunny and relatively wind free. In worse weather, the traverse  would become   much more of a challenge, not just the route (i.e. red dot!) finding but also tenting at the end of a wet and windy day.

Refugio Italia (Manfredo Segre) at Laguna Negra)

Refugio sign at Refugio Italia (Manfredo Segre)

Out came my simple breakfast  – the ziplock bag filled with oatmeal and an assortment of other ingredients (chia seeds, hemp seeds, raisins, cranberries, walnuts). All you need to do is add some hot water. The concoction is a canoe trip staple that  my brother and I take along and it keeps us going for hours.  Also essential is a hit of caffeine but unlike the cup of filtered coffee we make when canoe tripping,  I contented myself with some instant.

inside the Refugio Italia at Laguna Negra

The hut was fairly quiet. Given its location the refugio does not get the visitors that Frey or Lopez do. I looked around for Diego but he was not up yet.  Given the potential for trouble on the Jakob-Negra section you need to sign a waiver as well as check in on arrival. I had not bothered to walk down to the refugio the night before since it was almost dark when we got to the camping area. I put up my tent and crawled inside and hoped that Diego, who was sleeping in the refugio, would let them know. I knew he had when one of them looked up for the coffee pot she was preparing and asked me if I was el canadiense!

Laguna Negra - Refugio Lopez

Before I left the refugio Diego walked in.   I told him I’d be ready to go in about 45 minutes and, after leisurely taking down the tent and packing,  I wandered back to the refugio with my pack.   He was nowhere to be seen.  I waited for about ten minutes and assumed he had started off without me. So off I went.  I would never catch up to him!  And why? He hadn’t left yet!  We’d meet at the end of the day at the Refugio Lopez – at the top end of that red line you see snaking from Refugio Italia. It is approximately ten kilometers.

Refugio Italia (Manfredo Segre) from the other side of Laguna Negra

The first part of the day’s walk involved curling around the east and north shores of the laguna, an easy walk except for a bit of scampering over a gnarly rock outcrop. To help those passing through, there is  a climbing aid – ropes fastened to the rock.  Not quite a first since I did see permanent rock bolts on Day 3 in the section above Laguna Témpano.)

Looking back at Refugio Italia on Laguna Negra

climbing aid on the rocks around Laguna Negra

At the far end of the lake I want down to the water and filled up my water bottle and waved my Steripen in it for a minute, not wanting to take any chances.

a last chance to fill up the water bottle  at Laguna Negra

From the laguna the sand and scree trail goes up to the ridge which I then walked north as I passed Cerro Bailey Willis. Compared to the previous day’s trail this one is very well-marked with lots of red paint, cairns, and signs to show the way.  And if nothing was visible all I had to do was turn around to see markers for the way back to Laguna Negra!

the path up to the ridge above Laguna Negra

laguna negra to refugio lopez - first half

sign for Lopez – the next Refugio

looking back at Laguna Negra – from the trail to Refugio Lopez

looking west to Cerro Tronador from the trail to Refugio Lopez

From near the top of the ridge I looked west.  Hola, Cerro Tronador!  Even though it was about 25 kilometers from where I was standing,  it still dominates the neighbourhood.

Tronador from the ridge above Laguna Negra

A few days later I would be at the Refugio Otto Meiling and learn that there are actually three peaks – Pico Argentina, Pico Chileno, and the highest of them, Pico Internacional. My tent above the Otto Meiling hut was still about seven kilometers from the peaks! The photo below shows the sheltered spot I found to put up my tent for the night!

tent spot below Tronador above Refugio Otto Meiling

four days later – tent spot below Tronador above Refugio Otto Meiling

Back to that ridge near Cerro Bailey Willis – it was time to finish off the climb! To get there I wove my way through the pile of rock rubble, aided by that occasional red paint dot.

a look back at a couple of day hikers working their way up the slope to Cerro Bailey Willis

looking up at the rubble in search of a trail to the top of the ridge

the path for Refugio Lopez cuts over to the saddle – Cerro Bailey Willis on the right

transition point on the trail from Negra to Lopez – the saddle below Cerro Bailey Willis

Over that saddle in the image I went and past the gentle west slope of Bailey Willis – no more shots of Laguna Negra now!  A different landscape started to open up ahead of me – the top of a green valley and the Cerro Lopez massif. It was shortly after noon – 12:15 – and another scorching day in the sun.  I got the sunscreen out and applied a bit more on my exposed bits – i.e. hands and face and neck.  I decided to postpone lunch until I found a shady spot down along the Arroyo Goye.  I’d also be able to fill up  my water bottle there too.

a look back at the trail I have just walked from Refugio Italia (Manfredo Segre)

In the photo above I had one last look at the rock tower that looms above Refugio Italia; when I turned around I was looking at Cerro Lopez and the upper section of the valley I’d be crossing.

the view from the Bayley Willis Col towards Refugio Lopez

walking down to the top of the Arroyo Goye valley – the view ahead

the Arroyo Goye running down the valley floor

looking back at the saddle and the scree slope

the path to the Cerro Lopez ridge

in the meadow below the Cerro Negro ridge

When I came to the small trickle of water that becomes Arroyo Goye and found some trees with a leafy canopy I set down my pack and got out the empty Nalgene water bottle and the lunch fixings.  As I sat there the X-ray like look of the clouds floating by caught my attention.

wispy clouds in the valley below Cerro Negro

With lunch over I had the hike’s last section of uphill scrambling waiting for me.  Given the stunning mountainscape,  I had every reason to stop and set up a quick photo every once in a while.

a plateau half way up to the Cerro Lopez ridge

Cerro Tronador from a plateau below Cerro Lopez

And then – this!  Over the hour and a half I  made my way up the scree slope until I was standing on the ridge you see running along the top third of the photo. Where you end up is near Pico Turista, a popular day hike destination for those coming up from Refugio Lopez.

the last bit of uphill for the day – up to Cerro Lopez ridge

looking up at the scree slope to Cerro Lopez ridge

When I stepped to the north side of the ridge my reward was this awesome scene – Lago Nahuel Huapi in the distance and Lago Moreno a bit closer and in between the two the Llao Llao Resort. And I turned my gaze a bit further to the east I could see Bariloche.

a grand view from Pico Turista of Lago Nahuel Huapi

a view of Lago Nahuel Huapi. up to Bariloche

To the west there was Cerro Tronador veiled in afternoon cloud.  This spot by Pico Turista was just one of the many on this traverse where the sheer beauty of the views made the price of getting there – the aches and pain and tedious scrambling up scree slopes – worth it!

the view west from Cerro Negro ridge

And then it was down, down, down!  For a long time I did not even see the refugio! the first landmark was a small glacial lake that I would soon get to.  three people are visible in the two photos below. I would eventually end up talking to them as them rested on the side of the laguna while I refilled my water bottle yet again.

the laguna on the way to Refugio Lopez

down at the Laguna – on the way to Refugio Lopez from the Cerro Lopez ridge

looking back at a bit of down scrambling from the laguna

The Refugio Lopez – finally!  And no Diego sitting there waiting for me!  The hut keeper surprised me with a question about his whereabouts; there is obviously communication between refugios about who and how many are on the trail each day. I guess we were the only two that day!  Diego would come down that slope pictured above about an hour later.  We would compare notes for the day, one that we agreed was happily much less challenging than the day before.

a different perspective on the Laguna Negra – Refugio Lopez Hike

Unlike the others on the Nahuel Huapi Traverse, The Lopez hut does not belong to the Club Andino de Bariloche.  Instead, it is privately owned and looks well-maintained.  I would find a flat tent spot not far from the hut – somewhat exposed for my liking but given the great weather and lack of wind it did the job nicely.  Nearby were another three or four tents; hikers can camp for free. I did make use of the hut for supper and breakfast and spent a bit of money at the food counter.

the Refugio Lopez

Refugio Lopez above Lago Nahuel Huapi

Next Post: From Refugio Lopez To the End of the Trail at Arroyo Lopez/Highway 77

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