Thinking back on my night spent at Refugio Frey it almost seems to be a hike and location plucked out of a dream. Admist the snow covered mountains and rock formations that tower above the southern city of Bariloche sits this trekkers refuge and calls out to all for a truly Patagonian experience. I discovered Refugio Frey while looking for an exciting trip within the mountains that would fit within my short time frame and throw me into the immense nature of the Andes. Refugio Frey was exactly the experience I was looking for.
We began our trip with a bus ride to Cerro Catedral – more commonly known as one of the best ski resorts of South America. There wasn’t enough snow on the slopes to ski that day so we used it as a starting point for our hike through the mountains. We were told that Refugio Frey could be reached in a day hike but that lodging was also available at the top if we decided to stay the night. Without knowing exactly what to expect we planned on option B. We threw a few clothes in a bag, grabbed a couple of sleeping bags, and packed a little bit of food to prepare for the adventure before us.
A beaten down path leads to one of the few lakes in the region that doesn’t produce ocean sized waves. It is cradled within the mountains and sheltered from the winds of southern Argentina due to its cozy location. From our lunch spot we could see a distant speckle that we knew to be Bariloche. The green mossy vegetation began to change to snow capped boulders and an hour beyond our stopping point we arrived at a small wooden cottage t built into the side of a stone. It was all snow from there on up. Those returning from Refugio Frey from the night before gave us their greetings and advice to the best route to follow from this point on as they headed back down the mountain.
My wet clothes and deep breathing were hardly noticeable as I found myself completely distracted by the views all around me. We saw the small refuge in the distance that sat in a flattened valley between the huge spires that jetted up from behind. The sun was setting on Refugio Frey and the rock structures as if it had been painted on for our viewing pleasure and we took advantage of the opportunity to soak it all in.
After taking our time to snap some pictures and put our things in the room upstairs, we joined the Bariloche locals who abandon their normal winter lives to live and work in this one room mountain shelter. The common room was just large enough for us and two other couples to sit who arrived just footsteps behind. Sleeping bags and toilet paper were essential items to have in our packs for the night. The restrooms sit in a separate building that is buried under piles of snow outside and the rooms upstairs were simple with thin blankets and rows of bunks.
Fancy and spotless it was not, but we were welcomed as if we were a part of their family and I would not have had it any other way as it all added to the experience. Dinner options were limited due to the difficulty in getting many products up to this remote location that can only be reached on foot or by horse, so after contemplating the three item menu we finally decided on fondue. We enjoyed our evening and meal in the company of the other adventurous spirits while laughing, talking, and getting to know one another better over a few rounds of mate and a bottle of wine. The next morning when we decided to all hike back down to civilization together, one would have thought we were all great friends who had planned a trip together in the mountains.
The company the views and the memories could not be beat.