As I unexpectedly decided to stay a bit longer in Bariloche after all, I couldn’t resist the idea of going up again in the Andes for a night. The only refugio in the area that is still open at this time (and is all year-round) is the Refugio Frey. If you remember, I already hiked up to Frey back in April but did not stay for the night. You can find the details on how to get to the trailhead and the hike itself in my previous post.
The trail was mainly snow free in any areas where the sun was shining. The shady areas slowly became snowy or a bit icier as we made our way to the top. Again, it took us just under 4hrs to get to the refugio, and about 3hrs to get back to the Cerro Catedral Ski Resort to catch the bus back in town. Staying the night in the refugio was 250 pesos and the use of the kitchen is 60 pesos per person who will be eating. You could also pay for full board and accomodation which sums up at around 560 pesos (I think). In my opinion, it is much better to bring your own food, unless you have quite a budget for this camping trip! It was low season when we went and we got lucky as there was only 8 of us sleeping in the refugio that night. In high seasons they often end up putting extra mattresses on the ground because there is always too much visitors wanting to sleep in. The refugio and the area are used by many hikers and rock climbers coming to enjoy the unlimited activities to do in the surrounding Andes. The refugio is full of rock climbing magazines and gear, and there is also multiple spots outside for tents.
In the winter it is possible to rent skates and iceskate on the frozen lake. Unfortunately our luck did not go that far, as the weather conditions were too warm to allow us to go skate safely on the lake. The Refugiero (staff) told us they wouldn’t rent unless the temperature was below zero for more than 10 consecutive hours. Last time we checked at 10PM, we were still hitting a nice 4C (and with the lovely sun we had all week, it kept warming up a bit!). Some people went skating with their own skates, taking full responsability if something was to go wrong. We ended up just walking around the edges of the lake and learning how the Refugerio test for the ice quality in the morning.
We also tried to go a bit further up on the trail and go on the ridge leading to the second laguna (it is the trail that crosses to the Refugio Jakob and can be done in the summer time). We made it about half-way to the ridge but the snow condition was not optimal and we decided to turn back around.