“El Bolson te atrapa!”
(El Bolson gets you!)
It is probably the phrase I heard the most in the last month.. Climbing is one of my passions and thanks to this sport I met incredible friends. One of them apparently moved back from Milano to his home country and town: El Bolson, Argentina.
Destiny wants that this little charming town protected by the mountains is on my route North.
Fabio and Yen are still travelling with me when we jump off the bus in the centre of El Bolson and receive the best welcoming ever: Fernando pick us up at the bus station with a warm thermo to share a good “mate” and all the equipment to go climbing! I finally give a meaning to the Sportiva climbing shoes I’m carrying with me since five months, waiting for this moment.
We pick up some other friends’ along the way and in a blink of an eye we’re in a climbing spot just above Lago Puelo. It’s incredible how familiar and home feeling is to be next to a rocky wall with new friends, with trees half hiding us and the wall from the city below us. I could indeed be in a climbing spot just 20 minutes away from my hometown Bergamo in the far far away Italy.
El Bolson is a quite new city that started to develop in the 80’s with a group of artisans that still represents one of the two main characters of the city with the local craftwork fair three days a week. The second soul is even better: Artisan beer production. Almost everyone has a personal production of beer in his backyard and who doesn’t just rely on the numerous breweries arose around the city thanks to the high availability of hop, produced in this fertility and sunny valley.
Climbing is calling again and Fer drive the three os us and the great Andrea, Fernando’s father’s in law, to one of the most amazing places to climb I’ve ever seen: Piedra Parada, a big 100+ meters monolith and the near-by magical Buitreta Canyon. This is the wonderland of any climber… 5 Kms full of climbing routes of any grade of difficulty on both side of the canyon. All around people are climbing, but the size of the canyon and number of routes allow everyone to get it’s own quiet spot to climb.
Also Yan and Fabio gets their chance to climb and when they drag me to the car I dream to come back and spend few days climbing here!
Why not to stay a bit longer?
Back in El Bolson and I decide to spend the following morning helping out Fernando in his work to learn a bit of his singular job. On top of climbing rocks, Fer is indeed a professional “Tree climber” for which he followed courses when back in Italy getting also a professional certification to perform cuts at hight. Back in Argentina he started its own business based on his experience.
We cut a tree almost fallen on the roof of an house, but the real challenge is a huge 20 meters high pine with branches long and heavy as entire trees. Nothing is casual and each and any cut is studied by Fer to obtain a controlled fall in a safe spot on the ground. He uses ropes, descenders, pulleys, a anchor and various other tools and after 7 hours the pine is still standing in all its hight, but with no branches anymore.
The final cut will be the day after tomorrow, since for tomorrow another unforgettable and long dreamed experience is waiting for us!
We’re having a real Argentinian “asado” (barbeque) at the place of Neki, Fernando’s father. The full family is there: Alice with the two daughters Luna and Nora and also the grandfather of Fer.
So tasty and juicy meat accompanied with good Malbec wine (my favourite) and Andes Black, a dark beer that I started appreciating a lot. All around is nature with a lovely view on massive mountains and even the sky runs already waiting for the first snow.
How to leave so beautiful place and welcoming friends?
I simply can’t and for the first time in my travels I decide to stay for another week taking the opportunity offered by Adriana and Alejandro the hosts of Mandala. This is the hostel where I arrived the first day and that I’ll take care for a week while the owners are on holiday, welcoming the new travellers to El Bolson
But before that we have three days and together with Fabio we’re off for a three days hike! The first one for Fabio…
The first day challenges us with more than 5 hours of climbing up a sandy path with a hot sun on our heads and huge back pack on our shoulders. But the reward come in the shape of an amazing view on the green valley below us and the enchanted forest we cross before reaching the quiet Refugio Nataciòn. It’s a small shelter at the bottom of the “Anfiteatrum”, a rocky wall 180 degrees wide in front of which a grass with two wild horses: looks like a movie..
We share a mate with Samuel, 21 year old and spending 6 months in this shelter to guest hikers and enjoying the quietness of this place.
Dinner with bonfire and bed straight away, we need to rest for the next day hike. First visiting Refugio Hielo Azul to then get back the backpack and head to Cajon del Azul through a steep descend on a sandy path, just before the final hour of ascent up to the less touristic Refugio Retamal! The additional effort to reach this shelter gives its reward as soon as we see the breathtaking landscape and surrounding mountains on both sides of the grass where we camp for the last night.
A light rain wakes us and together with Pele, a new friend, we start head back to Wharton, the start of the hike. On the way the big highlight of the valley: the colourful Cajon del Azul (Blue Canyon) where we find (better say build) our own path in the forest to keep close to the edge of the canyon and see the changing colours and rock formations dig by water drop after drop.
Mandala (www.hostelmandala.com.ar) is there waiting for me with an hot shower and warm bed: joys of life!
The week as “hostelero” (managing the hostel) runs fast between meeting new people and taking shots of Fer working on threes. I am working on a promotional movie for him to better promote and explain the singularity of his services: https://www.facebook.com/piltriclimbing
How many times did we tried this part Fer? 🙂
“Tree climbing is a technique that allow to access, inspect and move around any part of a tree from inside without damaging the tree and in complete safety….”
(The full version on his Facebook page and here below.. 🙂
19 days spent in El Bolson…. Not bad for a traveller who usually stop 1 or 2 days in each place…
They said “El Bolson te atrapa!” (El Bolson gets you!).. I didn’t believe them, but it’s true and not 100% sure I won’t come back soon..
A very special thanks to:
Fer, Alice, Andrea, Luna and Nora, Adriana and Alejandro, Fabio, Yan and all the nice people who gave me a ride from Mandala to town and back 🙂
See you soon!
Now back on road and heading more North to an unique Life Experience I dreamed of since long time!