July and August, 2017 our destination was Argentina, skiing out of Catedral, Alta-Patagonia, which is located just outside of the city of Bariloche. During our stay, I was able to experience a beautiful and total private mountain range and its Refugio called Baguales Mountain Reserve.
Just a few weeks into our stay in Bariloche we met through friends the owner of Bgualis, Hubert Gosse. During a great day of skiing, conversation turned to perhaps going Backcountry Skiing and combining it with a day of Cat skiing at Hubert’s private Mountain.
Sure enough, the next weekend we found ourselves heading to Baguales. I’ve heard it said that it isn’t the destination, but the journey (it’s both in this case!)-and the journey up to Baguales was certainly something! We started in 4wd vehicles; crossing the Rio Villegas, where the road skirts the Baguales stream to the lower lodge.
We went as far as 4WD vehicles could possibly take us,
and at that point we switched to snowmobiles, and rode through incredible valleys and forests.
Steep slopes, chains of hills, wide open spaces, and overwhelming remote settings ensure a thrilling ride to the Upper Lodge. Located at the heart of Baguales, 5,400 feet up, is La Mesada Refuge. It’s a 2,900 square foot wooden cabin with breathtaking views of Mount Villegas (7,550 elevation) and Mount Plum (6,890 elevation) to the West, and La Mesada, Mount Pintado, and Mount Carerra to the East.
La Mesada Refuge offers an entrance hall, a dining room for 20 people, a lounge, an area for board and card games, and a comfortable bar (where some delicious fondue is served). Wi-Fi is also available. The main star of this shelter is an enormous central fireplace providing 360º of warmth. Four complete bedrooms provide accommodation for 8 people with individual bathrooms and an upstairs loft can accommodate up to 8 people if needed. Outside, an amazing deck invites everyone to enjoy the breathtaking views with a hot or cold drink in hand.
After settling in and meeting the friendly staff, we gathered around the very large and rustic fireplace and discussed the next day’s plans over a few drinks. Our host Hubert, Jake, Jon and I then enjoyed a fabulous dinner, mostly prepared Argentinian style right at the fire. The accommodations are top notch for a remote Refugio in the middle of the Andes. Just shortly before going to bed, I stepped outside for a few minutes to take in the most beautiful starry night sky ever!
The next day we did some Cat Skiing. If you have never been cat skiing or you just want to take a break from skinning uphill for a day, I strongly recommend you try it! The fact that we were on a private mountain in the middle of Patagonia gave us endless opportunity to take the Cat wherever we wanted. We decided to explore some easy bowls to get started with;
but, with increasing excitement came increasing terrain, and we soon found ourselves skiing steep couloirs, and extreme chutes.
At lunchtime, we stopped near Refugio Del Pintado (one of the other Refugio’s on the Haute Route ) on a beautiful hillside where looking downhill we could admire our tracks left behind from previous runs, and looking uphill we could see Cardon Pintado (another mountain).
After our on-snow picnic, our high-mountain UIAGM certified guide took us back up for the afternoon to explore a beautiful area in Patagonia called Andean Cordillera.
After skiing approximately 22’000 vertical feet on a beautiful bluebird day we made our last descent back to the lodge at Baguales. We arrived just in time for a “mate” (Argentina’s National Drink), and relaxed around the fireplace as the sun went down. Another great dinner and great company gave away to some Argentinian guitar playing and singing by a talented member of the staff for our entertainment.
Our last day in Baguales we decided to do some backcountry skiing. This adventure took us high up into the area of Cerro Villegas Sur, another mountain range opposite the area where we cat skied. The skiing was amazing, and the views didn’t disappoint either!
So, as you can see, (or better yet, I can show you in person when you are ready to join me) on this circuit of Mountain Refuges, deep in the Andes, backcountry skiers and snowboarders can enjoy a once in a lifetime opportunity choosing different outings everyday with overnight stays in different refugios along the way.
It truly is, “An authentic Patagonia Haute Route”.