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Published: June 12th 2013
The Path of PinesThursday 9 May to Saturday 11 May
A view back down some of the climb to the start of the trek
After a good night's sleep at the end of my first day in Sierra de la Ventaña, I awoke to a gloriously sunny day - sadly too late to climb Cerro de la Ventaña. I therefore decided to have a bit of a lazy day around the town, enjoying lunch at a local cafe followed by some cheeky churros (a Spanish doughnut for those not familiar with this delicious treat). They were yummy - crisp on the outside, soft in the middle and covered in sugar, as well as still being hot from the fryer. If you've never had them, keep your eyes open on your next trip to Spain or pretty much anywhere in Latin America!!!
I then went off to try and sort out my bus ticket for getting to Parque Provincial Ernesto Tornquist the following day, as well as my ticket to Bahía Blanca en route to Bariloche. I discovered at this point that Sierra de la Ventaña observes the siesta, so everything pretty much shut down from 12pm to 4pm.
It was lovely just to meander down the streets and avenues, everything so quiet and tranquil. I
The View to the Top
It looks like a small hole from here!
went down to the river to enjoy the views and feel the sun's warmth on my face before deciding I should join in the custom and have my own mini-siesta.
I can see the appeal, I must say, though the siesta does mean that most people work until quite late (this may explain why most Argentine's don't eat until about 10pm - something I'm still trying to adapt to).
The following day I got the morning bus to Parque Provincial Ernesto Tornquist. The views en route were beautiful, with cloud and early morning mist surrounding the mountains. On arrival at the park I had to register with the park rangers, who gave me instructions for the route up to Cerro de la Ventaña, which basically involved taking a left, then a right and then following the number markers from 1 to 10 - simples!!! I had a 5 hour window in which to get to the top and back down.
The walk began with a fairly steep climb between two rows of pine trees, which made me acutely aware of how unfit I'd become as the heavy breathing began pretty much immediately. Once out of the trees
Panorama from the ascent across The Pampas
the trail was very easy to follow and I was able to enjoy some beautiful views of the mountains and tree lines of the Pampas. It was a wee bit of a shame that the clouds had stuck around, as it meant I wasn't given a totally clear panorama, but on the plus side it did stop it getting very hot. I can only imagine how much more beautiful it would have looked in full sunshine.
The route to gate 5 was fairly flat and easy to cope with - just a steady climb. After this it became much more challenging, requiring scrambling up rocky paths until gate number 8 when it flattened off again. The route was also a bit more difficult to see here, so I think I may have taken a few small detours! At gate 8 the wind was no longer being blocked by the mountain side, so it meant I got a bit blown around for the final part. At gate number 9 it was another steep scramble to the summit.
I managed to climb the 1,136m to the summit in just under 2 hours. Not bad when all things are considered.
A Room with a View
The rock window up close and personal
The mountain is famous in the region for it's summit, as there is a rock formation that creates a window. It was stunning how it framed the view beyond - mountains reaching out into the distance and forests of green trees. There were two couples at the top as well, so we took it in turns to take photos for one another to prove we'd made it there.
After the others set off back, I enjoyed a wee bit of lunch, looking out through the rock window. It was so peaceful, making it easy to just be still and take in the glorious surroundings. I felt a nice sense of achievement at having made it up too.
Getting back down took just under 1.5 hours.
It would then have been a nice 4 hour wait for the bus back, being off season, had it not been for a lovely retired Argentine couple who had driven over from Sierra de la Ventaña to see the mountain. They very kindly offered me a lift back with them. This meant I was saved twiddling my fingers and toes, as well as the prospect of "one chance only" to flag the
On Top of the World
Just to prove that I made it - admitedly not looking my best...ha ha!
bus down in the dark.
It became quite amusing that the gentleman in the couple was convinced I was from New York, despite my saying I was English and from York, not New York. He began telling me of all his trips there, how much he loved the city and that he was a big fan of the Nicks. In the end I just went with it!
My plan for the evening was to celebrate with a steak, but the restaurant I'd picked out didn't appear to be open. So, it ended up being take out pizza and a can of lager. A dinner of champions, no?!
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