South American Hut-To-Hut: Refugio Jakob


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | August 25, 2014      

After spending a day skiing wind-affected snow around Refugio Frey, we decided to go on a ski tour over to nearby Refugio Jakob. The two huts are part of a five hut system that is commonly traversed in the summer, and crosses the range of mountains outside Bariloche, Argentina. I’d heard of some people doing it in the winter, but that doesn’t seem to be done very often, and we were unsure if the current conditions were conducive to doing the traverse. Either way, the weather was forecasted to worsen in two days, so we decided to simply do an out-and-back trip to Jakob.

Battling wind on the tour to Refugio Jakob. Wind is an often uncomfortable constant reality while skiing down south. However it does make some pretty pictures!

Battling wind on the tour to Refugio Jakob. Wind is an often uncomfortable constant reality while skiing down south. However it does make some pretty pictures!

We started out in the morning from Frey, and spent the day finding our way to Jakob. Many slopes were wind loaded, so we stayed on low-angled or wind scoured slopes, and made it to the refugio well before night.

Skyler and I decided to go for a short tour and check out the route to the next refugio. As we suspected, the route ahead crossed several exposed, steep slopes, not at all safe in the current conditions. As I was standing looking at the route, holding the map, a sudden gust of Patagonia wind crashed over the ridge like a wave, and swept me off my feet, onto my back. Soon after, we retreated to the comfort of the sturdily built refugio.

That night, as the wind howled and snowflakes started to fall, we discussed our options. The avalanche slopes we crossed were obviously getting wind loaded, perhaps dangerously. Our only avalanche safe option was an 18 kilometer hike out down the valley, in ski boots. Not a welcome option, but perhaps a necessary one.

Heading out from Refugio Frey at the start of the day across the wind-hammered lake.

Heading out from Refugio Frey at the start of the day across the wind-hammered lake.

The granite spires around Frey have some excellent climbing. We couldn't resist sinking our hands into a crack. Multi-sport day!

The granite spires around Frey have some excellent climbing. We couldn’t resist sinking our hands into a crack. Multi-sport day!

Coop riding down into the Ruco Valley on the way to Jakob.

Coop riding down into the Ruco Valley on the way to Jakob.

Coop skinning up Ruco Valley. Back sides of Frey spires are visible on the distant ridge. The terrain changes dramatically once out of the Frey basin.

Coop skinning up Ruco Valley. Back sides of Frey spires are visible on the distant ridge. The terrain changes dramatically once out of the Frey basin.

Looking down into the valley that holds Refugio Jakob. Rad terrain!

Looking down into the valley that holds Refugio Jakob. Rad terrain!

 Coop riding a nice little chute at the end of our day.

Coop riding a nice little chute at the end of our day.

Refugio Jakob is barely visible, settled on the right hand shore of the frozen lake.

Refugio Jakob is barely visible, settled on the right hand shore of the frozen lake.

Refugio Jakob, located on the shore of a lake, below Cerro Refugio.

Refugio Jakob, located on the shore of a lake, below Cerro Refugio.

On the way to Jakob, the lightweight carbon fiber highback on Coop's snowboard binding broke. “We have an ax, a piece of metal, 3 tent stakes, bailing wire, duct tape, and a nail. How can we fix it?” “Hammer on it of course!”

On the way to Jakob, the lightweight carbon fiber highback on Coop’s snowboard binding broke. “We have an ax, a piece of metal, 3 tent stakes, bailing wire, duct tape, and a nail. How can we fix it?” “Hammer on it of course!”

The finished repair. A little heavy perhaps, but solid!

The finished repair. A little heavy perhaps, but solid!

We woke in the morning, and decided to attempt the tour back to Frey. We chose to ascend a rocky ridge, until it petered out into an avalanche slope, evaluate the snow, and make a decision there. We ascended the ridge, then I ventured out, on belay, on the adjacent slope, and dug a snowpit. The pit looked solid, so we decided to go for it, and ditch the long hike out the valley bottom. Soon after, the already substantial wind picked up, and it started raining. After several hours we found shelter and a place to dry our saturated clothes at Refugio Frey. That night we set up our tent in the midst the storm, only to be woken up at 5am with our stakes melted out, and the tent flapping inches from our faces. We quickly dismantled the shelter and retreated to the comfort of the bunks in the Refugio, our tails between our legs.

The next morning dawned clear, but the rain had melted over half a meter of snow in the area around the hut. To leave the hut one can skin to the top of Cerro Catedral ski area, or hike down the summer trail that we followed to get to the hut. We decided to ski down to the valley and hike out, an easy decision since our hiking shoes were stashed down in the bottom of the valley. Unfortunately the ski down had melted out significantly with the previous days’ rain and warm weather. We completed a Cascade-worthy bushwhack, and finally made it back down to town.

We woke early in the morning to howling winds and new heavy snow. Sitting next to the fire for a while was much nicer than venturing out into the wind.

We woke early in the morning to howling winds and new heavy snow. Sitting next to the fire for a while was much nicer than venturing out into the wind.

Skyler skiing into the approaching storm. Bad weather, but beautiful views at least.

Skyler skiing into the approaching storm. Bad weather, but beautiful views at least.

The classic view from Refugio Frey. Our last view of the spires as we left for Bariloche. Hopefully we'll see it again soon!

The classic view from Refugio Frey. Our last view of the spires as we left for Bariloche. Hopefully we’ll see it again soon!

I didn't take any pictures of the worst parts of the 'schwack, but creek crossings are always fun. Last trip I fell into a creek in this valley while crossing it. I'm happy to say that all crossings were successful this go around.

I didn’t take any pictures of the worst parts of the ‘schwack, but creek crossings are always fun. Last trip I fell into a creek in this valley while crossing it. I’m happy to say that all crossings were successful this go around.

We stuffed ourselves with $5 “pizza libre” (all you can eat) in Bariloche, and discussed what we wanted to do next. I happened to look at the weather forecast for Cerro Torre in the far south of real Patagonia. Surprisingly the weather looked good, with sun and low winds for the next week. It was decided. We’re heading south!

Comments

6 Responses to “South American Hut-To-Hut: Refugio Jakob”

  1. Mike Marolt August 25th, 2014 9:29 am

    Ha, you can’t make up a repair story like that. Classic. Looks like a cool place.

  2. Lisa Dawson August 25th, 2014 11:24 am

    Louie, glad to see your engineering degree is being put to use, and your masters in MacGyver.

  3. Jason Davis August 25th, 2014 4:44 pm

    Can’t wait for the next TR! So Coop and Louie, exactly how many days did you have in between the Bugs and the Southern Patagonian Icefield?

  4. Mark Worley August 26th, 2014 4:41 pm

    Nice MacGuyvering on that highback binding part.

  5. Dorothy Cooper August 26th, 2014 9:23 pm

    Thanks for the update. Sounds amazing. The pictures are awesome…..keep up the blogging. :)

  6. david August 30th, 2014 10:46 pm

    I backpacked through there a few years ago, and thought to myself ‘this would be amazing to ski’. Glad yall are having some adventures!

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