With great expectations, we left from the center of San Martín de los Andes
towards Mount Chapelco
. We had planned to enjoy the mountain in a different way. We would walk on the snow wearing snowshoes and cross the ancient lenga
forest that promised deep silence and “zero pollution”.
The weather was cloudy in the morning and it might be snowing at the ski resort. This made our outing much more attractive. The shuttle traveled along National Route 234. It bordered Lake Lácar and, after 19 kilometers, it reached the winter resort.
It was snowing as if it had never snowed before. We were provided with the snowshoes and, once we had them on, the guides gave us some practical advice in order to walk without making a great effort. “Snowshoes have two positions in the heels: one with descent bindings and the other one without bindings at all so as to walk on plains or slopes” our guide explained and then added “we will let you know what position you have to select as we move along and please do not try to walk backwards with the snowshoes on”. “Too late” I thought, because as I heard the last words of the phrase, I collapsed onto the cold snow at the base of Mount Chapelco. Laughter was an ice-breaker with the other participants and we resolved that the best thing to do was to start walking.
We got away from the ski trails and slowly went deep into the forest. As if we were landing on the moon or walking on a giant lemon pie, we began to have fun with the new attraction under our feet. The experience is a great adventure and not difficult at all.
As we walked on, I began to observe a large amount of lichen (also known as Old man’s beard), which indicates the degree of purity in the air as this organism only grows in environments where there is no pollution at all. We took advantage of the moment to breath in deeply and let our lungs be filled with air carrying a maximum level of oxygen.
Farther ahead, hiking became more strenuous. We went up slopes, over bridges, across rivers and marshlands, a kind of swamp where water emerges and a cobweb of herbs covers the area. The purest snow rests here. It falls directly from the sky and forms a kind of white prairy.
Some time later, we performed the typical Patagonian ritual of putting on and taking off clothes so as to feel comfortable without feeling either cold or hot. Remember we were on the move.
After a few minutes, while we let ourselves be amazed by the magic of the snowy trees which seemed to have come right out of some fairy tale, we arrived in a shelter hidden in the mountain. We made the most of the technical stop to celebrate the success of the excursion so far. We drank a delicious cup of hot chocolate accompanied with exquisite cookies made with nuts, almonds and raisings, which quickly gave energy back to our bodies.
Once the snack was over, we adjusted our gear and started our way back. I do not know why but I always have the feeling that returns are always shorter. We retraced our steps and arrived in the base of the winter resort. Before going back to civilization, we did not miss the chance of making a new toast to our success, but this time with a sweet regional liquorice that restored our strength.
Once more, the shuttle took National Route 234, bordered the majestic waters of Lake Lácar and, after 19 kilometers, arrived in San Martín de los Andes. Undoubtedly, we were quite satisfied to prove that there exist other funny ways to discover Mount Chapelco.
Duration: an hour and a half’s hike
Opening hours: to be arranged with the tourist agent
Tour type: Adventure
Bear in mind: snowshoeing implies a rapid warm-up. Therefore, we recommend to carry a backpack to keep the clothes you take off on the way. It is advisable to wear waterproof footwear and trousers in order to sit on the snow without any trouble and enjoy the excursion to the utmost. Do not walk backwards while wearing your snowshoes as you will certainly end up falling.
Showshoeing tours are available from July to September and they are ideal for people without any prior experience or training but physically fit and willing to make a physical effort.