Located right outside the city of Bariloche in Argentina, Frey is a playground for climbers who like long approaches to climb like 4-5 pitches. Just kidding, it’s a beautiful setting and the climbs might not be the longest in the world, but standing on top of a summit the size of a desk with shaky knees and a queasy stomach is pretty memorable.
The climbing at Frey is also a great introduction into Patagonian climbing, with the same characteristics of places like Chalten, just dialed back quite a fair bit. The temps are warmer, being in Northern Patagonia, and the wind can be less strong due to more land mass diffusing the gusts. Also no need for pesky crampons and ice axes.
At home you’ll want to pack a double rack with one 3.5″ cam, and all your camping essentials. A 70m rope is quite important to get down from some climbs like the classic Imaginate.
You’ll want to fly to Buenos Aires and then on to Bariloche. Spend a day to gather gas cans and provisions and you’ll be ready to head into Frey. If you have extra stuff with you that you don’t want to lug in, you can store it at Backpackers Hostel for a bottle of wine when you pick it up. The hostel we stayed at didn’t do luggage storage even though we reserved another night with them after the Frey trip.
Take the 55 at the bus stop marked on the map above, and get off at the last stop. In order to take the bus, you’ll need to buy a SUBE card at any convenience store; just ask the person behind the counter to load it with enough to get to Cerro Catedral (the last stop and trailhead to Frey) and back. The bus leaves every hour but be careful when you are coming out to not come out too late, the last bus is at about 8pm.
Once at the trailhead with your heavy packs, it should take about 3.5hrs to get to the campsites located behind the Refugio. The first few hours are flat, and the last 1-1.5 is steep, but all in all, not a bad hike.
- Diedro de Jim 5.8, Aguja Frey
- Clemenzo 5.9, Principle Torre
- Del Frente 5.9, La Vieja
- Imaginate 5.10, Campanile Esloveno
South American summer is the time to visit. We were there mid January and had a week of perfect weather. 70F highs and 40F lows.
The camping at the Refugio is free which is amazing considering there are well maintained flush toilets, a refugio to relax inside of and to buy pizza from. Those guys do a great job so consider donating a few hundred pesos when you’re on your way out.
It can get windy, it is Patagonia after all, so choosing a site that is protected from the mainly westerly winds, is very important. Staking down your tent securely is also important.
At Frey, you’ll be eating whatever you brought up with you from Bariloche (the supermarket in Bariloche is pinned on the map above). The refugio also makes a pretty good pizza for 400 pesos, a bit more than 10 bucks.
In Bariloche, if you eat steak, you should check out Boliche de Alberto, known for its ribeye. 500g of cow will set you back about 500 pesos, about 15 bucks.
You can drink tap water in Argentina, and once at Frey, there is a spigot with fresh water that you don’t need to treat. Many if not all the approaches have plenty of water along the way. And no route is more than 6ish pitches (most are 3-5). Bringing a one liter nalgene would be plenty imo, if you’re tight on space.
The lake at Frey is not only beautiful but also a great way to wash off all the sweat and dirt from the tough approaches to most of the spires. Having this awesome lake makes the limiting factor on how long you can stay in Frey to be really just how much food you bring up since you could go swim in the lake every day if you wanted to.
You can work on evening out your t-shirt tan by the lake. The sun down here is strong though, so don’t neglect the sunscreen!
We didn’t do any climbing down in Chalten or Torres Del Paine, but here’s a little writeup if you head down that way before or after your Frey trip!
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