A Series of Unfortunate Events- Bariloche Style


It’s around 4PM in camp near the Refugio Frey outside of Bariloche, Argentina. Things are starting to look a little grim.

“Alan…will you come look at my poop?”

He answers as any true gentleman would. “Yeah, for sure champ.”

“…..do you think that’s blood in there?”

We both start at it for a while.

“…yeah. I think so….”


It was Alan and I’s first time on a trip together-in fact the first time climbing together- and things were going…fantastic. What a better way to woo a new adventure partner by inviting them to look at your feces with you?

Our string of troubles began more or less from the get go. We met each other in the bus station in El Calafate, both in slightly deteriorated states. Alan was coming off of three or so days of travel from Finland, and I fresh off of a 21 hour day of climbing in El Chalten. By the time we found each other and cut up for a bit it was too late and we had too much luggage to find ourselves any place to stay. No worries, we can just sleep in the bus station, right? Two police officers arrived and squashed that hope, ensuring us that we were allowed to stay in the bus station but we weren’t allowed to sleep. What kind of rule is that? We kept each other awake until four or so in the morning, then proceeded to pass out on the floor for a few measly hours.

Later that day we got on a bus. We sat for another two days in those hot, clammy bus seats eating chicken delight and packaged muffins until it dumped us off at the Bariloche station late at night. Our hostel that we had hoped to stay at ended up being unavailable to us.

image (3)
Scribbles: the bus station bivy. And yes, Babbling Woman did indeed see it fit to plant herself in the two feet of space between our luggage and Alan’s head. Lucky him…lucky him.

We tried to sleep in the bus station until we got kicked out of the building, so we dragged ourselves outside and burrowed into a rather filthy bus stop bivy. What ensued was an unpleasant night of kicking ferrel dogs off of sleeping pads, rolling around in cigarette butts and waking up to loud, senile women.

Thankfully the night ended eventually. We spent thirty minutes ferrying our gear a mere 100 meters to a great little place by the station called Shelter on the Lake. The folks there were kind enough to store our extra gear for us while we were out climbing for the week. Once we were free of our extra luggage we picked up some groceries and supplies and ran for the hills. After a fifty minute bus ride we were working our way up the dusty and hot approach trail to the Refugio Frey. Four hours later we plodded into camp, both of us feeling a little rough after our traveling fiasco, but incredibly happy to be sleeping in the woods as opposed to our previous accommodations.

We spent the next five days climbing in the Frey. In general we found the climbing to be alright- not too exceptional, not awful either. Most days involved an approach that lasted anywhere from fifteen minutes to four hours to climb on routes one to four pitches in length. Regardless of our thoughts on the climbing’s quality, the Frey was doing its job of giving Alan and I a chance to prepare for the Piritas by climbing together and getting used to climbing on granite.


Eventually we needed to make a run back to Bariloche for the day to restock on food and fuel. We made the run into town and back, then took a rest day the following day. We attempted to climb the next day, though my gut had other plans for me. After deciding it was time to retreat to camp I spent the remainder of the day in, around, or thinking about the toilet. What I thought was a simple stomach bug escalated to the point that we thought it fitting to head back to town, particularly with the Piritas right around the corner.

We found a hospital in Bariloche. My poor Spanish prompted the unique opportunity of getting to type “I have bloody diarrhea” into Google translate on the computer of the Emergency Room receptionist. Fortunately all I needed was a basic antibiotic which is currently working its magic on my system. Once I was settled in Alan headed back up to the Frey to get a few more days of climbing in.


Some things that I learned:

-Sleeping on buses, inside of bus stations or outside of them most certainly classifies as type three fun. Not fun in the moment, not funny afterwards, nor will I ever look back on it in fondness. But, an experience nonetheless.

-The Frey was rather dusty, hot and dry. Al and I’s initial campsite was in an exposed position. This resulted in us waking up by getting sand blasted through our mesh three season tent, even after trying to tack the fly against the ground. After the second day of waking up in a sand box we moved our tent a ways away from the Refugio to the shelter of some trees.

-The area around the Refugio was much more populated than we had anticipated, more so with trekkers than climbers. The place was certainly the most lively hut scene I have encountered. We’re talking bongo drums and singing until the wee hours of the morning kind of lively.

-I’m not quite sure what I was expecting, but I think the climbing in the Frey could be classified as cragging in a pseudo-alpine environment. There were times where it felt like you were simply heading out for a couple pitches crag style. Others days you spent many hours approaching and got to deal with interesting route finding and descents. The climbing was not overly spectacular, but it certaintly has a nice variety of routes, grades, climbing styles and commitment levels.

-Of all of the places and times to get sick on this trip, the incident in Frey worked out pretty well. Other than the three hour hike out it was very fortunate to be able to re enter a larger city and get quick and cheap fix for my digestive system. Alan also killed it in the ‘dealing with a sick partner’ category, so hats off to him.


A few more days and we will be off to Lago Puelo- the launching ground for the Piritas Valley. Our general plan is as follows:

-Take a boat across Lago Puelo and meet a guacho and his five horses. We will travel two days on horseback up the Rio Turbio drainage with our gear.

-The guacho will leave us and from there we will ferry our gear up valley to the base of the Piritas.

-With some luck we’ll climb Pirita Central, a beautiful looking peak with some very nice unclimbed faces.

-Any remaining time will be used to further explore the Piritas or to check out different drainages.

-After our time of 30 days is up we will pack raft out on the Rio Turbio, a supposedly ‘mellow’ class two run. We will see how ‘mellow’ feels in the dinky fishing rafts Alan brought with all of our expedition gear strapped to them.

Jared Spaulding Piritas
My first published guide book: This photo shows the three Piritas- Left, Central and Right- as well as the previously done routes in the region.


And that’s a wrap! Cheers for a now. As always- feel free to contact me with questions, beta requests, ect.

Special thanks to:


One thought on “A Series of Unfortunate Events- Bariloche Style

Add yours

  1. Hey! I enjoyed reading your post and seeing pictures from Oregon, where I was introduced to climbing for the first time. Im a friend of Alans too so its fun to be able to follow up. Good luck with the Piritas valley expedition! I cant wait to read more. 🙂 Hugs, Emma from Finland

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