Laguna Jakob and Refugio San Martin sitting on the shore was the goal for the day on this first day of trekking. A short 18km walk with just 650m of ascent. The adrenaline was pumping and this was the first adventure into the mountains of the trip. Leaving the main vehicle track we had a long walk along a wide dirt track, the last easy walking for 5 days before we would return to Bariloche.
The start of the walk rises gently, heading toward the river and the valley beyond. This gave the first sight of the mountains and the crystal clear streams running down the valley. The path was surrounded by wild flowers, all bright colours. Some familiar, others unusual but similar to home in many ways. The path narrowed after the first few hours and dropped down to follow the Casa Piedro stream, gradually heading upstream into the mountains.
As the path moved up the valley and the stream narrowed and lost it's force, the boulders changed colour and the path moved further from the banks of the stream. A brief stop in a small woodland and a pebbly beach for a paddle was the last that was seen of the stream for quite a few miles. The path climbed steadily, the landscape changing from open scrubland to woodland with tall trees.
The call of the birds were all around but none were seen, hidden deep in the undergrowth they were a mystery for most of the trek. Life in this hot woodland was limited to lizards basking in the filtered sunlight and large mosses coating the trees.
The mountains were hidden from view and the stream was heard far below but not seen. Water was collected as we crossed each stream, icy cold and clear the water was a welcome relief from the head of the sun. It was just hard adjusting to the fact that this water could be drunk without purification tablets, something so ingrained in my mind that I couldn't resist popping a tablet in 'just incase' most of the time.
Switchbacks and Woodlands
Then the switch backs began. A long hard slog through the woodland, heading upwards with every step, the end close but taking forever to reach. Eventually the path started to flatten and a new bridge high above a small stream allowed a view down the valley as the water tumbled away. A small but but perfectly formed waterfall fell under the bridge as the water tumbled down the sheer boulder face.
A final slog up steps and a narrow path lead to the brow of the hill and as the corner was turned Laguna Jakob came in to view. The lake was clear blue, surrounded by high mountains, a treat for the end of a long trek. The mountains for the next day were jagged on the horizon but the fire snaking from the refugio chimney and the promise of malbec and bed pushed us towards the end of the day.
Refugio San Martin
Refugio San Martin is situated on the edge of the lake with smooth rocks leading down to the waters edge. A perfect location to watch the sun set and then spend the night. The accommodation was basic (wooden platforms with mattresses), but the food was very welcome. It was amazing what can be cooked for 60 on a single wood fired range.
As the sun set the sky came alive, first with a magical sunset, then the milky way hanging over the lake and mountains. By the morning the mountains had turned green and then glowed in the light as the mountains changed with the start of the new day.
There are a number of routes from Laguna Jakob, the longest being to Lago Mascardi, another full 18hours of trekking, which provided our second day of trekking.