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  • Writer's pictureMarion Marquardt

Monte San Lorenzo - a place of longing for mountaineers from all over the world

Adventurous access - the off-road track offers a lot that the heart of 4x4 fans desires
The Fundo San Lorenzo - family camping in the middle of a magical mountain scenery
Comfortable base for mountaineers - the Rifugio Toni Rohrer offers protection against cold and rain
In the footsteps of mountaineers - we climb the Paso del Comedor

We are once again checking an insider tip - Monte San Lorenzo. The 3,706 m high peak is located on the Argentina-Chilean border in southern Patagonia and is one of the few high mountains outside of the Patagonian Ice Field. Of course, the summit is not that unknown among mountaineers. However, we haven't heard anything about it yet. We don't even plan to climb the summit; we are well aware that our ability to do so is far from sufficient. This is reserved for experienced alpinists and climbers, and many of them have failed or even died here. Nevertheless, we want to explore the magical place as far as we can.

Even getting there is an adventure. From the next town, Cochrane in Chile, it is about 60 km, of which about 10 km are off-road tracks. It's a good thing that this isn't a problem for our Toyota Landcruiser. Finally we can exploit its potential. From steep, impassable terrain to crossing a fast-flowing river, everythink you're looking for as offroad fan. What an experience.

The wild Patagonian landscape is gorgeous. After about 3 hours we reach the Fundo San Lorenzo. Lucy and Luis have lived here for about 40 years. If you like, you can camp on their land. The property is huge, sheep and cattle farming is still practiced here. The Estancia is picturesquely situated in the valley in front of Monte San Lorenzo. We have the best weather, the majestic summit can be seen in full and is covered in snow and ice.

Fundo San Lorenzo Camping Refugio Toni Rohrer Monte San Lorenzo Mountaineering Climbing Patagonia Highlight
Camping with a view from Fundo San Lorenzo

Many mountaineers have been drawn here. The ascent is possible from both the Chilean and the Argentinian side. The first ascent, however, was been made by Alberto de Agostini in 1943 from the Chilean side. At 1,000 m you can still see the remains of his former base camp. From there he started countless summit attempts until he finally - at the proud age of 60 - reached the summit. Exactly on the same spot Lucy and Luis built a refuge 26 years ago. We are allowed to have a look on the construction diary. An immense achievement considering that at that time there was not even a road connecting their estancia. Every way into the city had to be done - at least partially - with horses. And finally it's about a 3 hour walk from the estancia to the base camp.

The Refugio is built entirely of wood. Luis built it in the summer of 1997 with a Cochrane architect with just an ax and a chainsaw. The wood for the walls and floor was cut to size on site. Only the roof shingles were prefabricated and transported there. Lucy told us that in the summer of construction she spent 3 months with her 3 sons in the tent at the base camp to help out. When you hear the story first-hand, you are even more surprised by the "luxury" that awaits you in the middle of nature. There is even an oven. He was laboriously transported up by horse and - on difficult parts - by 6 men. The Refugio can accommodate up to 20 people. In 2001 it did get its current name - Refugio Toni Rohrer. Named after the extreme Swiss mountaineer who had a fatal accident that year close to the summit of Monte San Lorenzo. Maria his wife was driving the naming in memories of her beloved husband.

We leave Fundo San Lorenzo the next day. The easy hike to the base at 1,000m takes around 3 hours. We can see Monte San Lorenzo from afar. It shines towards us in radiant white. We have the perfect weather. Cloudless, hardly any wind. The refuge is idyllically situated on the edge of the forest, quite close to the tree line. We're amazed at how great it looks, outside as well as from inside. Downstairs we find the kitchen and living room, upstairs in the roof is the "dormitory" (i.e. plenty of space to spread out mattresses and sleeping bags). We enjoy the rest of the afternoon at the river close to the hut. The temperatures invite to chill. We rarely had days or even hours when we were able to sunbathe in shorts in the Patagonian summer. In the evening we walk to the nearby lagoon for a small yoga session. Unfortunately, it is now too clouded, the summit is no longer visible. We are annoyed that we didn't take a single photo during the sunny afternoon hours. Actually, after 4 months in Patagonia we should know how fluctuating weather can be here.

Monte San Lorenzo Chile highest mountain Patagonia, fundo san lorenzo refugio toni rohrer
Late evening view showing some lighter cloud coverage:-)

On Tuesday we want to get a little closer to the summit. The Paso del Comedor should be worthwhile and promising to reach; it is just before the 2nd camp for the "summiteers". It is said that you simply need around 3 hours for the around 1,000 meters in altitude; perfect to start the day quite comfortably. After breakfast we slowly start. The first part is well marked with cairns. Unfortunately, we don't have GPS coordinates for the route, only a topo map on our cell phone. The path leads uphill over boulder fields along a stream. Soon there are no more markings to be seen. We continue to follow the stream uphill. The weather is clearing and we have magnificent views of the valley we left behind. In front of us is a lagoon filled with ice from the nearby glacier.

Monte San Lorenzo, Refugio Toni Rohrer Fundo san Lorenzo Glacier Lagoon ice bergs
View on the magnificent Glacier Lagoon

We climb a little further up, in the truest sense of the word, because the terrain is getting more and more difficult. At some point we reached the altitude of the pass, which should be about 1 km as the crow flies away - sepparated only by a steep ice field. A crossing without crampons is impossible, after a few steps you start to slide. We regret that we didn't pack our crampons this time. We even asked Lucy if there is a way without.....Well, the view is still magical.

Monte San Lorenzo Refugio Toni Rohrer Fund san Lorenzo Passo Comedor Panorama
View from Passo Comedor - This Panorama was worth all the effort

We enjoy for a moment the views but then we'll have to make our way back. The ascent actually took us over 5 hours. We try the descent a little more directly. Hence the terrain is even steeper and we have to avoid some passages. Overall, we're not really faster either. I'm done for the day. The terrain and path finding left me exhausted. We reach the refuge around 8:30 p.m. And there are two boys waiting for us. Bruno and Juan from Uruguay arrived today. While we cook, we talk a little about our travels, exchange tips and contacts. There is not enough energy for more. Despite the hard wooden floor, I sleep fall immediately asleep.

It rains the next morning. Now the view of Monte San Lorenzo is finally blocked. We wanted to get off anyway. Before we leave, we'll leave a souvenir, as many have done before us. A nice tradition.

Monte San Lorenzo wir waren hier refugio toni Rohrer
Refugio Toni Rohrer - we have been here

At the Fundo San Lorenzo, a hot shower and a heatable camper are waiting for us. Splendid! We talk again with Lucy. She is baking fresh bread and making jam. In this seclusion it is essential to take care of yourself. Basically everything you need is there. Wood for heating and basic food are enough. Lucy knows that almost any vegetable thrives in a greenhouse. The low electricity requirement is generated with solar energy. While not enough to power a refrigerator, there are ways out there to preserve fresh vegetables and even meat for some time. Nevertheless, the family only lives here in the summer, i.e. from November to May, at the Fundo San Lorenzo. They spend the winter about an hour further towards Cochrane. The last part of the route is often impassable for a long time in winter. Both the street and the house suffer from the cold winter. In the spring, a lot of things have to be repaired each year, tiles crack, water pipes freeze. Lucy plans to winter here in 2023 for the first time to maintain it heated. Something like that would actually be very appealing for us. Let's see if the dream can be realized in one place or another...

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09 avr. 2023
Noté 5 étoiles sur 5.

Do you have the what three word coordinates for the start of the trail

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