Day three of our adventures in Bariloche required a very early wake-up call, as our tour to Cerro Tronador was scheduled to leave not long after sunrise. In the feeble light of predawn, we trudged our way to the pick-up point about a mile (uphill) from our cabin.
Our efforts were soon rewarded when we paused at our first stop to drink in the view of Lago Los Moscos, with the sun hanging low in the sky and the morning fog still hovering over the lake's waters.
We continued onward to Cascada los Alerces, a small but powerful waterfall set among a lush wood containing old-growth cypress trees. An otherworldly feeling permeated the fog-shrouded forest, and I heard very few sounds apart from our footsteps as we ambled along the wooden boardwalk and the rush of the vibrant blue-green Río Manso coursing past at our left, just beyond the trees.
After admiring the waterfall and the haunting beauty of the forest, we headed back to the site's parking area at the entrance to Cascada los Alerces, where a tiny rustic café run by a spry 94-year-old serves up tortas fritas and hot chocolate to visitors. The warm tortas fritas and the café's roaring fireplace helped drive away the chill. Before piling back into the van, we stopped to fuss over the resident cat and giggle at the hen scratching away in the café's flower garden.
As we made our way to Cerro Tronador, we stopped at El Balcón (The Balcony) overlook to take in views of Lago Mascardi and Isla Corazón. By the time we arrived here, the morning fog had burned off and the nip in the air had mostly disappeared.
Further down the road, we also took a few minutes to admire Cerro Tronador from afar, because you begin to lose perspective of the mountain as you get closer. At 11,453 feet (3491 m) tall, Cerro Tronador claims the title of tallest mountain in this region of the Andes. It has three peaks: the Chilean, the Argentine, and the International, the tallest one in the middle.
We headed onward to the base of Cerro Tronador to visit this dormant volcano and home to seven glaciers.
While most of Cerro Tronador's glaciers sit atop the mountain, the Ventisquero Negro or Black Glacier is located at its base. The Black Glacier, which is actually more of a chocolate brown, is simply a normal glacier that has accumulated dirt and small pieces of rock.
Tronador means "Thunderer," a name that refers to the frequent rumbling sounds that emanate from the mountain as ice and snow fall away from the glaciers. In this video, you can see and hear a pair of small avalanches and then an enormous one that's truly impressive.
After our visit to the Black Glacier, we hopped back in the van for a brief ride to a rest area and small restaurant a short hike from a waterfall called Garganta del Diablo (Devil's Throat). After refueling with a hearty lentil stew and sandwiches de milanesa, we ascended a rocky path to get a better view of the water pouring down from Cerro Tronador. The waterfall and additional glacial melt from Tronador feed this small stream, Arroyo Blanco.
At the conclusion of the tour, we doubled back on our previous route for the two-hour return trip to Bariloche, and it's possible that someone might have taken a snooze in the van on the way back to the cabin…
Next up: The Lakes Crossing: Bariloche to Puerto Varas