The Arenales valley is one of the best climbing destinations in central argentina, if not the best. It offers everything from bouldering to aid climbing, with the majority being multipitch trad on the vertical seas of varicolored granites. A lifetime of climbing can be expected from this area, and for every trad line that is up, there are 10 more waiting to be put up. Difficulties go from 5.5 to 5.12+.
Camping is free, but you must register with the park rangers at the lower entrance, the rangers are extremely friendly and outgoing. There is sport climbing right above the ranger station and trad on the other side of the valley. There is a mountain refuge hut in south branch of the valley leading up to the landslides and cerro tupungato, you can bivvy there for free. The water running in the stream next to the hut is drinkable and is perhaps the purest and best tasting you'll ever try. However, water treatment may be necessary since there may be dead animals further upstream. (I found a dead cow in 2010 a quarter mile upstream.)
Mind the weather and the seasons, the elevation at Arenales is around 3000 meters and the valleys will get heavy snow in winter. The weather is nice enough for climbing between october and april.
Perhaps the best moderately difficult route up Aguja Espina. It was unclear if the first pitch had been previously done as a variant to La Matuasta.Pitch 1. Climb up the beautiful thin crack system passing a couple of small roofs before reaching a small ledge system. Step slightly down and right to belay. Amazing pitch. Gear anchor. 100 feet, 5.11.Pitch 2. The crux. Follow the obvious thin crack as it arcs up and right towards a small roof feature. Pull past the roof and you are through the crux...[more]Browse More Classics in International
The trailhead involves driving on many kilometers of gravel road west of TunuyŠn. We barely made it with a low clearance 2wd vehicle. If coming by public transport or a very low clearance vehicle a shuttle may be arranged by stopping at the market near the giant Jesu Christo statue (where the road turns to gravel).
You will also need to pass through Aduana as the valley is very close to the Chile border. Passport required.
Many people camp at the trailhead but a much nicer option is to hike the ~15 minutes up to the refugio.
Approaches to climbing areas from the refugio range from 30 minutes to a half day. Bouldering and several sport climbs are literally within seconds of the refugio. Several areas with high concentrations of climbs may warrant leaving your gear stashed for several days.
The refugio is very basic and offers a place to take shelter, store food and trash. Many people cook here and some people even sleep inside but it is small and in poor condition as of 2014.
Water is available from streams that run all over the valley. I drank without treatment but YMMV. Cows graze the valleys and shit everywhere. Treatment may be prudent.
The bathroom situation is already beginning to become a problem around the refugio and camping areas. Bring a shovel to dig cat holes or a latrine for your stay. Or, even better, pack it out.
Cows are everywhere and aggressive. Food and trash should be kept in the refugio or hung above ground. Prickly plants are also abundant throughtout the valley. I found a sliver kit to be useful on numerous occasions.
A guidebook is currently available by Mauricio Fernandez and is already in 3rd addition (2009). It can be purchased at climbing shops in Mendoza. It became apparent after just several days that only a fraction of the existing routes are currently documented. Another guidebook is apparently in the works as well. Also, check out: www.arenalesclimbing.com