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Frey Rock Climbing 

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Elevation: 6,000'
Location: -41.206, -71.4915 View Map  Incorrect?
Page Views: 33,647
Administrators: Mauricio Herrera Cuadra, Tony Yeary, Kristine Hoffman (sitewide)
Submitted By: Sirius on Nov 27, 2007
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The Refugio and the Frey towers. Torre Principal i...


Impeccable description compliments of user "Sirius":

Granite spires in an uncomparable setting, free camping, ridiculously friendly locals, beautiful cracks, and an abundance of classic, airy, challenging lines: this is Frey.

Nothing on the 4-hour approach to Frey prepares you for what you find after pulling over the last rise to Laguna Tomcek for the first time: an emerald tarn stretches to the end of a bowled-out cirque. White and black granite spires reflect on its surface. As you lift your gaze your hands begin to sweat: they're everywhere, needles in every shape and size, riddling the sides and rims of the cirque. It's a surreal landscape: The Fool, The Monk, The Grandfather, The Lunar Rocket, The Old Woman, The Splinter, The Three Marias - each spire has its own character. Condors weave spirals in the deep blue. You've made it to climber's heaven.

Frey, as a climbing area, is divided into two cirques that share a col. Picture two teacups that have been fused together on one side. Most people camp in the northern cirque, alongside Laguna Tomcek. Plenty of water - some people were using purification but we were fine without. To minimize impact, campers must use the toilets at the refugio, and must NOT make campfires.

The refugio, from which Frey takes its name, charges about 20 pesos/night for a bed (2004). You can use the kitchen or just sit around, play cards, and get warm even if you're not a guest. Meals, candy, and beer are sold here. Access to the spires from the camping area can be anywhere from 5 min. to 3 hrs. The furthest towers, those that line the rim of the cirques (Torre Principal, Campanille Esloveno), involve somewhat strenuous hoofing up scree and snow fields. The climbs are invariably worth the effort.

The climbing itself is excellent and often outrageously excellent. Nearly every climb ends on an ultra-exposed summit with views of the Patagonian Andes stretching away down the planet. Few of the summits we stood on could have held more than two or three people at a time. Some of the ratings in the local guidebook felt a bit sandbagged - something akin to the Joshua Tree style of sandbagging. Sandbags that can be appreciated.

Most routes are stellar crack adventures, though face climbing always comes into play. There are a limited number of sport routes. Very few superfluous bolts have been put up, making for the occasional obligatory runout.

Five star climbs that we had a chance to climb include Lost Fingers, Imagínate, Clemenzo, El Diedro, Sifuentes-Webber, and Baby Boom. Nothing special for the rack: whatever gets you by when you climb trad will work here. We brought doubles in nuts and cams up to 3.5". Some pitches are long (40, 50 meters) and two ropes are a must for many descents. Doubles work great. !Viva Argentina, mierda!

Climbing beta:
Easy to pick up a photocopied guide at the Club Andino in Bariloche - around 14 pesos ($4 u.s., 2004). There is also an ever-expanding three-ringed binder in the refugio that contains annotated topos, drawings, comics, spray, etc etc etc.

Getting There 

From Bariloche:
Catch the Villa Catedral colectivo downtown. Costs about .35 cents (2004), u.s. A pretty spin around the E end of the lake will get you to the last stop, a big parking lot in Villa Catedral.
From here, walk S across the lot toward a wooden sign that reads "Club Andino Bariloche/Refugio Emilio Frey". Hop on this trail and 4 hrs. later (that was our time with a big rack and 2 wks food) you'll be dropping your pack at the refugio. A mellow hike through a burn area and up a forested ravine. Little water is available for the first two hours. Beware tabanos in season.

Climbing Season

Weather station 0.7 miles from here

36 Total Climbing Routes

['4 Stars',14],['3 Stars',16],['2 Stars',3],['1 Star',2],['Bomb',1]

Classic Climbing Routes in Frey

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes for Frey:
Diedro de Jim (5)   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Trad, Alpine, 2 pitches, 200'   Aguja Frey
Sifuentes Weber   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Trad, Alpine, 4 pitches, 300'   Aguja Frey
Del Diedro   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Trad, 1 pitch, 90'   Aguja M2
Ñaca Ñaca Crunch Crunch   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Trad, Alpine, 4 pitches, 360'   El Abuelo
Del Frente   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Trad, 2 pitches, 260'   La Vieja
Buch-Goin   5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a     Trad, 4 pitches, 430'   Campanile Esloveno
Clemenzo   5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a     Trad, 6 pitches, 500'   Torre Principal
Ruta Normal   5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a     Trad, 5 pitches, 400'   Torre Principal
Dedos Empastados   5.10- 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a     Trad, Sport, 1 pitch, 150'   Aguja M2
Sudafricana   5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b     Trad, 4 pitches, 230'   La Vieja
Imagínate   5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b     Trad, 5 pitches   Campanile Esloveno
Chocolate Liquido (6a+)   5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b     Trad, 4 pitches, 400'   Torre Principal
Socotroco   5.10b/c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b     Trad, 1 pitch, 25'   Aguja M2
Fonrouge-Bertoncelj   5.10b/c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b     Trad, 4 pitches, 380'   Campanile Esloveno
Objetivo Luna   5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b     Trad, Alpine, 8 pitches, 900'   El Cohete Lunar
Lost Fingers   5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b     Trad, Alpine, 3 pitches, 300'   Aguja Frey
Sinestro Total   5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b     Trad, 8 pitches, 900'   Torre Principal
Aprendiendo a Volar   5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b     Trad, Alpine, 2 pitches, 200'   El Abuelo
Los Museos/Abrojos e Centellas/Lost Fingers   5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c PG13     Trad, Alpine, 2 pitches, 210'   Aguja Frey
Browse More Rock Climbing Classics in Frey

Featured Route For Frey
Rock Climbing Photo: João Cassol from Florianopolis, Brazil ascends So...

Socotroco 5.10b/c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b  South America : Argentina : ... : Aguja M2
From a pedestal below the west face, ascend a flake and crack system to the summit of the needle. The odd bolt decreases the run-outs. Sustained, but easier than it looks....[more]   Browse More Classics in International

Photos of Frey Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Looking towards refugio right before sunset
Looking towards refugio right before sunset
Rock Climbing Photo: Bodacious cracks on P3 of "Tortiritos de Caca...
Bodacious cracks on P3 of "Tortiritos de Caca...
Rock Climbing Photo: Life is good...yerba mate and Frey !
Life is good...yerba mate and Frey !
Rock Climbing Photo: Icy stream on hike in to Cohete Lunar, early Jan 2...
Icy stream on hike in to Cohete Lunar, early Jan 2...
Rock Climbing Photo: Frey in the mist.
Frey in the mist.
Rock Climbing Photo: Frey panoramic
Frey panoramic
Rock Climbing Photo: Las Torres y Las Estrellas
Las Torres y Las Estrellas
Rock Climbing Photo: Refugio Frey plaque
Refugio Frey plaque
Rock Climbing Photo: Sign at beginning of trail to Frey near Cerro Cate...
Sign at beginning of trail to Frey near Cerro Cate...

Comments on Frey Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Jan 11, 2017
By Rob Dillon
Apr 14, 2008
Nice description, Sirius. It's all true!

Regarding the approach: Any benefit gained from taking the ski lift is negated by the necessity of wobbling down through a lengthy boulder field to the Laguna Tomcek. Did this once and that was enough.
By mountainsense
Sep 24, 2008
some of the finest alpine granite cragging on earth! --el gringo amarillo
By gumbotron
From: Denver, CO
Jan 31, 2011
Slated to do some climbing down there the third week in March. Think the weather will still be ok? Also, can I get by with a 70m or should I schlep the doubles?
By Ryan Huetter
From: Mammoth Lakes, CA
Feb 28, 2011
Single 60 works for most all raps. There is only one route I can think of where a 70 was really nice, but not mandatory.
By matthewquirke
Jan 19, 2012

Me and my climbing partner are currently hanging out in Buenos Aires and planning where to head for climbing..

Hey just wondering if any of you guys have any knowledge of ASH conditions and climbing in Bariloche and Cochamo - in regards to the ASH from the volcano?

Many years ago there was an volcano eruption in New Zealand, the sulphur in the ash destroyed both the hardware and software as it was quite corrosive - breathing it wasn´t so good either..
We were hoping climb up at Cerro Catedral Frey for a few months climbing the spires,

Just wondering if you know about Baraloche/Frey/Cochamo and the ASH suitation - ..Thanks for any information
By Rich Brereton
From: Pownal, ME
Jan 27, 2012

You should have no problems with ash if you do head up to Frey. I just got back to the States after two weeks in Bariloche. Stayed up at Frey for 10 days. Some days were completely ash-free, some days it looked like Los Angeles on a smoggy day. The ash did not affect the climbing at all, however. There was no buildup on holds whatsoever. As far as I know the ash from this volcano is not corrosive, and not thick enough in the Bariloche region to cause any respiratory problems.

Cochamo should be pretty much ash-free. A friend was there in December and said there was no problem.
By kknight
Dec 2, 2012
Any need for crampons/ice axe for approaches in late dec. and january?
By T Rundle
From: Belltown
Jan 18, 2013
Easily some of the best crack climbing. Great refugio if only to escape the wind for a spell.
By kirkadirka
From: Boulder
Jan 20, 2014
More beta on Frey alternative approach.

I made several trips there in 2013/2014 and used the standard approach as well as the approach using the ski lifts from the base area. The times for approach to the refugio ranged from 4 hours (standard route) to 2 hours 20 minutes (ski lift approach) with a 50+ pound pack. The alternative approach involves cheating (2 ski lifts) but saves time and your legs. The cost to take the ski lifts up was 120 pesos in January 2014. At the top of the ski lift simply hike up for 20 minutes to a saddle and locate the ridge traverse trail. The trail is obvious with painted rocks and follows the back side of a ridge on mostly class 2 terrain before dropping into the Frey cirque after several kilometers. Once you drop into the cirque, do not go to the bathroom until you have hiked past the upper lake; the refugio water supply is at the outlet of the upper lake. The ski lift approach also offers great views, including Tronador, for pretty much the entire ridge traverse.

As stated above, there are bathrooms available at the refugio. All are encouraged to use these bathrooms whenever possible as doing so will minimize impacts from human waste.
By Dan Flynn
From: MA
Jan 23, 2014
We tried the ski lift on one of our trips, too much scrambling around with heavy packs for us. Didn't help the wind was blasting, where we would have been protected in the very pleasant forest walk. For us the time was nearly identical.

kknight maybe already found out, no need for crampons or axes here in the normal climbing season.

Also, we found a handful of single-pitch sport climbs behind Aguja Frey, 5+ to 6c.
By Jordan Collins
From: South Lake Tahoe
Mar 11, 2014
Looking for partners to climb with... Currently In Bariloche! hit me up
By Jordan Moore
From: Berthoud, CO
Aug 7, 2014
Does the season in Frey start earlier than January as in the El Chalten area?
By Jared Spaulding
From: Central WY
Aug 24, 2014
In 2007 I climbed there from the end of November through mid December. We had a few spells of poor weather that forced us back to town, but I remember it being good enough to climb a lot.
By Mike Sullivan
From: Durango, CO
Oct 25, 2014
Here's a nice article from Rolo on the climbing history of Frey, along with commentary about many of the spires and routes:
By Jeff OC
From: Salt Lake City, UT
Nov 12, 2015
Headed here and to Cochamo this February and wondering about length of pitches and rappels. Debating on bringing twins or one skinny single rope of most likely 70m. Any advice would be great. Thanks.
By Mike Sullivan
From: Durango, CO
Nov 20, 2015
Jeff, double 60's are mandatory to rap from many (most?) of the routes in Frey and Cochamó.
By Matt Hopkins
From: Bozeman, MT
Oct 23, 2016
Ill be down there in Jan. Anyone solo planning a trip down there want to meet up?
By Emmett Lyman
From: Somerville, MA
Jan 11, 2017
Frey beta as of January 2017 (and as memory serves) -

We packed pro and ropes in our carry on bags due to concerns about baggage tampering, and almost met disaster when connecting through AEP when a security agent told us neither was allowed. We managed to talk our way through, but it was a close call. Better to pack it all and carefully zip tie your backpacks tight to discourage the handlers from snooping around. No evidence in either direction for any of us that checked luggage was opened (other than US Customs/TSA).

The bus to/from Bariloche costs 28 pesos each way, and you can pay in cash. Approach starts at a sign that's even more obvious now than the one in the beta photos. It also does not take 4 hours. The trail is marked by time rather than distance, and I found the first 3 "hours" took just over 1 in total. The 4th actually takes an hour with a ~75lb pack. So you should be looking at 2-3 hours, definitely not 4. And the trail is absolutely cruiser the whole way. Return hike is slightly faster, but not by much. I started the hike in a little before 6am to avoid the sun and wished I'd started even earlier. It's boiling in the sun.

The refugio has a lot to offer, but know that the staff only take cash (pesos or dollars at 1:15). For dinner they serve either pizza for 250 pesos or "full dinner" for 270. 150 pesos for breakfast buys a basket of bread (sometimes toasted) with jam, dulce de leche, and sometimes butter. Wine is ~200-300 pesos (3 different Malbecs available), beer is 60 (draft! or can of malt), and I think a can of soda was around 50. We also saw them serve sandwiches once, but never saw a price. Sleeping in the refugio loft (looked noisy and moldy) was around ~300-400 pesos. Also, the refugio staff is awesome. Bring extra cash for tips, and prepare to practice your Spanish! You might find yourself pinned down there for a bad weather day - there isn't much in terms of entertainment so bring a book or prepare to spend time piecing together a workable deck of cards from the dozens of decaying partial decks lying around.

Bring TP and soap, as the refugio has very nice facilities that'll make you feel like an animal if you don't. There's a clean water spigot, so no need for your filter. And a stove is provided (ostensibly for rent, though I suspect most don't pay) so you don't need your canister stove. One final little hint on the refugio - there are a couple of power outlets under the bench seats to charge up your phone or camera. Since the building runs on solar I wouldn't abuse this perk, but it's nice to have available. Also worth mentioning that you might get a bit of cell service atop some of the spires, but don't count on connectivity to the outside world.

As of December 2016 camping requires advanced registration, and the system is really poor! Check for details, but suffice it to say if you wish to plan a trip in advance or stay for a while they're not going to make it easy. That said, we saw no evidence of enforcing the reservation system. They do require a 100 peso deposit that's refunded on departure (though forfeited if you leave early like we did to catch the first bus back to Bariloche).

Do yourself a favor by setting up your tent on the leeward side of the hill, use big strong stakes, and reinforce your rock walls. Winds can be calm one hour and vicious the next. We saw dozens of tents flattened, flooded, filled with sand, and utterly destroyed while there. Campsites are also super, super crowded. Tents on top of one another. Worthwhile to consider bivying up in the Plateau Superior or down in the Valle del Campanile if you're looking to climb on the other side of the Col from the Refugio.

Note that Frey gets a lot of trekkers - they're way more prevalent than climbers. It's a little disconcerting to leave behind your tent and belongings (passport, food, money, etc.) every day knowing that dozens, maybe hundreds?, of strangers might be coming through, but fortunately we didn't have any problems. Another fortunate thing? We saw no evidence of any critters, and left food bags out unsecured the whole time with zero problems. I can't imagine this will prove sustainable - some animal is going to figure it out someday.

To climb in the area you'll want to be solid at ~5.9 minimum, as there are runouts, tricky pro, chossy holds, routefinding, sandbags, and no helicopter rescues. Not much worth climbing at easier grades, and the best climbing seems to be at ~5.10c and above.

As far as gear, we usually carried doubles to 3, a 4, and also brought along a 5 for a couple of specific climbs where the guidebook calls out a wide crack. We found that both route grades and gear ratings sandbagged at times. Never needed double ropes - our 70m was fine for all descents and I suspect a 60 would have been OK. Our tag line never left the tent. Oh, and my partners were happy to have tape/jammies to keep their hands pretty.

Beware the elements - this is Patagonia. Bring sunscreen, and make sure your tent is up to the task of heavy wind (we brought a stout ID MK1 eVent mountaineering tent and even it was batted around). Again, we witnessed lots of tent casualties. Also be ready for hard rain. My Alpine Houdini rain layer was quite outmatched at times, and plenty of tents couldn't manage.

On the way out we returned to Bariloche a few hours before our return flight and convinced Hostel 41 Below to let us take showers for 50 pesos each. They felt amazing. We also detoured while transferring between airports in BA to grab dinner at Buller Brewing Company across from the cemetery in Recoleta (where Evita is buried). The beer was delicious, and the owner was both accommodating to us (and our huge bags) and super interested in our climbing trip. Not your typical climber pub, but a nice place to relax at the end the trip (and nearly make us miss our flight).
By John Gassel
From: Boston, MA
Jan 11, 2017
Awesome recap Emmett. You beat me to it and did most of the work! :)

One thing I will add, since we saw some conflicting beta ahead of time, is that there are no showers at the Refugio. Well, technically there is one, but it's private and reserved for the Refugio staff only.

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