Sitting on the edge of the Andes, Bariloche is famous for its Catedral ski resort, the biggest in South America, and for its notoriously rugged backcountry terrain. After bouncing around various ideas of where we should take this year’s Rocky Mountain adventure, we dug deeper and discovered that Bariloche has a burgeoning mountain bike scene with killer trails and passionate locals. That, and Argentina’s warm sunshine in February sealed the deal.
The trip wasn’t about finding big hucks, shredding scree slopes, heli-shuttles, or filming for a feature movie. It was about finding a true mountain bike adventure and sharing it with close friends.
So, we pulled together the team of Thomas Vanderham, Geoff Gulevich, Wade Simmons, and Andreas “Dre” Hestler, as well our very talented friends Margus Riga & Ambrose Weingart to capture the trip’s visuals, and headed to the Southern Hemisphere. With the help of our amazing guides, Martin “Cepi” Raffo, Bojan Magister, and Gonzallo Serenelli, we found the adventure we had hoped for and much more. From the friendly and welcoming locals, to the jaw dropping natural beauty surrounding Bariloche and its world-class trails, we’ll remember this trip for the rest of our lives.
When we travel together with our bikes and gear, we use the term “Shock and Awe” for the airport check-in experience. Seven guys with seven overweight bikes and gear bags is a sight to behold and Air Canada’s check-in staff have come to know us well. Our trip down to Buenos Aires was smooth and we had a fun (too fun) night there before heading to Bariloche the next day. There, we met our amazing guides and we had enough time to get a quick rip in to work the cobwebs out from two days of travel. **Warning – there is almost no riding in this video, but it’s worth the watch!**
Our first day of riding had us giddy – we knew we’d stumbled upon something big. It was so gratifying to come so far and be rewarded with such great riding and awe-inspiring terrain. The riding above the Catedral bike park had us feeling like we were riding on Mars with jagged red rock spires in the distance. The next day we climbed for two hours up to a refugio, which is a mountaineer’s hut staffed year-round. With epic views of the lake and the Andes, we descended into what seemed like a natural bobsled track full of little drops and rock gardens. Another all-time day and further confirmation we hit the motherlode.
When we were above Catedral, we could see a snowcapped Volcano in the distance. We were told that soon we’d be riding almost all the way up the it in coming days. A three hour climb through rainforest, past huge waterfalls and incredible vistas put us into a glacial moonscape. We climbed and hiked in dense fog over volcanic rock up to over 7000 feet. Out of nowhere a refugio appeared, a welcome sight for a bunch of cold and tired guys. After a late night and lot of red wine, we were greeted by a bluebird morning and the realization we were on the edge of a massive glacier and in the middle of a mountain bike playground.
Right outside of the town of Bariloche is some of the sweetest ribbons of singletrack any of us had ever experienced. Not only that, but directly in town is a top quality shuttle zone that had us saying “one more run” over and over.
With the trip winding down, we simply had to get one dawn patrol ride checked off the list. We ascended in pitch-black darkness with headlamps to the top of a 3000 foot ridge and waited for the golden light to appear. The sunrise was worth the suffering. On our last day, we rode with locals on their home shuttle trails and it turned out to be the most fun day of the whole trip. Their warm spirit and big passion for mountain biking rubbed off on us and it was the perfect end to an unforgettable trip.