An Andes Day with Discover the Andes guides

Whether on foot, horseback, bike, or just from one of their 4 wheel drive trucks, if you are in Mendoza, a day in the Andes is not to be missed.

Discover the Andes expeditions, had devoted the last 25 years to guide visitors into this majestic range. This prestigious guiding service provides first class experiences on private only basis. Pedro Rosell, its leader, tells us a selection of his client’s favorite outings:

"Paso de la Carrera" or La Carrera Pass is located SW of Mendoza City. To get there we must cross the first Andean mountain range, known as Precordillera, or Pre Andes Range. When we arrive to Potrerillos village, then we head SW, into the mountains.
Leaving behind both El Salto and Las Vegas oases, we drive up the pass on a dirt road to get to the trailhead. "Paso de la Carrera" is a high valley that sits at about 6.400 ft. (1.950 m) above sea level. Farming is a common activity and the area is famous for agriculture and breeding cattle. During summer time, "gauchos" (local cowboys) show their skills in festivals that are held regularly in the area.
As soon as we reach the highest spot of the road we start walking through paths printed by grassing cows and horses. During the first 30 minutes, the trekking is very light in order to warm up. From there on, we slowly ascent through soft hills until we get to the top of the range from where most of the Cordón del Plata (Andes Front Range) can be seen so close that can be nearly touched. Birds, wildflowers, fox, condors and guanacos (wild llama) are normally there to amuse the trekkers.  This is the best place to enjoy the picnic lunch. Returning to Mendoza City takes one and a half hours.

This traverse from one valley to another follows an ancient native indian hunting trail, as they use to follow herds of guanaco (wild llamas).We departure Mendoza westbound on Highway 7, contouring the Pre-Andes Range, then highway turns northward following a valley that runs between the Pre Andes range and the Front Range, to the scenic village of Potrerillos, were a detour will lead us westward into the Front Range. We´ll go through the small green valleys of Potrerillos, El Salto and Las Vegas, then the road turns into a gravel path. Reaching 7.550 ft. of altitude, we´ll begin our trek, after a creek crossing. We´ll ascend on an animal´s pathway for an hour, reaching 8.900 ft. of altitude, were a traverse amid the foothills of the Cordón del Plata Range commences, with another four hours of open views of this range running north to south. We’ll come upon an area with a couple of small creeks with green shades provided by willows and poplars, which will host our picnic and provide rest. This was a native campground, and some artifacts can still be found, especially primitive stone mortars to grind corn. The descent ends at the small village of El Salto, right at the gardens of our final target: The Jerome Microbrewery!

We set the compass to the West and take route Nº 7, towards the mountains. The first Andean mountain range we will come across is called the Pre Mountain Range, and the snowy peaks to the west are part of the Cordillera Frontal, a different range. We shall drive through the Potrerillos valley which lies between these two ranges, and drive pass by Potrerillos Lake to then take the SW bearing into the Cordillera Frontal. We get off the asphalt into a dirt road, going towards the abandoned Vallecitos ski area that was build in the late 1950, where we will be dropped off.
Leaving the ski area behind us we start trekking into a gorge and we'll be able to see on our left mount Franke (16.400 ft. - 5.000 m) and on the right the San Bernardo (14.400 ft. - 4.400 m). The path goes up along a water stream and at the first flat land, we come to a very fertile tract where the water table approaches the surface and a few water springs can be seen. Ahead of us, the majestic mount Vallecitos (19.000 ft. - 5.800 m) is the perfect spot to have lunch. Eventually, packs of guanacos and some condors can be added to the scenery. Clues of the working forces of ancient glaciers are everywhere to be discovered. After lunch, depending on one's will, we can trek up for another hour and surprise ourselves with a wide valley where accumulated earth and stones were deposited by a glacier. During the winter, the area can be covered in snow, and we might need to track with snow shoes, which is as fun as it is easy.

These mountains had determine the climate down in the vineyards, the soil is a result of them as they erode, and its rivers deposited alluvial debree, and the water that preciously irrigate the grapes come from runoff of its glaciers and eternal snowfields, so Mendocinean wines are a direct result of this spectacular range. As you can see, there is more than wine to discover in Mendoza.

Note: These programs by Discover the Andes had been featured in the NY Times, AFAR Magazine (May 2013 issue - to be released), and Fodors.com (http://www.fodors.com/news/five-reasons-to-visit-mendoza-now-6397.html). You can contact Pedro at info@discovertheandes.com / www.discovertheandes.com

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