2006 Roadtrip From Jahuel + Portillo, Chile to Los Penitentes, Argentina

The road through the Andes was dramatic; the mountains are craggy and loomingly high and very close. When we got to Portillo we looked at one of the cabins that was operating and decided not to stay. It is old and poorly maintained. The main hotel also looks old and only opens for big groups in summer. The international highway between Argentina and Chile runs right through the ski area. So you take lifts over the road and ski over it too. While the runs look steep and the lake by the road is pretty, this resort doesn’t look like one we’d like to ski. It looks small with none of the backcountry skiing we love so much.

We kept driving to the border, now heading for Los Penitentes. It is a small ski area in the winter and in summer there is hiking. The border formalities took only 15 minutes (they didn’t even ask about the fresh fruit and vegetables that I was carrying). On the Argentine side of the border, the vistas are amazing and vastly different from the Chilean side. There is a wide valley with mountainsides that sensuously roll down to it. The colors of the mountainsides vary from gold to blue to ochre. It is truly spectacular. Even though our guidebook told us of the difference between the western Andes in Chile and the eastern Andes in Argentina, we weren’t prepared for the visual feast.
Along the way we passed by the highest mountain in the Americas—Aconcagua at over 6000 m/19600 f. Even though the road deteriorated in Argentina, we got to Los Penitentes before dark (which is around 9 p.m.—Argentina doesn’t go on daylight savings time).

Los Penitentes, Argentina

The hotel our guidebook said was 4-star was a terrible, crappy, hole. We decided to push on to Cacheuta Thermal Spa that has a simple hotel. What we didn’t know is that the road to Cacheuta has been diverted by a dam and it would take hours more to get there than we contemplated. So we decided to push on to the outskirts of Mendoza, with a total distance from Santiago of 341km/211m.