Without doubt one of my favorite one day hikes in the last nine months, the views from the top are fantastic but for me, you will be missing the best parts if you take a ski-lift return ticket so go one way (120 pesos as of 24 Jan 2014) and hike all the way round.
To get there, you need to take a bus marked for Catedral from Calle Moreno (the bus stop is one block past Supermercado Uno if walking east along Moreno). You don't need the bus card for this one although you can use it if you want to, it cost me 10 pesos each way.
You will arrive at a huge car park where you need to buy a ticket for the ski lift. I would advise arriving earlier as apparently there are huge queues if you arrive later. Two lifts and not too long later, you will arrive at the top where you can see for miles upon miles. You then follow an easily marked trail (follow Refugio Frey) with plenty of people (its surprising how many people simply buy a return ticket and spend a mere half hour up top).
You will shortly arrive at a small peak where you can see a narrow looking trail around the side of the mountain with fewer people, that's where you are heading. From here on, you simply need to follow the red dots whilst watching your footing. I found the hike from here really entertaining as its not just a simple stroll, you have to walk and climb your way over and around the rocks on the side of the mountain. It didn't feel unsafe at all but I would re-iterate, follow the red dots and just watch your footing and don't get too casual.
The highlight of this hike for me was the three valleys you see, the first whilst you are working your way around the mountain (there is a beautiful, thin weaving river), and the second two, each with its own lake, as your worm your way down towards Refugio Frey, which is on the second lake. It is not really a taxing hike so most should find it pretty relaxing since the uphill is all the ski lift. It could be a little uncomfortable for those with troublesome knees.
Refugio Frey is in a beautiful setting (at the far end of the second lake) and is a fantastic spot to stop for some food, drink or a little sun bath if the weather is good. Its quite busy as there are plenty of day hikers and even more folk camping out there. It should take around 3-4 hours to get here depending on how often you stop.
On leaving the refugio, the views, sadly, are not so spectacular and you follow a dirt path down into the woods (which look a little like what I would imagine the Enchanted Forest would look like). Eventually, you emerge on a ledge from where you can see Lago Gutierrez in the distance, which is very pleasant. The final stint of the three hour descent from Frey however is somewhat dull and drags a little, especially as there is nothing left to see. Back at the car park, you can take the bus from where it dropped you.
For those, like me, that want to hike all the way to save spending money on the ski lift, I would say it is possible in a day so long as you start early, but frankly I think it would have irritated me had I done it. The hike up to the refugio would be quite taxing and not too entertaining. You would then need to climb up, around, and back again to take in everything, before another lengthy decent from Fray...so unless you really want a tough workout and a very long day (or you are camping up there), I would suggest taking the ski lift.
As always, any questions, please give me a shout. Enjoy...
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