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Un Pionero de Bariloche, otto Meiling

Un Pionero de Bariloche: Otto Meiling. Vojslav Arko. Bavaria y Cía., Bar- iloche, Argentina, 1991. 125 pages, 58 black-and-white illustrations, 6 sketch-maps. Paperback.

Sitting at the gates of Argentinian Patagonia, Bariloche (population: 100,000) is the only important town in the entire Andes that lives for winter and mountain sports. Its Club Andino Bariloche (4000 members) is by far the largest in Latin America. It was founded in August 1931 by four residents of the town, of which the German Otto Meiling (1902-1989) was one. This book is his biography. While containing at the same time a parallel story of the Club Andino Bariloche itself, the work also covers a good part of Patagonian mountaineering history. Meiling and club members took part in the first ascents of San Valentín (3876 meters), highest in the southern Andes, of Balmaceda (2035 meters), attempted Paine in 1957, explored the valleys of northeastern Patagonia and pioneered rock routes around Bariloche itself. Author Arko portrays him as a rather eccentric person, a hermit and a thinker, who in the last years of his life chose to live in isolation in a hut perched on a high place. Having been besides a youth leader and one of the founders of Argentinian skiiing, he left an imprint on the succeeding generations. The biography, well illustrated and straightforwardly narrated, represents a unique book in South American mountaineering: it is the very first biography of an andinista, and a good one at that.

Evelio Echevarría