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Perito Francisco P. Moreno


In 1894, due to the permanent growing of farming establishments in the area - and in the same place where 17 years before Francisco P. Moreno (the Perito Moreno, a renowned argentine scientist and explorer) was attacked and badly injured by a female puma ("LEONA" in the Patagonian slang), hence giving its name to the river - the National Government at that time orders the construction of the first raft that allowed the settlers, their animals and merchandise to go and come back from the Atlantic coast, a trip that at that time took more than a month. At 200 mts. down the river you can still see the anchorage where the raft shifted, which offered its services until 1974, when the actual bridge was finished.

La Leona Roadhouse
Simultaneously, and to lodge the settlers which, in their majority had to wait several days to be able to cross their herd of sheeps (the raft could only load 200 animals), a family of Danish immigrants, the Jensen, started the construction of the Roadhouse and Country Lodge La Leona, that since its beginning has been witness of significant historic events that gave worldwide fame to this place.
In 1905, three unknown "gringos" stayed here for a period of time, and then continued on their voyage with an unidentified course. After a while, when the local police arrived with several different pictures, the landowners of that time, likely recognized their distinguished visitors. It seems that those guest where no less than Butch Cassidy, Sundance Kid and his wife Ethel Place, who after robbing the Londres and Tarapaca's Bank in Rio Gallegos escaped and eventually decided to make a "parade tecnica"(an unplanned stop) in La Leona. Sundance Kid, Ethel Place and Butch Cassidy Wild Bunch

It was at the same time that a famous bandit born in Uruguay and called Asensio Brunel, raided also this area. Horse-riding without a saddle, dressed with puma furs and eating only horse raw meat, his runnings acquired touches of legend. Some historians say that this hermit, a rare combination of Robin Hood and Billy the Kid, finished his misdeeds killed by several settlers in a shooting worthy of the best Far-West films. Others, that he was ambushed and murdered, by the Indian Chief Kenkel on Río Senguer (Province of Neuquen). The only truth is that the place and the way he died is still today a mystery.

The Petersen family together with the German citizen Alfred Brodersen acquired the establishment in 1910; amplified the "hotel" from 2 to 4 bedrooms, totally made with bricks of mud, and built a country-bar (saloon) and general store that today work as the bar and teahouse of the Roadhouse. Years later Jul and Feliza Christensen were the owners and after a certain period they sold the place to the Saldia/Westerlund family.

The first commercial permit dates from year 1916 and it was granted in Buenos Aires, since at that time the actual Province of Santa Cruz was National Territory and all legal and administrative procedures had to be done in the Capital City.

The long waitings to cross the river, the large crowds of country-laborers and the excess of alcohol produced great quantity of fights which, at that time, were settled by knife duels that usually ended with the life of one or more contenders.

During the year 1921 in Patagonia Austral there was a ranch laborer strike that ended in a bloody repression organized by the National Government of that time. La Leona was not foreign to the reality of these tragic events. It is well known that many fugitives hid here, and later escaped the persecution arranged and commanded by the Lieutenant Colonel Hector Varela, military commander of Santa Cruz Province. Some of them were lucky enough to escape, but others less fortunate fell to the hands of their persecutors, and were executed with no judgment.

Father D'Agostini

Father Alberto María D´Agostini was another of the celebrities that passed by La Leona.

Born in Italy, this Salesian priest combined his priestly vocation with his passion for mountain climbing, photografy and adventure. In between In between masses, marriages, baptisms and missionary actions he found the necessary time to perform epic mountain climbings and expeditions to the most inaccessible points of the Cordillera Austral (South Mountain Range).

The most famous and well known world climbers have stayed in La Leona before embarking on their fearless and sometimes deadly climbing expeditions to the Cerro Torre, Fitz Roy, Saint- Exhupery peaks and the Continental Ice Cap. Among these climbers were the well known french expeditioners led by Lionel Terray, who together with Louis Depasse, Jacques Poincenot (who died during the expedition) and the argentine climber and militar Lieutenant Francisco Ibañez, on February 2nd. 1952 conquered for the first time in history the legendary Fitz Roy mountain peak. Lionel Terray and Guido Magnone

Casimiro Ferrari

Casimiro Ferrari, Italian by birth and Patagonian by adoption, a real mountain climbing hero, deserves a special paragraph in this short story. After reaching several of the most difficult peaks of the area, he was the first man to conquer the Torre, whose granite and iced walls are considered, still today, to be among the most dangerous and exhausting in the world, and as Lionnel Terray wrote: "It´s the most spectacular geologic convulsion that the terrestrial surface has thrown towards the sky". In love with the magnificence of the scenery that surrounded him, he settled definitively until his death in 2001 a few miles away from here, in the ranch Punta del Lago.

Casimiro Ferrrari's Climbers Group
"Grupo Ragni", Team of climbers led by Casimiro Ferrari, who made the first "certified" peak of the Cerro Torre

Nowadays, and after a difficult and meticulous restoration work, Patricia and Laura Kargauer together with Pablo Quiroz and Rafael Quiroz Kargauer (also owners of the nearby Estancia La Estela) run this mythical refuge, witness of more than 110 years of the legandary and fascinating history of the Argentine South Patagonia.


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