Cochamó   // jeff

I first heard about Cochamó through the grapevine in Camp 4, the climbers dustpit in Yosemite, in 2005. The vague rumors were of a barely known valley in southern Chile with multiple El Cap sized walls, many of which had only one or two ascents. Five years later we finally arrived in Cochamó; the rumors have long ago been confirmed and the walls have quite a few more ascents now, but the jaw dropping power of the huge granite walls hasn’t been diminished in the least bit.

Many of the comparisons between Cochamó and Yosemite hold true (beautiful granite, lots of climbing potential) but there are some pretty major differences. The most striking of which (besides the weather) is the method of entry into the valley.

In Yosemite, you drive right into the valley floor, craning your neck to see the tops of the walls through the windshield. In Cochamó, the price of entry begins with taking a two hour bus to a backwater town, then walking 6 km of gravel road to the trailhead. From there 4-6 hours of walking on the muddiest, most rutted trail I have ever seen brings you up into the valley proper. It’s only in the last half hour of this slog that you begin to get glimpses of the walls through the thick canopy above you. And those glimpses knock the air out of you: Literally leaving you speechless. You have arrived in a place every bit as awe-inspiring and powerful as Yosemite, but not the tourist meat grinder that the park has become, the Yosemite of John Muir lore. This price of entry may be dirty and difficult but it acts as a wonderful filter; helping to effectively maintaining sustainable numbers of visitors to the valley. Cochamó is barely touched, except for a few permanent structures the valley is completely natural. And the semi-permanent residents are fighting hard to keep it that way.

A few years back a partnership between American and Italian companies expressed interest in buying the water rights to Cochamó so they could dam and flood the valley for hydropower. In response, the residents, headed by Rodrigo (Chilean) and Daniel (American), formed the group Conservación Cochamó. Speaking in terms that the Chilean government could understand, namely tourism jobs and profit, they took their plea up the ladder until it finally made it to the desk of the Chilean president. The then president, Michele Bachelet, recently signed a bill protecting the water rights forever.

But as Daniel told us,

Water is only one part. Cochamó is still at risk. And God forbid the mining companies become interested, because in Chile, the mining companies get whatever they want, period.

For now, Cochamó isn’t a National Park, it isn’t a reserve, it’s not even on public land. It’s just a beautiful valley that is protected by its distance from people and its difficult access.

After spending two days hiking and gawking in Cochamó and a day on either end to hike in and out, we both hope it stays just the way it is.

For more general information about Cochamó check out: http://cochamo.com

To see how you can help with the conservation effort check out: http://www.cochamo.org


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2 comments

  1. hey yall! dont forget about the proud whitewater the cochamo has to offer. also butch and sundance used to herd their cattle through the valley and down that rutted trail to port when they were living across the border in argentina. cant wait to see some pics. hope yinz are having a blast and jefe, you;ll be happy to know that that old green bike i bought from you years ago is about to spend a month cruisin around cuba! cheers guys, much love

  2. sounds amazing! I can’t believe your all’s trip is almost done! In response to Dirt- you are going to cuba?