Chile


25
Jan 10

Cochamó

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



23
Jan 10

Ready to sit still for a bit

About to embark on about 35 hours of bus travel to El Chaltén in Southern Patagonia. Only 3 weeks until our flight back to the US. We were sitting here wondering where the time has gone and why we feel so tired…

I think we’ve worked it out…

Since reaching the Andes we have spent:

  • 20 days trekking
  • 3-4 days climbing
  • 4 days on buses
  • 6-7 days resting or waiting out bad weather ( and gorging on fruit and Dulce de leche mmm 🙂

And yes, I am a nerd.


31
Dec 09

The adventures of uncle Paul’s backpack

My uncle Paul died nearly 4 years ago. He was a wonderful man in so many ways. As a priest he was a man of God, but also a man of the mountains, a lover of the outdoors with a hunger for all things vertical. My bond with him changed as I too became addicted to high places. A mutual understanding. I wish he’d stayed around longer so we could have shared some more time together in the mountains.

When he died I became the new owner of a number of his pieces of mountain equipment, including his big sturdy backpack. It is with this that I have been travelling, trekking and camping in the Patagonian Andes since we arrived in mid December. It makes me smile to think that somehow Paul knows this and is pleased…

For the past 9 days, Uncle Paul’s bag has been exploring the mountains near Pucon, Chile. The strange volcanic landscapes with expansive old lava flows frozen in time, the huge snowy volcanoes and snow-filled gullies, and wonderful forests of giant, comical Monkey Puzzle trees perched high in the sharp winds. Paul’s bag has been soaked in Patagonian rain and warmed by it’s bright sun, almost in equal measures. It has doubled as a seat during mountain side lunch breaks, and as a foot rest on cold nights in the tent. Right now it is sitting nice and cozily by the radiator in our hostel in Bariloche (Argentina) where we recently arrived. The luxury of indoors.

Tomorrow we are bringing Paul’s bag on a new adventure in the beautiful mountains near Bariloche. Hopefully for 4 days trekking and camping, before we treat it to the luxury of a warm room again…


23
Dec 09

Backlog

Sorry for the long gap everyone. We’d like to pin it on the hectic holidays…but, alas, we do not have those down here.

The reason for this post is to apologize, as I have just done, and to say that we’re going to publish a bunch of posts at once that we’ve been meaning to put up for some time.

We hope you will forgive us. Oh and Merry Christmas to everyone!