15 January 2010

Cochamó - Thorougly Soaked

Last week we had the brilliant idea to hike from Chile through the Andes to Argentina. Dire warnings about "bad weather" weren't going to stop us. We're in Patagonia after all. In ways, the weather defines the experience. But sometimes, the only way to enjoy the experience is to ignore the weather and to keep on trekking. It is said that only tourists talk of the weather here.

Well, that was before this summer. While Cochamó Valley saw the sun about half of the days last summer, we were in a spell of at least 26 rainy days out of 31, according to local climbers. It has been the rainiest season in history. Who knows how far back local history (read: memory) dates? Regardless, it was bad. On most days the clouds impeded the views of soaring granite cliffs and precipitous waterfalls. However, in the rare moments of spacial clarity, we were stunned with what we saw: a Yosemite virtually unbeknown to North America. There are no roads here. There are three buildings: one is an extremely basic hut used by campers for cooking, one is a caretaker's house, and one is a simple, rustic refugio where you can stay in a bunk for the night. During the summer the valley is temporarily populated by hopeful climbers and a few curious backpackers. Trails are muddy and steep, the routes are heavily vegetated, the weather is foul, and even the hike into the valley is difficult. However, at the end of this arduous trail of climbers love and perseverance is the chance to put up a new route on a big wall. Where else in the world can a climber do that?

I did notice a high proportion of climbers from Boulder Colorado. I also heard a few comments of "it's the Yosemite of South America" or "it's like Yosemite without all the tourists." While this are both true, there is already a Yosemite, and it's in California. I didn't find any other Californians wondering the globe for another Yosemite.

Kristin and I thoroughly enjoyed the hike, even if we didn't fully embrace the rain. At the end of the week, we made it Argentina. Mold was growing on certain textiles, but we were able to keep dry our precious things: books, computer, and sleeping bag. Yes, we were able to hike with 7+ days worth of food plus everything we need for the rest of South America.

Big Walls

Big Trees

Deep Muddy Trails

I'll write more about the Valley (as will Kristin), post more pics, and tell two more tales of border crossings (yes, two more!). But now, you must let me enjoy some hard-earned Argentinean sunshine and chocolate. Ciao!


  1. Glad I wasn't along, a couple of days of rain is enough when outside. I checked Goggle Earth and it appears the trip from Cochamo to Duernos del Diable is about 17 miles the way the crow flies and the border is another 6 miles. There are a few small towns across the border. Where are you staying?

  2. kristin, that puts Muddy Buddy to shame.

  3. What a riot, glad I'm back in MN!

  4. Looks like an incredible hike, if soggy! Check out the big wall climbing for me, will you?

  5. Your resilience is to be celebrated!