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The Climbing Club • View topic - Chile - Cochamo and Volcan Calbuco

The Climbing Club

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 08, 2013 12:44 pm 
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Rodrigo
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Short version: As a wise man once said, "there's a lot of fucking nature here."

Long version: There is a lot of beta in this report. This is a long report given that I attempt to provide some beta and that trip was rad. Now would be the time to stop reading unless you are really bored.

I recently was lucky enough to head to Chile for some field studies. Fortunately for me, I consider Chile to be my second home. I've traveled there three times previously and I have traveled most of the length of the amazing country. This trip took me to one of the few places I had not traveled, the northern end of Patagonia.

We arrived in Chile (Puerto Montt) on February 6. We had about 11 or so days of work to do before I got to play. After dealing with customs, working, and eating lots of awesome seafood, it was time to climb.

Volcan Calbuco:
Image

The northern part of Patagonia shares some of the awesome traits of the more familiar southern end. There are some volcanoes, fjords, and crazy weather. Did I mention the northern end is a brush connoisseurs dream? Anyway, we had planned to take a great from hotels and sleeping on a boat to stay at a bed and breakfast of a French couple. It turns out the bed and breakfast is located on the lower flanks of a 2000 m volcano called Calbuco. As shown in the picture below (taken from my bedroom window) there are other more appealing volcanoes in the area. That one is called Osorno. Since we didn't want to bring glacier and rock gear so we opted to climb the smaller and less technical neighbor.

Volcan Osorno. Overall a relatively easy climb with some decent crevasses and a bit of steeper climbing right at the summit. Hidden in the clouds just to the right is another awesome looking volcano called Puntiagudo.
Image

In the morning we talked out the door of the B&B and began the slog up hill. We were climbing the northern side of the volcano. After walking through some fields we arrived and some steeper trails. All of the trails we were traveling on had been groomed by our host at the B&B. Other than one 100 ft. or so decent with green aid most of the approach trail was easy going. Once we got above treeline at about 4000 ft there was some reasonable scree climbing to about 1000 ft below the summit. After some 3rd class ridge scrambling we came to some snow. A bit of loose, mixed scrambling led us to a small couloir and up to easy snow near the summit. I should mention at this point that this is Patagonia…it started snowing on us in midsummer at about 5000 ft. Near the summit there was a bit more mixed scrambling to the large, flat summit crater. The volcano last erupted in the 60s and has since filled in with snow and ice. We ran around the summit for a bit and got a small break in the clouds that let us see back down to the fjords. It was beautiful but I didn't get a picture because I was too slow to the camera and missed the break. The hike back down was uneventful.

Totals: ~16 miles, elevation gain 6000 ft.

Some awesome rime at the crater.
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Ridge a few hundred feet below the summit.
Image

Cochamo:
What, you haven't heard of Cochamo yet? I hadn't either. Don't worry, soon enough you will. At the end of this report I will include some more general information about the valley and what climbing options are.

So, back to the report. The morning after climbing Calbuco we headed southeast to get to the valley of Cochamo. The process was simplified by the fact that we still had a rental truck. One of my advisers and field engineers drove us down and dropped us off. The other person was Alex, another field engineering from my lab. If you were to go there you would fly to Puerto Montt, take a bus to a town from Cochamo, and then either walk 10 km or pay a local to drive you to the trailhead. Total time from Puerto Montt: 2 hrs to the town. The 10 km drive from town would be another 15 minutes or so.

At the trailhead we headed off into the great unknown. We could already see some granite poking up from the valley. From the trailhead to camp is 6 miles and about 1000 ft of elevation gain. That said, this approach does mean business. Very little of the trail is maintained. It's muddy, rocky, and it's braided horse trails at time lead you to walk in trenches as deep as 6 ft. Most of the trail is obvious. However, with recent rains some creeks can lead one to find new ways to cross. In one such situation I lost the trail and quickly found the BW 5, A3 bushwacking I had heard existed down there. Did I mention that it was muddy…really muddy. There were some parts of the trail where, even while being careful, I would sink to the top of my boots for 100+ ft at a time. Gaiters recommended. If walking isn't really your thing you can pay a local guacho with horses to take you up the valley. It's not cheap ($60 including a horse for the gear) but if you want to bring a lot of gear for a longer stay it would be worth it.

After about 6 hours later we made it to the Refugio La Junta. It took six hours because Alex was having some serious IT Band issues. That said, there can be no greater reward than that which this valley presents. The Refugio La Junta ($5 a night to camp) has running water, showers, bathrooms, and grills (over the fire that is). You can also camp outside of the formal camping area for free. They also have a house where the American climber and landowner lives. In the house you can go see beta on every route that has been climbed in the valley. He is currently using this to write a book so soon enough you will no longer need to worry about this.

To get to the house you have to take this thing (did I mention this place is like an adult playground?)
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View of the valley from camp. Those walls are 1000+ meters of granite. Better yet, views like this completely surround the camp.
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The next morning I woke up early to go scramble Cerro Arco Iris before trying to get in some climbing in the afternoon. This trail, which starts right from camp and has good signage at the beginning, does not mess around. I ascended about 1900 ft. in the first mile. I never quite made it. I think I got off on a separate climbers trail. Here I talked to two Americans were currently working on the first ascent of a 12? pitch, 5.11+. At any rate, I was shut down by my unwillingness to die. I ran into a handling on a 70 degree granite slab that went under a roof and hand water pouring down it. The consequences of falling would have been falling 1000+ ft into a valley where it would probably be a while till I was found. It was pretty enough that I opted to sit and wait for the clouds to clear. I took some pictures and descended rather than finding the proper route. The views from the top would have been awesome but I wanted to climb.

The view of the valley looking towards Argentina just a few kilometers away.
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Back at camp Alex and I went to find beta on single pitch climbing. Currently there are three crags. Pared Seca has 30+ sport routes (all but 5 are 5.10 and higher). Luna has only 5 or six routes from 5.10a to 5.11b, all sport. Cantina has above 20 routes with a 5.8, 5.9, and plenty of other harder stuff. Most here are sport but there are some trad routes. We opted to go to Cantina and hopefully climb some gear and sport. We cross some private property, after asking, and arrived at the crag after about 30 minutes. The only dry climbs were a couple of 5.12s. We walked back to camp another 30 minutes in the other direction to Pared Seca. This wall stays dry even in the rain, hence the name. We climbed a few climbs in the 5.10 range and called it a day. The grades were reasonable but the climbs we chose were definitely suited for those with toothpicks for fingers and good footwork. Neither of these are my specialties but they were good fun. The approach to Pared Seca also involves a cool bridge crossing over some awesome waterfalls.

We slept and the next morning we set off to climb with a couple of Chilean climbers at Cantina. We only climbed two routes but they were awesome. Again, small handholds, small feet, and good fun. We took off to head back down the valley. We heard rain would be moving in and had no desire to descend the trail with more rain. It was hard enough heading up on the first day after it had been dry. In fact, I've also read that following heavy rains it may actually be impossible to get to or from camp.

Before leaving camp the Chileans we had climbed with that morning came to visit me. I had offered to sell them some gear. Climbing gear in Chile is all about 30% more expensive than it is here. Add that to typical Chilean salaries and you have a problem…gear is prohibitively expensive. I sold some gear at a slight loss to the lovely Chilean folks. Their smiles along made up for any financial loss.

The trip was short and we didn't get a lot of climbing in but it was worth carrying the heavy packs anyway. It's an incredible place and I hope to go back when I can climb a bit harder. I've attached more general info about Cochamo below.


Gym Climbing:
We went back to Puerto Varas and we were bored. There isn't much to do there. It was raining too. On the internet I searched for climbing gyms and found something in Puerto Montt. We took a 20 minute bus ride and walked there. I don't know the town well but it does feel like it's on the wrong side of the tracks. We arrived to see the exterior of what looked like a small abandoned house with a climbing related sign outside. A guy was waiting outside but leaving. He simply let us in and said he would be back in an hour or so. He also told us to open the door if anyone else showed up.

We walked into this house and the insides of the exterior walls, the roof, and anything structural was covered in climbing holds. A small gym certainly. That said, this is a working class town and it was great to see a place to climb. The holds are just bolted to the walls and they determine their own routes. By the time we left the tiny house had about 6 or 7 Chileans climbing with us. They seemed really excited about having some random gringos there. Currently they are expanding to have an 8 meter climbing wall in the back of the house.

If you ever head down to this area they could use more holds. Consider bringing some along. And climb there, it's $2.

The boulder house:
Image

Inside the house:
Image

Gear in Chile:
As I said, gear is expensive. If you head down here, have space, and are feeling generous, I would recommend bringing gear to sell. You WILL find someone willing to pay American market prices for gear. A locking biner costs 20 dollars there, quick draws are typically about $25, and so on. You will find willing buyers. Suggested gear includes biners, lockers, quickdraws, and runners. Because of the costs, few Chileans trad climb.


More


More info about Cochamo:
This area is still new but it is undergoing some serious development presently. While we were there at least three parties were putting up new routes on three different big walls. Recently two Americans put up a 24 pitch (I believe), 5.10 route down there. Anyway, the climbing in mostly beyond my pay grade but other folks around the climb could find stuff to climb.

Currently the best link is here: http://www.cochamo.com/

Soon enough a climbing guide book will be out to make things easier.


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 08, 2013 4:35 pm 
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UW Climber
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Location: Warm sunny rock
Lots of granite made for toothpick fingers... sounds like a place I need to visit.


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2015 3:08 pm 
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Rodrigo
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Joined: Wed Oct 13, 2010 4:07 pm
Posts: 109
Not that it's particularly relevant to the trip, but the volcano in this TR erupted yesterday and the images are .


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