Summer in Chile
Excited for our first “live-in” visitor, we headed to Santiago to pick up Shawn, a long time friend of Sarah’s. From the Santiago airport, we immediately started to discuss plans to hike, climb and surf. After a long day of travel, we posted up in a peaceful, guarded city park to spend the night and all slept really well in a surprisingly quiet part of the bustling city.After a day in the city we pointed our nose towards the calm countryside of Cajon del Maipo to find some rocks to climb and mountains to summit. We parked the van among the grand mountains in the canyon and enjoyed a few single pitch routes on a small shaded wall.That evening we watched the sun set and illuminate Volcano San Jose, which was our next target of the adventure.Our goal was to summit Volcano San Jose (19,213ft-seen in photo above and below with snow) over the course of 3 days. Most people complete this 20km one-way summit in a minimum of 4 days, but we were up for packing in as much as we could over Shawn’s visit. It would prove to be very difficult due to the starting elevation of 7,800 ft, giving us the challenge of over 11,000ft to climb and descend. Leaving the hot valley, we hiked through a green wash, up plenty of elevation to a nice welcoming refugio. Though it was a dreamy place to stay for the night, it was only our half-way point for day 1. After a quick lunch, we headed up towards the rocky, vegetation-free flanks of the volcano.Challenges faced us in terms of elevation gain and distance with big heavy packs, so we had to dig deep to find the endurance we needed. Pushing ourselves like we did required small breaks that provided unbelievable settings with views for miles and miles.We arrived to set up camp for night 1 just as the sun was getting low and were able to enjoy the breathtaking views at over 15,000ft while eating dinner.The next day we woke up well before before sunrise, packed our day packs and headed for the summit. We had a lot of elevation and distance still ahead. The early morning light arrived and our efforts were rewarded with more breathtaking views.A relatively small glacier crossing stood in our way to the summit so we used cramp-ons to pass it safely.The final push to the summit came after the glacier crossing. We still felt good, however the altitude was affecting us and we moved much slower than before.We successfully reached the summit of the broad volcano late in the morning with no one else around.We could see for miles and miles as we stood on the Argentinian/Chilean border at over 19,000ft.
Despite the abnormally warm summer temperatures all over the lowlands below, we moved quickly and layered up to stay warm in the cold, thin air. We were happy to begin our slow descent back to our packs and find a camp spot lower in elevation to make our final day easier. Our camp stop for night 2 was stunning and we arrived with about an hour left of daylight to rest and enjoy the views.Our last day was a long yet peaceful hike back down to the van.
We arrived in the green valley exhausted, but were excited to hop the last river knowing we had a celebratory beer waiting.Although we were thoroughly worn out, the decision was made to head back to the cliffs and climb a couple routes before crashing for the night.Tthe following day we turned our attention to some beach time. We set off for Pichilemu, one of Chile’s most famous surf and beach spots.Upon arrival we bore witness to unique and dangerous surfing conditions. Every 10 years or so, el nino events remove important sands from the beaches to maintain safe currents. We happened to arrive in a season where the currents were dangerously strong. And even more importantly, the lack of locals in the water gave the ultimate warning to avoid surfing the popular point breaks. Despite this, we enjoyed some safe beginner waves and the beach along with hundreds of other Chileans on their summer vacation.Now recovered from our mountain adventures and bellies full of delicious seafood, we drove to the popular Valle de los Condores (Valley of the Condors) to rock climb.We found an incredible camping spot where we stayed 4 days while climbing with other travelers and locals.The setting was phenomenal, with waterfalls and hidden tiers of rock around every corner. Although the nights were cold, the weather throughout the day was perfect for climbing. One day had extra adventure as we descended a via ferrata to arrive at the wall to climb, followed by ascending it again to finish the day.After getting our fill and vowing to return to yet another Chilean gem, it was time to say good-bye and drop Shawn off at the bus stop so he could make his flight back. Heading south, we stopped in the city of Temuco where a large majority of the famous Mapuche indigenous group live.Matt had been observing a small coolant leak in the van so we lucked our way into visiting a fellow Vanagon enthusiast who willingly helped us replace our water pump with an extra we had carried with us.Jorge and his wife Laura represent yet another example of kindness and hospitality. After the repair, Jorge invited us over for some Chilean wine and a bite to eat. We gave them a proper tour of the van and they loved it.With the van ready to go, we shot south and east quickly in order to get to another climbing gem, Cochamo, during a good weather window. Along the way we had great views of Volcano Osorno and the surrounding Lakes District. Considered the Yosemite of Chile, we were excited to see the place that so many people had talked about. The journey was tough with heavy packs in the muddy trails and trenches.We couldn’t believe our eyes when we saw the first dome! To arrive at our reserved camp, we even had to cross the river with a cable car.
We settled into to our gorgeous valley camp and sought out some fellow climbers to get some info on a route to climb. The following day, we needed to ascend to the higher valleys in order to start a climb.But because of the heavy packs and distance to travel, we spent a night under a huge boulder before climbing our selected route.With a beautiful day to take advantage of, we ascended the world class granite and enjoyed the valley views below.Arriving at the summit we shared the views with a pair of condors flying closely overhead.
Elated after such an amazing climbing experience, we relaxed and took in our valley view one more night before the rains were set to come in.We literally arrived back at the car 30 minutes before the rains were due to start and were impressed when the drops started falling just as we finished packing the van.On our way out we explored some areas on the Lake’s District that were missed on our dash to Cochamo. Quaint little towns dot this area of Chile with heavy European influence, especially German. We found what would become the best pastry shop of the trip, Kuchenladen (coo-hen-lodden). Our sweet teeth got the best of us on this day.We continued our drive about with several small mini adventures of fishing, swimming, and helping locals free their stuck vehicles from sandy beaches. We even had plans to meet up with a Steamboat family who’d moved to Chile to experience a year abroad. We were thrilled our schedules aligned for an afternoon of sharing a meal and travel stories.Now that we had technically arrived in Patagonia, we had our sights set on the border with Argentina to experience Bariloche and the surrounding areas. Knowing we’d be back in Chile soon enough, we shot for the border with high hopes of summer weather and more unforgettable experiences.
3 thoughts on “Summer in Chile”
Wow, the trek up the San Jose volcano was impressive! What an adventure to share with Sean as well as the beach time at legendary Pichilemu. Love the climbing photos, and it really did resemble Yosemite in many ways. Again, great photos help put this wonderful journey in perspective.
Another fabulous WOW! What a climb and the pictures are so AWESOME! I am impressed with how far you climbed in 2 days to get to 19,000 ft. And then you climbed the wall after coming down
You 2 are in great shape and I see some of the goodies you are eating!!! What great adventures and fabulous pictures. Thanks for sharing! Love to see it all!
Hola amigos. Gracias por compartir su aventura en Chile, hermosos parajes naturales en esta región, con muchos nervios viendo las montañas que pudieron ascender y que tuvieron la oportunidad de tomar fotografías únicas.
Me imagino que el español en Chile estuvo algo complicado por la rapidez con la que hablan …
Sabia decisión que tuvieron al no ingresar a playas peligrosas para surfear, es mejor escuchar a la comunidad.
Lindísimos lugares..montañas ..bosques en este viaje.
Y siempre en compañía de buenos y nuevos amigos.
Un abrazo grande Matt y Sarita.