Thursday, January 21, 2016

Cochamo, Chile

When we travel we like to keep our schedule  flexible so we can adapt to places we like and venture to destinations as we learn about them. This method of travel has been particularly difficult in Patagonia due to the need to book flights in advance and the business of the peak summer season down here. 

While hiking at Torres Del Paine we learned about a place called Cochamo from a few other Trekkers. It was described to us as the "Yosemity Valley of South America", and a place not yet well known and not overrun by tourists. 

When we retuned from hiking Torres Del Paine we did some research and decided we had to go Cochamo. Lucky we had not made any fixed plans after flying to Puerto Montt. We decided to push other tentative plans aside to see Cochamo for ourselves. 

We made camping reservations and headed in to the valley with plans to spend three nights. It was a four hour hike into the valley along a deeply worn trail. After a few hours we started to catch glimpses of towering granite mountains through the thick forest canopy. When we arrived at the meadows and camping area we were mesmerized by the barren white granite mountains and walls that surrounded us.  We pitched our tent and made dinner as the sun drop behind the mountains to the west and the moon rose above a towering wall to the north. 

The next two days were spent day hiking on two very memorable trails. The first day we climbed a mountain called Arco Iris. The trail up Arco Iris was labeled difficult, which is fair but what we didn't know was just how steep portions of it would be. The only thing similar I have seen in the states is the trail up Angel's Landing in Zion.  A firm grip on the fixed ropes and any available roots was necessary in places to make it up. After a few thousand feet of climbing we found ourselves high above the valley, with stunning views of the other towering mountains and also of more distant volcanoes.

The following days hike took us to a place called the Amphitheater, a glacial cirque surrounded on three sides by rock walls thousands of feet tall.   We got an "early" start and we on the trail by 9am, allowing us to have the trail to ourselves the entire way up. We enjoyed a swim in a small pool at the base of walls and chatted with some rock climbers who were camped in the amphitheater. 

I could have spend a few more days in Cochamo but really I was just happy to have heard about this place and been able to fit it into our travels.

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