Sunday, January 31, 2010


we just got back from 8 days in cochamo valley. quite an adventure and not too much climbing.

the hike in is brutal, a mud waller. most of the trail is in the forest/jungle since the place is a rain forest. horses are used by many to pack in gear, so the trail us very rutted and eroded and full of horse crap. we hiked in after a few days of sun still half the time were going through mud puddles, bogs, streams. what made the hike in worse, besides carrying almost double the normal weight with camping, climbing gear, and food for 8 days was we couldn't get a ride from town to the trailhead and had to hike an extra 3 hours on the road. it took us 9 1/2 hours to hike in.

the valley is beautiful with tons of waterfalls and huge granite walls. the refugio is amazing with a zip line and cart across to it. all the approaches and hikes are long, boggy, and wet through the jungle. on one approach i ended up knee deep in mud and Erick had to help me get out. views from the peaks (we did a day hike up to arco iris) were amazing.

we lucked out with 5 days of sun and only 2 days of rain. got in 4 days of climbing. we had limited gear and only one rope so were limited to short routes. plus we're really out of climbing shape. routes were very dirty, spent one day cleaning a small crag with brushes and nut tools that had just been bolted (we got to do the first ascents after the bolting), found lots of dirty and flaring cracks. did one 2-pitch route with a 5-star splitter crack for the second pitch. that made the trip worth it. met some nice climbers as well.

the area is beautiful but we think yosemite is more striking. climbing wasn't that great, rock quality varied a lot and many cracks were flaring. really glad we went and saw it and climbed a little, it was a fun trip but i doubt we'll ever return.

will try to post pictures from the past month soon.

Friday, January 22, 2010


we spent a couple days in valparaiso to break up the long bus journeys from northern chile down to puerto montt. valparaiso is a nice town, very hilly next to the ocean. the coolest thing about the town is that there's about 10 active funniculars, most about 100 years old, to go up the hills.

we'll head to puerto montt tonight on another long bus ride (15 hours) spend a night there then head to cochamo valley. it's supposed to be like yosemite valley without the tourists but just as much granite and tons of climbing route potential, splitter cracks, big walls. hopefully the weather will be good and we can stay there a week or so before heading to bariloche to meet don.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

atacama desert and toconao climbing

we arrived in san pedro de atacama located in the driest desert in the world. it's hot here. we did the must do touron attraction, sunset in valle de la luna. the company we went with had these huge trucks, like the dragoman overland vehicles. we hiked a little in valle de la meurte including running down big sand dunes, then ended up watching the sunset in the lunar landscape of valle de la luna.

while walking around looking for tours we discovered there's climbing areas nearby. we had a free day before our 24 hour busride to valparaiso so we decided to check it out.

took the bus about 45 minutes south to the next town, toconao. there's a gorge there with a few toprope anchors. found an anchor, set up our rope. met a local climber from san pedro in the gorge who joined us for a bit. climb turned out to be really fun. volcanic rock with a blocky start and the second half of the climb was a splitter hand crack reminicent of indian creek. even out of shape we had to do laps on the crack.

toproped another climb that was also fun, offwidth start to hand stacks to hands to an easy roof. quality. unfortunately we had to go catch the bus back. there's so much potential there, if it was in the US there'd be about 100 climbs developed in the area, many with splitter cracks.

uyuni salt flat tour

from la paz we took an overnight bus to uyuni where we started a 3-day tour of the 1st or 2nd (we heard differing info) largest salt lake in the world.

in our land cruiser was a driver, donatello, and 4 brazilian guys (2 groups of 2). only one spoke english and they mainly spoke portuguese, so we understood very little.

being off-season we were shocked at the number of tours going out. at one point we counted 60 land cruisers at one of the sights! and these tours go out every day. crazy.

first two days saw the salt lake, isla pescadero (island with lots of old cacti in middle of salt lake), colorful lagunas with many flamingos, laguna colorada which is red.

third day we were ready to leave at 5 am except this family in their own range rover who were following our driver couldn't start their car. combination of cold and altitude (14,000 ft). they kept flooding the engine and finally got it started after 45 minutes. there ended up being a big disagreement an hour later and we parted ways with the family.

after that entertainment we went and saw some geysers, stopped at a hot spring where the others went in, and saw laguna verde. the driver then dropped me and erick off at the chilean border.

so ended our time in bolivia and our chilean journey began in san pedro de atacama. we really liked bolivia and wish we could've stayed there longer to hike and climb but rainy season got in the way.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

amor de dios

we decided we should at least attempt to get into climbing shape before we get to bariloche and meet don to climb in a month and also to justify carrying around all this heavy gear. we heard about a crag close to la paz and yesterday went to the local club andino to find out more info.

that visit in itself was an adventure. the office was a closet manned by a 70-something year old man who was the first bolivian to summit aconcagua 50 years ago. he didn't speak any english. after an hour talking with him and two english-speaking guides he called and found, we got the name of the crag, amor de dios, 20 minutes outside the center.

this morning was sunny and clear, so we took a taxi there. it's a small rock, about 40 ft tall with 15 routes are so. we ended up climbing about 6 routes and were exhausted after. met a couple nice bolivian guys who were very friendly and let us climb on their rope. also met a german man in his 50s who hasn't climbed in 5 years and put us to shame. all in all, a very fun and good day.

Monday, January 11, 2010

dos lagunas trek

from sorata we found a guide (or actually a guide found us) to do the 3 day dos lagunas (2 lakes) trek up into the mountains below the second and third highest peaks in bolivia, illampu and anchohuma.

the first day we hiked up out of sorata to laguna chillata, about 6 miles and 4,900 ft elevation gain. luckily the guide, willy, provided a pack mule to carry our packs. it would've been a brutal hike with so much elevation gain at that altitude. we got to camp just in time, set up our tent before the daily summer thunderstorm. it poured rain for over an hour. that evening due to user error of the camelbak on my part, i managed to drain half a liter of water onto erick's sleeping bag and over my stuff. erick had to deal with the wet down bag for the next two nights.

the next morning we woke up to clear skies and beautiful views of the mountains, which were obscured by fog and clouds the night before. set out on a dayhike to laguna glacial at 16,500 ft (5,028 m). about an hour after we set out the clouds started coming in. after 3 hours of hiking and 2,200 ft elevation gain, we were still an hour and a half from the lake. the weather was turning and the trail was getting more sketchy, lots of slab and exposed rock. i wussed out and decided to turn around because i knew i wouldn't be able to make it to the lake and back to camp before the afternoon thunderstorms came and i didn't want to downclimb the slick slabs in the rain. erick decided to turn around as well. it started sprinkling when we got close to camp. shortly after it started raining for 5 1/2 hours then on and off the rest of the night.

third day we set out after breakfast with the mule for the 3 1/2 hour, 4,900 ft descent back down to sorata. painful on the knees.

it was a nice trek even if we didn't make it to laguna glacial. our guide was really good and we somehow managed to somewhat communicate in spanish. nice views when the sun was out.

lima, la paz, lake titicaca

we made it to south america after four flights and a night layover in lima. we didn't do anything in Lima except stay in a hostel near the airport. nice hostel though.

flight to la paz was a bit exciting. got to fly through a thunderstorm and thunderheads landing in santa cruz, bolivia. unfortuanately the landing at la paz, the world's highest commercial airport and one of two that requires special training was very average and not exciting. landing in paro, bhutan was much, much better.

spent a couple days in la paz figuring things out and trying to get acclimated. flying from sea level to 12,000 ft is tough. erick acclimated much faster than i did.

from la paz we went up to lake titicaca, the world's highest navigable lake at ~12,500 ft. we took a boat from the town of copacabana to isla del sol and walked down the island, about 4 hours. we lucked out, the weather was beautiful, no rain. only bad part is erick got pretty good sun burns on his arms, neck, and forehead, where he deemed it wasn't neccessary to put sunscreen.

from copacabana we headed to sorata, which is in the cordierlla real and a good base for trekking. it's at 8,800 ft and almost seems tropical. we went on a three day trek, which i'll post in a separate post.

so far Bolivia is very nice, after acclimating. virtually no one speaks english and our spanish skills are basic at best, but we're getting around okay. of course in planning to come here we didn't check the seasons. i just assumed that summer here is like patagonia and dry season. instead it's wet season here, raining everyday for a couple hours. makes outdoor activities difficult and some travel impossible with washed out roads. we'll have to come back in bolivian winter someday, dry season.