Planning Your Climbing Trip FAQ
How much time should I spend climbing in Cochamó? Some stay months. Standard is two weeks to a month. The main question, however, is, how much time do you have? Minimum time to climb a big route in Cochamó is seven days. If the weather holds, you're well prepared, etc., you may get in one, maybe two 10-plus-pitch routes and some cragging. Check out the 'Strategies For Climbing Cochamó' below for helping to plan your day-by-day visit.
What do you recommend I climb? Cragging is great but bigwall routes is where Cochamó's magic is. Check out the routes section and be sure to ask personel from Camping La Junta and other climbers about recommended routes for your grade level.
When's the climbing season? See the when to go page.
So, I've heard this place labeled the Yosemite of South America. Well, is it? No, it's Cochamó. And Yosemite is the Cochamó of North America. But, as a first impression and a four-word description, it's not bad.
Can I rent climbing equipment there or will I need to lug it around? You won't be able to rent gear in the valley but can rent some basic gear in Puerto Varas from Huella Andina. Another option for some is to hire a guide to take you up a route. The most secure, least expensive yet heavier in the pack option is carrying your own. See "What to Bring" below. If you're traveling with just your shoes and harness, you might be able to partner up with other climbers. In this case, you can try posting on the message board.
What other climbing destinations should I visit? The most common circuit is Cochamó, Bariloche area (like Frey), La Comarca (around Bolsón) and Piedra Parada. And for those who stay most of the summer months will include Chaltén and Arenales, too. Check out the climbing destination map below. It includes the main areas most climbers hit during their trip.
Climbing Destination Map
= primarily multi-pitch or bigwall destination
= primarily cragging or sport climbing destination
Stratgegies for Climbing in Cochamó
There are many strategies for successful climbing in Cochamó. Too many climbers, however, come with poor strategy, climb almost nothing and walk way too much. Below is the most common and successful strategy to visit and enjoy the routes and the beauties of the valley. Seven days is really short for a climbing visit, but this seven-day layout gives a good feel for how to plan.
Day 1: Getting to the Cochamó Valley.
First, make the 2-to-3-hour trip by bus or vehicle from Puerto Montt / Varas to Cochamó town. If you're going via bus, start from Puerto Montt and get the earliest bus (be there by 7:30 a.m.). Next, get your taxi or make the long gravel-road walk to the trailhead. And finally make the 4-to-6 hour hike to La Junta Camping or Refugio Cochamó at the valley's center (walls all around). If you'r coordinating with packhorses to carry in your gear, it's best to stay in Cochamó town and get a taxi to the trailhead where you'll meet your packhorses in the morning. Set up a base camp at the camping.
Day 2: Relax, waterfalls and crag.
Most people take a day to relax at this point, go to the waterfalls and crag. Also get your route logistics from other climbers and the topo book. Too many have failed to learn about the approach, where the route starts, get lost and loose prescious time and energy. If your rushed, mega strong or just anxious, pack this day into Day 3's itinerary.
Day 3: Hike to the upper valleys.
Hike to one of the base camps in the upper valleys near the walls. Most of these - Trinidad, Anfiteatro, Paloma, Arco Iris - have a 2-to-4 hour approach. Eat, prepare the rack and bivy.
Day 4: Climb a long route.
Start early. Don't forget your headlamp. For example, Bienvenidos a mi Insomnio is 20 pitches, and most will do this in a long day. Eat and bivy.
Day 5: Rest.
Or if you're not tired, yesterday's route wasn't big enough or your super strong, keep climbing.
Day 6: Climb another.
Climb another. Some will, after the completing the route, hike back down on the same day to Camping La Junta/Refugio Cochamó.
Day 7: Repeat previous days or return.
Climb or return to the camping / refugio. Get a beer and pizza. Go relax at a waterfall area, beach on the river, deep-water bouldering pool and cragging near the camping. Plan for a hike into another valley to climb its classics or head out.
*Important to remember:
Any of these days can be interupted by rain. That's why it's good to be able to retreat to another base camp in the case it continues. Best to plan on having extra days for bad weather.
Check out the accomodation, camping and getting there pages for more info and logistics.
What To Bring
Bring at least two 60-meter ropes. Having more for fixed lines is helpful. The refugio has some ropes for fixing lines.
This should be your most important piece of gear. Cochamó is a new area with unpredictable possibilities to injure your head - lots of new routes, loose rock, unforseen run outs, etc.
Have one to two sets of nuts with a large assortment of micros. One to two sets of cams. One set of offsets are especially helpful. One or two large cams or big-bros are sometimes necesary. Some cracks are hard on the hands, so don't forget tape, too.
To get to some walls, pulleys can be essential. Some trails access walls by crossing fixed lines and cables that span rivers sometimes too difficult to cross by foot.
|rings & slings
Many routes need rings and/or cord for rapelling. It's wise to carry some on routes less frequently climbed. Don't forget a small knife or scissors for cutting. Ask about your route from other climbers or at the Refugio Cochamó.
Many first ascents and existing aid lines require pins, pitons, copper heads and other aid gear. Beaks are some of the most commonly used pieces.
Many first ascensions require bolts. Please use only stainless steal hardware and bolts at least 10mm or 3/8" in diameter. You can buy stainless steel bolts and hangers - 2,000 pesos (~USD$4) a set, bolt and hanger - and rent hand drills, hammer and power drill at the Refugio Cochamó. A US$500 deposit is required for the power drill. If you bring your own power drill, you can charge your batteries for a small cost at the Refugio.
They are not necessary for repeating most routes. Having a portaledge can be convienent on the rock especially if you get stuck in bad weather or plan to establish a new route up a paticularly long steep line. Most climbers, however, leave the extra weight to lug around at home and decide to sleep on ledges, hang from hammocks or fix lines.
Having insurance that covers helicopter rescue may increase the chances of a quick rescue. Check out the American Alpine Journal membership which may still provide helicopter rescue insurance for climbers.
Withdrawl or exchange the money you'll need in Puerto Varas or Puerto Montt before arriving. Cochamó town does not have ATM machines, banks or places to exchange money.
|paper & pencil
Don't depend solely on battery from your camera to take photos of the topos. Charging your batteries here can be difficult to impossible.
Check out the packhorses page for hiring horses to bring your gear – and even you – into the valley.
Austral Crossing. Smaller shop in Puerto Montt run by locals located at Egaña 1151, L16, Puerto Montt. The owner Carlos is also well knowledged about the local climbing areas and Cochamó. Best to call first at +56-9-82014394.
Andes Gear. A chain store located in the bottom level of the mall next to the coast. Tends to have higher prices than Austral Crossing and almost no knowledge about Cochamó and climbing in general.
VHF Radio. It's possible to bring a progamable VHF radio, and set times to communicate with Refugio Cochamó to get weather/forecast updates.
Cell phone. There is no cell phone coverage here.
Internet. Nor is there Internet unless you return to Cochamó town.
Emergencies & Rescue
This is not a national park. No rescue team nor paramedics are at hand to come rushing to an emergency. In addition, the closest hospital is located in Puerto Varas. Cochamó town provides medical assistance only for minor injuries. Getting an injured person evacuated to Puerto Varas's hospital may take at the least a full day, if not days depending on his or her location and available resources. Don't depend on helicopter rescue, though they have been frequenting the valley due to mostly hiking accidents more in the last years. Communication from the valley to town is also not guaranteed. A sat phone and radio communication is available for emergencies.
Please keep the above in mind when climbing routes, which are much more isolated than the valley's center. Try to learn as much as possible about your route before climbing it. Please minimize dangersous falls on new routes. Report dangerous run-outs, loose rock, bad protection and other dangers by writing notes in the topo book at the Refugio Cochamó.
Serious injuries, when treated within a given period of time, can save a lives. Remember, that these same injuries can result in death in Valle Cochamó because of the excess time and difficulties to evacuate and reach professional medical assistance.
Other Sources of Info
Other sources of information concerning climbing in Cochamó can be found at ClimbArgentinaChile.com - Rock Climbing in Argentina & Chile and Esclando.cl.