Shortly before the end of the season, we caught a glimpse of the paradisiacal Cochamó valley in northern Patagonia.
Mandatory approach to Cochamó valley is exhausting for six hours. By deeply washed and only on foot or on the back of the horses walkable paths he pulls himself up the valley, and thus reliably prevents that too many curious ones visit the valley. The late season, so close to winter, did the rest, so we were alone all the way.
Even in the village of Cochamó we clearly noticed that the time of tourists is over, the shops and restaurants are closed. No one was in the tourist information either, so we "borrowed" the map that lay on the single desk in the room. Actually, we planned to increase our supplies, but there was nowhere to be found an open shop.
Fortunately, we were in the actually closed restaurant with one of the richest breakfast, which we have ever got in Chile. Satisfied and satisfied, we set off to organize a driver who would take us to the trailhead. A short chat with an American who gushed with sparkling eyes from the valley, and already your pickup and we were ready. At the end of the drivable path we stopped at a kind of very old fashioned ranger station.
The way to the valley
Huasos in chaps sit in front of the wooden hut, smoke, drink mate and carve. Grazing horses. We enter the booklet and march off. The path is beautiful, but very exhausting: meters deep buried paths, feared for a hundred years in the forest floor.
The path over the Paso El León is old: livestock and horses from Argentina to the coast, fish back to Argentina, leave deep tracks. Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid have already used this transition.
Knee-deep water holes can not be bypassed, so ten yards back, looking for another variant. Another transition over one of the many streams. And another suspension bridge, shaky and rocking, but stable. For miles, wooden planks are laid over the worst mat holes. This is how it works for six hours.
Finally the forest opens, we enter a clearing. A large square framed by 1000 meter high cliffs. In the middle a small, crooked little house, a young man in coarse corduroy trousers and woolen vest, and the typical Patagonian flat cap. Grazing horses. After the hours of twilight in the forest, eyes fixed on the ground, the body and the mind deeply breathes in the moist, cold, clear air.
The best climbers in the world, known and unknown, enjoy this place as we enjoy it. The peace and quiet of this glade echoes impressively silently from the granite walls. On the camping meadow is a cooking hut. Some blond, bearded Americans in it, wrapped in thick clouds of smoke. Clothes hang over the hearth. Outside, the rain patters, the good mood patters inside - they are baking on donuts. Later I learn: these are the people who open up the routes here in years of work. In one season is scouted, in the next season, the approach of vegetation and a path to the Wandfuß freed, in the next season, perhaps even the route freed. Or in the second neighbor. The routes carry sounding names and topos and descriptions drawn with love are kept in the Refugio by Daniel, Silvina, her son Zen and the other (part-time) residents like treasure maps. Dirtbags in Paradise! They make their way to the village in four hours. "Just have a quick beer" takes eight hours up here.
We are on the way, using a gap in the rain clouds, to Cerro Arco Iris, Through dense Alercenwald meanders a narrow path up the mountain. Long accompanied us din, which is getting louder. Then the waterfall. We stay, absorb the mood in us. Over a rather unsteady suspension bridge it goes on, further up. Above, at the foot of the wall, I marvel at the climbing routes. Nothing, but nothing at all, looks "feasible" at first glance. Alex Honnold was up here, explain the dirt bags later. Under the huge overhang a large, dry place, a hearth. We continue up, left along the rock. The path becomes steeper, slipperier, more and more often we climb higher at roots. Suddenly a girl comes towards us. At the top, it could not go on any more, but sitting on the balcony was something, the view of the valley and the massive granite walls was "mucho impressive".
Then, the famous "balcony". To climb it is only about a greasy, slippery and steeply inclined rock plate, about 3 meters high. It is just over a meter wide, roots protrude left and right, and a fixed rope is attached. Carefully we ascend. A slip-up here would be fatal, below us only a small paragraph, then air. Much further down there is probably the fire pit.
The view is really impressive. I'm looking for the way, somewhere it has to go on here. In fact, a fallen tree blocks the way. Not very safe, we climb the modern tree and find the path. A little easier, the barely recognizable path track continues up through the forest. Once at the top, a kind of pass transition, it goes gently downhill again downhill. The view is as soon as the dense forest releases it, indescribable. After a while we decide to turn back, it's getting late, we're soaked. We also do not know if that is still a way and where it leads us. In Patagonia, such a path can lead for days through the forest out of any civilization.
In the morning, a quick attempt to descend into the village, but the heavy rain and the mass of water in the streams and rivers, the many waters that roll down the muddy paths, let us quickly adjust our plans. A short detour takes us to Refugio Cochamó.
A real hideaway, big, warm, a crackling stove, a steaming cup of tea, warm wood everywhere. We settle down, chat with the others, friends, dry ourselves and ours warm sleeping bags, Have dinner together at a large table and let us talk. A good idea to sit out the rain here and dare the next day to try to descend into the valley.
It is a heavenly place here. The refugio is run by truly honest attentive (in all respects of the word) people. Two climbers who simply did not feel like raising their child in the detrimental modern world. The little one has an open, alert nature and now speaks four languages. He will certainly become a tall, upright person.
As soon as we arrive in the village, even the sun greets us! We find ourselves back on the bed of a pickup, in the evening we go to eat well. So we go eat, chic, we only feel the environment.
- The national park authority CONAF offers free maps of the national park at the ranger posts.
- General: Lonely Planet travel guide Chile and Easter Island*