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 personnel from Camping La Junta (nearly all are climbers) and other returning 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 as 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.
Do I need to reserve?
You will need to reserve December through March. January and February tend to be full. Before December and after March, you can get a site upon arrival.
Is there free camping?
No. In the past the valley was overrun and greatly impacted by unmanaged camping. Please, help care for this beautiful yet environmentally fragile area. If you can’t pay for the camping and all its installations, consider a different destination. Patagonia is loaded with less known less explored walls.
A Basic Plan
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 bivouac sites (no tents please) in the upper valleys near the walls. Most of these – Trinidad, Anfiteatro, Paloma, Arco Iris – have a 2-to-4 hour approach. Set up your bivouac out of site of hikers, eat, prepare the rack and sleep.
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 very long day. Return to your bivy, eat and sleep.
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 or Refugio Cochamó.
Day 7: Repeat previous days or return. Climb or return to Camping La Junta or refugio. 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 interrupted 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.
What To Bring
- Ropes: Most routes are set up for rapping with two 60-meter ropes.
- Helmet: 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.
- Crack gear: Have two sets of cams. One set of offsets are especially helpful, especially on the smaller side. One set of nuts with a decent assortment of micros. One or two large cams (Camalot num. 4 and 5). A num. 5, for example, is particularly nice for the classics Al Centro y Adentro and Las Manos del Día.
- Pulley: 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 the climber camp hosts in Camping La Junta.
- Aid gear: Many first ascents and existing aid lines require pins, pitons, copper heads and other aid gear. Beaks are some of the most commonly used.
- Bolting gear: Most first ascensions require bolts. Please use only stainless-steel hardware and bolts at least 10mm or 3/8″ in diameter. If you bring your own power drill, you can charge your batteries at the Refugio if electricity is available. They do not charge other items.
- Portaledges: They are not necessary for repeating most routes. Having a portaledge can be convenient on the rock especially if you get stuck in bad weather or plan to establish a new route up a particularly long steep line. Most climbers, however, leave the extra weight to lug around at home.
- Insurance: 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.
- Money: 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.
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, Valle los Condores and Arenales, too. Check out the Climber’s Circuit map page. It includes the main areas most climbers hit during their trip.