Imagine enduring your first steep multi-hour hike to the high valley granite walls of Cochamó, and just as you come out of the forest you see smoke. As you approach, you follow it down to its source to see a blackened granite stones circled to form a fire pit, tents with plastic tarps, garbage blown to the side, dirty pots and pans, and clumps of gear spread out. And not just one site, but many. In the distant bushes, remnants of feces and toilet paper.
Many nature-seeking hikers complained of these scenes, and the shocking interruption it casused as they took in the human impact of these campers. Over the past decade, an increasing number of people camping in the Anfiteatro, Trinidad, Paloma and Arco Iris has had dramatic impacts on the fragile ecosystems found there. As a result, two nonprofits (Organización de Turismo, Propietarios y Amigos del Valle Cochamó & Friends of Cochamó), along with neighboring landowners, climbers and other tourist operators, have, in the past two years, pushed a campaign to minimize these impacts. They have implemented some of the following guidelines to follow:
- First, don’t set advanced camps in the alpine and sub alpine zones.
- If you must sleep overnight, make only temporary bivouacs – no tent camps. Make sure your bivouac is tidy, and inconspicuous, so uninformed visitors will not assume it’s a camp site. In the past these “camps” have attracted more campers, especially non climbers who don’t necessarily depend on advanced camps for having success on their route.
- Keep your bivouac at least 100 meters from the main trail and running water, and out of sight of day-hikers. Please use leave-no-trace ethics. As a climber, this is a major way you can help protect Cochamó.
- Don’t bath or wash directly in the streams. Many people drink this water down river. Wash at least 100 meters from water sources.