Protegiendo el Valle de Cochamó: Si quieres visitar, deberás reservar
(http://www.laderasur.cl/reportajes/protegiendo-el-valle-de-cochamo-si-quieres-visitar-deberas-reservar/)

Desde esta temporada 2017, para poder conocer el Valle de Cochamó deberás reservar tu sitio en los camping autorizados con anticipación. Esto como parte de una medida para asegurar un turismo sustentable que proteja al valle del deterioro que ha causado la sobrepoblación de turistas en los últimos años.

©McKay Savage

A partir del 1 de enero de 2017, todo aquel que quiera visitar el llamado “paraíso para la escalada” o “el Yosemite de Sudamérica” ubicado en la región de Los Lagos, deberá reservar con anticipación su cupo. Esto, luego de que operadores turísticos y dueños de terrenos en el valle de Cochamó, con el apoyo de la Municipalidad de Cochamó, Cochamó Patagonia Chile y Puelo Patagonia, se pusieran de acuerdo para proteger este lugar que en los últimos 3 años prácticamente ha triplicado su cantidad de visitantes, superando con creces su capacidad de carga.

Atrás quedaron los días en los que sólo algunos aventureros ansiosos de escalar sus características paredes de granito, llegaban al sector de La Junta en Cochamó, luego de subir por el mismo paso por el que sus habitantes y arrieros se han desplazado en la zona durante 100 años y que lleva hasta Argentina. Esos días en los que aún era gratis acampar en algunas zonas y donde sus toboganes de piedra natural eran un tesoro conocido por sólo unos pocos.

Cochamó sucio y sobrepoblado

©Cristóbal Muñoz Robles

Hoy se estima que al Valle de Cochamó llegan alrededor de 13.000 visitantes en la temporada alta, lo que supera la capacidad de carga que el lugar puede soportar y pone en peligro las maravillas naturales de este valle.

Según un estudio realizado en 2009 por la Facultad de Geografía de la Universidad de Barcelona, la capacidad de carga turística anual en el sendero La Junta debiera ser de 975 personas, ya que “presenta una alta erodabilidad y vulnerabilidad en cuanto a la pérdida de vegetación, debido al gran número de personas que lo transitan como vía de comunicación con Argentina, tanto a pie como a caballo”. Además, los 4 sitios de camping privados que hay en el sector de La Junta tienen una capacidad para 400 personas.

El gran problema es que no sólo estas cifras no se han respetado, ya que en temporada alta durante el verano llegan al lugar un promedio de 150 personas por día (con una estadía mínima de alrededor de 3 días) por lo que muchas veces una vez que las personas llegan al sector se encuentran con los campings llenos y deciden pernoctar en cualquier lugar; sino que además las personas que llegan han comenzado a dejar todo tipo de desechos.


Es tiempo de un cambio

©Augusto Dominguez

Según comentaron a Patagon Journal Sebastián Fuentes y Adolfo Mancilla, representantes del municipio de Cochamó, hasta el año 2015 era posible aún acampar de forma gratuita cruzando el río La Junta, pero desde la temporada de 2016 Bienes Nacionales autorizó que estén bajo administración municipal. Desde entonces ellos se han turnado para dormir bajo un gran toldo blanco en medio del bosque y evitar así que las personas acampen en aquella concurrida zona en la que, sólo en la temporada pasada, los arrieros debieron acarrear en sus caballos dos toneladas de basura, especialmente envases de alcohol que los visitantes dejaron en el bosque y las riberas.

A ellos ya les ha tocado ver que algunos visitantes llegan al lugar al atardecer, se encuentran con los campings sin sitios disponibles y llegan a este sector para instalarse. Y una vez que se encuentran con Fuentes o Mancilla a estos no les queda otra que permitirles que pernocten durante sólo una noche a cambio de trabajo voluntario al día siguiente que consiste en despejar senderos, eliminar fogones o construir señaléticas, entre otros.

Sin embargo esto ya no podrá repetirse a partir de esta temporada 2017 luego de que las comunidades del sector aunaran esfuerzos para proteger la zona. De ahora en adelante  quien quiera visitar las paredes de granito, bosques de alerce, ríos y cascadas del Valle de Cochamó deberá planificar su viaje con anticipación y reservar su sitio en los campings autorizados directamente en la página www.reservasvallecochamo.cl. De lo contrario, impedirán su paso.

 ¿Cómo reservar?

1. Elige el servicio que quieres contratar, en el mapa o en la lista de servicios.

2. Contacta al prestador de servicios y espera su respuesta.

¡Así de fácil!

Al comienzo del sendero, pedirán tu comprobante de reserva de algún camping del sector la Junta. Si no cuentas con él, deberás preguntar en el registro si los camping tienen disponibilidad de espacio y sólo si existe algún cupo podrás continuar hasta La Junta. Este plan se va a comenzar a ejecutar el 1 de enero 2017.


Si quieres conocer más acerca de la situación en el Valle de Cochamó, te recomendamos este documental que también toca la problemática de la basura: “El Mono de Cochamó“. 
El Mono de Cochamó: La pelicula ganadora del Festival de Cine de Montana


"El Mono de Cochamó": La pelicula ganadora del Festival de Cine de Montana de Santiago 2016. El documental relata la vida de Cristian Gallardo, mejor conocido como "El Mono", en el Valle de Cocham6 al sur de Chile y recientemente fue premiada como la Mejor Pelicula del Cine de Aventura Sudamericano durante el XVII Santiago Mountain Film Festival (Banff). Aquí podrás encontrar el documental y una pequefia entrevista a su creador, Daniel Pastene, donde nos cuenta como llegó a hacer este galardonado audiovisual.

El Cine de Aventura Sudamericano reune las mejores piezas audiovisuales de deportes al aire libre del continente, durante el Santiago Mountain film Festival. Quien se llevó los honores fue el chileno Daniel Pastene, con esta película. Este filme de 21 minutos, muestra la vida de Cristian Gallardo, conocido como "El Mono", en el valle selvatico de la Junta del Valle Cochamó, en Chile. La historia transcurre en dos estaciones, verano e invierno, donde la vida de este joven argentino encargado del refugio cambia junto a la llegada de muchos turistas, la soledad y el frio invernal.

Conversamos con Daniel para saber mas acerca de este proyecto que ya ha ganado varies premios como "Meier Película" en el festival Festival Internacional de Cine de Montana, Noche de Fogón de Bari!oche 2016, y "Mejor Fotografia" en El Festival Internacional de Cine de Montana Co. Valdés 2016. Ademas de ser considerado como Selección en el "Festival de Cine Internacional Surmic." de Puerto Montt y el 'Adventure Film Festival" de Santiago. Este es los que Pastene nos comentó acerca de su película y como llegó a hacerla.

"En el año 2000, tomé la decisión de ir a estudiar música a Bélgica, donde me titulé de clarinetista e interpreté musical con mención en composición en el Conservatorio de la ciudad de Gent. Ahí no solo descubrí un mundo enorme sobre la música, sino que también descubrí la fotografia", cuenta Daniel Pastene. Tras 12 años viviendo en Bélgica decidió regresar a Chile cansado del "viejo mundo y de la supuesta comunidad social en la que me encontraba," cuenta. Al llegar a Chile conoció la escalada y sal corns Pastene cuenta, un nuevo mundo se abrió ante sus ojos, encontró en la escalade no solo un deporte sino que una forma de vide y equilibrio espiritual.

Este lugar marcó un antes y un después en su propia vida por lo mismo decidió crear a partir de sus grabaciones y su experience este documental...

Ver el artículo entero en:
http://www.laderasur.cl/esta-pasando/el-mono-de-cochamo-la-pelicula-ganadora-del-festival-de-cine-de-montana-de-santiago-2016/
Baño Mágico






https://vimeo.com/185803240

Este video del proyecto realizado en el sector de El Bosque Mágico, queda a 15 minutos de Santiago de Chile, es uno de los lugares mas frecuentados de la región Metropolitana, por esta razón es muy importante de señalar ciertos consejos para poder convivir con la naturaleza y con las otras personas que llegan a este lugar fascinante, cuenta con un microclima que hace muy agradable la escalada, esperamos crear consciencia para que las próximas generaciones puedan disfrutar de esta área, muchas gracias a todos los voluntarios que participaron de la limpieza y orden de os senderos.

El Bosque Mágico, Cochamó y todos los sectores de escalada no pueden convertirse en un basural. La comunidad lo tiene claro y lo anuncia una vez más con este video.
El llamado es a comportarse de manera consciente y generar un mínimo impacto.

Recuerda:
- Si vas a al baño usa una pala y llévate tu papel.
- Baja toda tu basura.
- No hagas fuego en lugares donde no está permitido.
- Mantente dentro de los senderos.
- Respeta el espacio y el silencio de los demás.
- Escala de forma segura y responsablemente.
- Finalmente recuerda que esta no es una lista de acciones a memorizar sino algo que se debe entender e interiorizar de forma definitiva.


El Condor Pasa - Slovaks climb the hardest new big wall in Cochamó Valley
04.03.2016 di Planetmountain (http://www.planetmountain.com/en/news/climbing/el-condor-pasa-slovaks-climb-new-big-wall-in-cochamo-valley-chile.html)

Slovakian climbers Josef Kristoffy, Martin Krasnansky and Vlado Linek have made the first ascent of the hardest route in Cochamó, El Condor Pasa (13d, 700m) on Cerro Trinidad Central.

After the endless journey transporting 300 kg of luggage, they finally arrived at Camping La Junta in the epicenter of Cochamó Valley, located about 3 hours on foot from Cochamo village in Northern Patagonia. After becoming acquainted with the area and gathering the necessary information they decided to climb a new route up the impressive 700 meter high northwest face of Cerro Trinidad Central (1720 m). The next three days were spent carrying 300 kg of gear and food to the base of the route, and on Jan. 5 they began their project by following a virgin line circa 50 meters left of Nunca Mas Marisco (Angelo Forcignano, Ismaele Fosti, Christian Gianatti, Lorenzo Lanfranchi, Giovanni Ongaro, Simone Pedeferri, 2005) that shares the same start as Tabanos na Cara (5.10c, A3+), Sergio Tartari, José Luis Hartman, 2000).


Initially the new route led past small, shallow cracks and the Slovaks soon realised that the style of climbing was very different to what they were used to. Formed by water, ice and vegetation, the cracks were so small that jamming fingers and placing pro proved practically impossible, resulting in complex big wall climbing techniques requiring the smallest micro nuts, micro friends and hooks. Most cracks were dirty and full of weeds and after midday, when the sun hit the wall, climbing became almost impossible as they had to battle high temperatures and tabanos horse flies.

Using a mix of aid and free climbing, over the next week they fixed the lower pitches and managed to reach the summit. Five pitches were shared with Tabanos na Cara but where this breaks left the Slovaks continued right, parallel to Nunca mas Marisco. From 20 - 25 January they then set about freeing the remaining aid pitches, including the 14th pitch that Kristoffy freed on their last day with difficulties estimated at 13d.

Although time had run out for a single push, ground-up ascent, with all pitches freed individually Kristoffy stated "I'm really satisfied, this is my biggest climbing achievement so far: a 50 m grade X about 400m above the ground that I myself helped create, thousands of kilometres from home, after 3 weeks of work, lacking food and really exhausted…"


Cochamó, Un Verano Sobrepoblado
por Ignacio Palma de Patagon Journal

La historia ya es conocida dentro del mundo outdoor nacional e internacional. Ubicada en un privilegiado lugar en la precordillera de la región de Los Lagos, la cuenca del río Cochamó cuenta con unas 30 mil hectáreas de bosque de selva templada, de tipo valdiviano, las que están rodeadas por cordones montañosos de paredes de granito, cuyas cumbres superan los mil metros de altura. Éstas han sido el paraíso para escaladores que buscan nuevas rutas en uno de los Big Walls más grande de Sudamérica ...

Leer más en http://bit.ly/1Ug6Lvp

OS7 en el Valle Cochamó
Agentes de antidrogas del OS7 de Carabineros asistido por su perro buscan drogas en las mochilas de los visitantes del Valle Cochamó.

https://www.facebook.com/cochamopatagonia/ 

The Constant Gardener, Other Heroic Deeds, and the Bitch Fest of One Disgruntled Dirtbag
by Chris Kalman
This is what Constant Gardening looks like. Cooper Varney on the FA of Todo Cambia. Photo: Florian Haenel
This is what Constant Gardening looks like. Cooper Varney on the FA of Todo Cambia. Photo: Florian Haenel

So there he stood. Covered in dirt, hands so worn and ruined that he could not properly shake my friend’s hand.  Brushes long-since de-bristled, blood and dirt caked to cuticles and stuck in the eye creases, spittle stuck with dirt in the corners of his mouth.  So exhausted from his “day off” that he cannot even refuse my offer to push him across the river in the tyrolean cart.  That’s how I know he’s whopped – Daniel is a proud and capable man, and is far more likely to help me, than me him.

Now, Daniel, he’d fit the bill of ‘constant gardener’.  His extension to his own route Camp Farm on Cochamo’s La Junta – which he has worked bottom up, top down, side to side, and everything in between for multiple years now (often on solo missions that involve sleeping on the wall without bivy gear, and scrubbing, brushing, cleaning, bolting, etc for 10 hour stretches) – that route would qualify for the name.  Daniel’s been been putting up new routes in Cochamo for over ten years now – his Camp Farm extension is just the latest and greatest.  If cleaning vegetation out of cracks and scrubbing lichen and moss off of faces were cool in the climbing community, than Daniel would be Chris Sharma.  If there is anyone as accomplished in those thankless tasks, I’d love to meet him or her.  Simply put, Daniel’s appetite for cleaning is voracious and insatiable.  I learned from him, and J.B. Haab how to properly “work” on a route, during my first two seasons in Cochamo.  I also learned from them that it’s not something to brag about, or anything, it’s just what you do.  It’s what we do.  We’re there, in paradise, getting to establish new routes on incredible walls.  It’s a privilege.  It’s the biggest privilege.

Okay, I can feel how crusty I’m being even before I get to the point.  But seriously.  When a couple of pro climbers put up a new route in Yosemite (in 2 days, mind you – not the month+ suffer-fests I’ve witnessed in Cochamo), and call it the Constant Gardener; and then when their sponsoring company makes a video about it to show how amazing these guys are, for all their selfless gardening and hard work up on this wall – I can’t help but laugh (a bit cynically, perhaps).

In truth, it doesn’t have anything to do with these athletes, or this company, or their route, or another route.  It’s not a pissing match.  The thing I find frustrating is that we as a community constantly drool over these ordinary people who we ourselves place on the “hero” pedestal.  The media and the industry behind it feed into it by making a big deal of normal everyday actions when pros do them.  If I had pitched to any climbing company that I would go somewhere and spend days, weeks, whatever it took on a wall, scrubbing it, cleaning it, and prepping it for free climbing, repeat ascents, etc – they would have laughed me out of the office.

If?  Oh wait, that’s right.  It’s not easy drumming up support for blue collar work if you’re a measly plebeian dirtbag.  You can’t get a major AAC grant to do it.  You can’t get major sponsorships (i.e., ones that pay) – magazines don’t want articles about it.  What can you get money for?  How can you make a name for yourself?  Well, you’re not going to suddenly start climbing 5.15… You won’t all of a sudden grab the speed record on the nose… Nobody cares if you climb a new 5.11… but wait, what about a 5.11x?  Hmm… now we’re talking.  How about a 5.11x in PATAGONIA?  Uhhuh, we’re listening… And it was shitty conditions, and I almost died.  Yes?  Tell us more…

Everyone wants to see pros acting blue collar, down to earth, humble, and community-service oriented.  But nobody wants to see amateur climbers doing the same.  As far as the climbing community, media, and corporate sponsors are concerned, it seems to me that the only thing that really gets a nod, a mention, or a dollar spent on it if you don’t have “a name” is risking your neck on big scary mountains.  The riskier, the gnarlier, the better.  Does anyone else find it ironic that our heroes die in the mountains, and then we establish grants in their names to encourage new climbers to do the same?  Okay, we’re not directly encouraging them to die.  Obviously not.  But if we make remote, challenging, and alpine pre-requisites – we certainly encourage toeing that line.

I know it seems like I’m biting the hand that feeds.  Yes, I did receive a Copp Dash Award this past winter, and yes, it is to attempt a new route on a remote alpine big wall where weather is super gnarly.  Yes, I am grateful, humbled, and honored at the opportunity.  But no, I don’t think we should avoid the subject.  What is the ostensible goal of the climbing media?  What should we promote, and what should we devalue?  What responsibilities do climbing companies have to their clientele, and what responsibilities do we as climbers have to one another.

There should be another way.  If you want a professional place in the climbing community, there should be more options than risking your neck, or giving up because you’ll never climb as hard as “the other guy” (as most of us won’t).  The story we need to begin, more and more often, to tell, is the one of the everyday climber who is just like us.  The average ascentionist, the dime a dozen dirtbag.  If we cannot find inspiration in them, how can we begin to find inspiration in ourselves?
http://fringesfolly.com/2014/10/03/the-constant-gardener-the-constant-aggrandizement-of-occasional-gardening-and-other-heroic-deeds-and-the-bitch-fest-of-one-disgruntled-dirtbag/
Algunas Indicaciones Antes de Subir al Valle Cochamó

http://www.cochamopatagoniachile.cl/site/#prettyPhoto[2]/0/

Canyoning In Climbing Paradise

As the saying goes, Yosemite is the Cochamo of North America. Cochamo is unequivocally the most spectacular place for pure rock climbing that I have come across. Big walls, trad gear, and balls of steel. During my six week stint, I hauled my ass up many classic routes, met the most colourful characters, chilled plenty, and perfected disaster style. But something was missing. One of my passions had not yet found its way into the valley and I would be the one to bring it there – canyoning.

With waterfalls and granite aplenty, there must have been many exciting options, but several scouting missions didn’t reveal anything of worth. At last, we found the perfect combination: a six pitch climb leading into a deep cleft, with perhaps four rappels in flow into a lake for a swim back to the start. A multi-sport combination I’d been dreaming of! But, due to unfortunate circumstance, I got abandoned just as we intended to send it.

I was furious and alone. But would not be defeated. I decided to take a chance and explore the Trinidad creek from its source at the aforementioned lake, all the way down to the Cochamo river, La Junta, and base camp. With 700 meters of elevation to drop, it would be quite the challenge. On top of that, all of my overnight gear and climbing kit was with me. Perhaps being stubborn and stupid makes for a dangerous combination…

So in I went. Right from the bivy boulder. Giddy as a schoolgirl with her first vibrator. I marveled at the gorgeous clear waters and stunning scenery of 1000 m cliffs. A couple of low jumps led me to a couple of short rappels, where I first started to realize that I was in for more than I bargained. My pack was too heavy. When free-hanging, my abs could hardly support all that dead weight on my back. The lower I went, the more horizontal I became. My pack hit the ground first.

Oh well, minor obstacle right? Some downscrambles and slides later, I was proven wrong. I was working my way down a slab in a crouched position, controlled sliding. But suddenly, the moss ended and clean granite started. My foot stopped, I didn’t. With all the extra weight adding to my momentum, I toppled over and felt as if something snapped below my knee.

[To read the rest go to: https://teambadidea.wordpress.com/2015/07/23/team-bad-idea-opens-canyoning-in-climbing-paradise/ ]
Siete Venas – A Wild Journey on Steep Granite in an Ever Changing World

by Miranda Oakley

In January of 2015, a whirlwind of buses, planes, smells, people, sounds and jungle trudging brought me back to the familiar valley of the Cochamó River, in Southern Chile. Cochamó lies in the Northern reaches of Patagonia, in Chile’s Los Lagos region.  The landscape is marked by volcanoes, jungle, and mountainous ranges separated by estuaries, fjords and lakes. La Junta is what the locals call the granite filled valleys that most climbers flock to, and it is about a 4 hour trek from the small town of Cochamó. This was my fourth trip to this amazing area, but for the first time I arrived feeling a bit lost and empty inside.

Marco heading up the classic Relampago pitch. Photo: Chris Kalman.


Since my last visit to Cochamó the previous year many things had changed in my life. One was the ending of a relationship of four years. Josh and I lived, climbed and worked together. Climbing with Josh was like climbing with another part of myself. He was reliable, he shared my same goals and he was incredibly aware of what we were capable of as a team. No matter how crazy the objective seemed I knew that if Josh thought we could do it then we could. It’s hard to find that kind of assurance from other partners or from within. I was lonely and afraid of climbing with new people in serious terrain. I was coming to terms with the fact that I might never find a climbing partner as reliable as the one I had just separated from.

While planning my trip to Cochamó I knew that whoever I partnered up with would have a lot to live up to. My friend and co-worker Tesia had expressed interest in climbing down south and I figured she would be a great new adventure partner. Tesia is super experienced on long granite terrain, she’s got a great attitude, and she loves off widths (a major plus not to be underestimated).  I convinced Tesia we would make a great team and we threw around ideas of what we could climb together down there. Before I knew it we had both bought flights to Santiago.

After days of traveling by plane, bus and foot I found myself in the familiar, yet ever breathtaking, valley of the Cochamó River. Tesia had already been there for about a week. I could tell that the jungle life had hit her hard as she scarfed down any food I offered her. We discussed goals for the season. I came down with specific objectives in mind but I was scared of confronting them. I was scared of climbing at my limit with new climbing partners. I was scared of having to try hard, scared of getting shut down, and scared of being scared and uncomfortable, out of my element and out of my league. I was terrified of trying really hard and failing. My feelings and ego were in a fragile state.

My main goal was to finish a route that I had started opening the previous season with my friends Chris, Megan and Marco.  Chris, my best friend and original climbing partner, had scouted out the new route in February of 2014 while working on another line nearby, called La Aleta de Tiburón. This buttress was tucked up in a gully on an unnamed wall in a sub valley of La Junta Valley called El Anfiteatro. When I arrived the team of three had already made it 6 pitches up the route.  Megan was returning to the US shortly after I arrived and Chris was going with her to Puerto Varas. He wanted me to work on the route with him and Marco when he returned. Of course I agreed. Marco and I climbed together and did some work on the first two pitches while Chris was in Puerto Varas. It was March and the climbing season was coming to an end. When Chris came back he was chomping at the bit to get back on the route and take the line to the summit.

The morning we started our summit push was clear and calm. I found myself skeptical that the season was almost over. The climbing felt hard and I struggled on the first few pitches. Chris and I argued about grades. I thought harder while he thought easier. There was some tough lie backing in a corner, a seemingly impossible boulder problem and a sustained steep crack. Marco pulled on gear while leading the boulder problem on the 3rd pitch but Chris was able to top rope it no problem with the drill on his back. I had nothing to weigh me down but the approach shoes dangling off of my harness, so I didn’t have much of an excuse as I took top rope whippers repeatedly at the start of the pitch.

Chris Kalman on the first pitch of Siete Venas. Photo: Miranda Oakley.


Soon we were at the steep twin splitters of the fourth pitch – the crux of the route. The climbing on this pitch is some of the wildest I’d ever seen on granite. You need every tool in the box, every skill that you’ve ever learned climbing to get up it. Chris seemed to be giving it his all, as he usually does. Marco and I thought he was going to send, as he pulled through the low crux, and then seemed to have finished the upper crux, but at the last moment we heard cursing and a whoop, as he took a big old whipper instead. It was a valiant attempt but I could tell he was bummed.

Marco led the 5th pitch, also known as the “relampago pitch”. A wide lightning bolt shaped crack divides the steep upper head wall into two sections of chimneying separated by an airy hand traverse. This pitch can be seen from far away in the valley below, and was Chris’s original motivation to go and check out the line.  The chimney is a yosemite-esque 5.9 squeeze, and you almost need a headlamp to navigate inside it. This was one of our favorite pitches of the route, even though the climbing was comparatively much easier.

On a ledge we rested as we noticed some darker clouds floating in. The weather window and the season were both coming to a close. The next pitch was probably the worst of the route; dirty, crusty 5.9. I was just starting up it when the rain began. I got to the top of the pitch to find a beautiful knife blade ridge connecting us to another couple hundred feet of vertical climbing. By that point the small misty rain had turned into fat drops. The rock, the rope, my down puffy (I didn’t bring a rain jacket) and everything else was soaked.

Only the unknown was ahead. No one had made it past that pitch. Chris was dead set on continuing up in spite of the rain. I was wet, cold and we already had a long night ahead of us but I knew it would be easier to keep going up than to argue with Chris. When Chris gets into those kinds of moods he is impossible to argue with. Marco didn’t realize this and he was trying to be responsible (and reasonable, perhaps) by pushing for the bail. We compromised by letting Chris go ahead with the next pitch, fourth class ridge traversing, because it could be easily reversed and it would allow Chris to see the climbing on the next few pitches. As he set off, the rain was just starting to let up.

My teeth chattered uncontrollably while I belayed Chris as he tip toed across the ridge. There were screams of excitement when he got to the other side. Splitters. More than one. He was practically jumping off the ledge. My fantasies of making dinner over a warm fire quickly deteriorated. But the rain had almost completely stopped and the sun was poking through the distant clouds. It was on its way down and golden light illuminated our upcoming pitches. I knew we had to go on.

Miranda following  the 4th class ridge as the cloud break, and the headwall bathes in golden light.  Photo: Marco Hardgrove.


Two more pitches and a few hundred feet of scrambling got us to the top. It was well after dark when we got there and we still had a lot of work to do. It took us hours to get down as we drilled and equipped anchors on the way. In the end we ran out of bolts, drill batteries, good weather and time. The result was anchors made of wedged knots, slung blocks, and single bolts. The plan was to come back in a few days, but the season was ending and no more windows opened back up. Chris is normally unstoppable but the weather was bad and showed no signs of getting better. He retrieved the gear in the middle of the night when the storm broke, and the three of us left Cochamó. We had been coming to Cochamó for the last few summers so we figured we would finish the route together when we came back next summer.

It is amazing, and sometimes terrifying how life can change in an instant.  What we planned on last year would not come to be. In August, Megan’s dad was diagnosed with a fast-acting form of lung cancer.  In September, scans revealed that the cancer had spread to his lymph system, and had also formed tumors in his brain.  Like the dark clouds of Patagonia, cancer can come in quickly, at random, and destroy your world.  In spite of Kevin’s extremely healthy lifestyle, and relative youth, he succumbed to the horrible disease, and passed away the day before Chris had been planning on flying down and a few weeks before I did. Megan’s family suffered a loss that seemed to make no sense.

I was sad when I heard that Chris and Megan were not able to make it down this year, but I knew that staying in Maryland would be the best choice for both of them. As the only person from our team returning to Cochamó, I felt much more responsible for the outcome of our route. I promised them I would finish equipping it. Although we had already summited, a Cochamó route never feels finished until it is fully equipped and safe for future ascents.  That is simply the Cochamó way.  Chris told me that I should free it but I couldn’t promise that (although Chris was certain I would send). I knew that with all they were going through the outcome of Siete Venas was not a concern for Chris and Megan but I figured it was the least I could do. Having made that promise may have helped me more than it helped them. It gave me a sense of purpose for the trip, which it turned out I desperately needed.

Tesia and I decided to do some climbing around the area to familiarize ourselves with the rock and get used to the odd but bombproof granite that makes up the Cochamó Valley. Cochamó has a way of sneaking up on you and crushing your budding ego. If you think you can climb 5.12 you might get shut down on 5.10 or even 5.9. We sent some climbs and bailed off of some climbs. I had a minor breakdown on one route. Not sending can hurt. The bit of confidence I had when I had arrived was waning. This was no Indian Creek, Red Rocks or Yosemite Valley. I found myself in the exact position I was dreading; out of my element with a shattered ego. I questioned whether I should have even come on the trip in the first place. I wanted to go home.

Thankfully Tesia was there for moral support. She suggested that we just start working on Siete Venas. She said that it would give me a sense of purpose.  The route still needed bolts for rappel anchors and awaited a free ascent. I bought ten bolts from Danny – an American expat who purchased land in La Junta along with his Argentinian wife Silvi, and began the Refugio Cochamó, and also the area’s most prolific first ascentionist to date. I borrowed bolting supplies from my friends Grant, Hannah and Sam. After a quick tutorial about how to place a bolt over mate, I was ready to go back up to the Anfiteatro. As I hiked up the curving jungle trail, I had a new spring in my step, and a deeper sense of purpose.  Tesia was right.

El anfiteatro is an amazing amphitheater of beautiful granite, and is one of my favorite places to climb in Cochamó. There I was reminded that the climbing was only a small part of why I come back to Cochamó year after year. The jungle living and the people does even more to ease my frantic soul than climbing the granite peaks. The simplicity of life is time consuming and rewarding. We sleep in caves made of fallen boulders, we cook our meals over a small fire pit equipped with alerce benches and fire blackened pots and pans. It’s easy to spend hours at the ‘Bivy Boulder’ shooting the shit with interesting folks from around the world. This is the best part of climbing. Water is normally plentiful here but since the season is so dry we have to walk a few minutes to fill up our bottles. The stream shrinks every day that there isn’t rain, and I find myself worrying about the tadpoles that inhabit the small pools of water that we drink from. Will they grow legs before the pool dries up?

Humans and frogs alike hope that idyllic pools like these will not dry up, but summers are hotter and dryer than ever. Photo: Miranda Oakley

On the morning we were supposed to start the route Tesia could not get out of bed. She was laid up with a stomach sickness that had been going around, perhaps due to the tadpole water we had all been drinking from. I recruited friends, Sam and Cooper, to belay me on some pitches as I fixed lines. The first few pitches were hard as anticipated. It was late in the day when we started so I pulled on gear in order to move quickly. I arrived to the top of the third pitch to find one bolt and one half of a bolt hole; evidence of running out of time and drill batteries the year before. Sam got up to the anchor and quickly got to work on the bolt. I was glad to get the crash course on hand drilling. We fixed our lines to the two bolts and were on our way down just before sunset.

With the first few pitches fixed Tesia and I were able to move quickly the next day. Arriving at the third anchor I was faced with the free climbing crux of the route. I wanted to give it a good onsight attempt but before I even reached the crux I got mega pumped and asked Tesia to take. “Are you sure?” she asked. I was.  Something wasn’t clicking.  I tried again and again, and even tried to aid (which proved just as difficult).  I barely made it up the pitch, not boding well for my free attempt. I tried not to worry about it and focused on getting work done. At the top of the fourth pitch we found a slung crack. Tesia and I each drilled a bolt. Not bad for our firsts. Chris had wanted to make the route possible to rappel with one 70 meter rope. That meant bolted anchors or slung features for rappels every 35 meters at the most.

Drilling bolts the old fashioned way. Photo: Tesia.


We continued up adding bolts for anchors where it was necessary. Hand drilling bolts was tiring and time consuming. As the sun started to sink behind the granite peaks in the distance, we established another unfinished anchor at the top of the 6th pitch. With most of the work behind us, we stashed the bolting kit just in case we needed it for the upper pitches, and headed back down to the bivy boulder.

The next day Tesia and I returned to La Junta for a few days of wet weather and to resupply on food. With some extra time to think I became obsessed with Siete Venas. I was no longer going to be satisfied with finishing the route. I had to free it too.  Despite how poorly my first attempt went I was pretty sure it was within my abilities. I’ve always been good at staying positive but the support from the community was huge for my attitude. My friends in Cochamó wanted me to free it and, somehow, they knew I could. I lost sleep at night thinking about the moves. I also worried that I was setting myself up for disappointment. I reminded myself that as long as I tried as hard as I could it would be a success.

After some rest, Tesia and I returned to the route. I sent the first pitch for the first time on lead. I fell a couple times on the boulder problem at the start of the third pitch, but eventually was able to pull through and sent the pitch. Before I knew it I was faced with the crux. Having redpointed all the pitches up to there I couldn’t help but feel pressure to send. I told Tesia that if I fell I would lower back down to try the pitch again.

Tesia striking a model’s pose high on Siete Venas. Photo: Miranda Oakley.

I thought I would at least make it to the upper crux, but no amount of screaming and bleeding would see me through, and again I fell on the lower crux. I didn’t lower back to the anchor. I didn’t have the energy. After a few minutes of dangling in space I pulled back up to the rock and did the move. The crux didn’t get any easier. I managed to do the moves, and brought Tesia up to the anchor.  I was crestfallen, after so much work, not to have sent but we kept climbing up. We topped out that day freeing one more pitch at 5.10d that had been aided the year before due to rain and wet moss. On the way down we placed one more bolt at a rappel anchor (it was a good thing we had stashed the bolting kit). The route was finally ready to go – bottom to top. You could safely rappel it with one 70 meter rope. All that was left to do was free it.

After some rest it was time to go back up for my final attempt. I knew I was able to do it but it would require perfect conditions, both psychologically and meteorologically. As I said before, the FFA would be icing on the cake. The hard work had already been done but I was feeling greedy, I wanted the icing. I had already stayed longer than I had planned and invested so much hard work that I wasn’t sure if I would be able to leave without it.

I climbed the first few pitches without a problem. They felt easier than ever before. The air was a bit cooler which was encouraging. I quickly got up to the first crux, pulling through the twin finger cracks to the roof.  The overhang gave me almost as much trouble as before, but I desperately wedged half of my hand into the shallow crack just above the ledge, and committed to the move. My foot was high in the crack below me, almost to my armpit, when it slipped.  I screamed, but just barely managed stayed on, and was relieved when I finally pulled over onto the ledge. My hands were bloody and my forearms felt full of lactic acid but on that ledge I could rest for ages before the true crux of the route. Perhaps it was the cooler temperature that day or having gotten the previous pitches first go without having to try them over and over but the crux on that particular day didn’t feel so hard. I delicately toed in on tiny potato chip edges and contorted my body just right to move through the awkward bulge. Before I had time to grunt or scream the crux was underneath me.  I could barely believe I had sent the pitch.  I climbed the final short section of 5.10 to the anchor, and breathed a sigh of relief.  The route was finished.  Siete Venas had finally gone free.

Send or no send I always try to be happy when I give it my all. But giving it everything and sending is always the best. Siete Venas was my biggest project yet. It took everything I had emotionally, physically and mentally. It forced me to overcome and re-evaluate what I am capable of. Although I used every muscle fiber in my body to send the crux, the rock climbing itself was a small part of the experience. I threw everything I had into it; money, time, emotions, but my involvement was just the tip of the iceberg. Chris, Megan and Marco spent precious time and energy opening the route in an area where both are in high demand. Tesia selflessly contributed hours of work and much needed emotional support. I would not have done it without her. The community of Cochamó supported and guided me when I was lost and looking for encouragement and advice. I was lucky to be a part of this inadvertent community effort. My favorite climbs are the ones that remind me how fortunate I am to be a rock climber and why I do it. On my journey down to Cochamó this year I learned, once again, that it’s everything else that makes rock climbing awesome. The community that spans the world, the stripped down and traveling thousands of miles to keep promises to people so close to my heart is what makes rock climbing what it is.  For me Siete Venas was a culmination of all of these things. It was a wild journey on steep alpine granite that exposed me to the harsh realities of life in an ever changing world.

Thanks, Miranda, so much for all the time and energy put into this story, the drafts revisions, and edits, and for sending the route!  While I think that you may have overstated my skills or “unstoppable”ness, I am honored at your compliments, and proud to call you a friend.  I’ll share a rope with you any day.

If you liked Miranda’s story, you should tell her!  Miranda is a climbing guide in Yosemite Valley.  She’s a crusher, a hilarious person, a good cook (albeit a bit heavy handed with the salt), and a good friend.  Go find her, and buy her a beer.

Also, if you have stories of your own you’d like to share, send them on over!  Just use the contact form, and let us know the tale you’d like to tell!

-FF
(Story source: http://fringesfolly.com/2015/06/01/siete-venas-a-wild-journey-on-steep-granite-in-an-ever-changing-world/ )