Chile’s Yosemite – Cochamo, and a Nasty Trick

We spent 3 days riding horses the 12 miles into Cochamo, hiking there, and riding back out.



Char and Sophi, our guide, shortly after we headed up the 10 mile gravel road to the trail head.

Cochamo is similar to Yosemite in that it’s a granite canyon carved by glaciers, it’s a mecca for rock climbers, there are tall towering walls of granite, and there’s a river similar to the Merced.

Alpen Glow in the evening

It is different in that:

  • There is no road access, just a 12 mile trail passable on foot or horseback.
  • There’s much more vegetation
  • There’s about 1,000 times as many people in Yosemite, both in the high season and in the down season


    Cochamo Refugio where we stayed. There’s also a basic campground associated with Cochamo Refugio, and another Refugio called Campo Aventura.

  • The walls are less vertical, and not as high, and the waterfalls visible from the valley aren’t as dramatic.
  • At night, the stars are entirely different.  The moon looks just the same.
  • Most of the people there are climbers, putting up new routes.  Bolts are strongly encouraged.
  • There are almost no established trails, just informal trails climbers have made getting to the base of the cliffs.


    Char crossing a creek

  • * No airplanes fly overhead

At the Cochamo Refugio we met several interesting people:

Mono, the chain saw wiz. Mono could saw perfect planks from trees he’d felled in the forest. When we looked at all the walls, furniture, studs, stairs, and railings in the refugio and surrounding buildings we asked how it was all transported up there. Mono had manufactured it all on sight with astonishing precision.  He showed us how he snaps a chalk line, cuts about one inch deep with the chainsaw tip, and then just walks down the log, cutting off a perfect plank or beam.  He could also design

Mono, the chain saw wiz cutting planks.

Mono, the chain saw wiz cutting planks.

and make a perfect barn, gate, or house…and he is fast!

Chris is a forest fire fighter who lives in El Portal in the building next to Adrienne’s. He explained that he was doing graduate Phd research for long hours and little pay when he realized he’d had more fun when he was a fire fighter, during the Summers at school.  Now, with overtime and hazard pay, he earns plenty in six months and travels during the off period. He said that all motors, including chain saws, are banned in wilderness areas including Yosemite, so when fighting fires they have to use hand saws to cut down flaming trees. Also, he said that he and the other 40 people who were performing controlled burns in the National Park were laid off due to budget cuts.

Sabastian is a German who wants to start an Eco Village.  After Cochamo he was off to check out some land in the South of Chile that’s available. He envisions about 300 people living in a totally

A local inhabitant.

A local inhabitant.

sustainable manner. Evidently the land is available because it rains there 300 days per year.  Sabastian is passionately against “radiation”, by which he meant the radio waves used by wifi, cell phones, and blue tooth.  He carries a 25 meter Lan cable with him so he can plug directly into routers to avoid wifi.

A rock climber we met explained that climbers come to Cochamo to put up new routes.  He showed us three books where climbers had documented the routes they’d climbed, and bolted.

Waterfall at the swimming hole.  One can slide down the granite when it's warm enough.

Waterfall at the swimming hole. One can slide down the granite when it’s warm enough.

Evidently Daniel, who had established the Refugio with his wife Silvia, purchases stainless bolts in large quantities and sells them at cost to the climbers so the routes will be established with quality protection and other safety measures which harm the rocks can be avoided.

A 20 second video of a favorite waterfall is here.

The Nasty Trick

Sofi and Char just before the front loader came down the road.

Sofi and Char just before the front loader came down the road.

Soon after we started our ride the three of us were headed up a dirt road to the trail head. An enormous front loader with two guys in the glassed in cab came down the road in the opposite direction.  As they passed they hit the vehicle’s horn.  All three startled horses wheeled around.  I looked back to see the two men laughing at the trick they’d played, as they drove away in a cloud of dust.

More photos of Cochamo are below:

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