Recommendation: Refugio Cochamo in La Junta, Chile | Infused exposures

Recommendation: Refugio Cochamo in La Junta, Chile

by infused exposures on March 12, 2014

I want to start out by saying, this isn’t your typical recommendation.  Most of my reviews or recommendations are based around the fact that you will actually be visiting the places that I talk about. For example,  If you are traveling or planning a trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina, I would like to recommend a restaurant to you. There is a good chance that if you are planning a visit to Argentina, then it will include Buenos Aires.

This is kind of the opposite.  Chances are, you probably have never heard of La Junta Chile, even if you live in the country.  So I am not going to say to you- oh, if you happen to be in La Junta-do drop by the refugio.  It’s amazing. No, instead I am telling you, you have to GO to La Junta.  Add it into your travel itinerary. It is pretty likely if you do visit Chile, you may already be going to Puerto Varas or Puerto Montt.  If so, including La Junta makes perfect sense since these two cities serve as the gateway for this absolute paradise.

Why would you want to do such a thing?  Well, I will tell you why.  But first I want to make sure you have a bit of an adventurous spirit.  There is no formal transport to take you to La Junta.  No bus that will drop you conveniently off at the terminal.  Also, there is no 5 star hotel there.  No gourmet restaurants to be had.  Actually, no restaurants at all.  And no wifi, phone service or ATM’s.  Yes, you read that all right.  There is nothing in La Junta except a campground and a refugio.  Oh, and drop-dead gorgeous scenic beauty.  But to get to that refugio, you have to either hike or go on horseback 10 km and finally get pushed across the river on a home-made, seated pulley system. All river crossing should be this fun.

Okay, so I am not convincing you yet, am I?  Well, I will tell you what the reward is.  It’s huge.  Have you ever heard of Yosemite National Park in California?  Famed for its giant, granite domes and thundering, crystal-clear waterfalls? Well, La Junta is Chile’s equivalent, except minus the cars and crowds.  The scenery is unparalleled here.  If you are a nature-lover of any sort, you will immediately fall in love with La Junta.  And if you are into rock climbing, chances are you have already heard of it.  It’s a true climbers paradise.

To get here, you have two main choices.   If you have ever hiked before (you do NOT need to be an avid hiker to do this trail) or are in pretty decent shape, you can easily hike in. I’m gonna be honest, the trail is muddy at times-especially after rain, and you can feel like you are walking in the trenches but it’s pretty flat.  If you have NEVER hiked and consider yourself way out of shape, you can opt for a horse to take you in.  Either way, it’s 10 km (6 miles) to reach this extraordinary place.  And it’s worth every single step.  I can’t tell you how many times I have completed a long hike with no reward at the end.  Just a so-so view.  It is not the case this time, I assure you!  Instead, you will be busy picking your jaw up off the floor! We spent over a year in South America and over 4 months in Patagonia-and this is one of the most beautiful places we saw!

hiking in the trenches to get to La Junta

This excerpt from the cochamo website explains it well: “Travelers, climbers, trekkers trying to escape the regular tourist stops, wanting to be emersed in Patagonia’s nature and desiring for real, unregulated adventure choose to surround themselves by granite domes, waterfalls, rivers and mountains in Cochamó Valley. This trek, known only for a relatively short time, is quickly becoming just as popular as Torres del Paine’s trails.”

Make a reservation if you plan to stay at the refugio or for the ultimate nature experience, bring your tent and camp at La Junta’s campground. The refugio is more like a chalet, cozy, wood cabin.  An expanisve porch wraps around the whole place with plenty of seats for eating or gazing at the spectacular sunsets.  There is a large, communal kitchen there and it’s well supplied if you want to do some of your own cooking.  Alternatively, the refugio serves up delicious, vegetarian meals or homemade pizzas.  They even have beer!  The American-Argentine couple who owns the place will look after you.

I would describe the lodging as comfortably rustic.  There are a few private rooms for couples, so if you want your privacy, be sure to reserve in advance.  Otherwise, there is a large 18 dorm room.  I know what you are thinking-18 rooms!?  What is this some sort of hippy, young backpackers retreat?  No, it’s not.  The refugio was filled with a mix of people from ages ranging from the young 20 somethings to a group in their 60’s.  Everyone from climbers, to retirees, to hikers and nature-lovers shared the large dorm peacefully together.  The beds are thoughtfully placed and if you are a couple, it’s almost like having a private bed, due to the arrangement.  There are hot showers offered at the refugio but they are wood-fired and so you have to wait until the evening.  It’s a small price to pay given the location of this place.  The showers get piping hot, so it’s also worth the wait.

If you want to plan a trip to this unmissable area, please check out their super-informative website by clicking here.

Average costs:

Bus: from Puerto Montt-Cochamo town: there are 4 that leave daily costing US $4 per ticket

Taxi: You need to take a ‘taxi’ from the town of Cochamo (where the bus drops you) to the trailhead. Cost is US $12 for up to 5 people (you will most likely meet other people coming off the bus, making it easy to carpool)

Room in dorm:  US $24/ night (more than double that for a private room)-both include breakfast

Meals:  Dinner costs about US $10-all home-made vegetarian food.  Less than that for a pizza/beer. Breakfast is included in the price of lodging

*For all other costs, including camping, hiring horses, etc-please see their website.

No matter what the cost, or the hassle to get here, this place is unmissable.  I guarantee you will not regret coming here!

Picaflor - Dirtbag Diaries
Listen at:  or  download audio.

When a bad breakup sent him into a spiraling into a deep depression, Tom Ireson fixated on an unconventional way to get his head straight:

“I really needed something to focus my mind on to pull me out of that,” Tom says, “and about the biggest thing I could think of was to try and do a new route on a big wall.”

Not just any big wall, a big wall on the other side of the world in the remote and wild valley of Cochamo, Chile. When he latched on to the idea, Tom had never been to Cochamo and never climbed a big wall, much less established a new route on one.

Today, we’ve got one for you about how, if you find yourself at the bottom of an impossibly deep hole, sometimes it takes an equally impossible goal to pull yourself out of it.

If you want to hear more from Tom, check out his 2014 Short, ‘Go For It‘.
Protegiendo el Valle de Cochamó: Si quieres visitar, deberás 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 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:
Baño Mágico

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.

- 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 (

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 ...

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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. 

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?
Algunas Indicaciones Antes de Subir al Valle Cochamó[2]/0/