The Climbing Bit.
So, we left Cochamó and spent a couple of days driving up to the Valle de los
Cóndores, where a series of 30m high pink basalt walls on both sides of a river in
spate offer a number of sport and trad routes. These walls seemed, on first
inspection, rather intimidating and impregnable. On closer inspection, using digital
photos of a topo (a sketch of the crag with routes marked on), we found, over the
next three days, a number of routes of sufficiently amenable grade that we managed to
do perhaps something like 15 established routes from 5.8 to (allegedly) 5.11b (5 to
6c+ for those of you who prefer French grades). Much to my surprise I found I was
climbing with more facility than many others, so I enjoyed a moment of schadenfreude
(wrong of me I know but ...)
The Cajón de Maipo is an area of the Andes close to Santiago, where there are a
number of climbing areas of varying degrees of scariness and difficulty. The pueblo
of Baños Morales is a bit of a centre for trekking, horse riding and climbing,scruffy
though it undoubtedly is. A cool campsite with, perhaps, the most ramshackle toilet
facilities offering quite the coldest shower imaginable accommodated us very nicely
for two nights whilst we investigated the climbing in the La Mina and Hitchcock
sectors. We chose to ignore Sector Punto Zanzi due to the walk-in of death required.
This is no joke - people have died when trying to find the walk off in the dark.
Sector La Mina is that rare thing in Chile - a steep limestone crag. It does however
resemble the Black Gate of Mordor, and I expected an immenent attack from the Dark
Lord at any time. I climbed a couple of routes with Manuel, a German chap who joined
the truck at Baños MOrales; rather, he climbed them and I flailed my way up
afterwards. But given that we had no real idea of the grade, I was not downhearted.
Sector Hitchcock was, on the other hand, sun-baked and slabby, with a few routes that
turned out to be excellent, especially a 6b+ line that took in some steeper terrain
and so played more to my strengths.
We were assured that Las Chilcas was the best sport climbing area in Chile. Well, it
might have been, but the Pan American Highway runs right through the middle of it
which just took the edge of the rural idyll it might otherwise have been. Oh hang
on, the madman living in the shade of a rock on which was painted 'Christo viene'
('Christ is coming'), his pack of feral dogs, and the nasty little ticks that
dispense Malde Chagos all also took the edge of things here. But there were one or
two good routes to be done and we managed to keep ourselves entertained for a couple
of days, despite these drawbacks and the failure on my and Manuel's part to find the
135m multi-pitch route that alledgely went up the highest part of the crag.
So,just before arriving in Santiago we spent a couple of days at the beach in
Zapallar, which turned out to be the rich (and I mean rich) set's playground, doing a
spot of bouldering, and another couple at La Palestra, one of Chile's oldest
developed climbing areas. Manuel and I took the opportunity to climb with some local
guys, who took us to a deep granite canyon for a spot of crack climbing. Hmmm. Well
haed. Lots of crying like a baby, with Tim's remarks about board-lasted shoes
ringing in my ears. But Manuel climbed better than the all Chileans and I better
than most, so we didn't disgrace ourselves. For me the day was what HotRock should
be about - making contact witjh local climbers and having good days out with them.
So that's the boring bit out of the way.
Santiago Cathedral is playing Beetoven's Ode to Joy on its bells.
The non-climbing bit.
Now, dear reader, here is where you come in. It's competition time. Below you will
find a list of things, and your task, should you choose to accept it, is to assign
them to one or both of the following categories: A good thing; A bad thing.
The opportunity to use a comfy toilet.
Sweet rice for breakfast, made not with pudding rice but with long-grain.
Even more lentils.
The effect of lentils on Simon's digestion.
The No Hands Rest, which is the truck bar.
The Hermanos Carrera wine found in the No Hands Rest.
Mulling the shit out of the Hermanos Carrera wine to make it drinkable
Pasta cooked HotRock style - best described politely as a trifle soft.
The availability of meat.
The general absence of meat in our diet.
The food budget of US$1.00 per day.
The smell of Richard's feet.
Fresh drinking water.
The drinking water from the jerry cans, which aren't really jerry cans but industrial
food flavouring containers that were bought on the cheap and that still retain strong
memories of their previous contents.
The company of other HotRockers.
The welcome extended by pretty much all the Chileans I have met.
Niño, the allegedly fierce guard dog at La Palestras
The opportunity to practice Spanish.
The truck fairy, who constantly hides stuff you just put down.
The need to carry toilet paper everywhere.
A sewerage system capable of handling toilet paper.
Belting out Tom Jones's 'Delilah' during the kareoke evening in Los Chicos Malos in
The offer to be taught salsa by Maurice.
Space to store stuff.
Finding a scorpion under the tent.
Pollo a lo pobre
Dancing the night away in The Jammin' Club in Santiago.
The pre-expedition advice to not take a thermorest as is is sure to get punctured.
Buying a thermorest in Santiago because one followed the pre-expedition advice.
Dropping one's camera down the crag and watching it explode into a million pieces.
Even more grime.
The state of Simon the Mechanic's work clothes.
So, that's about it for now. Entries to be submitted at your convenience and the
winner will receive a box of Hermanos Carrera wine. There's incentive for you.