29 Jul 2012
For cold-weather adventurists Chile's opposite seasons offer something special for those of the northern hemisphere looking to revive their love of winter sport.
As one would expect with the Andes in its backyard, Chile presents some exceptional ice climbing opportunities, making it a fitting locale for the daring ice enthusiast.
Chile also remains one of the easiest places to access high-elevation peaks with several key ice routes existing in the vicinity of Santiago. Although considered almost the end of the earth, most international airports can get you a flight into Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport (SCL), with ease.
In this article we discuss two ice climbing areas near Chile's capital city of Santiago.
The Yerba Loca Nature Sanctuary is a valley and national park just an hour's drive from Santiago. It is the closest place to the city for ice climbing. The season, generally coinciding with the ski season, starts in June and ends in August. Many consider Yerba Loca to be the main waterfall ice climbing area in Chile. In good seasons, there can be more than 50 frozen waterfalls, ranging from an hour to 5 hours hike from the end of the access route.
Weather can be bad at times – blanketing the area in heavy snow often quite quickly – though generally there are long periods of fair weather with a shallow, walkable snow cover. Besides the iced waterfalls, Cerro Altar Falso, La Paloma, Cerro Altar, as well as other peaks, offer classic ice faces and longer ice couloirs.
Access: It is recommended to travel by car to this spot. Head east out of the city on Av. Las Condes. Near the city limits the road y's - you'll need to go right onto Camino A Farellones. The road eventually begins to corkscrew steeply and at the fifteenth hairpin turn (they are all numbered) the nature reserve Yerba Loca is clearly marked with a wooden sign.
After turning onto the access road, just past the entrance, you should see the administration cabin on your left where you can pay the entrance fee and receive information.
Colgante del Morado is a hanging glacier stretching up from a lake at the base of Cerro El Morado (4650 m), which is neighbored by two large volcanoes, Marmolejo (6108 m) and San Jose (5856 m) in Cajón del Maipo. The glacier has something to offer ice enthusiasts of varied abilities - from moderate slopes and faces for practice and training to harder vertical climbs. Climbers are cautioned as some of the more difficult routes higher up unfortunately are threatened by ice fall.
Due to weather conditions and heavy snow, the park, which is located just at the snowline, can be difficult to access during winter months, and special permits may be required for ice climbing.
Access: The entrance to the park is in Baños Morales approximately 70km from Santiago in Cajón del Maipo - a picturesque valley carved out of the Andes by the Río Maipo. The main route to the valley is via Avenida (avenue) La Florida. This avenue, which later changes into Avenida Camilo Henriquez, will take you directly to the Las Vizcachas area and onto the winding road up into Cajón del Maipo.
Continue onward until reaching Baños Morales where you will find the entrance to El Morado National Park. A Conaf post is located a bit farther upwards, where visitors can pay the entrance fee and receive information about the park.
For information on these ice climbs, contact the Federación de Andinismo (Mountaineering Federation) in Santiago.
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