Altitude: 2, 458 meters; 8,064 feet
Incline: 1,671 meters; 5,482 feet
Distance: 14.8 km; 9.2 miles
Time: 6-9 hours round trip
Difficulty: high (physical), normal (technical)
Another beautiful Saturday in the books.
Cerro Purgatorio was a fantastic mountain to get out for a day trip and put my body to the test. It is located in Cajon del Maipo, so it is very accessible from Santiago via public transportation. I’m constantly grateful for my close proximity to the Andes. The mountain is very steep with only a few more horizontal spots to take a rest, and, during the winter, the top section is heavily covered in snow. Therefore, it’s not just exhausting on the way up, but also on the way down. We went out during the month of August, towards the end of winter, and were blessed with an absolutely beautiful day.
From where we left our cars, we started heading up and were on the lookout for a larger flat space to stretch. That first little 20 minute warm up gave me an idea of what was to come and I quickly shed layers down to my tshirt. Our stretch spot was incredible, the rain that week had left the vegetation as green as ever and the clear day revealed the picturesque Andes.
The first part of the trek has a lot of brush, loose rocks, and rough groud at a pretty constant incline. The trekking poles helped a lot with balance and extra support when having to take larger steps up. As we moved up it got much less green but there was still a lot of shrubbery that accented the skyline nicely. It was a windy, narrow path and, about an hour and a half in, the first “rest point” felt great. I prefer to maintain a steady rhythm instead of taking mini-breaks. It helps my muscles more easily keep going without getting tired, allows a random 10-15 second rest to be enough to get going again, and gives me the alertness to always be looking around and appreciating my scenery.
When we reached a solid open section, we took a little 15 minute break and I drank water, ate a banana, and stretched a bit. From here, I could see Cerro Minilla, which I had climbed just a few weeks back. That was pretty cool to look at that peak and know I’d been standing up at the top, overlooking the world and where I was standing at that exact moment. Cerro Minilla is the second peak from the left, right above my head. Awesome!
From here we continued on with the routine of very sharp and mildly sharp slopes. We had the cutest dog that followed us up, all the way to the top, and I gave him some water when we got topped this part off.
Looking at the mountain behind me in the bottom left picture, we had to go down a bit and then around to its other side, and from there continue our ascent. The bulk of the terrain up until the next checkpoint was loose, small rocks, larger rocks, and some nice, clean path. The loose rocks are very tiring as you have to be very careful where you step and, too frequently, one step forward makes you lose some ground with the sliding stones. By this point I was starting to get hungry, so I had an orange and some of my nuts/cranberries/raisins when we stopped. It was a gorgeous place to sit for a bit; the mountains on this side of the mountain were smaller, standing silently powerful below their taller, snowcapped sisters on the other side.
Sitting there we couldn’t see the next section, as we had to cross a small jagged section first to access the other side. When we got there, I just looked up and thought, “hmmm, this will be difficult.” It was all snow and extremely steep. It had recently snowed just a few days prior, which meant we had a lot of fresh, soft snow to plow through. Some sections were more icy, so we had to kick our foot in with each step to create footing and not slide.
Luckily, I was the third person so I could follow in some of the pre-made footsteps, although I had still had quite my share of falls from the slipperiness and deep snow. However, my heart was pounding and I was damn hot, so the falls and freezing snow didn’t feel too bad :) Until I got to the last step, about an hour later, I wasn’t able to see the sight that was to come. It was breath-taking and I didn’t expect it. This is precisely why people climb, what a reward!
The top section took about 40 minutes and, like the rest of the mountain, was fatiguingly steep. However, as always, reaching the summit quickly fades away the memory of all the work it took to get there. Lunch with this view is always renewing, humbling, and utterly peaceful.The decent took 3 and a half hours. The first part with the snow was super fun, as I simply “skiied” down, with my cute little follower by my side.
The rest took a toll on the knees but we got back to our original stretching point just in time to appreciate a perfect sunset.