Cerro Minillas

Altitude: 2,467 meters; 8,094 feet
Incline: 1,660 meters; 5,446 feet
Distance: 17 km; 10.56 miles
Time: 7-9 hours round trip
Difficulty: mid-high (physical), normal (technical)

One of the reasons I came to Santiago were for these mountains. They are gorgeous, humoungous, and numerous. Look in one direction and there’s more than you can count. To me, what that meant was infinite numbers of weekends getting to know as many peaks as my legs would let me. Somehow, however, almost 2 years into this magnificent place, while I have done my very fair share of outdoors activities, I didn’t know as many mountains as I would have liked. It dawned on me one day that, just like at home, so often your priorities can get clouded by work, friends, rountines, and other activities. If you don’t always have it present, you won’t even realize you’re not doing those things that truly call your name… because you’re still having a great time and you’re still happy.

So, it hit me. There’s this thing that I call “optimum happiness,” something my friends hear me say frequently when analyzing situations. For me, I was happy, but to be truly there, to be fulfilled, I needed to restructure a bit. Everyone has their own passions and I could share with my friends in the passions we share, while still going out on my own and doing the ones that were just mine. So, I decided I didn’t need to wait until people around me wanted to go. Because, while those options came up, it wasn’t even near the frequency that I desired. I could (and should) be the driver in creating the options. That said, I looked online and ended up finding this great group called Club Trekking Santiago. A whole bunch of people who love mountains, bingo. So, now that I found partners, all I needed to do was continue being friendly haha.

Cerro Minillas was my first outing with them. At 7 in the morning I headed to the metro and met the group at a Rojas de las Magallanes, a metro on La Florida. It was a cold morning and as I exited the metro I saw a few people standing, chilly, with backpacks and trekking poles. Easy enough, I made the guess that this was my group. We divided into cars and took off, going all the way up the road Rojas Magallanes until we reached a last curve near the school Pablo Apostal.  Cerro Minillas, located in south of the Sierra de Ramon, is slightly above average climb physically but technically quite easy. Our group was 34 in total and we began to make our way up, stopping about 1/2 hour in to stretch and shed some layers.

The first part was pretty dry, lots of bushes, cactus, and loose rocks. I was very glad to have purchased trekking poles because they helped a ton in maintaining balance over rocks as well as equalizing weight when making big climbs. For quite awhile, we could see Santiago below the clounds and the thick layer of smog. Ugh, incredible to think we breathe that every single day. As we continued the ascent, we started hitting sporadic snow piles. Each of the checkpoints, where we met back up as a group to have some snacks and drink some water, were well needed and helped me re-group energy. In the moments, the climb was very tiring but just a few minutes of rest here and there made me feel like new again.

One of the last checkpoints was this place with a whole bunch of large rocks, a pirque. This was where people were supposed to wait if they couldn’t finish the rest of the climb. It was a great place for those who took that option. Great scenery in every direction, a perfect location to sit, snack, lie down, take a nap, do yoga, or whatever form of tranquility one would like to practice.

I popped a few almonds, peanuts, and raisins, took a couple sips of water, and continued. From here it was about 2 hours to the peak. Boy, this was a sharp incline the rest of the way, even more than what I had thought was steep up until that point. The snow made it even more difficult as I was sinking in with each step.

I. Was. Tired.

All of a sudden there was this rock fence that went almost all the way for the top. I am not sure what purpose that serves, maybe something for when the snow starts to melt. Anways, I was getting a little nervous because I didn’t know what time it was and knew that around 2 everyone was supposed to turn back around, no matter where they were. So, I looked ahead and picked up my pace. Eventually, the little “peak” flag was in sight and I couldn’t have been  happier. What an amazing feel that is.

The sight from the top was exceptional. Snow covered towering mountains. Gosh, this is definitely my favorite sight. I ate my sandwich and gave some to the trooper of a dog that made his way up with the group. A couple more people made it up and then, before heading down, we took a group picture of the 11 people that reached the peak.

DSC01377

The first part, the snow, was enjoyable. I tripped my fair share of times, allowing myself to slide down on my butt for some meters before stopping. Abotu half way down, I started to feel the impact of the sharp incline on my knees and hips. Ouuuuch, it gave me a sincere appreciation for people who fight sore joints every day of their life. The whole trip down was relentless and I was one happy camper to reach the bottom.

The day couldn’t have been better and I was thrilled to have found this group. I met a bunch of easy-going, mountain-loving people like myself. And now I’m going out every chance I get. By the time I’m writing this, I’ve actually already done Cerro Purgatorio with the same group, Cerro Carbon with someone I met while doing Cerro Purgatorio, and in a couple days I’m heading out to another. For me, it was a good reminder that, once we decide to take control, one by one the details of this life become exactly what we want them to be.

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