Cerro Canoitas

Altitude: 2,650 meters; 8,695 feet
Incline: 1,000 meters; 3,280 feet
Distance: 10 kilometers; 6.2 miles
Time: 5-7 hours round trip
Difficulty: normal (physical), without difficulty (technical)

Cerro Canoitos is in Farellones, near Santiago’s best ski resorts, about an hour from Santiago. Considering it is not too difficult and without even a momentary break in beauty, it is an ideal day trek for someone looking for a little exercise and an opportunity to  breath some fresh air. We headed out towards Farellones and, right before the curve that goes to the ski resorts, we took the road towards the Los Bronces mine and parked after advancing only a few kilometersDSC01676

The ascent offers a couple shots overlooking Santiago, an impressive view of the Western mountain rage, and a look to the East reveals Cerro el Plomo. I went during winter, after a week of heavy rain, and the muddy trail and snowy surroundings was abolutely spectacular. However, the trail is accessible year round, although it’s worth noting there isn’t much shade to protect against the blaring summer sun… so I’m not sure that’d be my cup of tea.

The way up took us about 3.5 hours. When starting, it is a refeshingly smooth incline and clearly marked trail. We passed a herd of cows grazing the landscape filled with bouts of snow-covered shrubbery and bushes. We passed a man enjoying the solitude and crisp air, fully engulfed in his mummy sleeping bag and not fazed by the chilliness. Our day was simply gorgeous, clear blue skies and mild wind. Down at the bottom we were quite cold and, although I knew we’d quickly warm up, we had to put on all our layers.

The middle part of the trek was mostly dirt and loose rocks, and, due to the recent rain, had transformed into a mudpit. The steepness and slipperiness combination was slightly difficicult and slightly unpleasant so I tried to step from one snow dotted area to the next. The snow helps a lot with footing in comparison to the jelly that is mud. About half way up we stopped at a beautiful scenic overview, perfect for snapping pics, having some water, and grabbing a quick bite. There was another group on the mountain that was sitting there having some beers. They weren’t heading to the top, their itinerary that day looked to be just sitting there and chatting the day away. It looked 100% like something I could handle one of these days.

The top third gave us a abrupt change in weather, much windier and honestly colder with every step. With a sharper incline in this section, I actually thought I had arrived to the peak when I got to this more horizontal section, but noticed I still had about five minutes to trudge along before touching the flag. Up on the top there was a significant bite in the air. It was definitely too cold to do the typical lunch-on-the-summit so we just hung out, took pictures, and took in the view for twenty-ish minutes before heading down to more friendly weather.

One of the things I love about being on the top of a mountain is the 360 view, especially here in Chile where we have the shorter costal mountain range as well as the towering Andes. Standing in one spot and just shifting in a circle, the views change drastically. One side completely white with slits of rock peeking through and the other fully of rocky peaks. As cheesy as it sounds, standing there I can’t help but get filled with an appreciation for the miracle of life and the way this world just functions on its own, all the elements working harmoniously together, us humans being only one small part in the bigger puzzle.

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Going down was like a slip and slide. I was litterally skiing in my boots over the mud, with my only goal being not falling. We found the carcass of a poor cow who probably had wandered too high up on the mountain, gotten lost, and died from the cold. Sad.

Almost all the way to the bottom, we followed the river a bit before veering over in direction of the road. I must say, I was utterly impressed with this entire trail, it provided a constant flow of the most striking color contrasts and landscape views. It was the ideal trek for a more leisurely, but still great workout, day. Shaking as much of the mud off our boots as possible, we headed to a local pizza and artesanal beer restaurant to replenish some calories :)

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