I can’t really think of a better word to describe our trip south from Mendoza. A force, a campaign, a giant van, and momentum. Unstoppable movement. We hit the road with our freshly repaired van as well as something very unfamiliar to us thus far: a deadline! We would have a lot to do and see before meeting the buyers of the Craggin’ Wagon in Ushuaia: thousands and thousands of kilometers to drive, multiple rock climbing destinations, insanely beautiful national parks, massive glaciers… it’s a long list. So we went bombing down the famous Route 40 towards Patagonia with a tail wind so strong I wondered if we were using any gas at all. Patagonian winds are wonderful… when they’re behind you!
The meat sweats. A joyous, sometimes unintentional consequence of awesomeness? A higher state of protein infused enlightenment? A rare and prestigious achievement of compulsive hyper consumption? In my eyes the meat sweats encompass all of that and more. One thing is for certain, the meat sweats have been a plentiful occurrence in Mendoza. But first, just how did we get to Argentina – this wine soaked mystical steak heaven? Well, it’s an oil burning, wallet busting story, but it’s a story worth telling nonetheless. I mean, how often does one get to drive a campfire van named Bertha over the Chilean Andes?!
Escaladas en Mendoza has fairly good info for most areas in both English and Spanish. You can purchase it at any climbing store in Mendoza.
Arenales – Arenales is awesome and not to be missed. It’s about a 2.5 hour drive South of Mendoza. You can park before customs and climb multipitch trad with a short approach, park at customs and climb tons of trad or sport, or continue up the valley for legit alpine. Don’t forget your passport! If heading up valley, the camping at the refugio is excellent. It’s only a 10-15 minute walk from the car, so you can shuttle supplies in pretty easily without breaking your back. The refugio is great for cooking and hanging out in. You can sleep upstairs on very old mattresses/floor or bring a tent and pitch it in one of numerous good, flat spots around the area. They say the water is fine to drink without treatment, but given the amount of cow shit around I opted to use my filter. The approaches for the alpine routes are harder and longer than they look. There aren’t really any trails going up the scree and it’s as steep as anything you’ve hiked. For a big day, try Mejor No Hablar de Ciertas Cosas (Better Not to Speak of Certain Things), 500m / 6b (1,640 ft / 10c), ~16 pitches, it is everything you would expect from a big alpine route. You will definitely need two ropes for Arenales.
El Salto – Up highway 7 towards Chile. It’s about an hour drive from Mendoza, just outside of Portrerillos. Fun sport, good place to burn a day. The left side is all fun, easy 10s, all the routes in the wave are 12 and up.
Portrerillos Area – On highway 7 before get to Portrerillos are two canyons with sport routes in them. There is also a area near the river in Portrerillos. These spots aren’t well documented in the Mendoza guide, the best info I found on it was here: http://josieroquerandthedude.blogspot.com.ar/2013/02/topoe-s-c-r-b-j-omzaarg.html
The Frey – Well, if you’re a climber and you’ve made it this far, the Frey doesn’t really need an introduction. Endless, perfect, splitter alpine spires just out of town. Spectacular setting, even better rock. Amazing!!! There’s tons of other stuff to climb around Barriloche but we pressed on to be sure we’d be in Ushuaia in time to meet our buyers.
If you see a cliff or some rock somewhere, it’s probably developed. If the weather isn’t good or you’re not climbing one of the infamous, giant alpine routes, there is infinite sport opportunity everywhere you look. We saw lots of people bouldering as well. Also, if you’re going to sell gear on your trip, this is THE place to do it – just stop by Porter’s and start chatting up the locals.
If you’ve been following our climbing posts we didn’t want you to think there wasn’t anything good in the Northern and Central parts of Chile. Unfortunately because we were having mechanical issues with our van that forced us to high tail it to Mendoza we were unable to stop at many spots that we would have otherwise not missed.
One place was about an hour south of San Pedro de Atacama called Toconao (Quebrada de Jerez). Definitely bring supplies to camp and climb in the morning or evening when it’s cooler. There is also a ton of climbing around the Santiago area, too much to list here having not been there ourselves.
Hopefully when we get further south we’ll dip back into Chile and update this page accordingly.
Remember that time we drove through a crazy remote border from Ecuador into Peru and thought it was pretty wild… well… ummm… meet Bolivia. Hundreds and hundreds of miles of horrible, corrugated, dirt tracks at ridiculously high elevations with no services, gas, or help in any direction for days and days… sounds like the perfect adventure for the Craggin’ Wagon! What could go wrong?
Minutes away from La Paz and in the valley below Oberland (the popular overlander’s hangout) is Valle de Aranjuez. It is composed of about a dozen sectors spread out on both sides of the river. No need for gear, it’s only sport here including the cracks. The rock is… interesting. Lot’s of mediocre sandstone mixed with pretty smooth conglomerate. That said, there’s enough well equipped, thought provoking routes on good rock to keep you busy while you’re in the area. Also nice is the parking situation. There is a park stretching through the base of the valley that is quite safe for leaving a vehicle (or stealth camping). The approaches are short and the fins tend to have routes on each side which makes it easy to chase or dodge the sun.
South of Laguna Colorado – Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa
This is a good place to camp just South of Laguna Colorado. When we pulled into the canyon to camp we were amazed at the quality of the rock. There are endless lines to be done. Not the tallest, but high quality and SPLITTER! The most limiting factor that prevented us from doing more new routes was only having doubles with us. Having three, four, or more in whatever size you’d like to climb would go a long ways. The rock is very good volcanic stone with some features to use outside of the cracks as well. Also, if you boulder, bring your pad – the bouldering potential here is probably better than the climbing, which is also excellent. You can do FAs for as long as your supplies last at 14,000+ feet!!!
Los Pinos – Right off the road between Caraz and Huaraz is a little bolted crag hosting 8 easy routes. Nothing to write home about, but if you’re driving by and want to clip a few bolts you can climb all 8 routes and have lunch in an hour or two. The rock goes into the shade in the afternoon which would be the time to swing by.
Los Olivos – We walked over to the crag from Huaraz (about a 30 minute walk west of town) to take a look. “Nothing to see here… move along.”
Hatun Machay – 40km South of Huaraz you will find paradise. I wish I had known just how awesome the place was so we could have spent much, much more time there. At kilometer marker 111 you will see a little rock cairn and a dirt road, nothing more. Take the rutted dirt road up and over the hill and you will run right into the incredibly badass refugio just for climbers. It’s 20 soles to camp, 30 if you want a dorm bed. They have everything you need to be comfy at 14,200 feet: excellent solar shower, full kitchen, fireplace, and they even provide quality topos for the routes. The rock is excellent and well bolted. Bring as much skin on your tips as you can, you’re going to need it.
This spot is mostly for tour companies to take people out for their first time. There are about 5 or 6 bolted lines mostly 5.9. I wouldn’t bother. There is a better spot close to town that we’ll list next.
This has some short, but fun lines on it. It’s well bolted. The crag is at about 13,000 feet. Around 4-5 5.10s and 3-4 routes in the 5.11 range. To reach this spot continue past the Quinta Lala overlander spot, hang a left on the dirt road across from the ruins and drive about 10-15 minutes till you see the formation on the top of the hill. Alternatively it’s about an hour-and-a-half walk from town.