I was told about this trek on the bus from Mendoza to Santiago by Miri. I was told to get the metro to the end and then a bus to the park, which was enough for me. I did no further research as I figured I’d be able to pick up a trail when I arrived. I asked at the hostel and Juan also confirmed that it was the way to go.
When I mentioned the park to Jasmin she googled straight away and told me we would be walking up to the top of a 2000 metre mountain. Which is famous as you can see Borge the Pacific and the Andes. Now I was excited and she convinced me to leave later than I had planned, which is good as I later found out you really needed to start the trek at 9:30am. We arrived at 10:40. So we work up too early for breakfast and I was lucky that I had prepared food the day before but sadly for Jasmin she hadn’t and despite me trying to share my heavily cantered chicken sandwiches were not that appealing to a vegetarian.
The metro from Valparaíso to Limache takes around an hour. Immediately outside the station there are busses and you can catch on to La Campaña park. It’s the end of the line and I think it’s the number 38 but the busses will say this on the front. I have no idea as to the frequency but it takes around 40mins and they run until 9pm so you have plenty of time to catch one back. After you get off the busses the entrance is another kilometre but there are clear signs to the park.
We paid the 4000 peso entrance fee and registered with the park rangers who told us that it was too late to go all the way to the summer but we decided to go anyway. The map they gave us said it would take 4.5 hours, which I think is slightly overstated but not by much.
We set off and despite me trying to take us on a few wrong turns we quickly found the correct trail and both realised there was going to be a lot of up. I was content with reaching the first main viewpoint. On the way to the first stop we met a cow. It took us an hour to reach the first point I the map which is the exact time specified and we could see a lot of mountain to climb ahead of us. We sped up and reached the main viewpoint with an hour to spare and there was only 2km left. I predicted that we could reach the top on another half an hour. I’m an idiot and I was wrong.
After the second viewpoint the path became en more steep which made the path that we had rushed through look like child’s play. We went slower and eventually reached the Darwin sign. Oh yeah I forgot to mention that Darwin also did this trek back in the day. I expect he didn’t have to worry about the spark closing at 5:30 so it would have been easier for him.
After the Darwin sign there was only about 800 metres left to go and I thought how hard can it really be? The answer. Really hard. I’ve done Torres del Paine and a bunch of other treks in Patagonia and the last part of this is the hardest. At Fitz Roy the last part is just up but there is a path that has been cut, however scary. This was literally scrambling over rocks at more than a 45 degree angle, looking for the red posts. Where there were no rocks there was dust.
However as we approached the summit the views turned to this and I saw the Andes again.
I went in ahead as I’m not a gentleman and also if I stop going up I worry that I won’t be able to regain the momentum. I reached the summit exhausted and a little friend came to try and share my sandwich.
And the hard climb was totally worth it. I think we managed the summit in around 3:30 hours which is still less time than suggested.
And then we sat down for some photos by the flags at the top.
The biggest challenge we faced was going back down and I’d argue that going down is harder. Sadly we did not have long at the top because we started the track late. If Ku can get here for 9am as you can take it slower and appreciate the views. I could have stayed for hours.
Also going down takes time. It is a precarious climb and decent. Go slowly as if you slip in the wrong place you will be getting down a lot quicker than you might like. I realised that for the first time be heights did not really bother me and crossed that off the list of things to be scared of. I’ve been up a fair few trials now I’m used to this. It took a lot longer than I remembered going down and we battled to beat the sunset as I didn’t want to be on the trails in the dark.
We arrived exhausted, took the long journey back to the hostel and pretty much went straight to bed. But this is one of my favourite things I’ve done for a while.