Feeling Connected in Cochamó, Chile

It felt so good to have people come and visit. But with this pleasure also comes the disappointment of them leaving. After friends or family leave it makes me miss “home” a lot and I’m left feeling a little depressed. We are on this incredible journey, and I don’t like to take any of it for granted, but we aren’t immune to life’s emotional ups and downs. But then it happens… you travel to a place that’s so pure and full of life that it changes your perspective in one instant. You feel connected again and experience the overwhelming sense of joy that comes from spending time in the great outdoors, and experiencing these amazing places. I’ll never forget this life lesson – being physical outside in nature can do wonders for your spirit, your mood, and your outlook on life. Cochamó was this for me.

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Enjoying the view from one of the many granite mountains in Cochamó Valley, Chile


Cochamó valley has been called the Yosemite of South America. But there is one big difference… no cars for miles! The only way you can experience Cochamó is to hike in 5 hours with all your supplies. And over the last 20 years Cochamó has become a famous mecca for rock climbers from around the world seeking to climb the tallest rock faces in South America, along with trekkers/hikers and lovers of nature, all willing to make that journey to experience the place.

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The beautiful mountains of Cochamo Valley

Before we started off for the valley, we spent a day preparing our food for the 5 days we would be spending camped out in Cochamó. We had done multi-day hikes before, but never for this long and without great options for healthy snacks in the stores. So we made homemade peanut butter, no-bake granola bars, and hummus (thanks vitamix!). We left Titus and hiked in 4-5 hours on day 1 with our 10 pounds of food (ugh!) and settled into Camp La Junta, which is where all the rock climbers tend to stay, as well as a myriad of young college-aged Chileans with guitars on their summer vacation, and a swarm of biting Tabano horseflies that would stay with you as long as the sun was up. The hike was beautiful, but the real show was waiting for us when we arrived in the valley… it’s then that you can see beyond the forest trees…WOW! We picked a spot on the grass as home-base for the next five days and started to ask around about day hikes.

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Camping la Junta in Cochamó valley where we stayed for 5 days

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We ate all our meals camp right there on the grass in front of our tent

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Pretty cool fallen tree near our camp

What is so cool about the hikes in Cochamó is that most of the trails were created by rock climbers for access to the amazing granite rock faces, so they tend to be very interesting routes through the mountains (i.e., direct routes instead of the most easy). The first day-hike we heard about was a 7 hour round-trip hike to Anfiteatro (talk about a long approach for the rock climbers!). So the next day we made our avena breakfast (oatmeal), packed our lunch/snacks and started out for Anfiteatro. We would soon learn that the hikes in Cochamó valley were no joke, but that the views and nature we would encounter would make it soooo worth it. There were never-ending streams to cross, downed trees, and beautifully massive and ancient Alerce trees (the older cousin of the giant sequoias in California).

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Start of our first hike to Anfiteatro

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Here is how you cross the river in Cochamó if you don't fell like getting wet

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Fresh water ríos everywhere in the valley

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I was impressed by the big trees

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Enjoying the mountains

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The Amphitheater - Climbers come from all over the world to tackle these walls

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Gorgeous rock faces waiting to be climbed

The next day we decided to do a short day hike and hit a natural water-slide, the Tobogan. We started our hike and got to see some sport climbers on some low rock faces, and quickly lost the trail that headed straight up the mountain. Oh well, water-slide time! The Tobogan is a massive granite waterfall that mimics a giant slide, and ends with a dunk in a glacier-blue (and cold!) lagoon. People recommended watching someone else go first down this massive granite rock, so you don’t “mess up” coming down and break a bone, but with no one in sight, George jumped in and tried his luck…fortunately it worked out well (phew!). Check out George coming down in all his glory.

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Enjoying the Tobogan Falls

The HIGHlight of our Cochamó Day-Hikes – Mirador del Arco Iris

We did a few other day hikes, but people around camp kept telling us about an amazing and difficult day hike called Arco Iris. We made sure to save our energy for this one and headed out early one morning to make our way straight up the mountain to a vista (mirador) that would be one of the most stunning of our trip. But this would also be one of the most challenging one-day hike we’ve ever been on. After hiking through a beautiful and very steep forest for 3 hours, we arrived at a few ropes to climb in order to continue… I was more than a little hesitant to climb up the wet, slippery granite using only what appeared go be old ropes, and a sheer drop-off below that would send you tumbling 1,000+ feet. But I conquered my fear and the payoff was worth it! The day was perfect, the weather incredible, and you could see the entire valley from the snowline. My heart was pumping and it felt incredible to be connected again. Thank you Cochamó!

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Start of one of the hardest and best days hikes we have ever down Arco Iris (Rainbow)

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Staring out into the valley on the way up the Arco Iris hike

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Pulling our selves up the trails in Cochamó (Arco Iris Hike)

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At the top of Arco Iris

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We made it to the snow line

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Pano of Cochamó from way above at the top of the Arco Iris hike

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I spy Jenine down there

Cochamó really is a special place, and I hope to visit again in the years to come. Its comforting to know that despite the valley being private land (yes, privately owned by multiple people…unbelievable!), there is a sense that the locals here understand what a special place it is, and are doing what they can to protect it. It’s the only place I’ve seen in Chile explain conservation techniques being implemented and how you can help “leave no trace”. And if we all do our part, it will be a special place for many years to come.

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About to take a refreshing dip in the river on our last day. Goodbye for now Cochamó

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The beautiful mountain view crossing from Bariloche into Chile (Puerto Varas)

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My first trout caught in Chile

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Fishing from shore near Puerto Varas

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Titus ready for camping!

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Volcanoes are everywhere in Chile

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Chile prepping for our 5 day trek in Cochamó - making peanut butter bars

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Hiking into Cochamó

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Cochamó here we come

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The trek into Cochamó

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Camping la Junta in Cochamó valley where we stayed for 5 days

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Here is how you cross the river in Cochamó if you don't fell like getting wet

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Beautiful rock faces everywhere in Cochamó

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Start of our first hike to Anfiteatro

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Taking a break on the way to Anfiteatro (The Amphitheater )

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Jenine enjoying the mountains

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Fresh water ríos everywhere in the valley

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The Amphitheater - Climbers come from all over the world to tackle these walls

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Jenine posing in the Afiteatro

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Hiking in the rocks in Cochamó valley

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Gorgeous rock faces waiting to be climbed

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Gazing out into the valley

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Cochamó valley

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Eating lunch at camp

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Right by camp there was an amazing water fall that you can slide down (Toboggan falls)

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Enjoy the Tobogan Falls

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The Cochamó Tobogan

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Cochamó valley

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Eating one of our peanut butter balls

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We were in Cochamó in January and the horse flies (Tabanos) were fierce.

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Camping la junta, our home base

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Me sliding down the tobogan falls

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Our little REI tent about to get drenched

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Its raining in Cochamó, our little REI tent keeping us dry

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View from our tent in Cochamó

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Relaxing in our hammock

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Start of one of the hardest and best days hikes we have ever down Arco Iris (Rainbow)

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The trail on Arco Iris was lush

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Staring out into the valley on the way up the Arco Iris hike

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At the top of Arco Iris

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At the top of the Arco Iris hike

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We made it to the snow line

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Pano of Cochamó from way above at the top of the Arco Iris hike

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I spy Jenine down there

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Pulling our selves up the trails in Cochamó (Arco Iris Hike)

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That is the face of the Arco Iris tail that we did earlier that day

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Jenine heading down

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The trail turns to ropes

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Rope lines in Cochamó

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Posing at the top of Arco Iris

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Hiking in Cochamó (Arco Iris)

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Jenine heading back down the trail

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Reading back at camp

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Jenine was impressed by the big trees

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I'm thinking that I want to return here when I know how to rock climb!

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Of the the great rock walls of Cochamó

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I loooove being in the mountains!

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Jenine enjoying the view as I prepare lunch

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Pretty cool fallen tree near our camp

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About to take a refreshing dip in the river

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Jenine making her way down a scary rock face during the Arco Iris hike

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5 comments on “Feeling Connected in Cochamó, Chile
  1. Haley says:

    Amazing photos, looks like a special place!! Miss you both so much!!!

  2. Jane says:

    Two extremes: the crazy abandon of the water slide and the total concentration of the rock face with rope climb. Glad it cured the blues. Looks beautiful there.

  3. Jared Zlotnick says:

    Can’t say it enough – thank you for these honest, adventure-fueled posts. Sending you lots of smiles!

  4. Aunt Patty says:

    Oh My! I know I say this all the time, but this is my favorite place so far : ) I want to go down the water slide! That looked so exhilarating! However, the humongous flies might keep me screaming. Love your posts. Hugs and Kisses ?

  5. Joe and Pam Lara says:

    Hi Jenine and George,
    Great Pic’s….so amazing. Missing you both.
    Love to both 🙂