From the Chacabuco Valley to Cochrane: the 7th Ruta de Huemul Community Hike

At the beginning of February, over a hundred merry hikers made the two-day trek from Valle Chacabuco, the heart of the Patagonia National Park project, over the hills and through the woods to the town of Cochrane.  This year marked the seventh annual Ruta de Huemul, an event that Conservacion Patagonica sponsors in conjunction with the town of Cochrane and the local branch of the Chilean Forest Service.

Valle Chacabuco lies just on the other side of the Tamango/ Tamanguito mountains from the town of Cochrane.  With over 3,000 residents, Cochrane is one of the bigger towns around; as the last place to buy gas and supplies on the Carretera Austral (Southern Highway), the town serves as a commercial center for the region.   Several interesting new ecotourism operations are sprouting up, and participation in kayaking, mountaineering, and climbing is on the rise among local youth.  Nonetheless, many community members have had little opportunity to backpack through the world-class natural landscapes that surround their town.

With a big asado at the end, and plenty of new friends, beautiful views, and good food throughout, the hike serves as a challenging but entertaining introduction to backpacking for many participants.  Seven-year-old Juanjo, the youngest to hike this year, had never gone hiking before he set out on the 26-km walk.  Neither had his mother, who was eager to introduce her son to the nature around their hometown but had little outdoor experience herself.  Both of them, along with numerous others, ended the route with sore muscles but newfound interest in exploring the nature reserves out their back door.

For hikers with more experience, the Ruta represents less a physical challenge than a unique chance to make new friends and share stories.  We split the hundred hikers into eight groups, which hike together both days.  When, at the end of the event, we discussed suggestions for future hikes, many people praised the teamwork and sense of support within each hiking group, to help less experienced hikers stay motivated and encouraged.

Those of us from Conservacion Patagonica who helped guide the hike felt it was an honor to introduce eager new friends to the work underway in the Chacabuco Valley.  Walking the connection between the park and Cochrane reinforces the relationship with town and park, which we hope will flourish in years to come.  And as the Ruta de Huemul, this event reminds us all that only by working together as a town and conservation project do we have a chance of recovering one of the largest populations of this endangered creature.

Some of the guides from the Ruta de Huemul: Eduardo Castro (Conservacion Patagonica ranger), Tito Velasquez (son of Daniel Velasquez, Conservacion Patagonica ranger), and Cristian Rivera (Conservacion Patagonica ranger).

Guanaco! Valle Chacabuco now has more than 3,000 guanacos, one of the largest populations in Chile.

We hiked in eight different groups. Here, group two is coming up from the center of the future Park.

Juanjo (8 years old) was the youngest of the group. Congratulations!

The mayor of Cochrane, Patrick Ulloa, and his group. Patrick grew up in Valle Chacabuco when it was still a working cattle ranch.

After a steep ascent and ready for a snack!

Danny Velasquez, the youngest guide, helps Sebastian take pimpinellas out of his socks.

The beautiful Chacabuco Valley, after a bit of rain.

The mules carried all of the food to Daniel's ranch, where we stayed for the night.

In the beech forest.

Heading down to Lake Cochrane.

Having a Maté after the hike.

The mayor of Cochrane with Kristine McDivitt Tompkins.

Hernan, the director of the National Reserve Tamango (CONAF).


Group eight arrives!

The Chilean flag!

Friends from Santiago

CONAF trainees

Cristian Rivera, Conservacion Patagonica ranger, telling jokes to everyone.

Relaxing in the sun.

Lots of tents!

Preparing the meat for grilling.


The tents, near the lake.

Cristian Rivera, Eduardo Castro, and Luigi Solis cooking the meat. Thank you!

Day two, from Daniel's ranch to Cochrane.

A beautiful trail!

Lake Cochrane has an incredible color!

A beautiful view!

Group One

The mules.

The final hill!

Danny and Daniel Velasquez, Conservacion Patagonica ranger.

New friends from Coyhaique.

The end of the hike.

The asado!

The whole group -- more than 100 people!


5 thoughts on “From the Chacabuco Valley to Cochrane: the 7th Ruta de Huemul Community Hike

  1. marilyn walter
    Wednesday March 7th, 2012 at 12:41 AM

    Wonderful to see people enjoying the natural world; would that all news were as refreshing.

  2. Paola
    Wednesday March 7th, 2012 at 03:57 PM

    realmente es una bonita actividad, una buena oportunidad para disfrutar de la naturaleza junto a la familia o a los amigos.
    es una buena experiencia…

  3. Paola
    Wednesday March 7th, 2012 at 03:59 PM

    olvide decir que las fotos estan muy lindas…me las podrian enviar a mi correo? por fa!!

  4. Roberto Haro
    Wednesday April 18th, 2012 at 03:08 AM

    Cuando se está rodeado de tanta naturaleza viva, sólo basta contemplarla y comenzar silenciosamente a recorrerla para estampar sus imágenes de tranquilidad en la retina mejor guardada.

  5. Thursday June 28th, 2012 at 01:10 PM

    I enjoy reading through an article that will make men and women think.
    Also, thank you for allowing me to comment!

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