Valle de Lo Valdés

This valley is about 93 km away from Santiago and 78 km from San José de Maipo. The Valley of Fossils (Valle de los Fósiles) is located here, where fossilized marine animals can be found. There is a winter sports center, without ski slopes, but with options of climbing, hiking and horseback riding.

Fosil

The area is known for its fossil deposits. The valley is a popular destination for geology students, fossil collectors and interested tourists; travel agencies like bringing visitors here. The Chilean legislation (e.g. Law No. 17,288 on Natural Monuments and Decree No. 484 on the Exploration of Archaeological Sites) prohibits the collection and removal of fossils without prior authorization, and for non-scientific purposes. Unfortunately, in the past this requirement was hardly respected in the area around Lo Valdés, either because of ignorance or with the intention to personally enrich oneself. This has meant that the area has lost its paleontological importance.

The main registered fossils are shells, carapaces or skeletal parts of micro-organisms (such as foraminifera, radiolarians, ciliates), sponges, annelids, molluscs (such as snails, clams, cephalopods), ostracods, echinoderms (such as sea urchins, crinoids) and vertebrates.

Apart from the scientific value of registered fossils, there are many reasons for the protection of this wealth:

  1. Fossil finds in the formation Lo Valdés have been mentioned since the beginning of geological explorations in this area (Darwin, 1846; Bruggen, 1950; MuñozCristi, 1950; Corvalán, 1957; González, 1963), and are therefore an important part of the history of local geological studies.
  2. The majority of the vertebrates and invertebrates found in the formation Lo Valdés are listed in records about the local fauna (Biró-Bagóczky, 1964, 1980; Hallam et al., 1986), however, usually without detailed descriptions or pictures, sometimes even without stratigraphic mapping. Therefore, thorough systematic studies are needed to improve and expand the existing records.
  3. Due to the rich fossil deposit and the easy accessibility of the valley El Volcán, the area around Lo Valdés offers vivid teaching materials, which show us that today’s mountain ranges of the Andes were once covered by seabed in earlier geological eras.

A glance at history

1965: The tragic flight of CC CCG
One of the worst aviation accidents in our country

In the crash of the LAN-Chile-aircraft DC-6B CC CCG, 80 passengers and a crew of seven were killed. The machine was on the flight 107 from Santiago to Montevideo via Buenos Aires.

The plane took off from the airfield Los Cerrillos in Santiago at 8.06 and flew towards Cajón del Maipo. Between 8:30 and 8.36, it crashed in the Andes, on the mountain chain that connects the summit Catedral and Corona, in the area of Lo Valdés, 4 km away from the drinking water treatment plant La Yesera.

On board were passengers from Chile, Argentina, Peru, Uruguay, Italy, the USA, the Czech Republic, the Soviet Union and Germany. All passengers were killed.

The Douglas DC-6B CC CCG (c / n 45513) aircraft, with the number 404 of LAN’s fleet had been delivered to Chile on August 21, 1958 and was among a group of four identical planes. The plane was completely destroyed in the crash. By that time, it had a record of more than 17,000 flight hours. The pilot had already flown 11,000 flight hours. He had crossed the Andes already 24 times as a pilot and 102 times as a copilot.

The commission of investigation found that several serious mistakes had been made during the flight. This increased the pain of family members even more. The press of the time reported in detail on the misfortune, for example, in the newspaper El Mercurio of 23 March, 1965.

Important Mountains

In Lo Valdés Valley there are several mountains ranging between 3,000 and 4,000m of altitude. Some of them are Retumbadero Norte, Diablo, Diente del Diablo, Corona and Vega. They are all very different, which means a big variety in levels of difficulty during the ascent.

The approach begins at a crucifix on the right hand side of a gypsum storage that belongs to a mining company. From there, you can quickly gain height until you reach “Paso del Valle”. Caution in winter! Here, a cavity has been formed, not very deep, but a lot of time can be lost if someone falls into it. Continue along the east side of the river.

There is an open mountain hut, which is useful in case of emergency. However, there is only accommodation for two, maximum three people, so better not count on it! This point is often used as a base camp for the ascent to the Diablo, Diente del Diablo and Retumbadero Norte. For Vega and Corona, however, it is not necessary to walk as far as the hut, because the slopes for the ascent are closer to the entrance of the valley, where the remains of a crashed LAN aircraft can be seen. This aircraft crashed against the mountains in 1965, all 87 passengers were killed.

Corona

Information

  • Height: 4,112 m
  • First ascent: Jorge Velastín and Alberto Salas, 1952
  • Physical difficulty: 3
  • Technical difficulty: 4
  • Exposure: 3,5
  • Time required: 1 o 2 days
  • Suitable season: all year
  • Ski mountaineering: possible from July to September
  • Summer temperatures: Feels like -10 ° C to 15 ° C
  • Winter temperatures: Feels like -25 ° C to 10 ° C

Cerro Corona can be mastered within 1 to 2 days. Short approach along the valley, a pleasant climb over rocks, unfortunately somewhat tarnished because of poor quality of the subsoil.

The approach takes about 3 hours until you reach a river bed (setting up a tent is possible). From here, the trail goes to the southeast through a side valley, following the creeks. It does not matter which creek is taken, because the slope is similar on both sides. After 4 hours, you get to a rock tower. For the ascent, a chimney on the right side is recommended. This chimney is about 30 to 35m high, a rock closes it up like a chimney roof. To continue the ascent, look for some pitons on the left. After climbing a further 35 to 40m, you can easily clamber to the summit. Two cables are to be installed for the descent.

Difficulty: IV

Equipment

  • helmet, harness
  • rope 60 m
  • pitons, hammer, small Friends
  • carabiners
  • ferrata-sets, accessory cords
  • camping gear

Notes

The 50-m-cable may be too short for the descent from the chimney.

The river is suitable for water supply. Use filter and water purification tablets as you do not know whether the water is contaminated by dead animals or other contaminants.

Vega
  • Height: 3,943m
  • First ascent: Bión González and Ociel González, 1951
  • Physical difficulty: 3
  • Technical difficulty: 4
  • Exposure: 4
  • Time required: 2 days
  • Suitable season: September to March
  • Ski mountaineering: possible from July to September, but only up to the base.
  • Summer temperatures: Feels like -10 ° C to 15 ° C
  • Winter temperatures: Feels like -25 ° C to 10 ° C

The approach starts again at the crucifix, then it is a 4 to 5-hour trek to the mountain hut, which can accommodate up to three people. Optionally, you can walk almost to the end of the valley, and set up the tent there. Caution, in winter there is danger of avalanches!

For the ascent, walk to the end of the valley and keep left of the largest boulder. Climb the gully up to the pass, it takes about 3 to 4 hours. The trail to this point is not very difficult, the slope is 45 ° to 60 °. After a right traverse across the ice field to the south, you reach a second gully with an inclination of 60 ° to 65 °. For this part, 1 to 2 hours should be estimated. Then clamber a short distance along the rocks to get to the summit. The descent is along the same route.

  • camping equipment
  • helmet
  • ice axe
  • crampons
  • rope 50 m
  • harness (with corresponding carabiner hooks and belay devices)
  • 3 ice-screws (in the dry season)
  • ferrata-sets, accessory cords and carabiners (required for anchoring)

Notes

Copious loose rock, beware of falling stones!
Try to start the ascent early in the morning.
The river offers water supply.
As a precaution, use filters and water purification tablets in case the water is contaminated by a dead animal or other contaminants.

Diente del Diablo

Information

  • Height: 4,190m
  • First ascent: Eberhard Meier, Ludwig Krahl, Walter Bachmann and Alejandro Fergadiott, 1943
  • Physical difficulty: 4
  • Technical difficulty: 3
  • Exposure: 4
  • Time required: 2 days
  • Suitable season: September to March
  • Ski mountaineering: possible from July to September, only up to the base
  • Summer temperatures: Feels like -10 ° C to 15 ° C
  • Winter temperatures: Feels like -25 ° C to 10 ° C

The approach starts again at the crucifix. From here, walk to the mountain hut or a little further into the valley and set up the base camp.

For the ascent, careful approach is recommended, because the trail is not clearly visible. Therefore, it is recommended to identify the trail the day before. The summit is located left of Diente del Diablo, behind a ridge. The first step is to gain height. Climb the yellow mountain, follow the ridge for a short distance and then walk a traverse that leads to the second ridge. From here you can see the Diablo. After crossing, walk to the starting point of the gully that leads to the summit. Continue with great caution, because on this north side there is hardly any snow. This means frequent rock fall. The way to the south continues through a rocky massif, which is also not firm enough. Finally, you get to the summit through a fairly exposed ridge. The descent is along the same route.

Equipment

  • camping gear
  • helmet
  • ice axe
  • crampons
  • rope 50 m
  • harness (with corresponding carabiner hooks and belay devices)
  • 3 ice-screws (in a very dry season)
  • ferrata-sets, accessory cords and carabiners (required for anchoring)

Notes

Copious loose rock, beware of falling stones!
Try to start early in the morning and identify the route the previous day.
The river offers water supply.
As a precaution, use filters and water purification tablets in case the water is contaminated by a dead animal or other contaminants.

Diablo

Information

  • Height: 4,190m
  • First ascent: Eberhard Meier, Ludwig Krahl, Walter Bachmann and Alejandro Fergadiott, 1943
  • Physical difficulty: 4
  • Technical difficulty: 3
  • Exposure: 4
  • Time required: 2 days
  • Suitable season: September to March
  • Ski mountaineering: possible from July to September, only up to the base
  • Summer temperatures: Feels like -10 ° C to 15 ° C
  • Winter temperatures: Feels like -25 ° C to 10 ° C

The approach starts again at the crucifix. From here, walk to the mountain hut or a little further into the valley and set up the base camp.

For the ascent, careful approach is recommended, because the trail is not clearly visible. Therefore, it is recommended to identify the trail the day before. The summit is located left of Diente del Diablo, behind a ridge. The first step is to gain height. Climb the yellow mountain, follow the ridge for a short distance and then walk a traverse that leads to the second ridge. From here you can see the Diablo. After crossing, walk to the starting point of the gully that leads to the summit. Continue with great caution, because on this north side there is hardly any snow. This means frequent rock fall. The way to the south continues through a rocky massif, which is also not firm enough. Finally, you get to the summit through a fairly exposed ridge. The descent is along the same route.

Equipment

  • camping gear
  • helmet
  • ice axe
  • crampons
  • rope 50 m
  • harness (with corresponding carabiner hooks and belay devices)
  • 3 ice-screws (in a very dry season)
  • ferrata-sets, accessory cords and carabiners (required for anchoring)

Notes

Copious loose rock, beware of falling stones!
Try to start early in the morning and identify the route the previous day.
The river offers water supply.
As a precaution, use filters and water purification tablets in case the water is contaminated by a dead animal or other contaminants.

Retumbadero

Information

  • Height: 3,999m
  • First ascent: Eberhard Meier, Ludwig Krahl and Walter Bachmann, 1945
  • Physical difficulty: 4
  • Technical difficulty: 4
  • Exposure: 5
  • Time required: 2 days
  • Suitable season: September to March
  • Ski mountaineering: possible from July to September, only up to the base
  • Summer temperatures: Feels like -10 ° C to 15 ° C
  • Winter temperatures: Feels like -25 ° C to 10 ° C

As with all described ascents in Lo Valdés Valley, the starting point is again the crucifix on the right side of the gypsum storage facility, from which a zigzag path leads upwards. Then continue on the left side of the river. After 4 to 5 hours, you will reach a mountain hut with accommodation for two to three people. The ascent starts at the end of the valley on the right side.
The trail is clearly visible along a wide gully. For the ascent, choose the largest gully with an inclination of 45° to 60°. Stay left because there you can take breaks without the risk of falling stones. The gully gets wider after an ascent of approximately 300m. Keep left, along a narrow path which leads back into the gully. It turns to the right and ends at a wall. This forces you to continue to walk on the right along not very good snow ramps. This way you will reach another gully, which leads to the top and which has a rather menacing overhang on the right side. Continue through loose rock, probably the highest grade 5, for a rope length and you will get to the summit pass. After another 30 minutes you will reach the summit. The return hike can be done on the same route, i.e. along the gully or along the normal trail that leads to the road to Lo Valdés.

Climbing difficulty: IV

Equipment

  • 5 long ferrata-sets with carabiners.
  • 4 rock nails.
  • 4 stoppers.
  • 4 Friends (11/2) for the ascent.
  • 2 technical ice axes.
  • crampons.
  • 3 ice-screws.
  • 1-2 snow pickets.
  • helmet.
  • harness.
  • rope 50 m.
  • bivouac sack.

Notes

For the descent, the normal route is recommended. Therefore, take no tent, but a bivouac sack, in order to reduce weight, as a lot of climbing gear is already required. Extreme caution when reaching the overhang! Here, it is important to try to assess the condition of the snow.