Extreme sport

Rock climbing in Chile

In such a long, diverse country, there is climbing for every season and every ability: options range from sport climbing in the Andes to seaside bouldering.

Monday, May 30, 2011  
There is traditional climbing for all appetites in Santiago’s backyard, the Cajón del Maipo. There is traditional climbing for all appetites in Santiago’s backyard, the Cajón del Maipo.

Climbing in Chile means a day in anything from desert to ocean to temperate rainforest to Antarctica, but most of all, it means the Andes: the world’s second tallest mountain range, tucked full of nooks and crannies for your chalked-up fingers. 


Bouldering near the Pacific Ocean


Kicking yourself for not bringing your harness and ropes to Chile? All you need for a good day of bouldering are your shoes and a buddy to spot you.


There are three popular bouldering sites in Chile, all of which are seaside. The climbing might be best at Pampilla, but the overall experience is better at Zapallar, where there is a protected beach and lots of nearby lodging options. The boulders at Zapallar are granite and black basalt. There may be some bolts for sport climbing, but don’t trust them: constant sea spray and moisture means the bolts are probably rusted.


To get to Zapallar, you can take a bus from either Santiago or Valparaíso/Viña de Mar. By car, head along the beautiful coastal highway north from Valparaíso or Viña del Mar. You’ll pass fashionable seaside resorts Concon and Maitencillo before arriving at Zapallar, about 40 miles (65 km) north. At the church, turn left and continue along until the grove of pine trees; turn along that road and continue until you get to the beach. Parking is free.


Sport climbing near the capital 


Located right outside Santiago in the Cajón del Maipo, La Palestra del Manzano is one of the most accessible walls for visitors to Chile. The climbing is good almost all year round, but the winter months of July and August can be too cold for most of us.


The Palestra offers a decent variety of sport-climbing on two walls of volcanic tuff. Holds are small and sharp. There are currently more than 40 routes, with more underway, ranging from 5.6 to 5.13b. A group of concerned neighbors recently improved the base, building big wooden platforms to help prevent erosion in the sensitive site. A local described the spot as a “romantic and historic place: most of us learned to climb here.”


From Santiago, take the blue bus MB72 from Metro station Las Mercedes, CP $700 (US $1.40). After about 40 minutes, get off at bus stop 21 in the town of El Manzano and look up: you’ll see the rock face towering above you. Take the dirt road across the highway from the fillng station, and follow it to the end. You may be charged CP $500 (US $1) to enter the private property, and the man at the gate can offer advice for the ascent to the wall, which takes about an hour.  


Traditional climbing, alpine climbing, bigwall


If you’re looking for more, there is traditional climbing for all appetites in Santiago’s backyard, the Cajón del Maipo, but don’t stop there: if you’re in Chile, make the most of it and travel down south to scale theTorres del Paine and explore Patagonia, where this is enough climbing to keep you hooked for decades.


Check out escalando.cl’s English site for a good rundown of climbing options in Chile, including up-to-date information about new routes and developments. You can find solid English language reviews of rocks in both Argentine and Chile at stonedance.com, along with stunning images. For a regional overview of climbing options, rockclimbing.com has a fair amount of Chile news and information.