Going Local in Chile
We had to stop at almost every outdoor store to find one but we finally found a decent topo map of Cerro El Plomo and the Yerba Loca valley. Our goal was to attempt a 3-day venture to ride off El Plomo’s neighbor, Cerro Leonera which sits at a lofty 4,954m/16,253ft.
My good adventure buddy, Bryan, flew down from Colorado to meet me down in Chile to ride some awesome trails and hopefully ride off some big peaks as well. Cerro Leonera seemed like a worthy first attempt due to trail accessibility, along with options to find water and good camping spots. With a trusty topo map, couple handlebar bags, 2 bikes and a bunch of pre-grilled chorizo’s we were in route to the top of La Parva bike park for our plunge into the mountains.
Able to convince our local friend Focha (local resident of Farellones and owner of Andes Vive Base Camp), to shuttle us to the top of La Parva bike park. Our bike packing adventure started with a descent off the back side of the bike park past Lagoon Piuquenes. For the next 6 hours we would descend and ascend 4 times until a final long push to the top of the valley, and the base of Cerro Leonera and Cerro El Plomo.
The final push for day one was a long hike-a-bike, past awesome waterfalls and cliffs to the base of Cerro El Plomo’s glacier. We would set up camp for night one near Refugio Federacion, at an elevation of 3,800m/12,500ft. Camp was literally at the base of Cerro Leonera and Cerro El Plomo, and just a couple minute walk to the glacier. It was pretty special re-filling our water bottles from water trickling right out of the glacier. With an early morning start we went to bed early for what would be a windy, cold night in the Andes.
Night one may have been a cold restless night for the both of us but we woke up to clear blue skies. Starting early, we had to make the summit before any possible weather rolled in and make it down the ridge to camp for night two. The day started off with a viciously steep hike-a-bike from camp to access the ridgeline on the mountain. With bags on the bikes, and the bikes on our backs. The start was slow going due to the load and route finding. The trail from camp to the ridgeline was hardly used and we were lucky to find a few useful cairns to help guide us. Luckily the weather was great and the views phenomenal. Once we finally reached the mountains ridgeline we stashed all the bags and gear for the last 2,500ft to the summit.
The trail on the ridgeline to the summit was much better marked and bit more traveled. It was steep terrain with more loose rocks than actual dirt. Nonetheless we were stoked on how rideable the trail looked. This said, even with the gear stashed and our load lightened it was a grind to make the summit.
It was a 5-hour push from camp to the summit of Cerro Leonera but we freaking made it! We were lucky that the blue skies held on and no weather rolled in. From the summit we had awesome views of Cerro El Plomo and Vittorio which both stand above 5,300m/17,300ft. The other big surprise, other than the awesome weather, was that we could see South America’s tallest peak Aconcagua. Even from our distance, Aconcagua is a menacing mountain standing at 6,960m/22,837ft. With the awesome weather, and the sun not setting until 830, we relaxed on the summit for over an hour enjoying the stellar views.
Descending from the summit was an exhilarating ride to say the least. There were only a couple small sections we had to hike our bikes down but majority of the trail from the summit was rideable. Mixing it up with fast fall-line sections and tight loose switchbacks, the only thing that was consistent were the loose rocks. More like riding on loose shale than scree or baby heads, they actually helped slow us down and allow us to do superhero skid turns down the steep turns. Bombing the ridgeline down 2,500ft in under a half hour, we picked up our gear and followed the ridgeline trail to our second summit of the day, Cerro Pintor.
The ridgeline/summit trail eventually lead to a high plateau where Cerro Pintor sits upon. Arriving upon this plateau the trail turned fast with big swooping turns. Simply put it was singletrack gold at 13,000ft. The terrain turned red and purple along this segment of trail. With Cerro Leonera and El Plomo behind us we felt like we were riding on the moon, we were absolutely blown away how awesome this trail was.
Cerro Pintor was the second summit for the day, standing at a more mellow height of 4,180m/13,700ft. Following along the trail on this high plateau at 13,000ft, the push up to Pintor was a nice add-on to an already awesome day. The loose rocks transition to dust and the classic “anti-grip” that this area of Chile is known for. The climb and descent off Pintor was loose and dusty as we made our way to the location of camp for night two.
Reaching the location of camp for night two, we came to the conclusion that the weather gods were on our side. With still another 4+ hours until sunset, and blue skies still surrounding us. We decided to bail on staying another night and finish the descent to Farellones, where warm beds and cold beer awaited. Skirting around La Parva mountain we followed the same trail to our third peak of the day, Falsa Parva sitting at 3,888m/12,700ft. Overlooking La Parva bike park and Laguna Piuquenes, where we started yesterday, the trail turned to insanely steep switchbacks before dumping us on top of La Parva Bike Park.
It’s was a long second day of our journey, yet even after all that we still had one more big descent until we reached our end destination. Now at the top of La Parva Bike Park we rode the local enduro trail down to Farellones. Descending the last 1000m/3,200ft of singletrack to cold beers was the perfect ending to our 3-day, turned 2-day adventure into the highest mountains outside of Santiago. In two days, we descended 2,700m/9,000ft over 32k/20miles of trail, with a max elevation of 4,954m/16,253ft. We stood on top of 3 mountains and pioneered a first descent on bikes down Cerro Leonera. Not a bad couple days in Chile…