Party : Felix Ossig-Bonanno

Routes : Chipitin, Hidrofobia and Matacanes

I couldn’t find anyone to go with. I took a bus to centro, bought supplies from Soriana and got another bus to Santiago. Watching the colourful buildings through the window I was there before I knew it. I walked through town getting a ride a short way with some French Canadians, and then a local who happened to be going to Las Adjuntas. What luck! From there I started the 9km walk to Potrero Redondo. With my pack at around 25kg, combined with the steep gradient: it sucked. I was over half way, enjoying views of Chipitin when I heard a car coming up behind me. The local gave me a ride. Sitting on a bale of scratchy hay next to some eskies, barbed wire tapping my leg; I lay back looking at the sky. It felt wonderful to be out of the city.

In town a local ofered to guide me down to the falls. I politly declined: it was getting late and I needed to find a camp quick. Inside, I thought that if I needed a guide to get to the falls, I definitely shouldn’t be canyoning solo. I veered off from the main trail to the falls, taking the canyoners trail towards the drop in. I set up camp by the rd. If I’d have gone 5 mins further I would have found the very nice site I used for the next 3 nights.

Rain woke me in the night. I groggily looked up at the black starless sky and begrudgingly set up my tent. By the time I was done the cloud had passed, twinkling points visible through some lagging wisps. I slept under the stars with the giant mozzies.

The next morning, I cached my gear. I found a great overhanging tree next to a bluff. Walking out on the tree, it was a great place to hang food (I was a little weary of the black bears that might be around). I made a another cache for my other gear in another location.

I was still unsure as I walked to the start of the canyon. Most people told me it was not the right season for wet canyons. I’d found Chiflón very warm and hoped I’d be okay. I’d strategically picked Chipitin as my first trip as it was the shortest (with an escape in the middle) and I could decide to end my trip early if I found this route too cold…

I wasn’t sure how people drop into the canyon and ended up abseiling off a small tree. I experimented by using my pull-cord to rap. With a brake crab it actually worked quite well. I scrambled around the left side of a pool, and with some hesitation, lowered myself into the water at the end. Reaching my waist, it actually didn’t seem that bad. A following swim made me think I should have brought gloves, But once the water trapped between my skin and neoprene warned I was actually toasty! Fears melted away and with a smile I admired the turquoise waters, jumping what I think was supposed to be the first pitch.

At “crossing rivers” I didn’t even think about using the escape and abseiled down 7m or so to inspect the landing. I jumped the rest of the 5th drop landing in an amazing constriction with overhanging travertine. This appears to be the main drainage and I went a little way upstream. I wish I’d gone further, but was anxious to have a look at the crux of the route : Chipitin.

There was an amazing slide before I was at the top of the 100m cascade. Inspecting the anchors I picked some bolts and threaded my rope. Keeping CR I abseiled down. In the end, it was actually very straight forward. My 60m + 22m pull would have been just enough, but it was nice to have my second pull. It turns out the last drop was optional, but it was the pitch I was most looking forward to! I rapped down next to the waterfall, climbing up to do it again!

I ate some food admiring the falls. It is a magical place. My pinky was bleeding slightly. The travertine produced a kind of sand that had taken my skin off as the rope ran through my hand. I cached my wetsuit, harness, helmet and some rope. Hidrofobia is the natural continuation, and that was the plan for tomorrow.

I hiked back out. The whole trip only took 4 hrs. I was suprised. I probably could have tagged Hidrofobia on in the same day if I had have been more familiar with the area. But it was nice to have a lazy afternoon. I moved camp to a very nice spot by the river.

***

I already had my gear cached at the start of the canyon, so after caching my gear, I headed down with a light pack. The route started with a bang. A considerable jump with some more to follow.

There was only one spot I used a hand line (it was already there). It was a 2m downclimb between some boulders. The rest of the route was jumps. I never even took the harness or cord out of my pack.

The section that followed was nice, but not really canyoning. Mostly creek walking with the occasional jump or slide. Some nice travertine formations.

There was one nice constriction in around the middle of the route. But all in all I was a little disappointed. Once you reach río Adjuntas there is a quad trail you can follow back to Las Adjuntas. There were some ppl camped there. Walked the road back to Potrero Redondo. Dark just as I arrived. 7hrs if include Rd walk.

Before I got to sleep, I emerged from my tent to get some water from the creek. I noticed some lights… Bioluminescence. But unlike the lights I’d seen in el Barrancas del Cobre, these weren’t flashing : I knew it must be a different critter. Grabbing my headlamp, I soon confirmed it wasn’t a centipede, some kind of slater. It was hard to get a photo. As soon as you’d illuminate them, you had a couple of seconds before they would turn off their lights. I only managed one photo before I decided it was time for bed. Tomorrow would be the longest route.

Left camp around 7:30 (maybe 9:30. I think my camera clock was wrong). On the other side of Potrero Redondo I found some canyon topos outside Aldea Matacanes. Whilst some company would have been nice, I was glad it wasn’t overcrowded.

The walk to the canyon was longer than I expected and I even took a GPS reading to make sure I was going the right way (a couple of cool ant highways on the way. Not sure I’ve seen one before).

I rapped down about 7m beside Lagunillas Cascade (the first pitch), and jumped the rest rest of the way.

In one hour I reached the first cave (Matacan de Arriba). Apart from one nice section where you meander through large boulders, I didn’t think much of this top part. The cave was very nice. 23m +16m pull cord was all I needed (could do with a little less).

After the cave it opened back up. Again it wasn’t amazing. An hour and a half from entering the cave I noted flagging on the right. An escape, or maybe alternate entrance. From here the canyon narrowed getting better.

20 mins from the flagging I jumped into an amazing section. Fantastic!Amazing shower heads! Probably the best I’ve seen. I must have been beaming the entire way, excitement only fading as I emerged from Matacan de Abajo – the second cave.

This section was very short. From the jump it was only another 20 mins before I swam out of the second cave.

1.5hrs to las Adjuntas. Cached gear and walked to Potrero Redondo in the rain.

***

The next day after drying gear out a little, I walked to Las Adjuntas with a local, his horse and dog. A crazy number of side-by-sides and quads went past. Over 100 I think!

Recovering my cache, I waited a few hours and then hitched Puerto Genovevo with some ecologists studying carnivorous plants. There is a cell tower at the junction, and after a week of no contact, I sat with the midges and organised the w/e. Fernando confirmed he’d be coming (that trip here) and Samuel suggested some good camp spots. I hitched to González to spend the night.

P.S. This car made it to Las Adjuntas!