What do you do when the approach trail is super long and steep but the climbing routes at the end of the trail are awesome? Call in the rein-horse-ments, obviously.
I’m sorry, I know it’s terrible but I had to. Moving on, this climbing area is called Chakay and it’s nestled deep in the Elqui Valley, inland from La Serena. More importantly, it’s actually super annoying to get to. Not as annoying as the towers of Torres del Paine of course, but there’s something about needing a horse to carry your backpack up the mountain that makes it seem more legit. The last time someone else carried my stuff up a mountain was when I did a 7-day trek up the tallest mountain in Africa. So what I’m saying is this is basically the same as Kilimanjaro.
We arrived at the trailhead early on a Thursday evening with the intention of hiking up and camping through Sunday, so to be fair we had a lot of stuff to carry. Plus all the beer my friends loaded onto the horses, minus the bottles they drank while hiking up. It honestly kind of blew my mind, I don’t know how they exercise while drinking but to each their own. This is the part where I sheepishly admit that the trail is only about two hours long. But it’s all uphill, and man did my legs feel smoked afterwards even without a heavy pack (thank you horsies).
The camping area itself is super cute with some terraces for pitching tents and a “kitchen” area in the center, but the real appeal of Chakay is the rock, specifically the ones to be climbed on. There are something like 100 routes sprinkled up through the valley, and while we obviously didn’t climb all or even most of them, the ones we did try were excellent.
Highlights of the trip include chasing a wild donkey away from my tent in the middle of the night (in the photo below my friend can be seen trying to make friends with said donkey the next morning), getting to use a pit toilet instead of pooping in the woods, and lead climbing up a gnarly 11c and taking a huge fall when trying to clip the final bolt (I eventually made it and also the fall was clean so I’m fine mom don’t worry about it).
Chakay is definitely not an every-weekend spot since it’s such a process to get to, but the climbing routes are juuuust tantalizing enough to make it worth calling up the horse-shaped porters (horters?) every once in a while.