GPT05 (Rio Colorado)
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* Start Date to Finish Date (use Format YYYY-MMM-DD) / Duration in Days / Hiking or Packrafting / Travel Direction (SOBO for Southbound or NOBO Northbound) / Chosen Route and/or Option Name (RR for Regular Route) / Names or Alias
Summary with remarks to route that are considered useful for other hikers and packrafters. Include alerts, suggestions and personal perception of attractiveness and difficulties.
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- 1 Section Log, Alerts and Suggestions
- 2 Resupply and Accommodation
- 3 Transport to and from Route
- 4 Permits, Entry Fees and Right-of-Way Issues
- 5 Links to other Resources
- 6 Images
Section Log, Alerts and Suggestions
- 2023-Jan-08 to 2023-Jan-14 / 7 days / Hiking / Roundtrip via Planchon and back to Los Quenes / Tomáš & Natalie
We hitched easily all the way to Lagunas del Teno from Los Quenes with three cars. Buses from Curico to Los Quenes run as stated below, it was 2200 per person. The pizzeria in Los Quenes is not very good - premanufactured dough. Met two Germans doing hiking trips on GPT without knowing the acronym "GPT" - they were just using the OSM data. It was Saturday afternoon. Planchon seems to be a popular climbing spot, there was about 25 people around the lagoon who have mostly climbed Planchon that day (including a club of 15). Some people drive up just to have a look or barbecue. So Friday and likely Sunday would probably work well, but there were people there also on weekdays. There are probably around 5 cars a day going to Argentine, we were told. The refuge seemed to be open but the people at the lagoon knew nothing about it. We slept in an old building probably used by the workers when constructing the dam. Despite an evening storm, it was very warm.
Next day we walked towards Planchon - there is an easy trail skirting the lagoon, no need to go back to Refugio. The trail can probably be flooded when the lagoon is at its maximum level. All the way to the top, there is an easy to follow trail to the top where there is a logbook. There were lots of streams flowing to the lake and one not far from the trail at over 3000. Without backpack it took us about 3 hours to go up from there and back. The mountain has a tendency to cloud up early (2-5 pm). This section was easy so GPT difficulty probably at 4.
A storm again came, we hid in a volcanic cave and then camped on the sand.
The next day we went around Planchon to reach the caldera with crater lakes. We followed the old trail in OSM which is imprecise. Only up until a volcanological measuring station, it was easy. From there it is pure cross-country. We side-hilled this traverse at about 3200 metres but it was a bad choice, too high. While traversing, it got steep with a number of hard to cross gulleys (with water and snow). We would advise to keep lower, especially given that going up the glacier stream needs to be on your left and we only found a suitable crossing at 2800 m. We would recommend to traverse the slopes of Planchon at about this altitude, it looked much less steep, so lower is more safe and faster despite the altitude loss.
Once finished traversing and the ascent towards the crater began we struggled finding the correct way because the osm trail was awful and we had very low visibility due to clouds. We lost a lot of time so this section of about 3 km took us all day. We ended up taking a moraine ridge on the opposite side of the osm trail (other side of the glacier stream there) and made camp in the moraine at ~3200m before going up the final climb to the craters because of weather. Weather was worse the next day so we stayed in the tent, explored options of getting to the proper ridge of the caldera and finished the route the following day. In short the ridge you should aim for is; -35.22600, -70.58600. and the top of the caldera you should aim for is -35.22779, -70.58231. The rest of the ridge top of the caldera towards the crater lakes is slightly a knife ridge and the scramble down is loose.
With good visibility and direction, one could probably reach the caldera within a half day if camping at the crossroads of the trail to the top and the round-trail.
The caldera is beautiful, the lakes are lovely, you can pick your way through. We crossed the rim to Argentine and we went again to the south of the OSM trail as the pass was less steep. A side trip to the higher of Peteroa summits is easy, but you cannot get to the top from this side or traverse, there is a vertical rock (about 20 m high) on the top that cannot be climbed without gear nor can it be skirted around. Our original plan was to try and cross to Azufre but that is not possible through Peteroea, it is far too rocky. It might be possible going from the Chilian side directly to Azufre but frankly it probably is not a hike up and would need gear, the ridge from north looked rocky, the ridge from west looked much better but was steep, is hard to get to and we only saw it from afar. So best way to Azufre still looks like from Argentina.
It clouded up at around 3 pm again. We descended via a trial from the rim to the Argentine border checkpoint. They sent us back to Chile when we said we came from the craters. I wonder if they would let us through if we said we came through the border crossing. They said they did not care how we would exit Argentine if we first cross to it via a an official crossing from Chile (we were mulling continuing the backroute on GPT05, which can be accessed about 10 km south of the checkpoint - there is no official crossing there). Chileans seemed unconcerned about the border, some even drive to the no-man's land between the crossings (police is ok with that apparently) and climb Planchon from there. Difficulty of the round-crossing via the route we took according to GPT scale is 7. With the proper trail, it would probably be 6.
We used the road (no cars, super windy) and then a track on OSM (Mirador lagunas Teno)just before the border to go back to the lagoona where we camped.
Next day (The first nice day in 4 days), we started towards Los Quenes. The ascent to the pass from the lagoon is quite hard and involves either going up a very loose scree slope with lots of boulders or easy but vertical scramble of about 10 m. In all cases, the way seems to be so that you keep the creek to you left going uphill. Possibly keeping higher on the right slope would make it easier but we ended up clombing the rocks next to the small waterfall. The hills are green and firm, but it is ten vertical meters (difficulty 6 or seven probably). The valley has a small green patch though and is quite beautiful. Going the upper route as if climbing Planchon and then traversing would have been much easier (not as nice though). Once up the pass, a trail appears at 2900 and can be followed to about 1600 (the last three hundred vertical metres are a bit overgrown with meadow/hard to follow). The descent closed a few streams. At roughly 1800, there is a man made canal that follows the trail. At 1600, the GPT Track seems to be CC, we followed the trail which turns sharply to right to a puesto and then joins the first X waypoint on the RR going SOBO.
Next day, the walk down to Los Quenes was uneventful. Met a family on horses who wanted to go to the Lagoonas del Teno (we told them it is probably possible but are not sure)and hitched the last 4 km (deeper in the valley, there was no traffic our direction). Then we took. Bus at 1400 to Curico.
- 2023-Jan-10 5 days RR SOBO Frank
Stayed at hut on the ridge above Rio Claro (after ford) reached in 1 very long day. It's used by arrieros but there was no one there. The descent to Rio Negro was a bit sketchy in places, hardly any trail & eroded but it improves as you go down. Rio Claro ford was OK. Forded Rio Negro in afternoon, it was pretty far from OK. The water was waist deep & breaking over me in a wave, nearly knocking me over but I hung onto a submerged boulder in midstream. The most difficult crossing I had on GPT1-40. Cross early in the morning if you can. After Rio Negro you traverse through a small gully, it looks sketchy but is OK if you cross on RR. On the ridge after & above the small gully look for cairns which mark where you descend into the big gully. You can't continue along the ridge as it cliffs out. I don't think the descent is really difficult or dangerous (others may disagree) but it's very slow & awkward going. When you are low in the gully be sure to stay on RR which traverses out left. If you continue directly down to Rio Colorado there are a few gullys perpendicular to the Rio Colorado valley. They are very steep sided & you can only cross them by staying on RR. Stayed at hut before Rio Colorado bridge, it's 1 KM off the RR. Again it is used by arrieros but there was no one there. As I was leaving in the morning I saw them coming in.
Followed Tomas's suggestion & found a good track all the way to Lake 2300M. After the lake don't ascend by the waterfall which is steep & nasty. Instead, at the lake looking towards the waterfall go up a small ridge on the RHS of lake, then traverse left to come in above the waterfall on its right. Cross the stream above the waterfall & find a small horse trail which goes through a breach in the cliff & leads to open ground on the way to the pass. This option bypasses all the nasty & loose scree & is much easier. Saw about 30 condors feasting on a carcass near the pass. Met the guards @ Laguna Mondaca, they were very hospitable as detailed by Kris & Stiina. The 1000M climb to the pass after Laguna Mondaca is steep, sandy & without shade or water, best tackled early in the morning. I continued out to Parque Ingles in 1 long day from Laguna Mondaca. Although I walked GPT5 & 6 separately it was no drama as the section from Parque Ingles to/from El Bolson is very quick & easy. The last bus was gone but it was easy to hitch out.
- 2022-Dec-23 to 2022-Dec-27 / 5 days / Hiking / SOBO / RR / Tomáš
I combined with GPT 06 (info for that section there).
First about 30 km is basicaly a minor dirt road (with no traffic), there is plenty of water (but from the last bridge almost to first ford, there is no water - you are in a valley but on a ridge), a cherry tree 15 km in. After 10.km or so it starts to be scenic. Cell coverage for about 5 km until a big hazelnut orchard. This can be walked in one day, it is really easy and straightforward so a sped of 4 km/ hour is easily maintained. Then it starts :-). Until above Rio Negro, the trail is mostly there. And it is quite doabke to reach Rio Negro in two (long) days. In the morning (9AM), the water is just knee deep, I crossed where Martin and Helena did. I agree the descend is quite ok (during daylight!).
From there, the traverse to Rio Coloradonis annoying, slow and fully CC. One really needs to go down that gulley. I would not say it is very dangerous but care is certainly needed and slips could result in broken limbs. The bridge is there, with nice tress to have lunch under. The bridge looks quite solid and there is a puesto nearby, so I guess it is maintained. Rio Colorado could be forded in the morning I guess if needed (especially more upstream), but I am glad the bridge was there. From the bridge about 500 metres are annoying, one needs to get on top of the plateau a ross from the puesto. From there on, there is a fairly decent horse trail all the way to about 2300 where there is a lake with a beach). I am not sure II understand my predecesors, I think they must have missed it, the first half of the trail is accurate with the gpx though. The second half (when it goes from the river to the lake and to the pass), one needs to go lower than the gpx.
Just after the crossroads where one trail goes to the litle Descabezado, there is a warm slow stream. I could not tell if it was thermal or sun-warmed.
The descent to Mondaca is quite long and the trail is not always clear, but no climbing is needed, there is always a way. There is a signpost saying it is private in the middle of the valley. The fords are all manageable. I waved at an arriero before the private huts (the huts are by the lake), in the huts i ha e not met anybody but it seemed someone might have been inside.
I agree that the comnecting trail to Thermas Azufre is annoying. It involves two fords that are not nice in the evening. I avoided them by going up on the slope on west side of the valley, but I do not recommend it, better tk ford and stay in the valley. I do not think there is a trail as such just CC.
Took me five days to get to Thermas Azufre, met nobody apart from the ariero mentioned above. I recommend to time it so that you can sleep at the Therms, there are about five or six places for a tent. Being in the pool and looking at the stars is really nice.
I would argue this section is not that extraordinarily hard now that there is a bridge, but it is more demanding than the others so far.
- 2022-Dec-12 to 2022-Dec-17 / 5.5 days / Hiking / SOBO / RR / Martin & Helena
Just like many others we chose to combine sections 5 and 6 with expected 8 days on the way, in reality it was about a half day longer. We have to agree with previous comments about the difficulty, eventhough we were prepared for it and expected the worst really which helped a lot after all.
Starting from Los Quenes we followed the RR and after the gate next to the camp we run into a barbed wire fence that is restricting access to the RR, probably new construction site based on a sign we saw there. Its no problem, just follow the main car road the whole time. Its really nice walking for quite a long time, all the marked gates were opened. First river crossing was no problem in the evening, nice camp place a few minutes later with amazing views. First pass also ok, no one at the puesto.
Second ford also ok at km 45, than CC section and descent to Rio Negro which was not so bad as expected, it gets steep but still ok. The river seemed to be pretty fast in the evening so there was no point in trying it, we waited until the morning and found actually a few nice places to cross (one with a small island in the middle where the river gets wider). The descent to valley of Rio Colorado took us a loong time, you have to be really careful and go slowly. We went through the gully most of the time. Its a long way until the bridge, but its there, safe to cross.
The worst part for us was the traverse after the bridge and climb up where we lost the trail a few times and got into some steep sections with all the falling rocks and scree, not so safe in some places but there are probably better ways to find. On the way up you have to cross multiple river basins which is really exhausting, it worked for us to go more up the hill where it wasn’t so steep but still necessary to be careful. It hapenned to us more than once that really big rocks fell down under our legs or solid looking rocks we were holding onto just fell away - not much you can do after it.
After the valley it gets much more interesting and trail is in good condition. Regarding the Mondaca valley - we were seen by an arriero close to the river but with no reaction, we havent met anyone near the guards houses as well so overall no problem with the right of way. Good camp place at the end of the valley.
One last unpleasant part was the connection between the sections 5 and 6 - after multiple river crossings we were following the RR to connect to the climb up but got into a really steep section, again nothing funny. It might be better to follow the other trail that we saw in both garmin and our smartphone apps. These two go all the time next to each other but in this specific case it might be better to follow the other one as it connects to the climb earlier.
Contact: @martin_hanzelka @helenneka
- 2021-Dec-03 to 2021-Dec-09 / 7 days (GPT 05 + 06) / Hiking / SOBO / RR / Kris&Stiina
We also decided to combine sections 5 and 6 to avoid in’n’out to and from Parque Inglés. It took us 6 and a half days and some of it was bloody hard. I have never before experienced my ass being handed over to me by a trail. We got beaten to the point where first signs of weakness started to show and I have to admit we kind of even started discussing a plan B and bailing this ditch trail. But only for a moment, once you hit the rock bottom there is only one way to go - up! It was literally and figuratively, and as terrain improved so did our mood and we laughed off the silly thoughts we had had earlier.
The first 45km of the section 5 were great, awesome hiking and then shit hit the fan real quick. Ascent up from the ford at km 45 was hard but alright. And then came the descent down to Rio Negro (51km), very steep and very loose scree slope. We wanted to make it to Rio Colorado for the night to cross it early in the morning in case there is no bridge. But because the trail or I must rather say the lack of it was really taking more time than we expected, by the time we got to Rio Negro it was already getting dark. The river was very rapid and murky so you couldn’t gauge the depth of it and couldn’t see where to step, we had to really concentrate to cross it, luckily it was only balls deep.
It was dark as we got across it and we continued the fun, albeit type 2 fun, illuminated by our headlamps. Then came the insanely steep gully that allowed you to enter the valley of Rio Colorado. Something was off with the elevation lines on Gaia and it showed that we will be descending right over the cliff, it was luckily only a glitch. As we couldn’t see much ahead we kept descending ever so carefully on this very very challenging terrain, I would even go as far as to say that it was stupid and outright dangerous. But there was no other way, you just had to stay focused. There were also some rocks falling off the cliff under which we were descending. In a sense night was a good time to do it because you couldn’t see all the dangers - only what lie within the beam of the headlamp.
Then came an extremely slow going, pretty much crawling speed traverse down to Rio Colorado, which we fully improvised as there was no trail anyway and got down to Rio colorado about a kilometer before the bridge, where we set up camp abit past midnight.
So yes, the bridge was there - a decent one, seemed permanent and it was a relief that we at least don’t have to start the day by risking our lives fording Rio Colorado. The river was pretty wide and the current seemed pretty fast, it wasn’t murky though but you couldn’t see how deep it really was. But we think it could have been forded in case there would be no bridge. There were a few places that looked doable with somewhat laminar flow. The excitement of the existence of the bridge didn’t last too long as we were slapped back into reality by the difficult terrain, it wasn’t as dangerous anymore as the previous night but difficult nevertheless. Once we got closer to the pass the trail appeared and it was actually pleasant hiking once again.
To sum it up the descent down to the Rio Colorado valley, then traversing it and the first part of crawling out of the valley sucks big time, but the rest of the section is really nice and not too challenging terrain-wise. I wouldn’t want to skip this section because it had some breathingtaking views. Just that on the hard part of it you can’t really enjoy any of it as all your effort is elsewhere.
The guards at Laguna Mondaca were the nicest people we have met in Chile so far. They invited us to stay at the property, gave us food and drinks. They insisted we don’t use any of our supplies or gear. They even provided us with a room with a bed and we got to recharge all of our electronics and got a hot shower aswell. It was perfect! And just to make it clear there are no fancy villas there just a few small simple houses where the owner of the property comes for fishing once in a while. And guards weren’t armed either.
It took us 4 days to get to Laguna Mondaca and not far after it we joined the section 6 which took 2 and a half more days.
Section 6 was really something, we haven’t had such a strong otherworldly experience anywhere else. It was really like being on another planet at times. The blue sky was the only thing that gave it away that we were still on Earth. Really bizarre landscape and definitely the most beautiful breathtaking section of the six that we have done so far.
Regarding the difficulty, compared to section 5 it didn’t feel that difficult at all. Walking on sand is challenging, yes, especially going uphill. But on the other side going down is much easier on the soft sand - you can just run/jog without much impact on your body as the sand absorbs it all. Shoes got completely wrecked and we took many “shoe-emptying” breaks because they were just filled with rocks and coarse sand.
We even took a dip in one of the lakes close to Descabezado and seeing how water is just coming out of the sand and turning into a river was really really cool, just as the whole landscape around there.
We camped at the lake about 5km from Los Cipreses. When we arrived to the road to take bus to Talca the bus stop didn’t have any schedule and the shop close by was closed. So we couldn’t find out about the bus schedule and the traffic on the road seemed pretty dead. But luckily after 15 min of waiting a car that was going to Talca picked us up, perfecto!
Overall plenty of water on both sections, a lot of exposure to the sun, and some challenging terrain. It all together made for a great experience, just what we were looking for. It humbled us and we definitely had to adjust our expectations and recalibrate our way of hiking, it is GPT - not more and not less.
For more stories of the trail, pictures, videos and in case you want to ask us anything you can find us on Instagram: @smallfootprint_bigadventures
- 2019-Dec-24 / 7 days (GPT 5 + 6) / Hiking / SOBO/ Ian Hikes
Overview: So, I decided to combine GPT sections 5 and 6 in order to avoid a 30k out and back resupply section into parque ingles. I thought this was a good decision for me and really enjoyed being out there for a week. In my opinion this was the hardest section of the GPT in between sections GPT 01-10. I went the first 5 days without seeing another person which I thought was quite cool. So, these two sections are quite remote, and you are way out there in the mountains. There was also some pretty intense river crossing in “GPT Section 5” that I found to be manageable (keep in mind I’m 185cm and have lots of thru hiking experience.) but still a little difficult. The rivers were also very dark and murky which made it hard to see where you would step. There was also an improvised bridge crossing the Colorado River that I used, and thought was safe to use. These two sections are dominated by a volcanic profile with much of the route on ash and volcanic rock. Most of the route is very exposed and there are not many trees or vegetation that grow in the volcanic ash/rocks. There was plenty of water with springs coming out of the hills everywhere and then disappearing into the sand.
Difficulties: It was slow going walking thru the sand, especially when hiking vertically. Exposure to the sun. River crossings. Isolation and remoteness. Hiking up and down lose rock and scree fields.
Highlights: Hot Springs. Great views of the volcanic region. Mountain Lakes. Sunrise and Sunsets were epic with the landscape.
Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org
- 2019-Dec-08 / 6 days / Hiking / SOBO / RR / Martina & Ivo
Six (hard) days for this section. After the first pass there was a tiny snowfield to cross, nothing to worry about. River crossings didn't cause any problems. The bridge Puente Las Yeguas was in excellent condition. The navigation through the cross country parts was quite demanding and took us a lot of time. Right of way conflict before the Laguna Mondaca: The whole valley is private property and belongs to a guy who comes by helicopter for fly fishing at the weekends. His guards spotted us several hours before we arrived at their puesto but welcomed us very friendly and explained everything. They let us camp at the Estero del Volcan. At Parque Ingles we found food and accommodation. There is a bus to Molina (for schedule see section "Transport to and from Route").
- 2019-Dec-09 / 8 days / Hiking /SOBO / RR + OH to the Hot Springs / Ty & America
7 nights 8 days for us. Super tough section. The entire area around Rio Colorado is extremely challenging; down & up. We went the alternate route to the Hot Springs. (OH-CC-A@05-C-#001). I was tough with multiple steep gullies, then we got there to see the hot springs were COLD. Then the optional hike to Re connect with the RR from the hot springs (OH-CC-A@05-E-#002) was completely impassable. I didn’t go all the way up to the canyon wall. All I could see were route that would take some serious climbing. We had to down climb and take the lower route to climb up again. Property dispute near Volcan Mondaco had no problems. Quiet and didn’t seem like anybody was there for us. Parque Inglés - Molina Bus leaves at 7 am on the weekdays, we hitchhiked.
- 2019-Dec-17 / 5 days / Hiking / SOBO / RR + optional to meet optional start of GPT06/ Matus & Anna
It took us 5 days including 1 zero due to bad weather. I agree with everything what was written in previous updates for GPT05. Cross country sections were difficult, but in some of them we managed to find old unused trails which worked for us. River crossings - Rio Claro in the afternoon was ok. Rio Negro in the afternoon was REALLY challenging, almost not doable. After hour of trying we managed to find one spot we could cross. I wouldn't want to cross Rio Colorado without that bridge at any time. Optional trail to meet optional start of section 6 was fine in the valley. Problem was to connect it to the climb. We had to climb very steep slope to get there. From that point trail was in good condition.
- 2019-Dec-19 / 8,5 days / Hiking / SOBO / RR / Melissa
It took me 6 full days (5-9 hrs hiking) and 1 1/2 day (3 hrs.) not including 1 day of 0 hiking due to weather-rain and needing rest. Route finding, the three inclines of over 3,000-4,000 feet of elevation gain in a mile was insane, terrain-gotta love sand. The entire incline up Las Animas white crumbly/soft sand and make sure you have plenty of water here because the white reflecting sand and sun can easily dehydrate you and there is nowhere to get water except this flat section near the top that has very little stream from snow melt. Crumbling rock/scree that is barely able to be hiked up with a waterfall in between after think it was called Laguna Grande tracks #61.7-67.2 end of that track. Take the route up to the left where the rock is tan don’t hike up the black it’s dangerously eroding. The gps was not helpful in that section because all three directions seemed correct (right,left or up the waterfall). I had no issues with right of way dispute. I agree with all that is stated above. Very hard and challenging section.
Resupply and Accommodation
Resupply and Accommodation in nearby Towns
Resupply and Accommodation along the Route
- 2021-Dec-03 to 2021-Dec-09 / 4 days / Hiking / SOBO / RR / Kris&Stiina
The guards at Laguna Mondaca were the nicest people we have met in Chile so far. They invited us to stay at the property, gave us food and drinks.
- 2019-Dec-08 / 6 days / Hiking / SOBO / RR / Martina & Ivo
At Parque Ingles we found food and accommodation.
Transport to and from Route
- Bus timetable Curico to Los Queñes obtained in January 2020
Monday to Thursday: Molina-Radal: 17:00 // Radal-Molina: 07:30
Friday: Molina-P.Ingles: 17:00 // Radal-Molina: 07:30
Saturday: Molina-P.Ingles: 11:30 // 13:30 / P.Ingles-Molina: 18:00
Sunday: Molina-P.Ingles: 09:00 // P.Ingles-Molina: 15:30 / 17:00
Permits, Entry Fees and Right-of-Way Issues
- 2019-Dec-08 / 6 days / Hiking / SOBO / RR / Martina & Ivo
Right of way conflict before the Laguna Mondaca: The whole valley is private property and belongs to a guy who comes by helicopter for fly fishing at the weekends. His guards spotted us several hours before we arrived at their puesto but welcomed us very friendly and explained everything. They let us camp at the Estero del Volcan. At Parque Ingles we found food and accommodation. There is a bus to Molina (for schedule see section "Access to route").
Links to other Resources
Retired Section Article GPT05 - Río Colorado