The “Olivares River-Big leap” route is one of the 65 heritage routes that exist in Chile. It is located just 86 km from Santiago so, as in many occasions, you do not have to go far to enjoy spectacular landscapes.
This route follows the course of Olivares river, which is born in the same mountain range of the Central Andes that flank Santiago. There are 27 linear kilometers of trekking with a 750 meter difference (from 2,050 masl to 2,800 masl), where you can see a typical landscape of this Andean high steppe area: land and rock, very little vegetation, and even snow and ice (dependent on seasons).
Requirements to access the heritage route
As a protected heritage route you must request permission to the Ministry of Natural Resources.
Go in person by the headquarters in Av. Libertador Bernardo O’Higgins 720 (also known as Alameda) or call one of these telephones: +51 2351 2325 or +56 2 2937 5100.
You will be asked for the following information:
- Day of beginning and end estimated to carry out the trekking.
- First Name, Last Name and RUT of each person accessing the heritage route.
- Registration number of the vehicle with which it is accessed.
When we went through the ministry to inform us (2011) they gave us several guides of heritage routes, in which you can find the history of the place, the route, GPS references, tips, etc… Now I do not know if they will continue to give them away, you can download them in pdf format of the website.
How to get to the Olivares river route in Santiago?
The way to get to this route is as follows:
- Cross Santiago towards Cajón del Maipo.
- Take the G-25 eastbound until you reach the Colorado River junction.
- At the junction take the route G-345 towards the village of Alfalfal.
- From the Alfalfal you must go to the dam of Gener.
- At the checkpoint they will validate your data and the registration number of the car (see previous section).
- Continue along the gravel road for 7 km until a detour, where you take the road on the left.
- At the end of the road, before reaching the facilities of the bocatoma, take a small detour to the left. There you can leave the car and start the tour. The GPS coordinates are: 394604 E / 6303570 N.
As you can see on the next map you are at the back of the mountain range that flanks Santiago. Also near the hill El Plomo, the highest summit near the city of Santiago with 5,424 meters of height above the level of the sea.
How long is the trekking?
The recommended is 4 days with 6 hours of walking to complete the route. You can also inform yourself to do the route on horse or mule, but the recommendation of 4 days is the same.
When to trek on the Olivares river route?
The best time is in summer and spring, as you will not need a very professional equipment.
If you do it with worse climatology you must have a good equipment, more advanced knowledge of the mountain and a good equipment for not having problems.
What equipment and clothes to wear?
While it is not a complicated trekking do not rely on being close to Santiago. You must carry the following implements:
- Tent suitable for wind and cold.
- Sleeping bag suitable for temperatures in the area.
- Mat to isolate the tent soil from the cold.
- Clothes and footwear of warm and waterproof.
- Replacement of footwear to cross deep streams.
- Flashlights and spare batteries.
- Map of the route (a GPS is desirable).
- First aid kit.
- Food (calculates more than necessary just in case).
- Isotonic supplements (water is in the whole route).
- Sunglasses and sunscreen.
Trekking along the “Olivares River-Big leap” heritage route
We chose to dothis trip a long weekend (festive Monday), in order to complete a large part of the tour (it was impossible to take 4 days).
We begin our trip on Saturday morning, hurrying to the maximum to have the greatest number of hours of sunshine. We left Santiago’s stress and headed to Cajón del Maipo.
As it was autumn the weather was not the best, but good enough to embark on this adventure. Leaves on the ground and a slight wind is what we were on the way.
We took the detours that indicated us the guide of this heritage route and we arrived until the control of access of the power station.
Here they verified the data that we gave in the Ministry of Natural Properties and they let us pass, not without before indicating that we were the only ones in the whole route. There were three of us and some cattlemen in the area, which gave us a strange feeling: desire for adventure and respect at the same time.
We arrived at the parking lot, prepared the backpacks and started the adventure.
1st day of the Olivares River trekking
We went down a slope and we saw the river Olivares. There was no loss, and “it was only” to follow its course until its origin…
We moved forward until we reached the plain of the canyon. The views were stunning: the wilderness terrain, surrounded by mountains, and, in the background, a haze that would not let us see the end of the route…
We walked for several hours, alternating between small ups and downs, plains…
…until we ran out of water, but there was no problem since we had the river next door and we could recharge all the water we needed at any time.
We also ate along the way to keep the forces: unsalted peanuts, chocolates, hazelnuts and some other delicacy…
We continued to advance, this time with more difficulty due to the height of the plants/thistles and a group of cows grazing freely in the middle of the road.
And we not only went for flat area, we also found some slope of some unevenness.
Night was approaching, so we had to find a suitable camping area. We were to place ourselves not very close to the slope of the mountain range to avoid rocky landslides, but also in a very open place as the wind blew with great force.
We went for a while to find the right place until we found it. It stood next to several streams formed by small waterfalls that flowed from the slope of the mountain range. We had water secured for dinner.
All a wise choice. Also, we had spectacular views of the mountain range at dusk.
We went to sleep in the middle of a gale, how the wind blew that night! And while we were in the tent, we seemed to hear a noise of steps and something like a breath. It surprised us, we were the only ones on this route, but we did not make too much case since we thought that it was produced by the wind (we did not want to believe that it was a cougar approaching).
2nd day of the Olivares River trekking
We get up early, at dawn. We had breakfast quietly and enjoyed contemplating this landscape, totally different from the bustle of the city.
And, just as we approached the back of one of the tents, we realized that the noises of steps and breath of the previous night were not the wind. We found a “gift” next to the tents, a cow approached us at night! We laughed relieved, nor was our imagination nor did we approach a Puma…
We prepared the backpacks and left what was not necessary for the road in the tents, so we carried less weight at the end of the route. We also check the anchorage of the tents well to be sure to find them on the way back. And, at that moment, we could see that it was very cold the night before.
In fact, the streams that had run the night before near us were frozen.
We went forward and, even without getting hot, we find ourselves with bad news. There was a stream deep enough to get wet if we tried to cross it.
We looked for a way around the creek, but it was impossible. It came from the side of the mountain to the same river, so there was no way to avoid it.
To our great sorrow, we made the only possible decision. We removed our shoes and cross with only flip-flops. So we could then dry our feet and put our mountain shoes to advance with dry feet.
It is not necessary to go into details to explain the cold we had… We continued walking and, not before 30 minutes, we got warm.
Due to the depth of the canyon there were areas that were still in the shade, with the consequent cold…
…until we arrived to the lookout “Esmeralda Estero Salto”, one of the landmarks of the road.
We were 2 km from the Great Leap of the Olivares River… but we did not have the time to go and return to the camp where we had left the tents, it was the night before we arrived … A pity, but we could not commit a recklessness.
We took a picture to the souvenir and started the way back.
We toured the same route, it was directly and without detour. Something calmer since we had more notion of the distances and the time to cross them.
We were somewhat tired. It was already the second day of the trek … Every so often we approached the river to recharge water and took advantage of something to eat.
At dusk, we began to look for a place to camp. That day the wind was not blowing so much, so we could opt for more places.
We chose one with good views and it had a big rock. There we left the food, less accessible than the night before, to avoid “nocturnal visits” as much as possible.
3rd day of the Olivares River trekking
That day we got up a little later. We were well on time and the tiredness became more evident.
We packed up the backpacks, picked up the tents, and continued on the way. We still had several hours to reach the beginning of the trekking.
We were already near the parking lot, the car was waiting for us to return to Santiago. We turned around, looked at the path we had and made the last photo of this adventure.
What a great experience we live! What fantastic natural spaces Chile has!
Already back to Santiago, even with the fatigue in the body, we were commenting on what would be our next patrimonial route. And, a few days later, we already had it decided: The route Torres del Paine National Park. A wonder of Chilean Patagonia!
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Kiss and hugs.