the canyon and surrounding landscape as seen from ...
Located 40km from the famous San Pedro de Atacama on the outskirts of the quaint town of Toconao, this place is truly an oasis surrounded by desert solitude. Until a few years ago, the Atacama hadn't seen measurable rain in recorded history! If you are looking to climb on fantastic though sometimes a bit dusty sandstone just a short bus ride from the tourist trap that is San Pedro, you've come to the right place. The sandstone is of good quality and is much more featured than the Wingate stone found in Indian Creek, UT (for the most part). The Quebrada de Jerez (or valle de jere as it is sometimes referred to) has seemingly endless potential for crack climbing as its walls are chocked full of incredible lines. The few developed routes in the area are equipped with bolted anchors and most others are fairly easy to top out. There are also a few sport/mixed routes that appear to be fairly stiff. Many different styles of cracks exist including dihedrals, corners, offwidths, splitters and anything and everything in between so bring a full rack of doubles and probably a few big pieces if offwidths fit your fancy. You won't exactly be needing a Creek rack but there are some splitters so bring whatever you see fit as the approach is not long. The routes are about 15-30m long so bring a 60m rope. The canyon runs roughly east-west so you get the best shade on the north rim in the morning and you'll be glad to have it. Secluded doesn't quite do this place justice. This is the Atacama desert! As far as climbing season goes, you can usually climb all year round though in recent years there have been long periods of rain (up to 2 weeks straight!) in February so air on the side of caution around this time of the year and ask around about recent weather (they'll always tell you its dusty and it probably will be). Remember this is sandstone. Anybody remember this clip:
Bring lots of water and maybe some Pisco and have a blast!
From San Pedro its very easy and cheap (about 2USD each way) to find buses to Toconao but the first one doesn't leave til 9:45am and the last one back leaves Toconao at 6:15 (if its on time). The bus station is on the northeast end of town (not the regional station) and everyone knows where it is so its better to just ask for directions. Just as you get in town ask the driver to drop you off at the bridge over the Quebrada de Jerez and start hiking along the south side of the canyon. Don't listen to the driver if he tells you to walk further into town. You should be walking directly along the edge of the canyon. Keep an eye out for a somewhat hidden "staircase" down into the canyon about 5 minutes from the bridge. At the bottom you have a one-move downclimb onto the canyon floor that deposits you onto the south side of the creek. Walk back (west) a few steps along the creek and you'll find a decent place to hop the creek. Most of the climbs are on the north side of the canyon. Enjoy!
Unfortunately I haven't encountered any route names, grades or topos but this is a good site for some more pictures of the area: chileclimbers.cl/?p=6751 On the other hand, cracks are usually a lot easier to judge (for me at least) than face climbs as far as grades go and besides, I find it much easier to push myself when I don't know what I'm climbing (ignorance is bliss?). Embrace the adventure!