28-Nov-2004 -- The confluence: on the west side of the Huemul ridge at an altitude of 1940m some 4kms west of the Melado valley. The confluence sits some 200 meters above a small coll joining the “Quebrada Las Lagunas” (valley of the lakes) with an unnamed valley that rises from the Melado river. The vegetation is low scrub grass typical of the upland central Andes. Our GPS error was ±6m
This confluence took more preparation than any other one we’ve done so far, but was well worth it as the walk was superb and the views fantastic.
We first tackled it in September, trying to get there and back in one day, but at about 600m short of the confluence we found ourselves on a ridge we could not descend from safely and running out of time, but we could see a good route in. We decided it would be better to take two days at a more leisurely pace and enjoy the walk.
On the 27th November, Cat and I joined this time by Salvador Henriquez and Francisca Rusque set off from Canal El Melado, having hidden some cans of beer in it so we’d have a cold draught of beer to come back to. The first part of the walk is through really beautiful woodland with plenty of breaks in it from where you had views of the whole Melado valley spread out before you. There were many wildflowers at their peak and a lot of wildlife to be seen, including a snake. (Not that Chilean snakes are very frightening as they’re non-poisonous. Their spiders are something else though). The first part was fairly flat as we walked by the riverbank following a muleteers trail that turns uphill towards “Quebrada Cuevitas” (The valley of the little caves). It was pretty steep, and with full packs we broke no speed records. We stopped in a clearing in the woods and set up tent. As usual we dined extremely well, fortifying ourselves with Chilean wine in plastic, collapsible “glasses”.
The next day we planned to get up to the confluence and back down to have a siesta in the tents and thus avoid the hottest part of the day. The weather was baking hot, we were all daubed with factor umpteen and no-one dared take off their sunhat. Soon we were past the tree line and under the sun full force. Without our heavy packs we made good time and found the confluence straight away with no backtracking at all. It was so placed that we had a panoramic view in front of us and behind us with the Andes in full glory. We caught the eye of some vultures and a condor came by to check us out. Then its slightly smaller pals (whom I’ve not been able to identify in my bird books) came over to try to scare us. We were obviously near their nests and so they spent the time zapping us while we counted the number of claws (and almost feathers) they had as they flew slowly overhead. We had lunch while being “bombed” by these enormous birds who never seemed to get fed up of seeing how close to us they could fly. I’ve been bombed by great skuas in Shetland, but this was something else. They were so huge and so close.
After lunch we went back down to the tents where we all conked out immediately because of the heat and fatigue. After an hour or so we had to move so we wouldn’t have any problems with the light. We struck the tents and went back down to the canal where we walked left some beers waiting for us. Possibly the alcohol helped to hasten the mild sunstroke some of us ended up with. But it was worth it. We’d recommend walkers to go to this coll even if the idea of confluences doesn’t move them, as it’s a terrific walk with fabulous views.