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Cerro Minillas was my first time mountain climbing. With an elevation of 2,467 meters (8,094 feet) and round trip taking 7-9 hours, its 17km route is a low technical climb and fun option for mountain enthusiasts of all levels. It is accessed in vehicle or via public transportation from Santiago, Chile. 

One of the reasons I came to Santiago, Chile was for these mountains. They are gorgeous, humongous, and numerous. Look in one direction and there’s more than you can count. Upon arrival to Santiago, I imagined infinite numbers of weekends getting to know as many peaks as my legs would let me.

Somehow, however, after a year and a half of having lived in this magnificent place, I had done my very fair share of outdoor activities, but I didn’t know as many mountains as I would have liked. It dawned on me one day that, just like at home, so often your priorities can get clouded by work, friends, routines, settling into a new country, learning a language, and other activities.

C’mon, doesn’t this just make you want to be up in there?!

If we don’t always have our goals present, we don’t even realize we aren’t doing those things that truly call your name… because we’ll still having a great time and we’ll still happy.

It’s a great reminder to keep a written list of your goals and things you want to do, to be able to take a break amidst all the fun in life, to see how you’re moving along. Dont’t get lost just because you’re having fun. So, with Cerro Minillas, I did just that. I got back on track with my goals, igniting my passion for climbing mountains.

Cerro Minillas in Stats

Altitude: 2,467 meters; 8,094 feet
Incline: 1,660 meters; 5,446 feet
Distance: 17 km; 10.56 miles
Time: 7-9 hours round trip
Difficulty: none

The Route to the Summit

Cerro Minillas, located in south of the Sierra de Ramon, is strenuous climb physically but technically quite easy. Our group was 34 in total and we began to make our way up, stopping about 1/2 hour in to stretch and shed some layers.

The first part was pretty dry, lots of bushes, cactus, and loose rocks. I was very glad to have purchased trekking poles because they helped a ton in maintaining balance over rocks as well as equalizing weight. For quite a while, we could see Santiago below the clouds and the thick layer of smog. Ugh, incredible to think we breathe that every single day!

That’s not all just pretty clouds, my friends.

As we continued the ascent, we started hitting sporadic snow piles. Each of the checkpoints, where we met back up as a group to have some snacks and drink some water, were well needed and helped me re-group energy. The climb was very tiring and gained elevation fast, but just a few minutes of rest here and there made me feel like new again.

A crisp breeze on a beautiful day

A big rock wall before the summit push

One of the last checkpoints was this place with a whole bunch of large rocks (pirque, in spanish). This was where people were supposed to wait if they couldn’t finish the rest of the climb. It was a great place for those who took that option. Beautiful scenery in every direction, a perfect location to sit, snack, lie down, take a nap, do yoga, or whatever form of tranquility one would like to practice.

I popped a few almonds, peanuts, and raisins, took a couple of sips of water, and continued. From here it was about 2 hours to the peak. Boy, the rock wall, it is a sharp incline the rest of the way. What I had thought was “steep” before, wasn’t even close!  The snow made it even more difficult and I sunk in with each step.

I. Was. Tired.

All of a sudden there was this rock fence that went almost all the way for the top. I was a little nervous because I didn’t know what time it was and knew that around 14:00 everyone was supposed to turn back around, no matter where they were. So, I looked ahead and picked up my pace. Eventually, the little “summit” flag was in sight and I couldn’t have been  happier!!! What an amazing feeling!!

The sight from the top was exceptional. Snow covered towering mountains. Gosh, this is definitely my favorite sight! I remembered why I loved the mountains and vowed to not let “life” get in my way anymore. I was here, living in Santiago, Chile, literally, in the middle of the Andes, and there would be nothing to keep me from them anymore.

It’s a balancing act over these rocks

I ate my sandwich and gave some to the trooper of a dog that made his way up with the group. A couple more people made it up and then, before heading down, we took a group picture of the 11 people that reached the peak.

The first part, the snow, was enjoyable. I tripped my fair share of times, allowing myself to slide down on my butt for some meters before stopping. About half way down, I started to feel the impact of the sharp incline on my knees and hips. Ouuuuch, it gave me a sincere appreciation for people who fight sore joints every day of their life. The whole trip down was relentless and I was one happy camper to reach the bottom.

The last push to the summit

The day couldn’t have been better and I was thrilled to have found this group. I met a bunch of easy-going, mountain-loving people like myself. And now I’m going out every chance I get!!  By the time I’m writing this, I’ve actually already done Cerro Purgatorio with the same group, Cerro Carbon with someone I met while doing Cerro Purgatorio, and in a couple of days I’m heading out to another.

For me, climbing Cerro Minillas was a good reminder that, once we decide to take control, one by one the details of this life become exactly what we want them to be.

(update June 2018: Since this time, I haven’t stopped! woo hoo) 

Finding your North: “optimal happiness”

When I was reflecting on how I’d come to South America with a determination to climb mountains, yet managed to get a year and a half in without doing so, something hit me.

There’s this thing that I call “optimal happiness.” Okay, yes, yes, I know. We will never achieve the total optimal happiness and I’m not trying to get perfect. However, this is something my friends hear me say frequently when analyzing situations. For me, I was happy during my first year and a half here. I enjoyed many outdoor adventures in Chile. I saw the mountains daily. I was making new friends, exercising, and adjusting to my new life 5000 miles away from home.

Finding my passion, finding my north <3

However, I eventually realized that while I was happy, I was missing some key elements to be really fulfilled, I needed to restructure a bit. Everyone has their own passions and I reminded myself that I could enjoy time with my friends in the passions we share, while still going out on my own and living the passions that are just mine.

In that moment, I decided I didn’t need to wait until people wanted to join in my interests with me. I could (and should) be the driver in creating the options. That same day I looked online and ended up finding a great group called Club Trekking Santiago. A whole bunch of people who love mountains, bingo. That said, I now had found partners and all I needed to do was continue being friendly haha.

And that is how I started climbing mountains. Just a simple thing of “getting started”.

How to get to to Cerro Minillas

Cerro Minillas was my first outing with my new Santiago trekking group. At 7 in the morning, I headed to the Santiago metro and met the group at Rojas de las Magallanes metro station in the La Florida neighborhood. It was a cold morning and as I exited the metro I saw a few people standing, chilly, with backpacks and trekking poles. Easy enough, I made the guess that this was my group. We divided into cars and took off, going all the way up the Rojas Magallanes road, which turns into Las Tinajas street. Eventually, we reached the last curve and arrived at the Pablo Apostal school.

If you don’t have a private car, take the metro until the Bellavista de La Florida metro station. From there, you need to walk to Walker Martínez street and take the E03 bus. You’ll stay on the bus until the last stop, where you’ll get out and walk just under 1 kilometer to the school.