One of the most exciting adventures of the Chelenko Area awaits you in Mallín Grande, a small agricultural community located along the southwest shore of General Carrera Lake. This two-day autumn horse trek follows gaucho trails between the summer and winter pastures of Cerro Tronador. The intensity of colors will leave you mesmerized and full of the energy you’ll need to enjoy a one-of-a-kind experience that you’ll never forget. The Cerro Tronador sector is full of thick ñirre and lenga forests and when they change their colors, during the last weeks of April and the first weeks of May, they inundate the hills with vivid reds, oranges and yellows. The contrast of their colors with the evergreen coigües, the whites of the snow-capped mountains and the turquoise hues of General Carrera Lake result in a landscape that is almost too beautiful to believe.
There are several regional guides who work in the area and each has their own version of the route, based on their favorite places to see. Here we share the version offered by Don Pascual Diaz, owner of Turismo Kalem of Puerto Guadal, a regional company with more than 15 years of experience with the leadership of guided trekking expeditions in the sectors of the Leones and Calluqueo Glaciers and Mount San Lorenzo.
Pascual’s two-day horse trek begins from his family’s farm in Mallín Grande and travels through the foothills of Cerro Tronador to the sector known as Las Horquetas.
If you don’t have previous experience in horseback riding, that’s okay, because the trail isn’t difficult and follows a pace that anyone in good physical condition can handle without problems. For most of the route, your horse will be moving at a walk, because it’s hard work to climb these mountains with riders on their backs and they need to pace themselves to conserve their energy and strength! Your guide, Pascual, will provide you with a horse suited to your level of experience and the corresponding tack (reins, saddles, saddle pads, ponchos, saddle bags, etc.). You’ll also travel with a “pilchero” in your group, which is a conditioned pack horse capable of handling a heavier load. The pack horses are necessary since you’ll be bringing everything you need to spend the night in the mountains (of course, he or she would appreciate it greatly if you pack only the essentials). Pascual will also offer you the opportunity to try out the gaucho fashion with a pair of traditional “pierneras”, which are full-length chaps made of goat-hide full that will keep you warm and dry.
On the first day you’ll ride along a path that winds up the mountain through the forest for around three hours. During the 17 kilometer ride, you’ll pass streams and encounter some sections with dead tree logs, remnants from the fires that ripped through this sector years ago, before finally arriving to an expansive area of high valley pastures, the summer grazing lands for the cattle of the Díaz - Georgia farm. Here, you’ll find a simple dwelling that will serve as refuge for the night, a spectacular high Andean camp where you can enjoy a good meal and a few rounds of yerba mate. Camping in a high mountain post is a special experience; here there are no roads or traffic, other than an occasional gaucho passing by on his horse, in search of a little conversation and a warm mate, before continuing up the trail. Relax, enjoy the scenery, and relish the gaucho traditions!
After a hearty breakfast, you’ll begin the descent that encompasses day two of this adventure. This is the best day to capture prize-winning photos, as you’ll be able to see the valleys spreading out below you and even a special view of General Carrera Lake that allows you to capture almost its entire length. About half-way, you’ll take a break at another gaucho outpost, this time located in the sector where the gauchos will be delivering their animals to spend the winter months. After resting awhile and capturing a few more photos of the scenery, you’ll remount your horses and continue to the main farmhouse in Mallín Grande, proud and satisfied with your time on horseback in this unique trip, full of colors and gaucho culture.