For mountaineers, Garganta del Diablo (Devil's Gorge) shelter is a jewel: built in the early 40's, is a 3-storey stone and wood building set next to the Garganta del Diablo creek, and where is a real plasure to indulge for a stay.
The basement has a reserve of firewood and some construction hardware, enough to make emergency repairs in winter; the floor level (main) is the heart of the shelter, fitted with a Southern-style wood burning stove (carried by hand by our mountaineering group in 2003), handmade tables and some bunk-type bedding, plus two toilets (those don't work, actually, but who cares...) that are usually frozen in winter.
The upper level has room for tumbling sleeping bags, and has also a nice view over the mountains.
Be careful when opening windows or doors, as the high winds can make them slapping violently.
A warm sleeping bag is essential in any season, as this is not an European-style shelter, but quite a rustic one. If you prefer, or if the inside of the shelter is filled with snow beyond a reasonable point, you may want to camp outside it, sheltered by the building itself: this can be done at the front entrance (where there's a good flat space, also protected by shrubs), or in a small plain behind the shelter, right outside the basement door; don't forget to strongly secure your tent -and to use a proper one- as the wind gets VERY strong in any season.
Leave your food in a tied-up plastic bag, and hang it from the hooks found over the main table.
After your stay, please leave the place as clean as you can, repair anything broken or requiring maintenance, and don't forget to register your name -and comments, if you want- in the shelter's logbook (my entries in it are signed as "Pajarito" ("Little bird")).
Off-season (without snow) it takes about 2 hours to get there, while in winter with snow, the hike is 3 to 4 hours, depending on skills, visibility, snow condition and physical fitness.
Stay is FREE for anybody.
The shelter is located next to the Devil's Gorge, in full view of the Nevados de Chillán twin volcanoes, and is used as a base for climbing those (it takes between 8 and 12 hours to go and get back).
The environs are outstanding, and the views over the Las Trancas valley are superb; moreover, on clear days is possible to see the perfect cone of the Antuco volcano and its companion, the Sierra Velluda (look to the southeast).
When there are mountaineering groups staying at the place, the kitchen/main level turns into a warm meeting point, with people talking, singing, cooking or simply hanging up there as they prepare to leave for the mountain, or commenting the day's activities and sharing stories.
Sleeping in the upper level is a real treat: just immerse yourself into your soft and warm sleeping bag, maybe listen to some music or read, and then make yourself comfortable, close your eyes and get asleep lulled by gale-force winds blowing outside in the freezing-cold night.
Photo: Garganta del Diablo at dusk.
Nikon FM2N, Nikkor 20 mm., f. 5,6, 1 minute, L1BC filter, Kodak Ektachrome Elite 100 Professional slide film.
See my oncoming Travelogue on this location for details and more pictures
There is a small hostel, run by the Club de Montaña de Concepcion, in the Aserradero ("sawmill") area, which charges US$ 20 a day per person (w/full board), for a much more quieter stay, in the middle of a forest and handy for the buses going directly to either Concepcion or Santiago.
Its coordinates are: S 36º54’55,6” /W 71º 27’27,5” alt. 1233
In the Shangri-la area, 10 kilometres before the Termas, there are many small -yet very nice- cabins and mountain hotels which charge from US$ 10 to US$ 50 per person, per day. Fully-equipped cabins for 6 are US$ 70 a day.
Much better -to my taste- and cost-effective are the cabins in Shangri-la, set on birch and pine forests, with direct access to streams, cascades and wilder places (even pumas -mountain lions- roam around sometimes when there is no human on their sight). A hidden lagoon behind the Shangri-la valley, near the top of a small peak, can be reached in less than 2 hours in summer (3 in snowy winters) without any special climbing gear.
Oak, lenga and nirre forests are a burst of color in autumn (which is off-season too, and cheaper)
I had not been there recently, as the price and location is not convenient for me, but it is the only hotel in the very ski area; all the others are located between 6 and 15 kilometres down the valley.
The Hotel has a full spa, swimming opool and 5-star amenities, including helipads, high-speed internet, etc.
The Hotel Termas has everything you may expect from a top 5-star resort, although I think is quite expensive. Mud therapies, trekking and heliski are just a part of what they offer.
Cinta Azul Buses from Concepción/Chillán go directly to its parking.
Private helicopters can fly into the helipads, which operate on MULTICOM 119.2
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