San Lorenzo Massif

“We learned to make due with what we had. There were no stores to depend on.”

03-06/03/2014 – San Lorenzo, Aysén

San Lorenzo is a storied and imposing massif, scarily glaciated and bombastic in its raw beauty. While extremely remote to the layperson, it is a must for the mountaineering circuit. NOLS Patagonia makes regular stops there.

Cochrane, the closest town, is a place I would have otherwise avoided. Although it’s a necessary fuel stop on the Carretera Austral, it’s got the feel of an overgrown cow town – the good, the bad, and the ugly?  Even in high tourist season, people were scarce in the streets. I was expecting tumbleweeds to barrel by at any moment. There was a notably creepy, right-wingish energy about the place.

After a dusty ascent to Fundo San Lorenzo from Fundo Las Delicias, we made our way onto Lucy Goméz and Luis Soto’s land. We camped there, and they treated us like kings.

While throughout most of our stay Luis was off guiding horseback tours, Lucy was incredible. Our first interaction with Lucy summed her up nicely – she wandered over to greet us in a blood spattered apron, wiping a long knife on her pants –  she had just been cleaning a recently slaughtered lamb.

Physically paradoxical to her gruesome task, Lucy cut a slim figure and was quite attractive. She had strong hands and tan, weathered skin. While shy at first, she soon shared fascinating anecdotes and her hard-earned opinions.

An epic, homemade dinner of roast Patagonian lamb, potatoes, soup, salad, and a much needed tea opened the door to further conversation. The wood stove was in full force.

Lucy and Luis’ families had been in that area for generations; in fact, they were some of the first pioneers to settle the Chacabuco Valley (which is now Parque Patagonia). Lucy explained to us the logistics of living such a remote life. Of traveling to Cochrane for much needed supplies on horseback. Three days’ ride through the snow, with babies in tow.

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She talked of shearing through dense native forest to open new roads, which was backbreaking work, of years during the 1980’s where the price of wool was so low that it cost more to travel to Cochrane to sell the wool than it did to just to stay home and wait for the price to increase.

“At least there were always rabbits to eat.” she mused at one point. “We learned to make due with what we had. There were no stores to depend on.”

Inevitably, the controversial figure of Douglas Tompkins came up. Lucy was NOT fond of the man. She said he was anti-cattle and arrogant.

“Who is Tompkins to tell us how to live? We broke through wood and stone just to survive. The pumas and foxes kill our animals, in turn, destroying our livelihood,” she told us.

She said that multiple times, Tompkins’ people (lawyers) had stopped by her house to try and buy her land. Tompkins desperately wanted to connect his land on the Argentine side with the Gomez/Sotos’ in order to create another massive national park. Even Kris Tompkins came by once. Lucy wouldn’t budge. She essentially said she would never sell her land to Tompkins.

Often conservation is touted as the best and only answer, so it was illuminating to hear the other side of the story. How gringo-fueled conservation – breaking down fences, re-introducing predators – can affect the local scraping-to-make-ends-meet population of ranchers and farmers.

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Of course, if human presence hadn’t nearly exterminated pumas in the first place, then they wouldn’t need to be re-introduced. A vicious cycle indeed.

Further reading on San Lorenzo (in Spanish).

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  1. […] Luis Soto and Lucy Gomez‘s home, one can hike up a relatively easy path for a few hours and emerge, suddenly, at […]



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  • We Said Go Travel

    WSGT Travel Writer

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