Mention that you’ve climbed Cerro Leonera to some of the more dedicated hikers around Santiago and get ready for a mix of jealousy and "weeena"s. Why does it get such praise? Along the trail you’ll pass colorful Cerro Pintor, cross a desolate plain, and test your resolve; this is one demanding mountain.
From the plain to the east at sunset
Follow the same path that takes you to El Pintor. Continue towards the North where you may see El Plomo dominating the horizon with its brilliant glacier. Leonera juts out to the left. You will see a vast plain, with pircas (rocks in an oval, windbreakers), some hugging the ledges, others strewn about randomly. Claim whichever suits you best. It should take approximately 6 hours to reach this point. Take heart in knowing that you won't need to carry much of your equipment any further.
Go to sleep early and spend the night resting your bones and nursing away the altitude sickness on this plain exposed to spontaneous changes – think broiling summer and midwinter snowstorms in a span of 30 minutes - at over 4000 meters.
You’ll need to head out with the stars still illuminating your way if you want any chance of reaching the summit in time to descend on the same day. With any luck, the weather and winds won’t throw you off the ridiculously steep southern face, and you should be at the summit in about 9 hours. Still interested? Weeena!
Having been personally defeated by this mountain, it’s hard to muster up any beautiful descriptions of it. My memories of it go something like this: "this sucks this sucks I’m hungry this sucks my head sucks ow". So, take note, daring reader, and take this hill seriously. Do eat properly before heading for the summit. Don’t stay up all night taking pictures of the stars that are too blurry to see anyway. Do potentially give yourself three days to do this so that you can enjoy the stupefying views offered during sunset and sunrise. Don’t go by yourself – it’s dangerous and besides, it’s better to have someone with whom to reminisce about this later.
Leonera peeks through the clouds
An illness caused by ascending to high altitudes where there is less oxygen, this nauseating and exhausting condition might end up being the would-be-climbers downfall. At least three of our group suffered in some form from this, one to the point of vomiting, two to the point of having to turn back. A feeling of hopelessness weighs down your every thought. It enveloped me shortly after reaching the high plain where we'd be sleeping, resembling a hangover. My movements got slower, I steered away from conversations, and my appetite disappeared. The only real cure for altitude sickness is to descend. Those who suffer from it should not hike alone, take caution, and turn around if symptoms continue to worsen. For more information on altitude sickness, click here.
The trail starts exactly where the trail for Cerro Pintor does. The best way to get there is by driving to La Parva, but other options exist:
Avda. Apoquindo 4900. Las Condes, Santiago - Chile.
+56 2 2246 0156 | +56 2 2246 0404
Avda. Las Condes 9143, Las Condes, Santiago - Chile.
2294532 - 2023832
It is recommended that you take the andarivel (ski lift) to the top of the slopes, as this will cut out a rather boring 2 hours. Cost is approximately CP 10,000 (USD $15.50) for a two-way lift ticket.
The weather is constantly changing, so give yourself a heads up by checking this great website for all the details you'll need.
More information,including alternate routes, available at Andes Handbook.