Free Rock Climbing Guide for Piedra Parada, Argentina

Why Come to Piedra Parada

Piedra Parada is named after the huge Standing Rock close to the entrance of Butreria Canyon, a 5km canyon full of climbing routes and archaeology sites.  Located a few hours’ drive from the nearest town of Esquel in the Chubut region of Argentinian Patagonia, this is a remote climbing area but well worth the effort.

There are over 300 routes on walls over 60m high and with ongoing bolting and unlimited potential for new routes there will probably be more by the time you read this. The majority of the routes are along the high canyon walls offering a mix of sport, trad and a wide variety of multi pitch routes.

The high canyon walls result in many routes being 30+ meters and allow you to switch sides to escape the heat and climb in the shade as the sun passes over the canyon.

A climbing dirt bag’s paradise due to the free camping next to the river, situated only 10 minutes’ walk from the crag.

When to Go to Piedra Parada

It is possible to climb all year around but the temperature varies from season to season so time your visit according to your preferred climate.

Summer (December to February) is quite hot with the temperature being around 20-25 Degrees Celsius coinciding with the high season. Generally January to April will be the busiest time of year and easiest to find a partner. 

Autumn and spring, daytime temperatures are around 10-20 Degrees Celsius and Winter (June to August) are 5-10 degrees with shorter daylight hours.  

Whatever time of year you visit, do remember that Piedra Parada  is located in the desert so the temperature drops at night. You’ll notice in the canyon that there are crags that receive very little sunshine and are significantly colder than expected.

Piedra parada entrance

Piedra Parada entrance

How to Get to Piedra Parada

To get to Piedra Parada you have to go via Esquel. The main connecting hub in the North is Bariloche which has an airport and good road connections to the rest of the Argentina. From the South it is possible to follow Route 40. Esquel also has the closest airport.

From Esquel to Piedra Parada

Bus

The bus from Esquel to Piedra Parada leaves twice a week on Tuesday (Martes in Spanish) and Thursday (Jueves in Spanish) at 9.40am from the Terminal de Omnibus  (GPS coordinates -42.906347,-71.313387).

Buy a ticket towards Paso del Sapo (the final destination) and inform the seller, that you want to go to Piedra Parada. We booked with Transporte Jacobsen and paid $225 AR.

The journey will take around three hours and you can ask the driver to drop you off at Piedra Parada.  Its also marked on the map below with a purple marker. Your luggage will get extremely dusty if stored in the luggage compartment of the bus.

After reaching Paso del Sapo the bus makes the return journey to Esquel, passing Piedra Parada at around 2.30pm. So take into consideration that the returning to Esquel is only twice a week as well.

One alternative is to get the daily bus to the town of Gualjaina and then hitch hike to Piedrar Parada. This is best done in the opposite direction as you will probably going to Piedra Parada with a lot of heavy food and gear.

Car

We recommend you take the GPS coordinates (-42.655641,-70.103592) and use the app Maps.ME for offline GPS navigation. Otherwise from Bariloche drive South on Route 40 through El Bolson and Leleque and take the exit East to Gualjaina (HWY 12). Once in Gualjaina ask somebody for directions to Piedra Parada as its difficult to find the correct exit. When you find the correct exit there is only one road to Piedra Parada.

If you hire a car it is often more difficult and expensive to get an automatic.

Hitch Hiking

Hitch hiking is common and there are usually at least a couple of cars an hour passing Piedra Parada. Be prepared for long waiting times, in Patagonia we were often waiting hours for a ride. Best to carry a tent just in case you get dropped off somewhere without accommodation.

Taxi

Hiring a taxi will cost around $900 AR or $240 USD. There is an information centre in town where you can get help organising one.

Camp La Buitrera / Moncada

Camp La Buitrera / Moncada

Accommodation in Piedra Parada

You will need a tent or campervan as there is no onsite hostel.

There are three options for camping:

  • There is a free camp site on the left side of the road before you cross the Chubut River (-42.655641,-70.103592). It is very beautiful, with a good vibe, nice fire places and the ice cold river to wash yourself in. There is however no running water, power, toilet, shower or official cooking facilities here. But you can wash in the river and filter the river water to drink. The camp is quite established with numerous fire pits and even a handmade mud oven for cooking. Wood and dry dung is plentiful for cooking. Keep your food in your tent or in the trees out of reach of the cows that frequent the camp looking for food. The camp is marked with a red dot in above map.
  • Camping Moncada (La Buitrera) aka Mario’s Camp is past the canyon on the other side of the river. Mario’s offers more comfort with drinking water on tap, bathrooms, tables and benches and hot showers every second day. A slightly shorter approach to the crag and a small shop onsite. It costs around 40 AR per person per night. Camping Moncada is marked with a blue dot in above map.
  • A larger camp with a bigger shop and facilities is 5km further past the entrance to the canyon. It’s quite far so only practical if you have a vehicle. (-42.642947, -70.145633) and it is marked with a brown dot in above map.

There is no camping inside the canyon at the crag as it is National Park territory. A ranger is located at the entrance to the canyon to keep an eye on things.

If you are looking for accommodation in Esquel there is a hostel almost directly opposite the bus station which is reasonably priced and has dorms. It’s super convenient when you’re going to the station with 2 weeks’ worth of food.  

Piedra Parada Map

Piedra Parada Map

Purple - Bus Drop Off Point (-42.66081, -70.107778)

Red - Free Camping (-42.655641,-70.103592)

Blue - Camping Moncada

Brown - Larger Paid Camp (-42.642947, -70.145633)

Yellow - School with WiFi (-42.663329, -70.151751)

How Good is the Climbing at Piedra Parada?

There are 27 developed crags in Butreria canyon with 300+ routes. The majority of those routes are bolted with a range from 5.10+ to 5.14.

The rock is the remains of a large stratovolcano so volcanic tuff with pockets, edges, jugs and small cracks. The sheer size and beauty of the canyon will take your breath away and it’s easy to see the potential for so many more lines.

Rock fall is common and many of the trad routes, especially the multi pitches are chossy so take the necessary precautions. Many of the multi pitches are around 6 pitches with an amazing view of the area at the top.

Generally the sport routes are of excellent quality with enough for beginners as well as stronger climbers.  

Are the Bolts Safe?

The majority of the bolts were installed during the Petzl Roctrip of 2012. The bolts we saw were all in good condition. Most routes are well protected with a few high first bolts, although not as high as we’ve seen in Europe. Most anchors are the standard two bolt, sometimes with a chain. Due to the remote location of Piedra Parada there isn’t really a ‘local’ community to maintain the bolts so be vigilant. 

Some of the multipitch trad routes have the odd peg or bolt but don’t count on it.

Entrance to Butreria Canyon

Entrance to Butreria Canyon

Chalk, Gear & Guides

There is a free pdf containing the routes set by the Petz Roc Trip in 2012 available here. This will be sufficient, if you are just passing through for a week’s climbing session.

The updated guide book can be bought in the outdoor shops in Esquel  just remember they are closed on Sundays. We recommend buying the book if you stay longer than one week, as the free Petzl Pdf is quite outdated and only shows a fraction of the available routes.

Mario at the Moncada Camp has a guidebook which you can look at.

We recommend helmets, due to the amount of reported rock fall.

Due to the length of the routes you should bring a 70m or longer rope and belay glasses if you have them. Sometimes you can get away with a 60m + stretch but there will be routes that aren’t possible. 16 quick draws with a few extendables and your usual anchor cleaning gear should be adequate for the sports route.

For the trad routes, doubles of cams from small TCUs to #3 Camelots and a set of nuts. Larger cams if you want to climb the chossy wide cracks.

Two ropes for rapping is advisable if you’re doing a lot of multipitching.

You can buy chalk and a limited selection of climbing gear in Esquel.

Apart from climbing gear, bring your full camping and cooking gear. If you stay at the free camp site, a solar charger and wilderness wash for the environment. Please be conscious of the environment and try not to add soap or chemicals to the river.

There are no certified climbing guides onsite but guided climbing trips are available if booked in advance online from independent guiding companies.

Power & Wifi

The two paid campsites have power, but neither have WiFi. We aren’t sure of the availability of power for charging for campers at the campsites.

The ‘nearby’ school allows visitors to use their WiFi on weekdays, from 2pm - 5pm. It may be available outside of these hours but often they need it for the lessons so please respect this. There is no password for the WIFI and the speed is what you would expect for the location. The WIFI is best in the outside foyer (as you aren’t allowed inside) and there is one plug socket for charging.

There is a tap at the school which we were told was for drinking water. However when we used it, it contained a lot of algae so just check it before drinking.

The school is about an hours walk from the free campsite. Keep walking back towards Esquel down the main road  and take the first left that winds up the hill. After passing a few buildings the road will stop and you’ll have to scramble through a small canyon which exits directly into the school playground.

There is a longer route along the main road that does not involve scrambling.

Cell phone reception is patchy at best in the area due to the remote location.

The area lends itself to solar panels due to the large amount of sunshine it receives. 

School of WiFi

School of WiFi

Food & Water

If you are at the paid camps then there is free drinking water. If you are staying in the free camping then if you buy something from the camp shop then they allow you to fill up your containers with drinking water (bring large containers). Alternatively you can filter or boil the river water or the camp shops also sell bottled water.

Some people do drink the river water directly, however this location is very far from its source and will have passed many towns and farms and that’s not including the livestock in the immediate vicinity. One climber, who is a biologist mentioned that the algae in the river looks very similar to the algae in the New Zealand rivers, where they specifically warn against drinking the water.

For food we highly recommend, you stock up in Esquel and carry the food to the camp. The big supermarkets, like Todo on the corner of Avenida Alvear and Avenida Fontana are open 7 days a week with reduced opening hours on Sunday. They usually provide boxes which is perfect for carrying the food to the crag.

If you run out of anything, you will find a limited selection of food at the Camping Moncada. You can order meat, eggs, tostadas or fresh bread at the Moncado shop to pick up the next day.

The larger camp, 5km down the road has a more comprehensive stock and offers a good selection of local farm products including chesese, meat, potatoes and the usual products of a small super market. Both shops, especially the smaller one, can be closed at times. More so if there are not many people. Therefore, it’s best not to just rely on the shop.

If you’re lucky somebody will be walking around the camp selling freshly baked bread as there are mud ovens in the free camp site.

You will need your own cooking gear including stove. Butane gas and white spirit can be bought in Esquel or camp shop, otherwise there is adequate dry dung or wood to build fires to cook over.

As mentioned in the free camping keep food out of reach of the cows.

Finally if you can get a ride to Gualjaina there is a main street with a few stores including a grocery store with vegetables, dairy and tinned foods.

Everything Else You Need to Know

  • Like anywhere in South America you will have a much better time, if you talk Spanish.
  • We visited in March and there were a few solo climbers who were looking for partners but we would recommend coming with your own partner. Again its easier to find a partner if you talk Spanish.
  • Shops and services will close daily for siesta.
  • Many climbers won’t go climbing until after midday when more of the crags are in the shade.
  • Do remember that Piedra Parada is literally in the middle of nowhere, with patchy phone reception at best. There is no rescue service in the area and 3 hours drive from the nearest hospital. So do be that extra bit cautious because nobody is coming to rescue you.
  • Check out this link for a bit on how the climbers, the park and Petzl worked together. 

What to Do on Rest Days

There isn’t much to do on rest days. The obvious things are walking through the canyon, relaxing in the river or visiting the school for WiFi. There are some archaeological sites in the canyon or maybe ask the Park Ranger for more ideas.

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