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Gran Fondo Portillo - Chile

Gran Fondo Portillo: A mountain stage you should do if you visit Chile and you love cycling

Portillo is one of the main ski centers of Chile and it is located in the middle of Andes Mountains at 2.680 masl, 147 kms from Santiago, capital of Chile. 

The road to Portillo, (which is also the International Highway between Santiago and Mendoza, Argentina) is worldwide known because of a short section called “Los Caracoles” (the snails). Los Caracoles is a series of hard switchbacks on an extremely steep incline which includes 29 hairpin turns and it is considered, according to a Red bull article, one of the world’s hardest cycling climbs with gradients up to 14%. 

When I started to ride, it would have been impossible to imagine myself climbing these road, however after I did it I only want to come back. This climb is one of the historic cycling routes in Chile and when the stage road race called “Vuelta Chile” used to be made “Los Caracoles” was considered as the Queen Stage because of its high exigency. 

photo by Luis Barra

As this is an international road, for cyclists its main hazards are the cargo trucks, cars and tourist buses that travel through the road on a daily basis. For safety reasons as the road was closed, first time I did the climb was as part of race called “Gran Fondo Portillo” which I will repeat on April this year.  85kms total starting from “Enjoy Santiago”, a casino outside the Capital up to the Portillo Hotel with a total elevation gain of 2.400 mts, fun and tough just as I like. 

The view in the summit is amazing, a calm scenery surrounded by mountains. The view I love the most is the Inca Lagoon just behind the Portillo Hotel. 


Characteristics:

Distance to the top = 85 kms Max Altitude = 2.880 masl (Portillo Hotel) Elevation = 2400 mts Max Gradient: 14%

Location:

* Start point in Enjoy Santiago, casino and hotel located in Rinconada de los Andes, Valparaiso Region, Chile. 

* Finish point in Portillo Hotel, you can ride also 5km more to a Chilean immigration point and then another 2km to the start of an old road which leads to the statue of Christ the Redeemer up to 3.800 masl. 

To consider:

* It is a mountain road, with high difficulty due to the altitude and the distance.

* Hydration: There is no place to refill your bottle so it is ideal you go with a group and support vehicle.

* Food: You have to consider a time of 4 to 6 hours only to go. So don’t forget to carry on enough food.

* Sun Block.

* Wind stopper: I don’t recommend to go down this road because of the traffic but don’t forget we will be in the Andes Mountains, and the weather is different over there.

* Cash: Just in case of some emergency or some stop in the Andes city. 

* Helmet: Always!

Summary:

It is crazy to suffer as hell and want to come back to the same place, but I think that is part of every cyclist in the world. I loved the journey up to the top of Portillo, and no doubt I will do it once and again and every year if possible. There is a lot of mountains still missing to climb, but I can say I already survived one of the world’s toughest climb. 
See you in the road.