The Shonka Route is a continuous line of footsteps between the southern and northern continental extremes of South America. An interactive Google map is available at the bottom of the page.

Section I (Panama): I began hiking south from the Panama Canal and attempted to cross the Darien Gap with plans to enter the Andes in Colombia along the Cordillera Occidental. Anti-guerrilla forces on the Panama-Colombia border detained and ejected me from the region. The Shonka Route was then reset at the southern extreme of South America in Cape Froward, Chile.

Section II (Cape Froward to Mendoza): From Cape Froward on the Straights of Magellan I hiked north to the Torres del Paine National Park and traversed via the traditional “W” loop. I then crossed into Argentina, negotiated part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Fields while hiking north to El Chalten, and finally crossed back over to Chile, north and east of Lake San Martin. Here I followed hiking trails and the Carretera Austral north until Palena, Chile, where I crossed back over to Argentina just south of Esquel. I then paused the hike for the first of three climbing seasons to attempt the highest peaks in South America without support. After the climbing season, I returned to south of Esquel and hiked north along the Huella Andina in Argentina until Volcan Lanin, where I crossed into Chile and managed to reach just south of Volcan Lonquimay. A wet Chilean winter with high avalanche danger forced me to retreat and rejoin the Shonka Route as it passed through San Martin de Los Andes, Argentina. This backtrack added two additional months of hiking and during the struggle I had broken the GPS. I then hiked along the dry eastern slopes of the Andes in Argentina waiting on a replacement GPS, shown by the line of star icons loaded from SPOT emergency beacon data.
Section III (Northern Argentina & Bolivia): The dry winter in Argentina slowly moved toward spring as I passed around Mendoza via vineyard roads and caught the beginning of the Incan Road, just north of Uspallata. I then followed dirt tracks, train tracks, hiking trails, animal paths and paved road north to the Bolivian border. During this time I walked across the entire Argentinian Altiplano, a beautiful, desolate region averaging 12,300′ in elevation, and also crossed three major salt flats, including the Salar de Hombre Muerto. I entered Bolivia at La Quiaca and continued along train tracks and dirt roads until the southern shores of Lake Poopo. Here I paused the hike again for a second climbing season starting with Tupungatito and Tupungato east of Santiago de Chile. After the climbing season I returned to the southern shore of Lake Poopo and cut a direct cross-country line of travel across the high desert plains to south of Lake Titicaca, crossing into Peru at Desaguadero.
Section IV (Peru): UNESCO has designated the Qhapaq Ñan or Incan Road in Peru as a World Heritage Site. I was able to obtain GPS tracks for the entire length of the country. This route took me through incredible backcountry and remote villages, along the same paths the ancient Incas walked. The modern Peruvians still use these same trails to this day! The Qhapaq Ñan led directly to Machu Picchu and before exploring the ruins I began a third climbing season in the mountains outside of Arequipa, Peru, and in the isolated Apolobamba range on the border of Peru and Bolivia. Upon returning to Aguas Calientes at the base of Machu Picchu, I explored the ruins, then continued along the Incan Road to the Ecuadorian Border.
Section V (Ecuador & Colombia): I crossed into Ecuador in the jungle at La Balza and made my way up to the Colombian border using train tracks, dirt roads, hiking trails, and some road walking. I also attempted a cross-country route from the Cotapaxi region north to Colombia. The lower elevations from Cotapaxi north meant that instead of rock and ice, these were jungled hills and steep muddy slopes. That forced me to retreat and retrace my steps. Backtracking was a daily occurrence and so it is difficult to know the total distance the Shonka Route covers, although mapping software indicates it is in excess of 8,000 miles. I crossed into Colombia at La Hormiga and used a road walking route to avoid guerilla conflict areas and large cities. I finished the Shonka Route at the northern extreme of South America on Punta Gallinas, Colombia, with nothing ahead but the blue waters of the Caribbean Sea.

Hotels, hiking & mountaineering equipment, stove fuel, and suitable hiking rations are not readily available in many of the remote villages along the Shonka Route. In a number of these villages I took public transport or hitchhiked to larger cities in order to rest and resupply. That approach provided an incredible cultural immersion; from pueblos in the High Andes to richly diverse capital cities, I saw it all.

*Raw GPS files and tracks are available upon request.

THE SHONKA ROUTE