The Shonka Route
The Shonka Route is a continuous line of footsteps between the southern and northern continental extremes of South America. An interactive map is available at the bottom of the page.
Section 1: 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 journey was then reset at the southern extreme of South America in Cape Froward, Chile. That story is the incredible beginning to The Caminante!
Section 2: Cape Froward to Mendoza
I hiked north from the Straights of Magellan to the Torres del Paine National Park and traversed via the “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. A wet Chilean winter forced me to retreat and rejoin a previous line of travel passing through San Martin de Los Andes, Argentina. This defeat added two additional months of hiking and during the struggle I had broken my GPS. I then hiked along the dry eastern slopes of the Andes in Argentina without a GPS, as showed by the line of star map icons loaded from SPOT emergency beacon data.
Section 3: 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. This 2014-2015 climbing season was extremely successful. I returned to the southern shore of Lake Poopo after the climbing season and cut a direct cross-country line of travel across the high desert plains to south of Lake Titicaca, entering Peru at Desaguadero.