I finally made it to “Las Sogas (the ropes)”

By Francis Aurich

Andean bear in the dry forest of Batangrande, Peru. Photo: Spectacled Bear Conservation Society

The general focus of my research project is the study of the Andean bear, also known as the spectacled bear, in Northern Peru. I am currently using some of the Spectacled Bear Conservation Society (SBC) field data. Over the past 10 years, SBC has been monitoring the population of bears that inhabit the dry forest of Peru.  In late April I went to Peru – the purpose of the trip was to discuss my potential research questions while we visited part of the study area. Cole Burton joined our team in Peru and we were able to show him this incredible ecosystem. I would like to share a little bit more about one of the main hikes of our trip.

Entrance of the SBC’s conservation center located in Batangrande.

“Las Sogas” is one of the most well-known camp sites that SBC has within their study area. I grew up in this area and have been working/ volunteering with SBC for the past 8 years, but have never been in this spot – can you guess why? Honestly, I could not find an answer until I went there.

On the day we left the Conservation center (SBC’s base) to go to Las Sogas we started early.  The team was led by Robyn and included Renzo, Jose, Isai, Ian, Cole and me. We left the Conservation Center around 7 am and drove for about 15 minutes. Once we reached the end of the road I knew the real journey was about to start as four horses were waiting to help us with the first flat part. At 8:30 in the morning the sun was already hot and warning us that a very hot day was coming.

Getting ready to start the journey. Photo: Cole Burton

We all carried a big backpack mostly with water – the most difficult resource to find in the area. I must admit that my “heavy backpack” was not heavy at all if compared to the ones that Jose and Isa were carrying which weighed at least 40 pounds. Can you imagine walking up a steep incline for 10 hours in 35 degree heat with almost no shade and a heavy backpack? It was very challenging!! I finally understood why the team does not like to be responsible for taking many people to this area.

We stopped for lunch when we were only half way to our destination – it was very hot and my feet were burning. I remember asking Cole how he was doing, and his answer was “I am feeling good even though we are hiking in an oven!”. It was a good description of how hot the hike was (maybe not as hot as an oven but close enough).

After almost 10 hours of hiking we finally reached the top of the mountain. I was really excited to finally be in front of the rock wall that I have previously only seen in photos or videos. Despite the challenges of the hike, I was happy to be there and the let the breeze blow on my face as I enjoyed this great moment. We camped for two nights, checking some of SBC’s nearby camera trap stations that were strategically located in small water holes.

View of the mountain from our campsite.

Isai Sanchez watching the village located on the other side of the mountain.

Coming back from checking two cameras trap located in a small waterhole.


The last night of the trip we planned the way back to the Conservation Center.  Jose and Robyn concluded that it might take 5 to 6 hours to get to the road (on the other side of the mountain).  We started early and I was a bit nervous because my downhill skills are very poor.  This was the day I was going to discover why this place was called “the ropes”. Long ropes were hanging down in some of the most dangerous spots, as walking down a very steep mountain would be much harder without ropes due to loose rocks. In some places, I could only slide down but Jose and Isa, my friends and coworkers, took care of me the whole time. This was probably because if they didn’t do it, it could take another 10 hours to walk down 😊 or if I was injured they would have to carry me down (that was what they kept telling me during the way down). Thanks Jose and Isa, my life was literally in your hands! (They were holding my hand all the time 😊.) I think some of us really wished to have a helicopter to take us down. I imagine Cole missed the helicopter from his project in Alberta, right Cole?

Anyways, we had a wonderful visit to the dry forest of Northern Peru, I enjoyed such a crazy but beautiful adventure. This trip has made my passion to save the Andean bears and the dry forest stronger!!! Thank you Spectacled Bear Conservation Society, for all the work you have been doing to save the bears and the dry forest, and thank you for hosting our visit.

The top of the mountain behind us – were we came from. Happy faces, happy end of the hike.