Mount Ojos del Salado - Chile
Ojos Del Salado (6893m) is the highest mountain in Chile and also the highest active volcano in the world with venting fumeroles in the crater, south west of the summit. Not only do we climb this majestic mountain but pass through the iconic Atacama Desert with its other-worldly terrain, lakes and wildlife. This is a true expedition of discovery into the heart of the high South American Andes.
This expedition gives a great opportunity to climb high with little technical difficulty apart from the summit rock tower, which is 30m of v.diff climbing with a fixed rope in place, and a very gradual acclimatization programme which gives everyone a goodopportunity of reaching the summit. The volcano is located in a unique desert environment of intense, deep, green lagoons contrasting with the colour of the desert and snow covered volcanoes above . At these lagoons its possible to see big flocks of flamingoes, horny coots, many ducks,foxes and guanacos, who have all adapted to survive in this environment, with nighttime temperatures reaching – 25 c and winds over 130 kph. Our expedition will be self-contained and in the real spirit of adventure, driving our own 4x4 land cruisers through the Atacama Desert to reach the base camp of the volcano. We will prepare our own food and act self-sufficiently on the climb.
The expedition is lead by AA guides Steve Pinfield or Gavin Bate along with local Chilean guides.
As well as a veteran climber and mountaineer, Steve is an expert in Arctic survival having spent many years running Arctic and Antarctic expeditions and logistics bases.
Gavin, MD of Adventure Alternative is an International Mountain Leader on mountains and treks all around the world including Mount Everest.
Dates and Itinerary
Ojos del Salado has its climbing season from November through to February and this trip allows for a good acclimatisation period up to an altitude of 6873 metres, taking into account a broad average of abilities. The trip is 18 days in length, home to home.
3 days travel from home to Copiapo
4 days travel by jeep to Laguna Verde at 4400m
2 days acclimatising at Laguna Verde
6 days at the high camps (5250m and 5750m) and summit attempt
3 days back to Santiago and home
We have the experience, staff and logistics to tailor bespoke itineraries to your needs, in addition to our scheduled trips. Please contact us to discuss your exact needs in terms of itinerary and costs. We may also be able to provide suggested itnieraries to meet the requirements of individuals, families and groups.
|1, 2, 3||400m||Depart home and fly to Santiago and onto Copiapo, either by flight or by bus. Copiapo is a small mining town on the edge of the Atacama Desert. We use the hotel Montecatini or other similar hotels in the town, and take a rest day for the jetlag and journey, and for shopping.|
|4||3000m||2 hrs||The morning and early afternoon is spent packing gear in the cars and buying food and water. After lunch we drive for 2 hours /120 kms to Vallecito through the Atacama Desert. Vallecito is a small oasis at 3000m, situated at the base of an abandoned mine of semi –precious stones and its full of “colas de zorro “ one of the few food plants that goats and sheep eat. It’s a wonderful setting after driving through the desert with running water, and green grass. After setting up camp there is time to explore and begin our acclimatization programme.|
|5||3600m||2 hrs||After breakfast we drive further across the desert and over two passes over 4000m to reach lagoon Santa Rosa at 3600m. The lagoon is situated at the start of the Maricunga Salt Deposit and has over 40 species of birds including flamingoes, Andean Geese and mammals such as fox and guanacos, and a wide variety of bushes and plants of the high Andes.|
|6||4800m||After breakast we will trek to “siete hermanos“ at 4780m. It takes about 4 hours to the summit, initially on a good trail then steeper and more rocky ground. From the top stupendous views of our journey into the desert ahead and the lagoon below. In the evening dinner at our campsite next to the lagoon.|
|7||4400m||5 hrs||After breakfast we drive to Laguna Verde at 4400m. This lagoon is in a spectacular setting deep in Tres Cruces national park. Just before arriving we get our first view of Ojos Del Salado and an idea of what type of conditions we can expect on the volcano. We camp next to the lagoon where there are 42c pools for you to bathe in, surrounded by an intense green lagoon and surrounded by snow-clad volcanoes including Tres Cruces at 6753m.|
|8||4400m||all day||We take a trek with only daypacks around Laguna Verde to aid our acclimitisation and marvel at the mountain scenery above and the lake shores below.|
|9||5900m||all day||We will trek from the campsite to Mulus Muertes 5097m. Near to the summit there are wonderful views of the summit ridge of Ojos Del Salado and a vista of mountains and volcanoes stretching into Argentina.|
|10||5250m||5 hrs||Depart in the jeeps to the Refuge Atacama at 5250m. The vehicles will transport our baggage and supplies all the way but we will walk from 5000m with small packs to aid our acclimatization, and appreciate the desert terrain around us. The refuge is set on a wide open desert plain with the volcano ahead.It is often windy and temperatures down to -10c.|
|11||5500m||half day||Trek near to Refuge Atacama with light daypacks to further aid acclimitisation before returning to the refuge to rest and sleep.|
|12||5750m||5 hours||After breakfast we will carry food, water and summit equipment to refuge Tejos 5750m. Overnight camping at Refuge Atacama.|
|13||5750m||3 hours||A relaxing morning, then we depart to return to refuge Tejos with sleeping bags, mats and other essential equipment.|
|14, 15||If the weather is cooperative a summit attempt of Ojos Del Salado 6893m. It will take 8-9 hours to reach the summit. Temperatures may be down to -20c with strong winds. Initially on a good rocky footpath to 6000m, then gain height with a series of zig zags on snow, then a long rightwards traverse to the crater of the volcano. Circle the edge of the caldera to the far side and climb to the final ridge where there is a final 30 metres of easy rock climbing up into a couloir with a fixed rope in place. From the top, dramatic views of the high Atacama desert and multitudes of peaks and volcanoes of Chile and Argentina. After lots of photographs we will descend to refuge Tejos, pick up our equipment and continue down past refuge Atacama to camp overnight there or descend to Laguna Verde. An extra summit day is added here in case.|
|16||400m||After breakfast, a final bathe in the thermal pools at Laguna Verde, then drive through the desert on our return to Copiapo. Overnight in hotel and farewell dinner.|
|17||500m||Travel from Copiapo by bus or internal flight to Santiago.|
|18||17 hrs||Arrive home either this day or the next.|
Mount Ojos del Salado cost: £2,395.00
- Peak permits
- 4x4 vehicles and fuel
- Tents and cooking equipment
- Drinking water
- All meals on expedition (except off the mountains eg in Copiapo)
- All organization and preparation
- Hotel in Copiapo
- Guide and assistant guides
- Travel to and from Copiapo
- Hotel meals or meals in towns
- Excess baggage charges
- Visas or vaccinations
- Travel insurance
Not all about money
Our prices are competitive and good value, and we offer quality, service, security and an ethical stance on tourism. We are passionate about the trips that we run and place great importance on everyone getting the most out of the experience and our local staff earning a fair wage. Our itineraries are planned to include sufficient acclimatisation and rest to maximise your comfort, safety and chances of success.
Travel insurance will need to be purchased by each team member to cover all costs associated with medical, rescue, equipment, cancellations etc. This should be purchased as early as possible to ensure cancellation coverage in case of any issues arising that cause you to cancel your trip.
The policy must be checked for validity in the regions through which we will be travelling and also for trekking/mountaineering to 6893m. Many specialist insurance providers have common peaks named on the policy description so it is worth contacting the company to check which is the appropriate level of cover. You should bring with you a copy of your policy and ensure your tent mate knows where you keep it. It is also worth bringing a photocopy of your passport and to keep it separate to your own documents just in case you lose your passport.
Adventure Alternative is a member of AITO (Association of Independant Tour Operators), which ensures complete protection for your money.
Yuo will need to be physically fit and able to carry often heavy loads on rocky and difficult terrain. We suggest a six month training programme to prepare yourself, working particularly on cardio fitness, thigh and calf muscles, and plenty of hillwalking with a 15kg pack. It is not possible to train for altitude in Ireland or the United Kingdom, although some people coming from the Alps will clearly have an advantage.
This expedition is about the same level as Aconcagua and harder than 6000m peaks like Island Peak. This is predominantly because of the weather, the wind can be very cold and this is a very dry debilitating cold. Good equipment is essential, but also a strong physical and mental capacity.
This is not a marathon or an exercise in strength, nor is it an athletic challenge. We take a holistic view to climbing high mountains, with lots of fun and teamwork and opportunity to experience the scenery and the uniqueness of the location. Taken slowly, with good acclimatisation, a slow pace and plenty of water, food and sleep, this is a peak that is achievable for most fit people who have experience of self-management in the mountains.
Type of Terrain
This is not a technical peak and the climbing is never serious, nor does it require teams to be roped up. Ojos is an old volcano so it has the traditional easy gradient slopes up to the caldera, which are snow covered and exposed. The caldera itself is not difficult, just a walk, but just below the summit is a short section of steep rock with fixed lines in place. At most this is HVS, although the altitude will make you pant! It is not a long section, and there is one bridging move which has some air beneath your feet, but again it is not particularly hard. The final summit is oddly small and rocky, given such a huge and broad mountain.
For the rest of the trip expect desert scrub and arid conditions which are common to the Atacama Desert, the driest desert in the world except for Antarctica. There is almost no rainfall at all, so we need to bring all our own water into the camps from Copiapo. This means the vehicles carry everything for the whole trip. The acclimatisation walks, especially around Laguna Verde, are spectacular experiences, and you often come across petrified remains of wildlife. It is very hot and dry and dusty in some areas, but there are verdant areas of vegetation lower down. The stark landscape is beautiful, dotted with mulitiple volcanoes as far as the eye can see.
The distance to the mountain from Copiapo is not that great, a few hundred kilometres, but we take several days to get there and appreciate the change in scenery. From Laguna Verde, the mountain is just a few hours drive away on dirt roads. The camps themselves are not spaced far apart, a few hours at most.
We use several campsites on the way into the mountain, and we use Laguna Verde as the base camp because it is sheltered and has amazing hot springs near the edge of the lake. The high camp at Refuge Atacama is just an area of open ground where we use tents and occasionally other companies will have set up base camps for multiple groups through the season.
The final hut at Tejos is actually a converted container with room for about 6 beds and anybody else sleeping on the floor. It is quite basic with no cooking facilities and an outside toilet, but at least it is dry and secure inside from the wind.
Good teamwork, lots of knowledge about high level mountain trekking and altitude sickness, and an enjoyment of simply being in the mountains are all vital to your general well being. This is not just about physical ability which will require lots of visits to the gym; it is a mountaineering experience which requires fitness of the mind as well as the body. It is important to be efficient and conversant with cold weather survival skills, and all the basics of camping.
Putting a tent up in a strong cold wind is not easy and cooking a dehydrated meal for 3 people in a confined space can be difficult. Good teamwork is vital and it is the key that gets everyone to the top and back down again. Physical fitness in itself will give people confidence to climb the mountain, but the preparation should also involve reading about the mountain, and working on camping skills. Knowing what to put in rucksacks, and where to put stuff, is another vital skill, and issues on Ojos del Salado also include sunburn, cold injuries and tiredness for being high. This sort of knowledgeable reaction to being in these extreme conditions is a necessary part of your experience.
We have two booklets entitled ‘Health on a High Altitude Trek’ and ‘Extreme Climbing’, both of which should give you some excellent knowledge on what is happening to your body up high. This is something that you cannot train for at home and understandably there is sense of apprehension about what will happen. We believe that knowledge is good, so the more you know the less afraid you will be, and the more confidently you can climb the mountain.
Avoiding altitude sickness
You should be prepared for the possible onset of altitude sickness. High altitudes are stressful on the body, and lack of oxygen up high can produce debilitating effects, such as fatigue, headaches, shortness of breath, loss of appetite, nausea, and a drunken gait. In the more advanced stages altitude sickness can develop into an oedema in the head (HACE) or the lungs (HAPE) at which point descent is mandatory.
The highest statistical rate of failure at altitude goes to young fit males who mistake physical fitness for altitude fitness. Walk at a comfortable, slow pace and don’t carry too much weight. Make sure to hydrate yourself regularly, drinking 4 to 5 litres of water per day. Taking antioxidant vitamins (A, C, and E) also helps reduce the effects of high altitude.
Everybody acclimatises at a different rate of speed according to their metabolism (some people find they have a ‘ceiling’ after which they cannot ascend), but there are ways to alleviate the effects of going high. The key is to take it easy. Take a day or two to acclimatize to the elevation. Go at your own pace, and don’t take chances. Even if you’re in excellent shape, don’t be fooled. The lack of oxygen at such high altitudes will not discriminate. The ascent is spread over a period of days and we adopt the “climb-high, sleep-low” theory of ascent: go on a short hike to a higher elevation, and then return to the lower elevation at which we will sleep.
Adventure Alternative Support
The expedition will be led by an Adventure Alternative guide who will manage all the logistics on the ground.
- Lightweight duffel bag to carry all personal gear in vehicles.
- Medium sack 40-50 litres capacity.
- Small day sack
- Sleeping bag rated to -20c , best with full length zip so you can ventilate at lower altitudes.
- Thermarest or foam sleeping mat.
- Ice axe, crampons.( compatible with boots)
- Plastic or leather boots, for summit day.
- Approach shoes or lightweight trekking boots.
- Inner/outer gloves
- Fleece hat / balaclava/ sunhat
- Sunglasses, suncream
- Personal medication, and small first aid kit
- Toiletries, small towel
- Base layer, top and bottom
- Thick fleece jacket polartec 300
- Medium polartec, fleece long pants
- Windproofs, top/bottom
- Lightweight down jacket
- Adjustable trekking poles
- Water bottle, pee bottle
- Shorts, t-shirts, lightweight clothing for warm climate.
Additional Kit Info
A variety of clothing will be necessary for your trip. You will need clothing for dining in restaurants, the heat of Mendoza and lower altitudes, and to protect you from the colder temperatures whilst on the mountain. This list is designed to help you choose the right gear for the demands of this trek.The emphasis on equipment necessary for mountain travel follows two simple rules: Lightweight and functional. The items you choose to take should be lightweight, dependable and adaptable to a variety of weather conditions. When making the final decision as to what goes into your pack, remember that it’s a fine science of taking just enough clothes and accessories to do the job, whilst not over burdening yourself with items you probably will not use.
Airlines are very strict on the weight limitations, especially between Santiago - Copiapo and Santiago – Mendoza. Think very carefully about your clothing and equipment and try to stay close to 20kg plus carry on.
Links to Retailers
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- Professional guides and excellent staff.
- Expert advice prior to the trip.
- Good time for acclimatisation.
- Experience since 2000 running trips on Aconcagua.
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- Ethical company with strong values towards sustainable tourism.
- We guide all the Seven Summits and can offer practical advice on all of them, ensuring that you get to Live the Dream.