Overview

Mount Ojos del Salado

At a height of 6893m, Mount Ojos del Salado is the highest mountain in Chile and also the highest active volcano in the world.

With it's venting fumeroles in the crater, just south west of the summit this is a climb like no other. Not only do we climb this majestic mountain but we also 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 good opportunity 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 flamingos, 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.

DISTANCE COVERED

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.

CAMPS USED

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.

Itinerary

Mount Ojos del Salado itinerary

  • Arrival (day 1)
  • 4x4 travel and acclimatisation walks in the Atacama (days 2-5)
  • All day treks in the high mountains (days 6-7)
  • 4x4 to Ojos Base Camp, acclimatisation and main peak climb (days 8-13)
  • 4x4 return to Copiapo for travel home (days 14-15)


DETAILED ITINERARY

DayElevationTravel TimeInfo
       
1 400m   Arrive in Copiapo, either by connecting flights 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.
2 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.
3 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.
4 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.
5 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.
6 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.
7 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.
8 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.
9 5500m half day Trek near to Refuge Atacama with light daypacks to further aid acclimitisation before returning to the refuge to rest and sleep.
10 5750m 5 hours After breakfast we will carry food, water and summit equipment to refuge Tejos 5750m. Overnight camping at Refuge Atacama.
11 5750m 3 hours A relaxing morning, then we depart to return to refuge Tejos with sleeping bags, mats and other essential equipment.
12, 13     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.
14 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.
15 500m   Travel from Copiapo by bus or internal flight to Santiago.
       

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.

TAILORMADE OPTION

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.

Cost

Mount Ojos del Salado cost from £2,395.00

INCLUDES

  • 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

EXCLUDES

  • 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.

INSURANCE

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.

Fitness

Mount Ojos del Salado - fitness and terrain

You 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.

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 just 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 apart from one move just below the summit itself, but it does not require teams to be roped up.

Ojos is an old volcano so it has easy gradient slopes up to the caldera, which are snow covered and exposed. The caldera itself is not difficult, and there is a lake to walk around which is the highest lake in the world but only very shallow and mostly frozen over.

Just below the summit is a short section of steep rock with some 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 like cougars. 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.

Experience needed for Ojos del Salado

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.

Kit List

Mount Ojos del Salado kit list

The basic idea of the kit we will take is to keep you warm, dry, protected from the sun, able to move efficiently on the mountains and able to be comfortable in the evenings and night. There is a detailed list via the menu to the right but the main points to cover are:-

  • BAGS - Large Duffle Bag ~120L (creeid in the 4x4) + Medium Daypack ~45L+ (carried by you on day walks and carries on the mountain)
  • SHELL - Top and bottoms to keep off wind/rain
  • INSULATION - Very warm layered system to keep you warm- body hands & Head
  • BASELAYER - Thin layers to wick away sweat and to strip down to when it gets hot
  • FEET - Crampon compatible boots, more comfortable footwear for evenings/city
  • HARDWARE - Crampons, Walking axe, Trekking poles to allow you to move safely and efficiently
  • SLEEPING - Warm sleeping bag and bed-roll to get a good nights sleep at the camps & refuges
  • EATING/DRINKING - Water bottles & favorite snacks for during the day
  • WASHING & MEDICAL - To allow you to wash and maybe stave off a headache or blister

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.

Why Us

  • Professional guides and excellent staff.
  • Expert advice prior to the trip.
  • Good time for acclimatisation.
  • Experience since the year 2000 running trips in Chile & Argentina.
  • Financial protection for your money.
  • Ethical company with strong values towards sustainable tourism.

Photos

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Dates and Booking
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Rating

A big expedition to nearly 7000 metres on a non-technical volcano deep in the Atacama Desert of Chile. Very adventurous and requires good self-reliance and stamina.

Key Information
  • Duration 17 days
  • Numbers 6
  • Altitude 6893
  • Distance
  • Challenge Strenuous
  • Comfort Camping