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Ojos del Salado - 16 days Mountain Expedition to the worlds highest volcano

The highest volcano on earth, the Chilean Ojos del Salado, might be qualified best for getting a taste of climbing mountains in altitudes of almost 7,000m. In good weather conditions it is not even necessary to use ice axe or crampons when hiking the normal path leading up. This expedition is clearly the ideal tour for all who want to reach the top but don’t like the complex logistics that usually comes with every expedition. Nowhere on this planet you can reach summits in such altitudes so easily. The tours character promotes the ‘Ojos’ to be the next step for all who might have experienced climbing Africa’s highest volcano – the Kilimanjaro - and want to go up even higher now.

Nestling between the fascinating wonders of the Atacama desert – colorful lagoons, glistening Salares and whooshing geysers, to name just a few – the tour is more than a challenging mountain expedition with its acclimation hikes:

It is also a dive trip into an absolutely beautiful characteristic landscape.

Trip Info

Length of the expedition:  16 days
Season:                              December - March
Start/End:                           from Calama/to Caldera
Group size:                        min. 8 - max. 12 persons
Departures:                       on request

Optional Extension

Combine this expedition    
with our Easter Island   "Rapa Nui"-Trip!

Trip-Highlights

  • Acclimation-hiking to the Atacameño-Village Machuca - Atacama Desert - Chile
  • Basecamp 'Atacama' - Ojos del Salado - Chile
  • Refugio 'Tejos' - Ojos del Salado - Chile
  • Crater lip Ojos del Salado
  • Summit Ojos del Salado 6,893m, the world highest volcano
  • Descent from Ojos del Salado
  • Vaca Muerta at the Green Lagoon - Atacama Desert - Chile

Itinerary

Days 1 - 3: San Pedro de Atacama – Geyser El Tatio – Moon Valley – Quebrada Nacimiento

Day 1
You will reach Calama, in the North of Chile. From there we will drive you to San Pedro de Atacama (2,440m/8,000ft) where you can still spend the late afternoon and the evening exploring the tourist-metropolis at the northernmost end of the Salar de Atacama. Overnight stay in a hotel. (-/-/-) 
Day 2
Very early in the morning, we start our tour to the geyser “El Tatio” on an elevation of 4,300m/14,100ft. Here, the break of dawn will capture us in an unforgettable atmosphere.  You may decide whether you want to explore the geyser-area or take a soothing bath in the thermal springs. In the afternoon we start a 4-hours hike through the Quebrada de Kari. And in the evening the setting sun will offer us a wonderful opportunity to see the play of colors in the absolute bizarre landscape of the famous “Valle de la Luna”, the moon valley. We will stay overnight in a hotel in San Pedro de Atacama. (B/L/D). 
Day 3
An amazing trekking tour through the Quebrada Nacimiento is our program for today. We will reach elevations ranging from 3,900m/12,800ft to 4,300m/14,100ft, which helps us to acclimate for the summit to come in the next few days. Overnight stay in tents in our camp on an elevation of 3,700m/12,140ft. (B/L/D)

Days 4 - 5: Lagunas Altiplanicos – Salar de Capur – Ascent of the Cerro Corona

Day 4
Another acclimation-hiking tour from our camp leads us to the Salar de Capur. Before we will visit the two volcanoes Cerro Miscanti (5,622m/18,440ft) and Cerro Miniques (5,910m/19,380ft) with the wonderfully blue lagoon Miscanti. On this 5-hours hike we will reach elevations of 4,300m/14,100ft. In the evening we will return to our camp. (B/L/D)
Day 5
Having mastered all acclimation-tours the previous days, we will conquer our first 5,000m summit today. With a difference in elevation of almost 600m, the ascent of the Cerro Corona is considered a relatively easy tour.  An old mining-street will lead our  4x4 jeeps to an elevation of 4,700m/15,416ft. From there, we follow a mostly unobstracted arris-ridge over rubble and boulders to the summit (5,291m/17,355ft). The 360* panoramic view from up here will make you forget the exhausting ascent. In the evening we will return to San Pedro de Atacama where we stay in our hotel for another night. Total walking/hiking time today approx. 4-5 hours (B/L/D)

Days 6 - 9: Ascent of the Volcano Lascar – Laguna Verde – San Francisco (6018m)

Day 6
Today, we will ‘attack’ our second 5,000m summit – the volcano Lascar (5,641m/18,500ft). Almost 1,000m in elevation have to be faced (depending on road-conditions) but again, an overwhelming panoramic view down on the grand Salar de Atacama will wait as a reward for you. A longer stop on our tour back will give us the opportunity to experience the Salar de Atacama up close. We will see the lagoon Chaxa that looks the most beautiful at sunset. The unique atmosphere at dusk is something you wont never forget. Late in the evening we will return to San Pedro de Atacama where we spend the night in our hotel. Total walking time today approx. 5-6 hours. (B/L/D)
Day 7
Your probably tired legs get finally a break today! However, our day trip to the lagoon Laguna Verde won’t relax your eyes or the lens of your camera as the drive (that takes the whole day) leads us through a landscape that is simply unique in the world: Snowcapped volcanoes, turquoise lagoons, the unbelievable vastness of the Puna and probably even some shy herds of Vicuñas will turn the long trip into an unforgettable drive through the wonders of nature. In the evening we reach Laguna Verde (4,400m/14,430ft) – this incredibly turquoise lagoon that is framed picturesquely by snowcapped summits, all higher than 6,000m. Right on the shore of the saline-lagoon we set up our tents using tent-sites with protecting walls against the omnipresent winds. After our long and dusty trip we will be more than happy to take a refreshing bath in the hot springs that are right next to our tents - beautifully framed by natural stone and right on the shore. (B/L/D)
Day 8
This day at the lagoon is all yours! We need it to acclimatize and as there are certain ways to do so we want you to find out what is best for you: You might use it to relax in the hot springs or in the cold saline-lake right next to the lagoon (no swim-movements necessary, the water leaves you floating on the surface). If you feel like hiking you might hike along the lake and if your camera feels like taking pictures then try to come close to flamingos. However, everybody will find a perfect way to relax and get acclimatized. Overnight stay in our tents. (B/L/D)
Day 9
This third acclimation-peak today will let us pass the 6,000m-elevation mark. It is only a 15 km stretch over a well-prepared dirt road up to the Paso San Francisco (4,750m/15,580ft) – the international border crossing between Chile and Argentina in the deserted vastness of the Puna. From here, a 4x4 jeep will bring you to an elevation of 5,000m. We will hike only the last 1,000m in elevation. The path is in quite good condition, just debris and boulders, in the summit area sometimes a few smaller snow- fields might demand tiny detours. The incline is easily manageable and soon we reach the summits plateau. On the highest spot (6,018m/19,740ft) you can proudly write into the summit-book that can be found here. The view from up here over a dozen summits with a similar height is simply astonishing! After our descent over the same path we drive you back to Laguna Verde where another refreshing bath is waiting for you. Overnight stay in our tents. (B/L/D)

Days 10 - 14: Cerro Vicuñas (6,067m) – Camp Atacama (5,200m) – Camp Tejos (5,820m) – Ojos del Salado (6,893m)

Day 10
Again, a 6,000m-summit is on our list today. Cerro Vicuñas (6,067m/19,900ft) is very close and for us strategically ideal on our way to the Refugio Atacama – our base camp for the ascent of the Ojos del Salado. From Laguna de Verde we drive in our 4x4 jeeps to reach an elevation of about 5,000m. From there, a ridge of rocks will lead us to the summit from where you will have another astonishing panoramic view.  The Ojos del Salado is very close and the ascent-path can be seen well. After our descent we drive directly to our camp at the Refugio Atacama. (This camp is consisting of two containers serving rangers as a post on an elevation of 5,200m/17,060ft.) If you prefer to relax for the rest of the day, you are welcome to spend the day in the camp. If you rather relax actively we will take you to the summit of the Cerro Vicuñas (Walking time 5-7 hours). Whatever your option is, the day tomorrow will serve us as acclimation day and is planned for relaxation. Overnight stay in tents near by the Refugio Atacama. (B/L/D)
Tag 11
After two 6,000m summits in the past few days we deserve some relaxation! If you have to get rid of some energy you can take a few short hikes but you should take it really easy as we need all of our power to get prepared for the no. 1 highlight of this expedition – the ascent of the Ojos del Salado. Overnight stay in tents near by the Refugio. (B/L/D)
Tag 12
It takes us only 2-3 walking hours and 600m in elevation to reach the Refugio Tejos on an elevation of 5,800m/19,020ft. For that reason we do not have to get up before the sun does and having the whole day we don’t have to hurry at all. Our path will follow a dirt road that might be manageable for our jeeps.  (In good weather conditions the jeeps would even bring the luggage up to the camp). The camp is consisting of two containers forming a large bivouac and some tents where we spend our last night before the ascent of the Ojos del Salado tomorrow morning.  (B/L/D)
Tag 13
Even before sunrise we will leave our camp at Refugio Tejos and start ascending the Ojos del Salado. The first part of the path is technically not complicated at all but the high elevation can make every single step much more difficult. At the last 30m (of a total of 1,100m difference in elevation) before the summit plateau there is a fix rope section. In normal weather conditions it will take us 6-8 hours to finally reach the top on 6,893m/22,615ft. The breathtaking panoramic view from here will make the sensational feeling of having reached the top even more complete. To find your own speed and rhythm is certainly the most important thing when ascending. For descending we will need another 3 hours. If we make it down in time, we can take the jeeps and go back to Laguna Verde the same afternoon. What could be more rewarding after such a day then taking a hot bath sipping a cold beer together! We stay another night either in our tents or in the cottage. Total climbing time today: 8-12 hours. (B/-/D)
Tag 14
We keep that day to have a certain time buffer in case the conditions do not allow an immediate ascent of the Ojos del Salado. However, if everything went according to our plans we can use this day for additional hiking tours in the area or simply to relax in the hot springs. This will be our last night in the camp. (B/-/D)

Days 15 - 16: Caldera – Bahia Inglesa

Day 15
Today we are leaving the mountains in direction of the Pacific Ocean, crossing the Altiplano. You can once again take in the fascinating impressions of the vastness and uniqueness of this part of the world. In the afternoon we will reach the famous coastal town Bahia Inglesa. Here, the finest beaches and the surf of the Pacific are waiting for you! In the evening we recommend to try one of the countless fish restaurants – their catch of the day is always worth it. We will spend the night in a simple but immaculate hotel or in a guest house in Bahia Inglesa or Caldera. (B/L/-) 
Day 16
Transfer to the airport Desierto de Atacama. (B/-/-)

Trip Notes

What is included?
  • Accommodation: 5 nights  in clean 2-3 star hotels or guesthouses of Chilean category, 10 nights in two-person tents.
  • Meals: breakfast every morning; lunchpackage & dinner - appointed days
  • Guide: local bilingual english/spanish speaking mountain guides
  • VHF-two-way radio equipment (guides, escort vehicles)
  • Satellite phone
  • Transport: all transfers in cross-country jeeps or vans/minibuses
  • Entry Fees/Admission as per detailed itinerary
  • Summit permit
  • Local team of cooks and drivers
  • Complete Camping Equipment
Not included
  • Personal mountaineering equipment
  • Not appointed meals and beverages
  • Single supplement
  • Optional trips
  • Tips/gratuity 
  • Local payments
  • Flight costs and airport charges 
  • Excess luggage nor excess luggage fees
  • Travel insurance package

Trip Profile

This tour is an expedition for all experienced trekkers who are willing to spend time in remote regions without infrastructure and contact to the outer civilization. Every participant has to be in very good physical shape and of excellent health. We assume that you are able to act independently in the mountains, using crampons on ice and snow.  However, extreme weather conditions, natural disasters or even arbitrariness of local authorities can make it impossible to complete or follow a tour as described in the tour program. Therefore, the given description of the tour is regarded as a flexible guideline and you can be assured that it is our utmost intention to realize the program as planned. Team spirit, tolerance and compromising towards the guide and other participants are very significant elements of a successful expedition. Participants take part in these tours under their own risk and responsibility.  
 

Level of difficulty  
  
Excellent physical fitness and a good tolerance for changes in altitude are as necessary for this tour as team spirit and abdication of comfort. Furthermore, you should be able to hike long distances (up to 10-14 hours on one day), carrying a backpack (40l to 45l) and managing differences in elevation of 200m to 1,100m a day on an already high elevation of 3,500 to 6,893m / to 22,615ft. We are spending our nights in 2-person tents. The equipment for your belongings throughout the day has to be carried by yourself on all hikes and mountain expeditions. You should have a basic knowledge in using crampons and ice axes. The use of trekking poles and isolated plastic boots is mandatory.