- Duration: 20 days.
- Difficulty: Excellent physical condition required
- Space Available / Trip: 6 climbers
- Departure Dates: November to March (AEE9)
- Expedition Cost: US $5,990 per person
- Other Costs: Hotel single supplement: US $1,500, Reservation cost: US $900
- Payment Balance Due: 120 days prior departure
Following a week of gentle hiking around San Pedro de Atacama, in northern Chile, climbers will have achieved an optimal acclimatization and the high-altitude rigors of Ojos del Salado will be significantly reduced. Our 20-day itinerary takes in this picturesque Atacaman town, originally an oasis for indigenous peoples and today a mecca for tourists from around the world, and the rainbow-hued desert, salars, snowcapped volcanoes, brightly coloured high-altitude lakes, and geysers which surround it.
Moving south-east towards Laguna Verde (4,400m/14,765 ft) we’ll reach the Refugio Atacama base camp (5,350m/17,000 ft) in 4-wheel drive vehicles. From this point we hike to the Refugio Tejos shelter (5,750m/19,350 ft) and finally on past scree slopes and occasional snow patches to the main summit of the world’s highest active volcano, Ojos del Salado. Our increasingly demanding hikes and steady but gradual elevation gains make reaching the Andes’ second highest peak a safe, enjoyable, and fantastic experience.
Calama – San Pedro de Atacama
You will be picked up at the airport in Calama by your Guide and transferred to San Pedro de Atacama (2,450m / 8,038 ft). After checking into our hotel, the Guide will made a gear and equipment check. In the afternoon we visit the Cordillera de la Sal (Salt Range) and the Valley de la Muerte (Death Valley), also known as Valle de Marte (Valley of Mars). We’ll take a gentle hike in this impressive area with its curious rock sculptures, sand dunes, and geological formations from the dawn of time.
Transfer distance – 30 km (19 miles) | Transfer time – 20 minutes | Hotel | Elevation – Min: 2,259m (7,411 ft), Max: 2,450m (8,038 ft)
San Pedro Atacama – Toconao – Salar Atacama – Moon Valley
Today we’ll drive 40 km (25 miles) south of San Pedro to Toconao, a traditional Atacaman village of adobe houses with thatched rooves. Situated on a river which tumbles down from the high Andes, below is the Quebrada de Jeria canyon, a cool, green recess of exuberant vegetation, in stunning contrast with the desert above. The surrounding Salar de Atacama is the largest salt lake in Chile, and here we will visit the Chaxa Lagoon, which provides habitat for a wide range of bird species, including the Chilean and Andean Flamingos. We return for lunch to San Pedro and in the afternoon we visit the Salt Cordillera and the Moon Valley area for a light trek in these impressive geological formations millions years ago. From a viewpoint on an enormous sand dune, we’ll stay to watch the sun set over the moon-like landscape, the distant volcanoes and the peaks of the Cordillera de la Sal bathed in intense gold, orange, pink, and purple light. Spectacular! Return to SP. Hotel.
Transfer distance – 38 km (24 miles) | Transfer time – 2 hours | Hotel | Elevation – Min: 2,450m (8,038 ft), Max: 2,500m (8,202 ft)
Catarpe Canyon Trek – Rio Grande
After breakfast we’ll tour the fascinating archaeological museum of Padre Gustavo Le Paige, a jesuit priest dedicated to investigating and preserving the Atacaman culture. The museum holds more than 300,000 archeological artifacts from various pre-hispanic cultures and many amazingly well-preserved mummies. We’ll then make a 3 km (1.8 mile) hike to the 12th century Pukara de Quitor National Monument and a second 2 km (1.2 mile) hike to Catarpe, to visit what is believed to have been an Incan administrative centre for the region. We’ll continue our trek to San Bartolo village along a scenic canyon, a distance of 20 k (12 miles), taking between five and six hours. From San Bartolo we’ll be transferred by van to Rio Grande (3,200m/10,498 ft) where we’ll set up camp and spend the night.
Trekking time – 6 1/2 hours | Transfer distance – 27 k (16 miles) | Transfer time – 40 minutes | Tent | Elevation – Min: 2,450m (8,038 ft), Max: 3,200m (10,498 ft)
Rio Grande – Machuca Village
Today we make the 5 to 6 hour hike to Machuca, an altiplanic village located at 4,100m/ 12,300ft. This isolated settlement was a regular stopover for ancient llama caravans traveling the Inca Trail to Peru and Bolivia. On the way, we’ll observe examples of traditional terrace agriculture and enjoy stunning scenery and wildlife.
Trekking time – 5-6 hours | Tent | Elevation – Min: 3,200m (10,498 ft), Max: 4,100m (12,300ft)
Machuca – El Tatio – Soquete
We’ll set out in the pre-dawn to reach El Tatio, the world’s highest geyser field (4,500m/13,500 ft) by sunrise. The smoking geysers–caused by the evaporation of the boiling geothermal water in the cold air–and the sun illuminating the surrounding mountaintops, recreates a scene from the dawn of time, an unforgettable experience. We will then make an easy ascent of nearby Soquete peak (5,400m/16,200 ft), returning to our camp for the night.
Transfer distance – 40 km (24 miles) | Transfer time – 50 minutes | Tent | Elevation – Min: 4,100m (12,300 ft), Max: 5,400m (16,200 ft)
Puritana – Laguna Verde
This morning we’ll visit the Puritama hot springs to relax in the natural thermal water. Following a light lunch, we’ll drive to Laguna Verde (4,300m/14,000 ft), in Bolivia, a beautiful altiplanic lake at the foot of the Licancabur volcano (5,930m/19,455 ft), home to a large number of Andean Flamingoes. We will spend the night in the Laguna Blanca (White Lake) refuge.
Transfer distance – 75 km (46 miles) | Transfer time – 3-4 hours | Hut | Elevation – Min: 3,475m (11,394 ft), Max: 4,300m (14,000 ft)
Laguna Verde – Licancabur Summit – San Pedro
At 4:00am we make a 30-minute transfer to 4,650m (15,255 ft), the point where we begin our ascent of Licancabur. A sacred peak for the Incas, we’ll pass an Inca construction at the base of the mountain. We hike 10 to 12-hours to reach the summit by way of the north ridge. From the summit we’ll look down into the volcano’s deep blue crater lake and also enjoy spectacular views of the many Bolivian and Chilean six thousand meter peaks. We return to San Pedro Atacama in the evening for a delicious dinner and a comfortable hotel night.
Transfer distance – 20 km (12 miles) | Transfer time – 30 min | Trekking time – 10-12 hours | Tent | Elevation – Min: 4,300m (14,000 ft), Max: 4,650m (15,255 ft)
San Pedro Atacama – Taltal
Today we make the long drive to Taltal, on the Pacific, stopping for lunch en route. Near the coast is one of the deepest trenches in the ocean, making this town famous for the prized red conger eel. En route we’ll stop at Chacabuco, one of the many abandoned nitrate or saltpeter towns in the Atacama Desert.
Transfer distance – 490 km (304 miles) | Transfer time – 7 hours | Tent | Elevation – Min: sea level (1,781 ft), Max: 3,000m (9,842 ft)
Taltal – Pan de Azúcar – Salar Pedernales
We drive south to Pan de Azúcar National Park, so named due to its ‘sugar loaf’ shape, stopping for lunch en route. We’ll visit the Humboldt Penguin colonies that breed on this island. After lunch we head back towards the altiplano, setting up camp at Pedernales Salar (3,400m/11,154 ft).
Transfer distance – 320 km (198 miles) | Transfer time – 4-5 hours | Tent | Elevation – Min: sea level (1,781 ft), Max: 3,400m (11,154 ft)
Pedernales – Laguna Verde
We make a beautiful drive through the desert past copper mines, flamingo colonies, and the Domeyko mountain range to reach the stunning emerald-coloured Laguna Verde and Turkish Lake (4,340m / 14,238 ft), stopping for a picnic lunch en route.
Transfer distance – 180 km (111 miles) | Transfer time – 3-4 hours | Tent | Elevation – Min: 3,400m (11,154 ft), Max: 4,340m (14,238 ft)
A rest day, today we’ll relax, drink plenty of liquids, and eat well to assist in our acclimatization. We’ll enjoy the stunning landscape around this jewel of a lake.
Elevation – 4,340m (14,238 ft) | Tent
Laguna Verde – Summit Mulas Muertas – Laguna Verde
Today we ascend Mulas Muertas, “Dead Mules”, (5,897m/19,347 ft). We may not reach the summit as it’s an exhausting one day trip. Our objective is to gain height to aid in our acclimatization and then return to a lower elevation to sleep. We will also get a spectacular view of Laguna Verde and the route we will take on Ojos del Salado.
Elevation – Min: 4,325m (14,189 ft), Max: 5,897m (19,347 ft) | Tent
Laguna Verde – Refugio Atacama
We move today to the Refugio Atacama (5,350m/17,552 ft), with its magnificent views of the majestic Ojos del Salado. Of the overall distance we will hike approximately 12 km (7 miles). Between driving and walking the trip will take about 4 hours.
Transfer distance – 35 km (21 miles) | Trekking time – 2 hours | Tent | Elevation – Min: 4,325m (14,189 ft), Max: 5,350m (17,552 ft)
Refugio Atacama – Refugio Tejos – Refugio Atacama
This is a portage day in which we’ll take equipment and gear to Refugio Tejos (5,750m/18,864 ft), a distance of 5 km (3 miles), a hike of 2 to 3 hours. We’ll return to Refugio Atacama in the afternoon. Today’s portage–climbing up to a higher altitude and descending to a lower one to sleep–is aimed at making us stronger and helping in our adaptation to the elevation. An optimal acclimatization increases the possibility of reaching the summit successfully and in a safe and comfortable manner.
Trekking Time – 3-4 hours | Tent | Elevation – Min: 5,350m (17,552 ft), Max: 5,750m (18,864 ft)
We’ll take a rest day in camp, drinking plenty of fluids, and eating well. This will aid in our acclimatization and make us stronger for summit day.
Elevation – 5,350m (17,552 ft) | Tent
Refugio Atacama – Refugio Tejos
Today we ascend to Refugio Tejos and prepare for summit day.
Trekking Time – x hours | Tent | Elevation – Min: 5,350m (17,552 ft), Max: 5,750m (18,864 ft)
Refugio Tejos – Summit Ojos del Salado – Refugio Atacama
We set out at 4 or 5 in the morning, depending on the wind. This is a windy zone and, due to the altitude, extremely cold-temperatures can descend to -20 to -25 c. The ascent is by way of a scree slope, following a zigzag path for approximately 4 hours, reaching the plateau of the volcano, a climb of 25 to 30 degrees, and on up a wide ridge to a small lagoon. At the end of the scree, we turn right, toward the west side of the volcano, arriving, after two more hours, to the crater. Towards the east we can see the summit. Skirting the left side of the crater we ascend a rocky ridge. The first part is without difficulty. The final part, however, contains a short technical section of grade 5 on the French scale. The guide will install a security rope and with a harness and assistance from the guide, climbers will ascend to the summit. From the top we have spectacular views of the heart of the Andes, including the impressive 6,000m plus trio of volcanoes: Nevado Tres Cruce (6,749m/22,142m), San Francisco (6,016m/19,737 ft), and Piscis (6,792m/22,283 ft). We return to Refugio Atacama to sleep–because of the altitude, it’s difficult to get a good nights sleep at Refugio Tejos. Our descent will follow the same route and will take between three and four hours.
Trekking Time – 10-13 hours | Tent | Elevation – Min: 5,750m (18,864 ft), Max: 6893m (22,615 ft)
Refugio Tejos – Summit Ojos del Salado – Refugio Atacama
We’ll keep this day in reserve to allow for poor weather conditions.
Tent | Elevation – Min: 5,750m (18,864 ft), Max: 6893m (22615 ft)
Refugio Atacama – Bahia Inglesa
We descend the mountain by way of the same route. We transfer to Bahia Inglesa, stopping for lunch en route.
Transfer distance – xx km (xx miles) | Transfer time – xxx | Hotel | Elevation – Min: sea level, Max: 5,750m (18,864 ft)
Bahia Inglesa – Copiapo
Transfer to Copiapo airport for domestic flight to Santiago and connection with international flights. And San Pedro Atacama & Ojos del Salado comes to an end!
Transfer distance – 105 km (65 miles) | Transfer time – 1 ½ hours | Elevation – Min: sea level, Max: 391m (1,282 ft)
- Professional Bilingual Mountain Guide.
- Ratio Guide Clients 1-4.
- All local organization and supervision by KL Adventure Staff.
- Private transportation including airport pick up in Calama.
- Six hotel nights, double occupancy with breakfast.
- Difrol permit process.
- All meals during the expedition and trekking program.
- Full base camp set up dining tent, chair, tables, etc…
- High quality expedition common gear: The North Face, Mountain. Hardware and Marmot tents, isolate mattress, high camp stoves & Gaz.
- Permanent access to hot drinks, tea, coffee, biscuits at base camp tent.
- First aid kit, hyperbaric chamber, oxygen bottles, oximeter.
- Radio communication VHF 2 mt.
- Satellite phone at base camp on a per minute payment basis.
Services not included
- Ojos del Salado permit till US $ 160 each.
- Domestic Flights to Calama and return from Copiapo to Santiago.
- All personal climbing equipment gear
- Porter for personal gear.
- Any cost involve in an early or late departure.
- Any drinks (soda, beer or wine) in San Pedro de Atacama.
- First night and final night dinners.
- Cancellation, accident and rescue insurance.
- Cash for extra expenses.
- Any other service not mentioned in the list.
- All itineraries are subject to change due to changes in the weather, individual’s acclimatization rates and the guide’s preferences.
- Any departure dates can be re-scheduled with a minimum of 6 persons.