Pissis (6795m) is the third highest peak in South America and the world´s second highest volcano. This last obstacle to claim Andes Top 3 Peaks, turned out to be the finest and most adventureous of them all.
Day 0 (Jan 22):
Erik K, Haakon and Lyngve drive the grey Toyota Hilux from Ojos del Salado BC to Laguna Verde where we pick up the last remaining member of the expedition (Vemund). The other members are already back in Copiapo due to altitude sickness or lack of motivation.
The weather detoriates minute by minute and when we arrive Laguna Verde it is a snowstorm, unbelieveable in the driest desert of the world. The ranger suggests us to leave as soon as possible, and we do.
As we are crossing the San Francisco Pass (4747m), we also enter Argentina territory. But there are no border control in this inhospital area. We continue to drive for about 20 km before we reach the check point. We have pretty low expectations that they will accept a Chilean rental car (without proper local insurance) into Argentina. Most people in Chile told us "forget it", that it surely would be impossible, unless we bribe somebody. Haakon had already thaught of that and had a bottle of Pisco, the national drink. A convenient gift (or bribe) just in case....
We spend one hour in the office, showing all our papers and explaining that we will not venture far into Argentina. We only intend to spend a few days on Monte Pissis and return to Chile immidiately after that. A very innocent story indeed. The guardians finally give us permission to bring our rental car into Argentina. They even issue a climbing permit for Monte Pissis at no extra costs. Everybody happily sign the permit, although we are not completely sure about the content (spanish language).
We made it!! The only obstacle left is to actually climb the mountain, but that is a minor concern right now. We continue on the almost 200 km drive to Fiambala, the first city on the Argentinian side. Here we find a nice hostel (municipal hosteria) and get our last meal of the day, a steak of course.
Day 1 (Jan 23):
We visit the office of Jonson Reynoso at the main square in Fiambala. The legendary climber once pioneered expedition drives into the Atacama, and he gives us plenty of information about Pissis. We try to hand over 50 pesos for his services but he refuse to take it. Obviously his information is free of charge. He also takes us to his home where he gives us plenty of grapes for free (5+ kilos), cheap gas cartridges and 20 litres of gasoline which we happily accept to bring to Pissis BC for another expedition.
We waste another two hours on internet and a late lunch, before we leave Fiambala. We first retrace the paved road for a good hour (in direction Paso de San Francisco). At Pastos Largos we turn left on the rough road to Pissis which is some 100 km, with many ups and downs and changes of direction. Along the way we see herds of vicuna and guanaco, as well as large lakes with plenty of colorful flamingos. The mountain views are spectacular: Walter Penck, Nacimento and Tres Cruzes, all 6000+ metre giants, in addition to our impressive target.
It gets dark before we reach BC. In the middle of a river delta we fail to see where and if the road continues any further. We decide to camp here, and continue the next morning.
Day 2 (Jan 24):
It is a perfect morning. The landscape around Pissis resembles a remote place somewhere in Tibet. We continue the drive to BC, and the road-finding is rather simple now because of daylight. We arrive BC (4500m) and find only one person present, the BC-manager of Aventurismo. We receive information about 3 other expedition on the mountain (Spanish, French and Italian).
We waste a lot of time on re-packing and eating before we finally start the rather long hike from BC (4500m) to C1 (5300m). After more than 5 hours we have not reached C1 yet, and we decide to find a suitable area for camping before the cold hours of the evening sets in. At 5200 metres we find a perfect spot, and here it's even a small stream....
Day 3 (Jan 25):
Today we move up only 500 metres to C2 at 5700 metres, hence a rather comfortable day. After one hour we pass the common area for C1, then cross the large snowfield/glacier, and 3 hours later we arrive C2. A local Argentinian guide on a French team welcomes us, and we start to pitch our two North Face VE25 tents next to them.
The Argentinian guide tells us that the stream recently froze, so we start to collect snow instead. During the afternoon we obtain a lot of information from the local guide from Argentina (Mendoza), and we are thankful for that. What a nice guy !!!
All of us are feeling pretty ok the evening before summit. Even Vemund who has not performed very well lately because of exhaustion, is doing fine. We agree to start the summit push at 6 a.m, one hour after the French team, which consists of 1 guide + 3 clients.
Day 4 (Jan 26):
We wake up at 5 a.m and immidiately notice the very cold air. We stay in the sleeping-bags, cooking and eating, as long as possible to avvoid unneccesary exposure. The French team starts to walk 5:15, Lyngve at 06:10 and the rest of the Norwegian team at 6:30. Before sunrise Vemund and a French climber have abandoned the climb due to cold feets/hands. Haakon is also freezing on his feets, but as he opts for the rocks instead of the colder snowfield, he's fine.
At 6200 metres we leave the snowfield/glacier, and round a couple of smaller hills on the right side. At almost 6400 metres we gain a ridge from where the upper slopes of Pissis is very visible. Here I (Lyngve) did not need the service of route-finding anymore, so I leave the French team with the Argentinian guide behind.
I cross another snowfield and aim for the saddle on the right side of Pissis. In the saddle (6600m) I turn left and scramble up the mixed slopes (loose rocks!). I reach the summit (6795m) at 12:30 far ahead of the French team. Happy but also a little bit exhausted after so many close-to-7000-metres peaks lately. I spend half an hour on the summit before I start to descend. Above the saddle I meet the French team, and below the saddle I meet Haakon and Erik K, both still going very strong. I wish them good luck and continue down.
Day 5 (Jan 27):
Haakon, Erik K and Lyngve descend from C2 to BC, where we meet Vemund again. BC is now completely empty. We drive to the border, but we arrive too late, it is closed on the Argentinian side. We have to stay the night in the nearby campamento. Here we meet 4 guys from Argentina, who plan to climb nearby Incahuasi. They have plenty of meat and Haakon finds it difficult to resist the smell of barbeque. Eventually they share the meat with us.
Day 6 (Jan 28):
We check-out of Argentina and drive over Paso de San Francisco and continue to the checkpoint at the Chilean side. Here we have big problems with the guards because we never checked-out of Chile (especially the car) when going the opposite direction. We try to play stupid and explain we drove via Laguna Santa Rosa, and did not see any border control. That is true enough. They order us, probably as a punishment, to unload the entire car and send all the luggage through a screening machine. They search almost all the bags for food, especially fruit from Argentina. Most of the food originated from a supermarket in Copiapo (Chile) and was accepted into the country again. Only some grapes and apples from Argentina were confiscated.
In the evening we finally sit on a nightbus to Santiago, eager to meet the rest of the team and celebrate our success in Vina del Mar.
First Norwegians on top of Pissis?
Yes, initially everyone believed that. But after some research on the net we found out we were probably the second Norwegians, after Sverre Aarseth.