Ojos del Salado

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Ojos del Salado (6893m) is the highest volcano on earth and also the highest point in Chile and second in South America. I went there together with the Norwegian 3 Summits Marathon team, shortly after the success on Aconcagua.

Day 0 (Jan 18):

We went to Difrol (Dirección Nacional de Fronteras y Límites del Estado) in Santiago to collect the permit for Ojos del Salado. The permit, which is a piece of paper, had already been issued thanks to Haakon´s e-mail communication with Difrol the month before. Later we took the nightbus from Santiago to Copiapo in the Puna Atacama desert. This was a 10 hours ride in a comfortable semi-cama bus. The ticket costed us 20.100 chilean pesos each.

Day 1 (Jan 19):

We arrived Copiapo early in the morning. Most of the day was actually spent searching for rental cars. We visited more than 10 companies (including Herz, Avis etc) before we finally found a couple of Toyota Hilux available. The price for each vehicle was around 100 USD a day including insurance. The only problem was that this rental company did not allow the cars to cross the border to Argentina, which we had to if we wanted to climb Pissis as well.

We also visited Aventurismo in Copiapo, a company who have the authorization (apart from that of DIFROL) to grant permission for climbing Ojos del Salado.

Later in the afternoon we started on the rather long drive from Copiapo to Laguna Verde. To make it even more timeconsuming, Haakon wanted to drive via Laguna Santa Rosa instead of the less scenic highway. We arrived Laguna Santa Rosa 9 pm on partly bad roads and later Laguna Verde (4400m) at 11 pm. It was finally time for eating and sleeping.

Day 2 (Jan 20):

The morning at Laguna Verde was a nice experience, especially on such a beautiful and calm day (high winds normally plaques the Atacama plateu). After breakfast most of us went for a bath in the lake and a long relax in the hot spring pools.

The 4x4 drive to Ojos del Salado Base Camp (Refugio Atacama at 5200m) took a couple of hours, and thanks to Haakon who had been in the same area last year, we had no route-finding-problems.

We started to hike pretty late in the afternoon. Erik K and Lyngve arrived Refugio Tejos (5900m) after 3 hours. Mats arrived somewhat later. We waited several hours for the others, but nobody else came up to Tejos this evening. Later we heard that they had turned around, and that one of them had been rescued down after a critical medical situation (probably HAPE).

Day 3 (Jan 21):

We expected only 6-8 hours to the summit, and opted for a rather late start because of the cold conditions. So we started around sunrise at 7 am, by any standards a very late start on such a big mountain. The first hour was a pleasant hike on a well trodden trail. When we reached the big snowfield, we decided to put on our crampons. The surface was hard and thus perfect for a rapid ascent. All of us, however, seemed to have a bad day and the progress was far from satisfying (only 100 hm/hour). Mats struggled most, and decided to turn around at the lower part of the snowfield.

Erik K and Lyngve continued on the snow slopes, and the inclination increased the higher we got. We made a traverse (above the "glacier"), just to reach a spur of rock and ice. Here we started directly up the spur, instead of continuing on the traverse. That was probably a big mistake because the snow did not carry our weight. The ascent of the spur lasted for a long time, and our energy dropped to very low levels.

When we finally reached the shoulder (crater-edge) we were even more disappointed to see all the snow and that the summit was still very far away. At this point we actually considered to turn around. We were running out of time and the weather seemed to detoriate as well. But something kept us moving. We struggled meter by meter in the deep snow, and the saddle between the Argentina and Chile summit of Ojos got closer and closer.

In order to reach the saddle, we grabbed the fixed rope of good quality and hauled ourselves up. Then we continued along the very short summit ridge (20-30 metres), also equipped with fixed ropes. It was two very exhausted climbers who reached the Chilean summit after 10 hours of hard work. We took our photos and glanced over to the Argentinian summit which from this point looked a little bit higher. But according to most sources, the Chilean summit is higher.

The descent was eventless. We arrived Refugio Tejos shortly before darkness. We were a little bit surprised and disappointed to see that the hut was full, all the 6 beds occupied. But two of the Brazilian climbers kindly moved to the floor, so we would have our soft beds to sleep in also this night.

Day 4 (Jan 22):

Descending to BC and driving to Fiambala in Argentina (to climb Pissis)

Photo Album

Posted by gfg on Monday, January 21, 2008. Filed under , , , , , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Feel free to leave a response

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