Ojos de Salado - Chile 2010


What a brilliant place - our first impressions were that it was barren and featureless but that was just driving along the Panamerican highway. Once in little cafes or towns and meeting people we soon realized how genuine and friendly everybody is. Everyone we met was very helpful and it was nice to keep bumping into the same people as we all progressed towards Ojos De Salado. As soon as we turned off the highway the roads become  more interesting and the scenery quite surreal with all the different colours of the minerals seeping out of hillsides all around then patches of green wherever there is a trickle of water.

The wind which begins about 10am/noon and lasts till 8pm/2am is very cold and sometimes impossible to walk in on the mountains. And sand getting in everywhere is annoying to start with then I think we just got used to it. Like Steve said "to say it was our honeymoon we only had one shower for the first 10 days and so romance wasn't really an option!" We did treat ourselves by having on-suite room with a fabulous view of a smelting plant after the climb though!

The table below shows our planned and actual acclimatisation and list the photos relating to each day in the gallery -  Chile 2010 photos


Planned Location / Activity

Actual Holiday  Activities Photos numbers


Arrive Santiago, Drive to Copiapo

Drove from Santiago to La Serena, slept in the pickup! 1 to 4



Drove to Copiapo, found hostel. Did some shopping and collected our Adventurismo permit to climb in Ojos area. Ate lots of food and had our one and only beer till after the climb!  


Drive to Salar de Maricunga - 3700m

More shopping (water, fuel and food) then drove to Laguna Santa Rosa Refugio - at 4200m. There is a free hut there that sleeps about 6. Both of us felt tired, out of breath and I felt very sick overnight. 5 to 36


Hike around Santa Rosa

Didn't do much but felt much better by the end of the day. Looked at the lake, flamingos etc 37 to 99


Drive to Laguna Verde acclimatise - 4300m

Hiked up Ocho Patos 4900m behind Santa Rosa (3.30 hours up, 2 down) then drove to Laguna Verde  - 4300m - where it was very windy. 100 to 124


Hike Mulas Muertas acclimatise

Didn't sleep very well. Set off hiking up Mulas Muertas at 10am and got as far as 5300m before the winds were too strong so came back down and had a relaxing afternoon in the hot springs at Laguna Verde. 126 to 135



Got up very early at 5am to miss the winds, drove to the Argentinean border at 4700m, drove off road up a very steep rocky, sandy track to 4980m and then hiked up San Francisco 6040m which took 6.30 hours up and 3 hours down as the paths were very steep and sandy. 136 to 171


Drive upto Refugio Universidad de Atacama acclimatise - 5200m

Drove up to Refugio de Atacama - 5200m - actually no hut there but 2 large tents in which to cook ... and live (if you have a very small tent in which it is impossible to move like we did!). Very cold -25oC overnight and some flurries of snow. 172 to 190


Hike upto Refugio Tejos, 5825m - return to Refugio Atacama to sleep

Hiked 5ltrs water each plus food etc for next day upto Refugio Tejos (2.30 hours up) (where there is a large hut that has bunks for 6 and more sleeping floor room). Walked quite fast and were very out of breath most of the way - on our return to Atacama both of us had headaches and were advised by two Swiss guys to take hiking much more slowly - in fact not to get out of breath at all! 191 to 194


Hike to Refugio Tejos, short sleep

Hiked very slowly (3.30 hours up) to Tejos with our sleeping bags. Hiking slowly made all the difference - felt good, could eat and sleep well. Still very cold. 195 to 206


Summit attempt of Ojos del Salado 6893m (1) weather permitting

Set off at 3.30am. It was very cold and we had on the Russian coats, overtrousers, thermals, big mitts, hats and even then couldn't really stop as got too cold. At the bottom we went slightly wrong and were on the right of the moraine. At least having realised early enough we just had to cross the bottom of the moraine to get back on the path. Thanks to good headtorches we could see quite far. At a very slow plod we crisscrossed up the left of the glacier - now just a series of icy spikes. Then traversed across the top of it which was horrid and frustrating to be going backwards on sandy soil while trying not to get out of breath! At last we were back on another but less sandy path and upto the rim. We had been warned that at the rim is where lots of people turn back so I was preparing myself for whatever is was that put them off!

We reached the rim and looked up. Well usually it wouldn't be a problem but there in front of us was a long traverse round and up 50m of a rocky crater rim, then about 100m ascent of big boulders followed by a proper vertical climb of 50m. We framed ourselves and set off. The traverse was ok and we could leave our packs there. We had some food and drink and set off over the boulders. These proved to be extremely hard to climb as in just one big step/clamber you were out of breath. I tried various ways - doing just one and resting, then tried doing 5 and resting - it didn't make any difference - you just stayed out of breath!!

Steve had resorted to hands and knees on the sandy path adjacent to the boulders but that looked worse. Never mind I thought - we still have time and we'll get there eventually. Once at the bottom of the proper climb there are fixed ropes which do help and because its climbing it felt easier as you had to look, think, place your foot, move... look, think, place your hand, move. I'm very glad it wasn't windy as the last bit was a shear drop of unthinkable distances either side.

And then we were there. What a great feeling. We signed the book and waved our flags about and then got off down to where air has oxygen in it....

We slept and ate at Tejos for about 2 hours then walked back to Atacama to sleep and celebrate!!

207 to 241


Summit attempt of Ojos del Salado (2)

Drove to Huasco on the coast for rest and relaxation. A very sleepy fishing town which unfortunately suffers from sea fog so wasn't sunny! 243 to 289


Return to Refugio Atacama

Huasco - Resting and eating empanadas. 290 to 308


Return to Copiapo

 Went for walk round town, beach, train line and playground then drove to Santiago Airport overnight. 309 to 321


Flight home 

Flights home - went ok as we were so tired that we slept most of the way!