Ojos del Salado, the highest volcano in the world

Jeeping to an altitude of 5900m and climbing the world’s highest volcano, Ojos del Salado (Chile). Notes of the second guide.

November 13. Hello, Chile! Four flights, more than a day in the air, and we’re in Atacama, the driest desert in the world. Or rather, while we are on the Pacific coast in the town of Copiapo. We are a team of 11 people and 3 Toyota Hilux SUVs.

Plans for the next 2 weeks: drive through the Atacama, climb some mountains for acclimatization, drive up to a height of 5900m and climb the highest volcano in the world, Ojos del Salado 6893m. Of the unplanned there was a frozen diesel at 5900m and a Chilean revolution. So, let’s go!

November 14. Under strange stars. Breakfast in Chilean hotels is very symbolic, so we went straight to the fish market for seafood. At the port we met sea lions, ran to the market for some fish, fed them almost out of hand. We didn’t pet it, because it is a huge wild predator, and no one knows what can occur to it.

In the parking lot of even a very civilized supermarket can not be left without a view pickup trucks with things in the back. So part of the team was sunbathing by the cars, and part was shopping. Several times the locals came up and very politely, in good English said, that under no circumstances leave your car. Been there, done that. But thanks for the warning anyway. We bought food for the expedition, as well as boxes for food, dishes, chairs. We walked 10,000 steps in the supermarket, decided it was a good start for acclimatization. After satisfying the hamster instinct (to get supplies into the hole), we went to lunch.

I was the first to leave the cafe and I saw that the glass doors and windows of the store were covered with wooden boards, and the cars started to leave the parking lot. There have been protests against economic inequality in Chile since October. This kind of adventure was not in our plans, so we quickly got in our cars and drove off into the desert.

The evening’s entertainment was to look for the constellation Southern Cross. It’s like Polaris in the constellation Ursa Minor, only not us, and points south.

November 15. Rest day. Guanac chase. A leisurely morning with scrambled eggs, salad, coffee and a view of Santa Rosa Lagoon. It’s a big salt lake at an elevation of 3,800. And there are a lot of them here – that’s why our mountain is translated as “Salty Eyes.” A flock of flamingos wanders around the lagoon. Birds get stuck in the mud with their paws and start waddling funny when approached to the side. Apparently, they are lazy to fly. Yes, flamingo’s gracefulness is greatly exaggerated.

We walked up the hill. On the way down we noticed a flock of Guanacs, a subspecies of llamas. And we went to catch them (with our camera lenses). Photo obtained with an “anti-face” – at the sight of people, they also, like flamingos, run away. Only these flamingos run away hastily, after the leader. We called them each other by their phonetic consonance =).

November 16. Seven Brothers. First altitude. Went, talked. Gained one kilometer of height (3800m-4800m), made ascent to the top of “Seven Brothers”. The road took 6 hours up and 3 hours down. It became clear to us that we were thirsty in the desert mountains and we should take more water on the next expeditions. And mandarins.

November 17. Transfer to the lagoon Verde. We drove through Atacama, saw Ochos for the first time. We arrived at our base camp at Laguna Verde, altitude 4345 meters above sea level. The lagoon lived up to its name, a beautiful green color.

It was cloudy in Laguna Verde and there was a Bolivian UAZ. The UAZ was used by the Bolivians to set the record for the highest SUP boarding race in the world. People here like to set records for altitude. The highest on the car (as on the car… from the series of “from the serial version there is only a label)” is set exactly on the slopes of Ochos.

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There is an unaccustomed amount of liquid, and even warm water, which you can touch with your hands (and not only). On Santa Rosa you can not do anything, because it is a nature reserve. Already used to wash dishes with wet wipes. At Laguna Verde there are 2 options: a cold salt lake and warm mineral springs. The dishes, however, we continue to wash with napkins, because it is a natural reserve.

November 18. Snow in the Atacama. At night it snowed, which is a rarity in these places, after all, the desert.

Snow spoiled the plans of the Germans: the UAZIK was not able to drive up to the lake, it was not part of their plans to go long with the board, and their plane was soon. We went for a walk to the pink tuffs.

The bad weather in the evening gave us amazing colors in the sky.

November 19. Dead Mule. Hemingway has a dried out frozen leopard lying in the snows of Kilimanjaro. In Atacama, the role of the leopard on top of the mountain is played by a mule. What the leopard (and the mule?) needed at such a height, no one can explain. So we went there. The goal was to walk 6 hours up the slope of Mula Muerta or 5500m. Bobek’s diabolical trick was to make both events happen at the same time. We had tea and went downhill. We did not find the mule.

November 20. The Secret Life of Pets. Victor Bobok (the main guide) and his especially thirsty comrades went down to Kopiapo – to buy some fresh food and fill up a couple of storizas. Cat out of the house – mice to the dance. Hung up a speaker, put on some music, very much reminiscent of the poodle from the cartoon “The Secret Life of Pets.” During the previous days we had cooked borsch, fried potatoes and steaks a few times, and no one could be surprised by salad with avocado. I remind you that we lived at an altitude of 4345m. We made chocolate fondue and dipped mango in it. The plan “to lose weight and get a tan” failed miserably. A good climber is a well-fed climber with lots of energy and expendable fat for a long and hard work. The sun in the Atacama is very insidious, in combination with constant blowing by cold wind it has an immediate effect. That is why who or what, but Gulchatai, having found out about the photo aging of her skin, did not open her face.

November 21. Jipping over rocks and sands up to 5900m. Acclimatization above 6000. The way to Okhos is a separate adventure: 2,5-3 hours of different taxiing, sand, gravel and blatant boulders in one direction.

In the driest desert in the world, the road may be blocked by a forest of ice poles – penitentiaries.

But the views are gorgeous. Another attraction is taking pictures of neighboring cars from particularly good angles. During the daytime and under the sun it is real pleasure (for connoisseurs of such pleasures).

Passed the height of Elbrus (5642 m) … Passed the top of Mount Kilimanjaro (5895 m). Here it is, the parking lot on the Ochos at an altitude of 5900m.

Went down to about 6200 m. Tired.

November 22. Groundhog Day. We had two variants: to go either today at night (that means the ascent will be on November, 23), or tomorrow (then the mountain on November, 24). There is no communication, except the satellite. Every day we receive sms from office with weather. There is a storm on November, 25th with 100km/h wind. November 24, a little better, but still the numbers are scary.

I have to say that we went to Ochos. And we did it only because of a good estimation of Victor Bobek: it was not in vain that he demanded a detailed forecast every day. In order to make a decision he did not need so much the indicators of wind, temperature and precipitation on the day of ascent as the dynamics of these indicators. The storm was at first promised on the 24th of November, but then its peak slowly crept up to the 25th. Was it possible to go with a weather reserve on November 23? No, because people were tired from previous walks. A good guide looks not only in the forecast, but also in people’s eyes. And Victor is an experienced guide and climber (he has been on Everest 5 times). He knows for sure that the main thing in the mountains is the human factor. Fatigue is a direct road to an accident. “I don’t know any easy mountains.” Oh, how right he was.

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November 23. Groundhog Day2 . Today was declared carbohydrate loading day. Pasta, fried potatoes. We will not get much sleep, the check-out is scheduled for 22.00. It remains to compensate with food. Everyone gathers their layered sets of clothes and lunch packs. At 21.00 dinner (or breakfast?). At 22.00 three cars leave for 5900. There are 11 persons in the team.

November, 24. Be afraid of your desires. Ascent to the highest volcano in the world, the Ojos del Salado. At exactly 1 am we started from the site at 5900m. At night there are rules of the game at altitude, which should not be broken: the steps should be small, smooth and constant. You should not break the tempo. You mustn’t close your eyes, especially when you really want to doze off on the move. Or just cheat and blink slowly.

No, you can’t! Don’t close your eyes!

Steps and tempo rehearsed at acclimatization: if you’re a successful adult, it’s not a fact that you know how to walk properly.

Don’t close your eyes! Breathe! I can’t hear you breathing! – Bob’s voice goes round and round in my head.

The time until dawn turns into an eternity. The line of people slowly gains altitude. Victor in the front. Olga (the second Second Guide) leads the way. On the 5th person error in the steps accumulates and the pace of the tail of the column becomes jagged. I split the group in half, a little behind, not to rest against those ahead and keep a smooth pace.

Don’t close your eyes! Be patient! Breathe!

The hardest part is making it to sunrise. The predawn time is the coldest and you really want to sleep. With the first rays of the sun it will be better.

Breathe, keep your eyes open…

With dawn comes the problem of falling asleep. But the altitude is already well over 6,000. The shadow of Ochos is visible in the sky.

By 12 am we climb the crater of the volcano. Almost all participants later told that they saw outlines of people, houses, pirate ships and unseen animals in the rocks. Olya and I saw rocks in the rocks. That’s a shame!

The key section of the route on Ochos is the exit to the summit. It was necessary to ascend the talus, climb a small inner corner and pass along the ridge. Such Arkhyz rock “unit” superstructure on Kilimanjaro (where everything is on foot, but at a decent height).

After lunch, the wind rises – the storm is approaching after all. In the inner corner and on the ridge it blows so much that it blows gortex, down and all other layers through. The flags are tearing out of my hands. Yes, we are on top of the HIGHEST VULCAN IN THE WORLD. It’s 6,893 meters high.

On the descent you realize yourself as if you were in slow motion. From the slopes of Ochos you can see the area with the cars. As you walk, it’s as if they don’t come closer. Against the background of fatigue and altitude, everything slows down, even your thoughts. But as you lose altitude, you get a chance to talk. – Tigran…step…pause…breathe. I really wanted to go to Ochos… Step… pause… breath. Now I don’t know where to put it…step…pause…inhale. Why didn’t I want a Swiss bank account, huh? Pause…inhale…step. – This … pause … breath … step … does not work that way.

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We went down to the parking lot. Out of three cars at 5900m, two left. One more left with those who turned back. And then one of the remaining cars didn’t start. The diesel engine froze up. Big luck that the second car started. Why the laws of physics had not worked 20 times before (about how many times Bobok was on Ochos), and now it worked on one car out of three … But here’s the gun on the wall, and here it fired.

It’s 5 p.m. outside, the wind is picking up, it’s getting darker. It’s cold, getting even colder. For about an hour we tried to start the car. When it became clear that there was no chance, we left the car on the platform and lowered the people down to the second. We will deal with the iron tomorrow.

November 25. Mission impossible. If the diagnosis is correct, then how to start the car, which froze at 5900m? Wait for the sun or pour antigel. And if the diagnosis is wrong? It is better not to even think about it. Next to our camp on Laguna Verde there are huge all-terrain vehicles. A team of Germans is building a communication system between the high mountain camps around Ochos.

They were asking us for a long time what kind of a car, what volume of tank, how much fuel was there… They gave us two cans of antigel. We went to thank them with what we had, and it was wine. – We don’t drink in the mountains, and the best present for us would be if everybody carried bio-toilets and took out garbage. – Okay, we’re all about environmentalism, too.

Agreed to communicate between the camp and the rescue vehicle at 1 pm. At 12:00 I walk up to Olga. – They will start it. – I know. Let’s go collect the camp. At 13.00 rescue car called back, they said okay, started the car, let’s go. At 14.00 in the car on a bump shifted badly fixed battery and slightly shorted the whole car. At 14.05 the battery was put back in place. By 5:00 p.m. we had lunch, packed up our tents, kitchen, trash, and drove to the ocean. The hotel was a restaurant. We didn’t have to cook by ourselves. And to wash the dishes with napkins.

November 26. Tearing claws or rose petals. Chilean revolution from the restaurant window. Got up early in the morning to go to the national park to see the penguins. The exit from the city is blocked. There are sluggish protests against social inequality in Chile. The general feeling is that people are just having fun. It’s all quiet and peaceful and cultured. But no, there is no way to get through. Another exit – the same thing. The third exit – the same. Viktor Bobok takes the only correct decision in this situation – to stop at a restaurant. I, as the most nervous and responsible one, ask Bobok in a scary whisper: – Vitya, is it time to call the embassy? – Yeah, and what will you tell them? That you’re in a restaurant, they brought you some appetizers, but no hot meal yet? The revolution lasted exactly until the siesta. By lunchtime all the roads were open, we left for English Bay, closer to our airport. We arrived at the hotel, asked about room availability. We didn’t have any. We asked again two more times – the rooms were there. And even checked in before the check-in. In Chile there is a tip: ask several times, your problem will probably be solved.

November 27 – 28. Hot sands of the Atacama and the non-Pacific Ocean in Caldera. Become experts in the local cuisine over 2 days of vacation.

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Ojos del Salado Volcano.

Ojós del Salado volcano

The Ojos del Salado volcano is part of the Andean mountain system, located on the border of Chile and Argentina. The natural landmark beckons both ordinary travelers and mountain climbers. They come here to conquer the highest volcano in the world, which is considered Ojos del Salado.

Geologically, the mountain is a complex of lava domes, rich in biotite and other minerals. An integral part of the volcanic landscape are 5-8-meter-high glaciers in the form of calgasporas. Snow formations occur closer to the summit and resemble elongated blades of hardened snow. The Spanish name Penitentes reflects the resemblance of the figures to a crowd of penitents, particularly the capirotas of some fraternities.

The formation of the volcano’s landscape was influenced by the vast Atacama Desert. The adjacent arid area is interspersed with green lagoons, salt lakes, thermal springs, and the world’s highest lake. The reservoir is located in a crater, at an altitude of 6,390 meters. The picturesque region is inhabited by flamingos, coots, ducks, foxes, vicunas (relatives of llamas and alpacas).

Calgaspora

The height of the volcano Ojos del Salado

The height of the mountain reaches a mark of 6,983 meters. This fact makes the natural landmark not only the highest volcano in the world, but also the second highest peak in South America – second only to the top of Aconcagua with 6,960.8 meters.

It is noteworthy that Ojos del Salado has two peaks: the lower one is in Argentina and the other is in Chile. The difference in height between them is less than one meter.

For a long time, the measurements were wrong, which led to disputes. For example, in 1955, Chilean researchers stated that the peak of Ojos del Salado is at 6,988 meters. Because of this erroneous statement, the volcano was long considered the highest point in South America. Twenty years later, the mountain suddenly “grew” to 7,010 meters. A few years later, the record holder was in third place – after Aconcagua and Monte Pissis. Everything became clear in 2007 – a Chilean-European expedition examined the summit and established the exact size.

Another confusion is related to the status of the landmark. The volcano was considered extinct – throughout the history of observations it did not show any signs of activity. According to reports, the last eruption occurred here about 1,300 years ago. In 1993, the geological formation has reminded about itself by a small emission of sulfur and water vapor (fumaroles). And this means that the volcano is still dormant, rather than extinct. Nevertheless, many scientists consider this statement controversial. If they manage to prove the validity of their version, the highest volcano in the world will be recognized difficult to pronounce Lewlliaco. The mountain has a maximum height of 6,739 meters and is part of the Peruvian Andes range.

Thermal Springs

Climbing Mount Ojos del Salado

On February 26, 1937 the mountain was conquered by Polish mountaineers Jan Szczepanski and Justin Wojzhnis. The pioneers discovered sacrificial altars of the Inca Empire. On the basis of the discovery, scientists assumed that the Indian tribe considered the volcano a sacred place.

They try to climb to the top not only on foot, but also by transport. The current achievement, recorded in the Guinness Book of Records, belongs to Chileans Gonzalo Bravo and Eduardo Canales Moyu. The event occurred on April 21, 2007. The record-breakers reached the mark of 6,688 meters on a modified Japanese car Suzuki. A month earlier, on March 13, 2007, the German Matthias Jeschke had reached the altitude of 6,646 meters. The man used a Jeep Wrangler as a vehicle.

In 2015 the same German set a record for trucks that reached 6,675 meters. This time Jeschke drove a Mercedes-Benz Zetros.

Another achievement belongs to the Chilean Gianfranco Bianchi. The athlete became the first to climb a height of 6,472 meters on a motorcycle. The event dates back to April 2015.

In November 2017, Matthias Jeschke attempted to set two world records. The German did not succeed in surpassing the Chileans.

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Ojós del Salado volcano

Tourist climbing.

Climbing the mountain does not require any special preparation, as this path cannot be called difficult. The only obstacle in the way of climbers – the area in front of the top. You can conquer the peak on your own or as part of organized tours.

As a rule, a full-scale program lasts 13 days, a shorter one takes a week. The starting point of the route is often the Chilean town of Copiapo. From there, travelers will be taken to the Santa Rosa Lagoon. Most programs also include a visit to the summit of the Seven Brothers and the lagoon Verde. All transfers between points are by four-wheel drive vehicle. Options for overnight stays are in tents or equipped huts.

Self-travelers should know that you can climb Ojos del Salado from either the Argentine or the Chilean side. The first option is considered easier: no fees or permits. Before climbing, it is advisable to register at the specialized point in Fiambalá. The staff can ask about the terms of stay, equipment, warn about adverse weather conditions. Among the disadvantages of this route is the lack of huts on the slope. It is possible to take shelter in a small cave.

Before 2016, you had to pay $160 to $200 to climb from the Chilean side. Today, the permit is obtained free of charge. It is enough to apply to a special body (DIFROL): online or on arrival in Copiapo. In the same town you can rent a car. The Chilean slope is dotted with huts. One of the largest, Refugio Caudio Lucero, accommodates dozens of people.

Ojós del Salado volcano

Weather conditions on the volcano Ojos del Salado

The mountain is located in the Atacama Desert. This could not but affect the weather conditions: precipitation here is rare, the snow cap is formed mainly in winter. Much more moisture is observed on the eastern slope, the lower part of which is framed by tropical forests. The western slopes, on the other hand, are deserted. The maximum temperature typical of this area is +18, 4 ° C, the minimum – it drops to -15 ° C.

The best time to climb is considered the period from December to March . These months are the warmest in the southern hemisphere. However, they are not without strong winds. Some climbers prefer October and November, because it is easier to find water. On the slope on the Argentine side, finding water can be a significant challenge.

Another option is to schedule the ascent in April or May. These months are sometimes characterized by quiet and calm weather, as well as a decline in tourist traffic. Regardless of when you are going to the summit, it is worth taking care of appropriate equipment in advance.

Laguna Verde

How to get there

The coordinates of the mountain for the navigator are – 27.10931352923389 and – 68.54184293799335 . Let can be broken down into several parts: to Copiapo or Fiambala and directly to the natural attraction.

To Copiapo.

By bus : 50 kilometers from Copiapo there is the Desierto de Atacama airport, serving domestic flights from the Chilean capital. From the airport you can reach Copiapo in 45 minutes by bus from the local company Turbus. The bus also leaves regularly from Santiago and other Chilean communities.

By car: The distance from Santiago to Copiapo is 800 kilometers. Most of the way is on road number 5. There are some toll sections. After through the San Francisco Pass, drive to Rossa Lagoon. The rest is up to the plan.

By cab : Radio Taxi Copiapo, Taxis Campillay, TAXI Ezequiel Copiapo.

To Fiambala

by bus: Fiambala is 330 kilometers from Catamarca. There is also the international airport Coronel Felipe Varela. The towns are connected by bus.

By car: The route can be covered in four hours. Take the RN60. When you reach Fiambala, take road 60 towards the volcano.

By cab: in Catamarca, you will find Radio Taxi, Remises ViajeBien.

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