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Ascent of Nevado Chachani on 2016-01-04

Climber: Seán Caulfield

Date:Monday, January 4, 2016
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Nevado Chachani
    Location:Peru
    Elevation:6056 m / 19872 ft

Ascent Trip Report

I'd been in Arequipa for almost two weeks & had climbed El Misti & hiked Colca Canyon, the only thing left to do (& within my backpacker budget) was Chachani. I had a climbing partner, Pete, a fellow Irishman - we'd hiked Misti & Colca together.

Of course we wanted to do Chachani without a guide - this is probably the easiest 6,000m+ mountain in the world - but none of the agencies in the city wanted to give us what we considered to be a fair price for transport only - it would cost almost as much as a guided tour (or more in since cases!). The most ridiculous quote we got was from Zarate - $US160, or more than the cost of a regular tour, while the cheapest was S/.400 from an agency in the Plaza de Armas (slightly less than the cost of a regular tour). Waiki Adventures on the corner of Jerusalen & Ugarte agreed to take us for S/.150 each on a day they already had a tour & provided they had free seats in their 4wd, but the timing was never right, or their vehicle was full.

So, after much research, we decided we would just do it ourselves. I figured out that the the 4wd dropoff point for most of the tours (the Azufrera route) is just 8km & 800m uphill from a turnoff on the "Trocha" - the old dirt road to Puno. The problem would be getting to this point - a 4wd (or high-clearance vehicle) is needed on the Trocha, a regular taxi wouldn't be able to take us there, & there are no buses & apparently very little traffic, so hitching would be very difficult.

I read the trip report & route description of the Cabrerías route on summitpost & we decided that this would be our backup plan - we would get to this trailhead in a taxi, wait for a couple of hours to see if we could hitch a lift to Pampa de Matacaballo (the turnoff for the 4wd track to the Azufrera route) , then if not just hike up from there.

We took a combi (minivan bus) to "Cayma/1ro de Junio" from a few blocks west of the Plaza de Armas all the way to the end, then found a taxi to take us to the "Reserva Nacional Salinas y Aguada Blanca" sign about 1.5km along the dirt road (Trocha).

We waited for a couple of hours at the sign, but there was no traffic at all on the road, so we decided on Plan B - the Cabrerías route. It was 12:30pm when we set off, but it wasn't too hot, I suppose because of the elevation.

We followed the route description from summitpost, hiking up the trail behind the sign to Alfredo's hut (derelict) & on up from there across the scrubland (no trails, just lots of spiky grass & prickly bushes). After about 5km & 6hours we arrived at a great campsite - one small site was sheltered on all sides by huge rocks & high rock walls.

Since it was almost sunset, & not wanting to carry our heavy packs any further, we decided to camp there for the night, even though it was at just 4,600m & would leave us a longer summit climb the following day. It looked like we were about halfways distance-wise from the start of the trail to the summit - what we hadn't accounted for was the winding route & especially the difficulty of the summit hike...

The following morning we awoke after a good night's sleep & prepared breakfast. We had agreed not to start too early, since we were unsure of the route & needed daylight to look for landmarks & follow the summitpost guide, but in hindsight 7:30am was much too late to leave our camp.

We traversed around the deep bowl at approximately 4,850m (difficult & slightly dangerous in places) & reached Pampa Grande (the high camp at 4,900m) in about 3hours - here we had some tuna sandwiches & scouted our route to the summit. The summitpost description was difficult to follow since it mentioned snowy patches (there wasn't any snow on Chachani in January 2016, just a tiny bit of ice here & there), but we decided to climb the ridge from the left hand side.

We crossed a boulder field & got onto the ridge at around 5,000m. We started this climb at about 11:30am, it would take us 7 exhausting hours of scrambling up & over loose rocks, sand & scree to reach the summit, just in time for a spectacular sunset. Ampato was visible in the distance & Misti was surrounded by a sea of clouds.

We probably should have quit lower down, but we're both pretty stubborn so kept on going. I felt a bit stronger near the end of the climb & reached the summit about 10minutes before Pete, but neither of us were exactly full of energy at that stage & now we had a tricky hike down to camp in the dark.

Pete hadn't brought a torch or phone & I needed to preserve the battery on my phone for GPS to find the trail & our camp, so we would have to share my torch to light the way. Not ideal. We couldn't find any other easy route down, so started our descent by running down the scree to the side of our route up. This only lasted for about 250m of elevation before turning too rocky, so we got back to the ridge & tried to follow our route up. A couple of times we found ourselves up against huge cliffs & had to turn back & hike up & around them. Pete was really exhausted at this stage & moving really slowly, falling over several times injuring his wrists, ankles & various other body parts, thankfully only minorly. It took us about 4hours just to get down off that ridge again. We crossed the boulder field & rested at Pampa Grande for about half an hour, eating the last of our snacks & staring up at the Milky Way. Luckily it was a relatively mild night.

We decided to cross the bowl lower down than before, at about 4,800m rather than 4,850 - this seemed to make it much easier & we made it back to camp just before 2am, after an 18hr30min day of hiking...

We slept until 9am the following morning, then had breakfast, packed up & hiked down again. This time, rather than hike down to the sign from Alfredo's hut, we followed a trail to near a hairpin further down the road. We walked along the road for about 10-15minutes, taking one shortcut around the 2nd hairpin bend, to the crossroads.

We broke out the last tin of tuna & the last of our bread & waited for a car to pass so we could hitch back to civilisation. A couple of cars passed in the other direction, & annoyingly an empty 4wd drove down the Trocha, but we were just finishing our lunch when we saw a 4wd coming from the direction of the Police Academy. Thankfully he stopped & we had our lift back to Arequipa!

Turns out the guy driving was also a mountaineer, he had climbed every mountain in south Peru several times! He had never taken our route up Chachani though & seemed impressed by our accomplishment, although he also said he thought we were "crazy Gringos"! He brought us all the way into the centre of Arequipa, saving us from having to take more taxis or micros - very much appreciated.

Looking back I'm very happy to have climbed Chachani, my 2nd 6000m+ summit & first without a guide. Some of the views were spectacular - particularly of the other peaks near camp at sunset, of Misti surrounded by a sea of clouds & the summit sunset. By going the Cabrerías route I saved S/.189 (US$56), not much in real money, but a fortune for a backpacker! However, the hike was far from enjoyable - the last 1,000m of elevation to the summit were excruciating, I have never hiked that long over such frustrating terrain & have no wish to ever again!

Advice to anyone thinking of hiking Chachani:

-There seem to be two routes offered by the agencies in town - the easy Azufrera route & another route where you are taken in a 4wd to 4,200m & hike up from the south. The Azufrera route can be had for S/.250 guided, maybe even cheaper, although some agencies will try to charge much more
-Transport is almost as expensive as taking a guided tour, if you aren't in a group of 3 or more
-There was absolutely no snow on our route, just some patches of ice in very shaded crags above about 5,500m (maybe higher) & some penitentes near the summit. I brought crampons all the way to the summit but didn't use them, my ice axe was useful on the descent to slow myself down or stop myself falling on some sections
-I only needed the outer skin of my tent, the campsite was sheltered & there was almost no wind at night, but obviously you should bring a waterproof tent if rain is forecast...
-My pack weighed 23kg setting out. I could have saved weight by not bringing the outer skin of my tent, my crampons & ice axe, but a pack is always going to be heavy when you are camping for two days somewhere without water
-I brought 8.5litres of water (there is none on the mountain & it isn't advised to melt the ice which may contain high levels of sulphur). This was a good amount. I carried 3.5litres in my summit pack & drank it all
-On the summit climb I wore a wool base layer (top & bottom), fleece-lined pants, 2 t-shirts & a soft shell jacket. Also merino wool socks, gloves & a woolly hat. Had another layer in reserve but didn't need it. It felt much warmer than the mountainforecast.com forecast & wasn't as windy
-Wear long pants for the hike up to camp, the vegetation will scratch your legs (Cabrerías route)
-Total cost (not including food & water) S/.11 (S/.1 for the combi to 1ro de Junior & S/.10 for my half of the taxi to the trailhead)
-If hiking the Cabrerías route you really should sleep at Pampa Grande camp (the flat, square sandy area at 4,900m on the far side of the deep bowl) the night before your summit attempt, the other camps are just too far away
-There's no point in asking anyone for directions or a ride to "Cabreria" or "Cabrerías" - although it may appear on maps no-one will know what you are talking about & there is a different Cabreria so you will probably be sent in the wrong direction. Ask for a ride towards the "Trocha" or "Academia de Policia" instead
- There seemed to be some traffic on the Police Academy road (which is fully surfaced) - maybe 3-4 vehicles/hour - so possible to hitchhike
-I'd only recommend the Cabrerías route to dedicated mountaineers, it's very, very difficult
-Some key GPS coordinates for the Cabrerías route:
"Reserva Nacional Salinas y Aguada Blanca" sign, the trailhead (we got an elevation of 3,400m, not the stated 3,270): -16.268853,-71.508448
Trocha/Police Academy road junction 3,300m (end of paved road): -16.278188, -71.507763
Turnoff for start of trail to Alfredo's hut if hiking from junction: -16.272976 -71.509902
Camp 4,600m: -16.232477 -71.513190
Camp Pampa Grande 4,900m: -16.212400 -71.524901
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:2656 m / 8717 ft
    Elevation Loss:2756 m / 9045 ft
    Distance:24.7 km / 15.3 mi
    Quality:8 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Scramble
    Gear Used:
Tent Camp
    Nights Spent:2 nights away from roads
    Weather:Cool, Calm, Low Clouds
Ascent Statistics
    Elevation Gain:2656 m / 8717 ft
    Distance:11.4 km / 7.1 mi
    Route:Cabrerías
    Trailhead:Reserva Nacional Salinas y Aguada Blanca sign  3400 m / 11155 ft
    Time Up:17 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Elevation Loss:2756 m / 9045 ft
    Distance:13.3 km / 8.3 mi
    Route:Cabrerías
    Trailhead:Trocha turnoff  3300 m / 10827 ft
    Time Down:8 Hours 30 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip


 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Seán Caulfield
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. Peakbagger.com accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

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