Ascent of Ojos del Salado on 2011-01-08

Climber: Rob Woodall

Others in Party:Petter Bjørstad
Greg Slayden -- Trip Report or GPS Track
Adam Walker -- Trip Report or GPS Track
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Saturday, January 8, 2011
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:4x4 Vehicle
Peak:Ojos del Salado
    Elevation:22615 ft / 6893 m

Ascent Trip Report

This peak was climbed on a 20-day privately organised trip, using 2 vehicles and drivers provided by La Paz based company Topas. Adam Helman did most of the planning – great job Adam! Trip is summarized below: we chose to acclimatise by way of a selection of Bolivian P600m summits and Ultras. Ojos was summitted on 8 January.

Sat 25 Dec 2010: I arrived in La Paz on American Airlines, early morning, changed some USD to Bolivianos at airport, met by Topas driver who took me to El Dorado hotel. Adam H already there: arrived previous day. Visit to Topas office; afternoon stroll near hotel. Drizzly day finally cleared to give a fine Illimani / rainbow view.

Sun 26: Adam H and I collected 0600 by Luis (Topas driver) in Toyota Landcruiser, drove S via Oruro, climbed Cerro Anacasi, 4395m, our first acclimatisation peak. Unable to buy gasoline anywhere: turned out the govt had suddenly removed the subsidy (because Bolivian-subsidised fuel was being sold illegally across the border) resulting in a 73% price rise overnight. The filling stations were refusing to sell at the higher price. Could our trip continue?? Hotel Bernal overnight (Oruro, by bus station – noise and fumes).

Mon 27: we had planned to peak-bag in the area and meet the rest of the team at Potosi on Wednesday, but given the fuel issue we head back to La Paz, managing to buy fuel (at the new price) on the way. Greg and Petter have already arrived (and managed to buy propane-butane canisters) but Duane and Adam W have been delayed until tomorrow due to a flight problem. Visit to Topas office: we learn gasoline will now be available but there may be road blocks to deal with. We agree to continue with our plan.

Tue 28: Adam H, Petter and I picked up from hotel at 0600, 4h drive to Poopo, ascend Cerro Wila Chanca, 4691m. This seems a little high for Petter’s first acclimatisation summit but he has no problem with it. A thunderstorm put paid to our plans to camp near the trailhead and we found no suitable sites along the main highway; Luis found us a basic but perfectly acceptable hostel (S18.90169 W66.77483) in Challapata.

Wed 29: drove S to Potosi, leaving the Altiplano to cross a more dramatic dissected landscape, then thru the busy city centre. We climb Cerro Rico, 4791m. Much mining activity: Luis takes us to the “tourist entrance” where we find a young lad who knows the way up. Check into Hotel La Casna. Afterwards Petter succeeds in meeting an orphaned lad Daniel whom he has been sponsoring for some years. Greg, Duane and Adam W arrive having climbed “Cerro Anacasi” using the peakbagger report we had uploaded in Oruro. Our team of six is finally assembled!

Thu 30: drove S to climb Cerro Cunurana (5056m) then continued SW to Tupiza, bought several days’ water, stocked up on Bolivianos (at least one ATM available). Wonderfully scenic evening drive towards Santa Barbara, camp beside highway 14 (dirt road) at 4070m.

Fri 31: drove to Santa Barbara (mining village), ascended Cerro Chorolque (5572m). Drive to Uyuni, Hotel Dairson, S20.46335 W66.82282.

Sat 1 Jan 2011: visited Salar de Uyuni; drove W to Cerros de Canapa, camped at 4660m on slopes of mountain.

Sun 2: climbed Cerros de Cañapa, 5904m, the second Ultra of our trip. Overnight back at our 4660m camp.

Mon 3: moved camp to 4346m on slopes of Cerro Tomasamil.

Tue 4: climbed Cerro Tomasamil, 5860m – our third Ultra. Overnight back at our 4346m camp.

Wed 5: crossed border from Bolivia (Avaroa, where a railway sign cites an elevation of 3701.23 – a useful GPS calibration check) to Chile (Ollague). Long drive SW across the Atacama desert. Immediately obvious that this is a more modern country than Bolivia, with cash ready available via ATMs and credit cards accepted e.g. for fuel and food. Original plan was to stay at Antofagasta but we drive on to Taltal, arriving late evening, Mi Tampi hotel, S25.40504 W70.48273. This meant a long day but enabled us to reach the lowest Ojos refuge by the following evening.

Thu 6: drive via Copiapo to Laguna Verde. We had understood that we needed to arrive at the border checkpoint (S26.89334 W68.47006, Laguna Verde) by 7pm but we find it closed. We visit the nearby Termas (hot springs, S26.89009 W68.48119) and are told that we can post our permit paperwork under the door of the checkpoint: the permit fee itself is paid the next day at base camp. We stay overnight in the Murray Refuge, S26.93289 W68.59687, 4532m. The main (upstairs) dormitory is filled with fumes: the cause is apparently our drivers’ leaky gas stove. Most of us sleep downstairs or outside: the night sky is a riot of stars although the temperature is somewhat below my sleeping bag rating and I have to creep back inside for extra clothing and a bivvy bag.

Fri 7: we have 3 potential Ojos summit days after today and decide to make an attempt tomorrow to leave time for a second attempt if needed. Adam H has a bad cough and reluctantly decides to stay at Murray while we go up. The remaining five of us make the drive (deep sand) up to base camp (Universidad de Atacama, Jorge Rojas, S27.05974 W68.54753, 5255m) and pay our permit fees (USD160 each) to the ranger (red hut). We learn that there is no need for ice axe or crampons and that there will be room tonight in the upper (Tejos) refuge (S27.08759 W68.53821, 5834m). All this means lighter packs than expected. There is a road (said to be the highest in the world) leading to Tejos but it is steep and sandy and would take a fairly specialised vehicle to make the journey nowadays. We see a pickup attempting the journey on one of the days but it doesn’t manage the first hill. We take the most direct route, taking 3h for the 3.1km hike, arriving at 3pm. The refuge is small (apparently adapted from 2 shipping containers, with 6 bunks), cold and in some disarray. After an hour the summit party arrive back: 3 Italians and 2 Germans. In a while they tidy up and go down to base camp and we have the place to ourselves. We set up Petter’s gas stove, cooked our dehydrated meals and got an early night, sleeping reasonably well considering the altitude.

Sat 8: 04:20 having breakfasted and dressed in all our clothes against the strong cold wind we follow the trail uphill. It is initially obvious but in a few hundred metres we lose it in the dark. There is a sign pointing L: we later learn that it is necessary to cross to the S side of the small stream here. The trail zigzags up on the LHS of a snow-filled gully, crosses R above it then cuts back L to arrive at the crater rim. The trail surface is relatively loose and tough work. Petter and I press on in front, trying to keep warm; Greg and Adam W follow; Duane has a few gear problems and turns back. On reaching the crater we realise there is still a fair climb. I’m very tired: I’ve eaten virtually nothing since starting, and feel a bit better after a rest and some food. A boulder section leads to a steep section, protected by a fixed rope (renewed at the start of the season, the ranger told us). We arrive at a notch in the ridge, then the fixed rope leads R along the ridge. This has a short exposed section, YDS 3, maybe 4, which I found easy in ascent but a little more tricky in descent, albeit not using the rope. The lack of co-ordination due to the altitude is a significant issue – great care needed. The slightly higher W “Chilean” summit of Ojos del Salado is marked by a cairn and a largish unattached rock.

The traverse to the E “Argentinian” summit turns out to be fairly quick and easy, YDS 3. Back at the notch, a fixed rope protects the initial (2m) descent on the S side. There follows a few metres traverse (beware loose rock) then a 2m ascent on good rock leads via an easy slope to the summit.

The two summits have been measured using a surveying level, concluding that the W summit is 0.54m higher than the E summit. However the W summit’s highest rocks are detached while the E summit is a solid part of the mountain. Conventionally they are regarded as equal in height, although as we discovered, it is pretty easy to visit both. Note: both summits are on the Chile-Argentine border: the “Chilean” summit is so called as it is the one usually climbed from Chile; similarly the “Argentine” summit from Argentina.

We met Greg and Adam W ascending as we descended from the notch. Once below the crater rim, the descent is quick and easy, on scree, taking a more direct line avoiding most of the zig zags. After a rest in the Tejos refuge, we packed up and descended to base camp with Duane, making way for tomorrow’s summit party. Base camp has two large geodesic dome tents and we had the use of one of these (included in the permit price), providing comfortable living and sleeping quarters.

Timings: base camp 1200, Tejos refuge 1500. Depart Tejos 0420, Ojos W summit 1130, E summit 1220, Tejos 1440; 1h descent to base camp.

NOTE: the GPX track extends to the main (dirt) highway. There is some "noise" near the summit!

Sun 9: rest day. Duane was reattempting Ojos the next day and in the afternoon I went back up to Tejos with him, helping with his pack. We ascended in 2h, much faster than 2 days ago. Packless I ran down the 3.1km route in 23 minutes – probably the highest fellrunning exercise I’ll ever undertake! On arriving at base camp I learned that Adam H had just passed through, buying a lift up from the Murray refuge and engaging our Topas driver for porter duty! He would be attempting Ojos with Duane tomorrow, along with a Spanish couple whom we had met at Murray.

Mon 10: Greg, Petter and I climb Cerro Vicuñas (Volcan Baker), 6067m P627m, on a very windy day. We then descend to the Murray refuge for the night. Later the others arrive: Duane summitted Ojos with the Spanish gentleman, despite the high wind. Sadly Adam H didn’t make it, due to his cough, but he’d given it his best shot.

Tue 11: we drive back to Copiapo, flying to Santiago in the evening. Duane flies home later this evening; Petter flies home the next morning; Adam H returns to La Paz with the Topas vehicles for his flight home.

Wed 12: Greg, Adam W and I fly to Mendoza: planning a “quick” Aconcagua ascent having already acclimatised for the 80m lower Ojos.

Photos for the ascents.

Adam Helman's trip report

Adam Walker's trip report
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:5440 ft / 1658 m
    Total Elevation Loss:5440 ft / 1658 m
    Round-Trip Distance:7.8 mi / 12.5 km
    Grade/Class:YDS 3
    Quality:9 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Unmaintained Trail, Exposed Scramble
    Gear Used:
Hut Camp
    Weather:Frigid, Windy, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:5407 ft / 1648 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 5374 ft / 1638 m; Extra: 33 ft / 10m
    Loss on way in:33 ft / 10 m
    Distance:3.9 mi / 6.2 km
    Route:Chilean route (N face)
    Start Trailhead:base camp (Jorge Rohas)  17241 ft / 5255 m
    Time:1 Days 0 Hours 20 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:5407 ft / 1648 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 5374 ft / 1638 m; Extra: 33 ft / 10m
    Gain on way out:33 ft / 10 m
    Distance:3.9 mi / 6.3 km
    Route:Chilean route (N face)
    End Trailhead:base camp (Jorge Rohas)  17241 ft / 5255 m
    Time:5 Hours 
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Rob Woodall
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. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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