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The North of Argentina is a region full of volcanoes still little known, beautifull landscapes and full of stories. The Puna do Atacama, as it is called this natural region, is the continuation of the Bolivian highlands and is marked by being a desert at 4 thousand meters of altitude full of salars and picturesque landscapes.
Besides been very difficult, this region was crossed by the Incas more than 500 years ago through paths that linked the region of Mendoza (now Argentina) and Cuzco in Peru. Through the Puna, commodities of the empire, gold and other minerals that were extracted from the sorrounded desert, and also food that came from the humid regions of the Tawantisuyo, as was called the country of the Incas.
With the colonization, the empire disintegrated and before the white man even reached the Puna, the roads were already abandoned, so little is known about them and also about other Inca activities in the region. From the beginning of the Spanish colonization it was known that there were Inca artifacts in mountains, but little attention was given to these facts.
It was only in the 1950s, with the discovery of an Inca mummy on the summit of a 5,000-meter mountain Nevado Plomo (Chile), that it began to be said that the Incas climbed mountains. In the same decade, in 1953, Llullaillaco was climbed for the first time and soon in this first ascent was registered the discovery of Inca artifacts. Had the Incas climbed a 6,000-meter mountain? Or rather, the seventh highest of the Andes?
This doubt lingered on for decades, until in 1999 a National Geographic-sponsored expedition carried out a excavation near ruins in the mountain summit and found 3 children perfectly mummified and ornamented with a funeral parlor with pieces in perfect state of preservation. The Incas not only climbed Llullaillaco, but also performed rites on the summit!
Today it is known that the Incas climbed mountains frequently, having climbed all or almost all prominent mountains in northern Argentina and Chile. In many mountains to this day there are impressive ruins and the biggest of all is the ruin of the Nevado Quewar, which according to archeologists is a “Ushnu”, a construction that symbolizes the Inca power.
In this expedition we will climb 4 mountains, being 2 with more than 6 thousand meters, Llullaillaco Volcano (6730 meters) and Quewar (6150 meters), a mountain with 5 thousand meters, Tuzgle (5530 meters) and San Gerónimo Volcano (4963 meters).
The expedition itinerary begins and ends in the city of Salta in northern Argentina, a beautiful colonial city that is the headquarters of the High Mountain Archeology Museum, which we will visit before ascending the Puna do Atacama. We will pass through the city of San Antonio de los Cobres, considered as one of the most arid in the world and that in no way resembles an Argentine city, because its population is descended from the Incas that populated the region for centuries. We will also pass by the community of Tolar Grande and we will make an emersion in the landscape and culture of the Puna of the Atacama.
This is a trip for experienced climbers who have already made a 6,000-meter mountain. Because of the series of ascents that we will make, it is ideal for those who wish to expand their mountain climbing experiences and who are physically prepared to handle the challenges of an extended expedition.
It is an adventure in every way, both for the physical challenge and for the discovery of a new world in a landscape until now little known and very distant from the spotlight.
Keep reading the information available on our website. If you need to contact us.
Inca Mountains – Llullaillaco, Quewar, Tuzgle and San Geronimo Volcano – 17 days
Day 1 – Arrival in Salta – 1200m
Day booked for arrival in the historic city of Salta in Argentina. We will meet you at the airport and take you to the hotel.
If you arrive earlier, feel free to walk around the city and visit its historic center and churches. At night we will do the equipment review and leave everything ready for the next day exit. Included: Hotel and airport transfer.
Day 2 – Visit to the Archaeological Museum of High Mountain of Salta and transfer to San Antonio de los Cobres 3770m
After breakfast, we will visit the Archaeological Museum of High Mountain of Salta (MAAM), where we will have contact with one of the Inca mummies found in the Llullaillaco Volcano. Also we will know the funerary trousseau that was found together with the children and more about the history of the Incas, the Llullaillaco and the Puna region of Atacama. After lunch we will go to the city of San Antonio de los Cobres, where we will begin the process of acclimatization. Included: Breakfast, transfers and hotel in San Antonio de los Cobres.
Day 3 San Antonio de los Cobres – Acclimatization at the San Gerónimo Volcano – San Antonio de los Cobres 4963m
On this day we will make an ascent in the volcano San Gerónimo (4963 meters of altitude). We will go back to sleep in a hostel in San Antonio de los Cobres. Included: Breakfast, transfers and guide in the mountain.
Day 4 – Climbing Tuzgle Volcano – 5550m
On this day we will wake up early to climb the Tuzgle volcano. Despite its magnificence, it is a rise without technical complications. Expectation to return in San Antonio de los Cobres late afternoon. Included: Breakfast, transfers and guide on the mountain.
Day 5 – San Antonio de los Cobres – Santa Rosa de los Pasajes Grandes – C1 Quewar – 4550m
In the morning we will transfer from San Antonio de los Cobres to the village of Santa Rosa de los Pastos Grandes. There we will begin our ascent to the Volcano Quewar. On this day we will walk for 4/5 hours according to our acclimatization and spend the night camping in Laguna Seca at 4,550 meters. Included: Breakfast, transfer, guide, snack of trail, dinner.
Day 6 – Camping las Pircas – 5450m
On this day we will continue our acclimatization trek through a green valley full of waterfalls, a true oasis in the Puna. The green gives space to the steppe as soon as the water is scarce and in this place we will mount our camping to 5450 meters of altitude. Included: Breakfast, lunch, dinner and guide.
Day 7 – Quewar Ridge – 6150m
We’ll wake up early to try to summit Quewar. It will be about 7 hours of climb through a terrain without great technical difficulties, but great physical effort. If everything goes right we will know the Inca ruins that are close to the summit of this incredible mountain. After reaching the summit we will return to Laguna Seca, where we will spend the night camping. Included: Breakfast, lunch, dinner and guide.
Day 8 – Tolar Grande – 3500m
We will return to the cars and drive to Tolar Grande. The road is an attractive one, it crosses a desert full of geological monuments that yields good photos. At the end of the afternoon we will arrive in the village of Tolar Grande, a small place that translates well what is the Puna do Atacama with its houses of adobe, streets of earth and lunar landscape. Included: Breakfast, snack box and dinner.
Day 9 – Base camp of Llullaillaco – 4700m
In 4 × 4 vehicles we will approach the base camp of Llullaillaco. The path is incredible, as we will pass through salt flats and a steppe with golden grass. On this day we can see the immensity and solitude of the Atacama Puna. We’ll sleep in tents. Included: Transportation by 4×4, breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Day 10 – Rest at the base of Llullaillaco – 4700m
This day will be reserved for rest. But if you want to take an active rest, we will take a walk to an “Inca tambo”, which is an Inca ruin of more than 500 years. Included: Breakfast, snack box and dinner.
Day 11 – Camp 1 of Llullaillaco – 4900m
Walk to camp 1 of Llullaillaco. Included: Guides Breakfast, snack box and dinner.
Day 12 – Camp 2 of Llullaillaco – 5500m
Walk to camp 2 of Llullaillaco. Included: Guides Breakfast, snack box and dinner.
Day 13 – Camp 3 of Llullaillaco – 6000m
Walk to camp 3 of Llullaillaco. Included: Guides Breakfast, snack box and dinner.
Day 14 – Llullaillaco summit – 6752m
On this day we will try to reach the summit of Llullaillaco. After the attempt we will return to the base camp, where we will spend the night. Included: Guides Breakfast, snack box and dinner.
Day 15 – Llullaillaco – Tolar Grande – 3550m
Return to Tolar Grande, where we will spend the night in the inn. Included: Breakfast, snack box, dinner and transportation.
Day 16 – Tolar Grande – Salta – 1200m
Return to the city of Salta. Celebrate day! Included: Breakfast, snack box, dinner, Hotel and transportation.
Day 17 – Fly back to your hometown
Included: Airport transfer
** The above itinerary is subject to change due weather conditions, performance of the group, political/administrative problems and any other events not described.
Having good mountaineering equipment is one of the key points to have a successful expedition to Llullaillaco. Please note all your personal equipment will be checked by one of our guides in the hotel. There are no rental shops in Salta or Buenos Aires. If your intention is to rent mountaineering equipment, no problem, we can rent it for you in Mendoza but we need to know all your sizes in advanced. Find out rental prices in our FAQ.
Where should I fly to?
The best way to get to Salta is to fly to Buenos Aires then take a secondary flight to Salta.
Can I rent equipment in Salta or Buenos Aires?
No, you can’t. However, we can rent it for you in Mendoza and bring it to you in Salta. If your intention is to rent any equipment, please let us know as soon as possible. If you need rental boots, no problem, we need you to draw the contour of your foot on a blank A4 sheet of paper, scan it and then email it to us. The rental prices are as follow:
Do you think I’m able to climb 4 summits in just 17 days?
Keep in mind that the San Geronimo, Tuzgle and Quewar are only mountains of acclimatization and are not the purpose of the expedition. However realize that there is a cadence in the climbs, because the peaks are at 4983 meters, 5500m 6150 and finally 6735 meters, So if you are in good physical shape, you have great chances to do it.
Can I hire a porter at Llullaillaco?
Unfortunately this is a very remote mountain and there are no porters permanently installed in Llullaillaco. Bringing a charger from outside means paying the expensive cost of 4 × 4 trucks.
Is there electricity in the campsites?
We were able to have solar panels for basic cellular charging in the base camp of the mountains. There is energy in San Antonio de los Cobres and in Tolar Grande, in the rest there is not! Take extra chargers for your phone!
I can exchange money in Salta?
Yes. There are exchange offices that buy US dollars, sterling and euro in Salta. Best rates are in US dollars.
How much equipment will I have to carry? Can I can make it?
Your backpack will never weigh more than 12-15kg. The only time you will have to carry your personal gear on Llullaillaco and Quewar approach.
The entire group of equipment will be purchased, assembled, clean and carried by guides and porters. You will NOT have to carry these (unless you are very nice and want to help). On the way to the intermediate and last camp on the 6thousand meters mountains, you’ll be carrying your sleeping bag, crampons, clothing and some smaller items.
There is communication on the mountain?
Yes! At any time you can use our satellite phone. The calls cost U$3/minute. Throughout the expedition, we will post daily updates to our Facebook page via SPOT satellite.
Would you guys call my family and tell them I’m alright?
Of course! Even better! We have a blog that is updated every day! We normally post messages or photos about the expedition progress. Please visit our Facebook page and check the latest posts.
I’ve heard Llullaillaco is just a walk, is it true?
In fact, Llullaillaco and Quewar is not a technical mountain. Don’t forget the mountain is almost 7000 meters high. Altitude and bad weather have caused many people to lose their lives because they didn’t respect their own boundaries and underestimated the mountain.
Can I charge my iPhone battery or my camera?
Yes! We have solar panels to charge batteries, iPods, etc. Of course this changes when there’s not enough sunlight. Car 12V DC plugs are also an options while our vehicles are on the move.
What if I abandon or quit the expedition?
If you quit the expedition 1 week before departure, it is possible to recover part of your investment. Contact us and find out more.
If you quit the expedition in Copiapo, you can continue enjoying the services we provide you such as transportation and hotel. However we can not pay back the money you invested because logistics will already be hired.
If you quit the expedition after we left Copiapo, you will have to cover individual transportation and accommodation costs. Everyone who leaves the expedition for personal or health reasons should pay these costs.
If you give up during the summit attempt, you will never have to go down alone. Usually, we coordinate your descent with more expedition members. One of the guides will always be with you.
To leave Ojos del Salado, one of our vehicles will have to travel 900km to make a roundtrip to Salta. Fuel, maintenance and guide’s expenditure must be covered in case you wish to return home.
What’s your philosophy?
We accept women and men of any age, experience or ambition. We ask our members to be patient, respect the leader’s decisions and never go up or down alone.
Remember that you don’t pay us to take you to the summit, you pay mountaineering professionals with several years experience to help you up and down a steep mountain in the safest possible way.
Our itinerary may seem slower than other companies, this is due to a longer acclimatisation plan based on safety. More days will actually improve the chance of reaching the summit!
The need to take money?
You should take enough money in case you decide to abandon the expedition. We recommend you to bring a total of U$500 in US currency for the whole trip.
Can pay for rental equipment with a credit card?
No, this must be paid in US dollars to our guides.
What sort of training do I need for big mountains like this one?
To 6000m mountains, we recommend you start training at least three months before, depending on your physical condition. Aerobic exercises like running and cycling are very useful. Ideally, ask a professional to recommend you a good aerobic training program. A very effective exercise is to go hiking with a rucksack on lower mountains. BEWARE of injuries! We have had some cases of clients who have trained too much and ended up hurting themselves.
What experience do I need for Llullaillaco?
Ideally, anyone attempting Llullaillaco should have climbed a 6000 metre peak before, in order to become familiarized with acclimatisation and snow walking. We, however, understand how hard it can be to have enough holidays in a year to climb these. So alternatively you can get away with just a multi-day altitude trek such as Everest Basecamp, Annapurna Basecamp or machu picchu.
How is the weather at Llullaillaco?
This is a very windy mountain! It is also a very dry region where the wind from the Pacific starts at around 11am and blows until abut 5pm. It is common to have at least one snow storm during the expedition. Our team receives daily weather forecast updates.
What if I have a special diet?
Please tell us in advance about any food issues you might have and also please remind our guides about it too. Unless you bring your own food, we cannot help you if you are mmacrobiotic vegan or celiac due to extreme logistical difficulties. Contact us and let us know about your food restriction.
Who cooks at altitude camps?
We have very skilful guide/cooks! We guarantee you will e impressed about the meals!
Is there water at Llullaillaco?
There is no liquid water in Llullaillaco. Eventually some snow might melt and start running a little stream. These are however temporary and we cannot count on it. We take all the water from Salta. In our last expedition we took 320 litres of water for each whole expedition.
What if I have a health problem?
Our guides has extensive experience in mountain medicine and can solve most of problems you might encounter.
What if I need a rescue?
All our guides are trained rescuers and experienced in rescues on big mountains. Rescues can be made with one of our 4WD vehicles, this way you can get to a hospital in 12 hours.
Do you recommend the use of Diamox?
NOT for the Central Andes. In extreme altitudes like the Himalayas or Karakorum we do recommend using Acetilzolamide or Diamox. This drug seems to actually work during the acclimatisation period by increasing the breathing rate at night (reduces CO2 levels), and also is a diuretic which eliminates sodium out of your system. In the Andes mountains however, mountains are too dry and taking diuretics such as Diamox actually decrease your acclimatisation capacity.
What percentage of your clients actually make it to the summit?
It depends upon weather, experiences, fitness and their nationality. But usually about 75% of our european and north american clients get to the top.
Where do we go to the toilet on the mountain?
Ojos del Salado is not a controlled mountain. However we take care of it! There are designated toilets near each hut. Anywhere where there aren’t designated toilets, we make our ‘business’ in bin bags and take them back to Salta.
What’s the temperature my sleeping bag should stand?
We recommend you to bring good down sleeping bags with comfort temperature of -15 up to -22. Please note there are 2 types of temperatures shown in most of sleeping bags. We’re focusing on the “comfort temperature”.
Minimum of 4 people. Total cost is USD 5800. Please contact us for details on payment methods.
What is NOT included: