Andes Website : Climbing, Skiing, Trekking and Guidebooks in South America

Dates 20th January - 5th February 2019
(to 11th February with Tres Cruces)
Duration 17 days
Grade 1B   (2C for Tres Cruces)
"Andes" Leadership Fee (includes leaders expenses)


Easy High Altitude Ascents in Northern Chile.



All are per person.

"Andes" Leadership Fee (includes leaders expenses) -- £1995

Estimated Airfares -- £1000

Estimated Travel Costs in Chile -- £400

Estimated Accommodation & Meals -- £200

ESTIMATED TOTAL COST per person  --  £3600

Optional Tres Cruces extension - £795 plus estimated additional logistical costs of £300


This expedition will be based in the Puna de Atacama of northern Chile. This is an area of the Andes we know well, having run many successful trips in the past twenty five years, including five previous trips to the 6000m peaks around the Laguna Verde that feature on this itinerary.

The expedition will fly out to the provincial city of Copiapo via Santiago, the capital city of Chile. After an initial acclimatisation phase of three days camping and walking at about 3500-4500m in the area known as Vallecitos we will move to the very scenic Laguna Verde base camp. We'll do some further acclimatisation climbs here including the ascent of at least one 5000m+ peak. There are small hot springs right by the campsite at Laguna Verde, and some very beautiful views. The title picture at the top of the page was taken at this campsite at sunrise.

Once better acclimatised we'll climb some of the larger peaks in the area with the aim being to summit at least two 6000m+ peaks. Likely summits we may try include Barrancas Blancas 6119m, Peña Blanca 6030m and El Muerto 6510m. These peaks are mainly just day trips from our base at the Laguna Verde, using a 4x4 for approaches, so very little backpacking is required on this phase of the trip. The exception is that we are likely to backpack for about 2 or 3 hours to reach a higher campsite on El Muerto. This main mountain trip will be an 11 night expedition away from civilization.

We are offering an optional extension with this expedition to climb the two main peaks of the Tres Cruces massif. This mountain range on the Chilean side of the Andean "watershed" includes the 5th and 11th highest summits in the Andes, Tres Cruces Sur (6748m) and Tres Cruces Central (6629m). We will backpack to the high camp at 6000m between these summits from a 4x4 parking area at about 4900m. This extension will be a further five day mountain trip after a rest day, and gives a 2 day itinerary overall, includign flights. The grade rises to 2C because of the backpacking involved and a small amount of scrambling near the summit of Tres Cruces Sur

All of the peaks on this itinerary have no technical climbing on them and are just "walks". But these "walks" can be over very rough and unstable ground, and it is all at extreme altitude. We do not expect to need an ice-axe and crampons for the peaks on the main itinerary. However axe and poons will probably be needed for the Tres Cruces extension. The ascents on this expedition are suitable for strong hillwalkers, although previous expedition experience is preferred due to the demanding weather and camping conditions. Please call or email if you have any questions about the suitability of this trip for you.

Outline Itinerary

Day 1-2  Flights to Santiago and Copiapo
Day 3 Preparation in Copiapo
Day 4-6 Acclimatisation walks from our campsite at 3000m
Day 7-12 Further acclimatisation at Laguna Verde, and ascents of Barrancas Blancas 6119m and Peña Blanca 6030m.
Day 13-15 El Muerto, 6510m. ascent
Day 16-17 Fly home from Copiapo via Santiago
Day 16 Rest in Copiapo or in the mountains (your choice)
Day 17-21 Optional extension to Tres Cruces, 6748m
Day 22-23 Fly home from Copiapo via Santiago


General Information about our holidays

Please read our warning on altitude before booking this expedition to high altitudes.

Who runs 'Andes' and where we are based

General information about equipment, accommodation, flights, meals etc.


The plateau of the Puna de Atacama lies on the border between Chile and Argentina and includes a huge area over 4000m above sea level. There are still unclimbed peaks of over 5000m in this remote area. Some of the peaks in the area were climbed at the time of the Inca empire, when the mountains were worshipped as gods by the inhabitants and were ascended in order to make sacrifices. The Puna is one of the most beautiful and haunting places in the Andes, compared by many to the high plateau of Tibet. The scenery is a bit desolate for some, but the huge open spaces, clear air and big blue skies leave a deep impression on everyone who visits this area.


Copiapo is a small provincial capital in the Atacama desert at the foot of the Andes, about 500m above sea level. It is the nearest access city with an airport for the Chilean side of the Puna de Atacama. Copiapo is a major mining centre in northern Chile, so we'll apologise in advance for there not being a great deal of touristic stuff to see around town but at least you'll get a good steak and a hot shower! The hotel we normally use also has nice relaxing grounds and a swimming pool.

Summit day on El Muerto, January 2017 ANDES expedition.

Summit day on El Muerto, January 2017 ANDES expedition.


Despite the fact that at first sight the high plateau of the Puna de Atacama is very barren, the area is really quite good for seeing some of South Americas unusual wildlife, particularly on the 4x4 drives into and out of the mountains. Vicuña and guanaco are wild relatives of the llama and are seen frequently in the foothills. On the lagoons there are flamingos and other species of birds and on this trip we can pretty much guarantee to see a condor circling the peaks.

Flamingoes on the Salar de Atacama near the village of San Pedro, our acclimatisation base.

Flamingoes in the Atacama near our acclimatisation base.


With this expedition we are offering an optional extension to climb the two main peaks of the Tres Cruces massif - Sur at 6748m and Central at 6629m. These are the fifth and eleventh highest peaks in the Andes. The Tres Cruces peaks are part of a large and complex massif. There are more pictures of these mountains on our Tres Cruces information page. Our priority here will be to climb the higher south peak, but with good weather and conditions there should be no problem climbing both, as the summits are just 600-700m above our high camp.  Before travelling to these mountains we'll have a rest day either in the mountains or (optionally) back at the hotel in Copiapo. This extension will be a further five day mountain trip after the rest day. This gives a 23 day itinerary overall. The cost for this extension is £795, plus estimated additional costs, mainly 4x4 rental, of £300. We'll need a minimum of two clients interested to be able to guarantee this extension will run.


High camp at 6000m on Tres Cruces.

High camp at 6000m on Tres Cruces.



Although there is no difficult climbing involved in the ascents planned on this expedition, climbing to such heights is still a serious matter because of the lack of oxygen at high altitude. We will allow plenty of time for expedition members to acclimatise to the altitude but because of the nature of the expedition we recommend clients to have previous successful experience at altitudes of about 4500m-5000m. On the basic 17 day expedition there is not expected to be any significant backpacking, just a few hours total on El Muerto.

For this expedition good mountain fitness and stamina are important, but for high altitude expeditions clients also need good cardiopulmonary (heart and lung) fitness. This can only be maintained, by a program of intensive exercise such as sprinting (not jogging), squash or sprint cycling. This should be done in small doses (e.g. half an hour every other day) over a period of at least two months.

We will probably need to use an ice-axe and crampons on summit day on the Tres Cruces peaks, but previous experience of using these is not essential. Above base camp on Tres Cruces we will be unsupported and therefore will have to carry expedition weight (20kg) rucksacks uphill for a day or so to establish our high camp at 6000m, so a little recent experience of backpacking is essential.

Clients should be prepared for cold nights camping and be prepared for very windy and dusty weather at times out in the mountains. As we'll be a long way from the nearest supermarket we will have to put up with some tinned and freeze-dried food in our diet during our time in the mountains. All clients are expected to help with the routine work of this type of expedition; pitching tents, cooking and washing up


The climate at altitude in the Puna de Atacama is very cold and extremely dry. In the mountains temperatures can fall to -20ºC at night. During the day in the mountains it can feel very warm in the strong sun, but it can also be bitterly cold and windy. It should be dry all the time we are in South America, although there is a chance of a snow flurry, or occasional afternoon thunderstorm in the mountains. As we are near the tropics come prepared for about 10 hours of darkness every night. Temperatures in the valleys around Copiapo and in other low lying areas will be a very pleasant 20-25ºC during the day.

Relaxing by the Laguna Verde on the Chilean side of Ojos del Salado.



Our expeditions are designed to be small and flexible. The expedition will be co-ordinated, organised and lead by us, but we will consult and involve the expedition members when planning the day-to-day details of the trip. Please note however that the leaders decision is final where the safety of the group or any member is in jeopardy; for example where retreat or diversion is necessary due to illness or bad weather. The minimum number of customers we need to run this expedition is three. The maximum size of the expedition will be four customers plus leader.

Dinner at 4300m, Laguna Verde, ANDES expedition, January 2017.

Dinner at 4300m, Laguna Verde. ANDES expedition, January 2017.



All clients must be insured for medical costs and repatriation in an emergency. We recommend having insurance for baggage, personal liability and cancellation as well. If you would like further advice please ask. Chile is a well developed country. Vaccinations for tetanus, typhoid and polio are recommended. The country is very safe and relaxing to travel in; theft and muggings are no more likely than they are in most of Britain or Europe.


This is an adventurous mountain trip and all clients will be exposed to an element of risk by taking part in this itinerary. While we take all reasonable precautions to reduce risk it is neither possible nor desirable to completely eliminate these additional risks. Some of these hazards carry the risk of serious injury or death. It is important that you understand the risks involved before signing our booking form. We have identified the following areas as the principal additional risks of this itinerary. This is not a fully inclusive list - please ask if you would like to see a more detailed risk assessment of this itinerary before booking.
Driving, hotels and general safety : In Chile the driving, fire standards and general safety standards are not quite as high as in Europe, although they are now very good
Extreme remoteness : You will be camping in a remote area for an extended period and therefore obtaining medical assistance for any problem will be a slow process. There is no chance of a helicopter rescue.
Minor slips and falls : due to steep, uneven and unstable ground.
Weather : The Puna de Atacama is occasionally affected by severe and sometimes dangerous storms, including thunderstorms. There are frequent high winds. Forecasts are not so reliable.
Altitude : At high altitudes there is an increased risk of medical problems, most obviously altitude illness.
Mountain Hazards : In certain places, particularly higher up on Tres Cruces, you may be subjected to a slight risk of rock fall.

Map of Ojos del Salado