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

Puna de Atacma & Tres Cruces  Dates 8th - 22nd January 2017

(to 28th January with Tres Cruces)
Duration 15 days
Grade   1B, (2C for Tres Cruces)
"Andes" Leadership Fee (includes leaders expenses)




All are per person.

"Andes" Leadership Fee (includes leaders expenses) -- £1895

Estimated Airfares -- £1000

Estimated Travel Costs in Chile -- £350

Estimated Accommodation & Meals -- £150

ESTIMATED TOTAL COST per person  --  £3400


Optional Tres Cruces Extension -- £695 Leadership Fee, plus estimated £200 costs

What's included in the price you pay ANDES and what's not.


This expedition will be based in the remote 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 years, including three previous trips to the 6000m peaks around Ojos del Salado 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 acclimatising 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.

Once better acclimatised we'll climb some of the larger peaks in the area with the aim being to summit at least one 6000m+ peak. Likely summits we may try include Mulas Muertas 5897m, Vicuñas 6067m and El Fraile 6061m. These peaks are all just day trips from our base at the Laguna Verde, so no backpacking is required on this main part of the trip. 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 Tres Cruces. This massif 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 21 day itinerary overall, with a grade of 2C because of the backpacking involved.

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 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.

Vicunas from the 5100m camp on Ojos del Salado.

The peak of Vicuñas behind the hut at the 5100m camp on Ojos del Salado. We will climb this peak more or less by the right hand "skyline".


Outline Itinerary

Days 1-2 Flight via Santiago to Copiapo.
Days 3-5 Camping and acclimatisation walks at Vallecitos. 
Day 6-7 Travel to Laguna Verde base camp and rest day
Days 8-10 Further acclimatisation climbs, probably including Mulas Muertas 5897m.
Days 11-13 Climb El Fraile 6061m and Vicuñas 6067m
Days 14-15 Travel back to Copiapo and home
Days 14 Rest day
Days 15-19 Tres Cruces ascents
Days 20-21 Travel back to Copiapo and home

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 usually use also has a swimming pool.

Tres Cruces from Laguna Santa Rosa. 

Tres Cruces from Laguna Santa Rosa. The south peak, on the right, is the fifth highest in the Andes and features in our optional extension. Our route will be up to a high camp in the 6000m high col between the two main peaks.


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. Pictured above, the Tres Cruces peaks are part of a large and complex massif. Our priority here will be to climb the higher south peak, but with good weather and conditions there should be no trouble doing 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 21 day itinerary overall. The cost for this extension is £695, plus estimated additional costs, mainly 4x4 rental, of £200. We'll need a minimum of two clients interested to be able to guarantee this extension will run.


Despite the fact that at first sight there is almost nothing to eat in the high barren plateau of the Puna de Atacama the area is good for seeing some of South Americas unusual wildlife, particularly on the long jeep drives into and out of the mountains. Vicuña and guanaco are wild relatives of the llama and are seen frequently. 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.

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



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 5000m. On the basic 15 day expedition there is not expected to be any backpacking.

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 may 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 dehydrated 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

High camp at 6000m on Tres Cruces in 2009. 

High camp at 6000m on Tres Cruces on the February 2009 "Andes" expedition. This was after an unusually heavy recent snowfall.


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 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.


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 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.

The pretty crater lake on Mulas Muertas. 

The pretty crater lake on Mulas Muertas, above the Laguna Verde camp. Vicunas is on the left in the middle distance. The Tres Cruces peaks are in the distance on the Chilean border. "Andes" expedition February 2015.


Our price is for leadership/guiding and mountain services only. It INCLUDES the leaders fee (wages) and all their expenses, such as flights, travel, hotels, meals, permits. It also INCLUDES his or her share of communal expenses, which may be such things as 4x4 rentals, diesel and fuel, mule and porter costs, shared hotel rooms.

Our price also INCLUDES all mountain services such as provision of tents, stoves and all other communal camping equipment, all mountain food including all camp food and lunches on day trips. It also INCLUDES any communal mountaineering equipment that may be necessary, such as ropes, karabiners, etc., and on most expeditions emergency use of satellite telephone link.

Our price does NOT INCLUDE - your flights, your insurance, your hotel/hostel accommodation, your meals taken at cafes and restaurants, your share of communal travel costs (e.g 4x4 rental, mule costs), your personal climbing and camping equipment (i.e. used by you alone, such as sleeping bag, ice-axe, crampons), permits or peak fees payable by yourself.


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 advice on insurance please ask. Please bring an extra copy of your insurance certificate on the expedition for the leader. Chile is one of the most well developed countries in South America. Vaccinations for tetanus, typhoid and polio are recommended. The country is very safe and relaxing to travel in; theft and muggings are as unlikely as they are in most British cities.


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 and 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 you may be subjected to a slight risk of rock fall.

Condors are frequently seen in the Puna, this photo is from our 2005 expedition.

Condors are frequently seen in the Puna. This photo of a juvenile (but still huge!) bird was taken on the acclimatisation phase in the Chaschuil valley during our 2005 Ojos del Salado expedition.

Map of Ojos del Salado