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

 

Risk Assessments for our Expeditions

On this page are more detailed risk assessments for the expeditions that we regularly run. If you do not see your expedition here please get in touch with us. In the case that you are on a "private itinerary" we will make a specifically tailored risk assessment for your itinerary on request, or if we feel there is a need to modify our standard risk assessment due to your specific circumstances.

Aconcagua

Bolivia Climb

Bolivia Ski Trips

Brazilian Climber

Chile Downhill Holidays

Chile, Argentina & Patagonia Ski Mountaineering

Huayhuash Treks and Climbs

Ojos del Salado

Peru First Ascents Trips

Puna First Ascents Trips

 


Aconcagua

First Written December 2001 Updated October 2015


AUTHOR

This risk assessment has been compiled by John Biggar, who has personally completed this itinerary on six occasions, 1995, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2003, 2008 and 2010. He has twenty-four years experience of operating expeditions and holidays in South America under the trading name 'Andes', twenty-three of these years have included operating in Argentina and twenty operating Aconcagua itineraries. John Biggar holds the Mountaineering Instructor Certificate.

GENERAL STATEMENT - SAFETY AND RISK
This is an adventure holiday and by taking part in this itinerary all clients will be exposed to an element of risk beyond that found in everyday life in the UK. While all reasonable precautions should be taken to reduce these additional risks it is neither possible nor desirable to completely eliminate additional risks.
To keep things in perspective 'Andes' have taken over 650 people to South America over a twenty-four year period and only ever recorded the following incidents:-
Theft -- 4 minor theft incidents reported. 4 more serious cases (three of multiple possessions, one of just tickets and passport).
Assault, Violence etc. --  0 cases on expedition.
Altitude Illness -- Out of a total of 669 clients and 174 leaders at April 2015 the majority (c. 80-90%) going to over 4000m - we have had many (e.g. 50) minor cases of altitude illness where descent was not necessary. We have only had 15 more serious cases of AMS where descent was necessary.
Injury from slips etc. -- 4 cases. One each of broken nose, sprained ankle, serious cuts & bruising, severe back pain
Cold Injury -- 2 cases of frostnip & 1 of minor frostbite on the same expedition. 1 more serious frostbite (left thumb) on Aconcagua Jan 2008. Also 1 snowblindness.
Severe exhaustion -- 2 cases.
Major Illness or Infection -- 2 cases, 1 of giardia, and 1 eye infection.
Animal Bite -- 1 case (Dog).

John Biggar has personally spent a total of over seventy months in the mountains of the Andes and never had any personal trouble from serious illness, theft or injury (other than a few stomach bugs!).

RISKS OF THIS ITINERARY AND MEASURES TO REDUCE THEM WHEN POSSIBLE

I have identified the following areas as the principal additional risks of this itinerary. This is not a fully inclusive list.

GENERAL HAZARDS OF OPERATING IN ARGENTINA

General safety standards. Although a well developed country some safety standards in Argentina are lower than at home. In some situations the same high safety standards that we have in the UK may not be applied. It is also fair to say that the population as whole has less informed and a more laid-back attitude to the risks of everyday life.

Natural hazards. The areas to be visited are in an area of considerable earthquake hazard. Severe weather could also cause catastrophic landslides and flooding, although these are less likely at the time of year we travel.

Driving. Driving standards and road and vehicle maintenance standards are reasonable but not as good as they are in the UK. There will be a small additional risk of death or injury in a traffic accident from these factors.

Action - Expedition leaders should use recommended contractors whenever possible and be prepared to use an alternative vehicle if necessary. They should monitor the drivers performance and be prepared to use an alternative driver if necessary. When leaders are driving themselves they should take regular breaks, at least every 2 hours.

Crime. Argentina has relatively low crime rates but Western tourists are at an increased risk of being victims because they can be recognised as wealthy. There is a very small risk of serious crime, including violent or sexual assault and mugging in and around Buenos Aires and Mendoza and a small risk of pickpocketing and minor theft.

Action - Expedition leaders should obtain up-to-date security advice immediately before the expedition departs and on arrival and be prepared to make any changes necessary to the itinerary. Expedition leaders should brief members with any relevant local security advice and general personal safety advice. Expedition members should behave in a polite, courteous and respectful manner towards all people. Expedition members should leave valuables in the hotel safe whenever possible and otherwise carry them in a concealed body belt or neck purse. Expedition members should remain within the safer central areas of Mendoza and Buenos Aires, particularly after dark. Expedition members should walk in a group after dark. Expedition members should refrain from drinking excessive alcohol and completely avoid any contact with illegal drugs. In the event of any incident members should not attempt to act heroically; hand over money - it is wise always to have approx. $40-50 in your pocket for this purpose.

Hotels. Fire safety standards are not as high as at home. Exits may not be as clearly marked or as easily accessible. Construction standards and electrical safety standards are not as good as at home and smoke alarms are very rare.

Action - Expedition members should not use any form of naked flame indoors (candles, stoves, smoking!). Expedition members should inform themselves of the best way to escape from the building before retiring overnight and keep a torch handy.

Hygiene. Food and general hygiene standards are not quite as high as at home. Stomach upsets are possible. On Aconcagua, due to poor mountain hygiene by other expeditions, more serious conditions such as giardia and amoebic dysentery are possible.

Action - Expedition members should have all vaccinations and inoculations as recommended by their GP. On Aconcagua expedition members should drink only water that has been recently purified (e.g. by boiling or iodine) Members should be wary of the following foods when prepared in cafes and restaurants: seafood (except fish) and any food that is not freshly cooked. Expedition leaders and members should ensure a good standard of hygiene is practised at campsites, especially with regard to drinking water and toilet.

First Aid

Action - All UK leaders should have a current first aid certificate and carry, or have quick access to, a first aid kit at all times.

Hospital and Medical Care. Hospital and Medical Care in Argentina is generally good, although not quite as high a standard as at home.


SPECIFIC HAZARDS OF OPERATING IN THE MOUNTAINS


Camping. There is a risk of fire from stoves and candles. There is a theoretical risk of theft in most areas if items are left outside tents at night or unattended inside. However we have never previously experienced this type of theft in Argentina.

Action - All leaders and members should take great care when cooking and refilling stoves and fuel bottles. Whenever possible this should be done outside the tent. Torches should be used instead of candles in expedition members tents.


Minor slips and falls. All members will be exposed to a risk of slipping due to steep, uneven and unstable ground.

Action - Leaders and members should take the usual precautions to avoid such risks.

Remoteness. The expedition may be up to three days walk and a half day drive from professional medical help for periods of time. There is normally a doctor at Plaza de Mulas and Plaza Argentina base camps, but for periods of time they may not be available. There is also currently a helicopter rescue service from Plaza Argentina and Plaza de Mulas base camps, included in the price of permits. However it is possible that this will not be available at certain times, due to weather or other factors, when evacuation would have to be by foot or on horseback. In the Cordon del Plata and very high on Aconcagua helicopter rescue or evacuation is unlikely. Above base camp on Aconcagua the terrain is largely above the operating ceiling for local helicopters.

Action - Expedition leaders should allow a higher than normal margin of safety for all activities undertaken in the Cordon del Plata and particularly for all activities high on Aconcagua.

Altitude. At high altitudes there is an increased risk of medical problems, most obviously altitude illness.

Action - Leaders should visually and verbally check all members regularly for signs or symptoms of altitude illness. Any type of illness observed at altitude (above 3500m) should be considered as possibly indicative of an underlying altitude illness. It should be treated as such by descending if there is no improvement within 24 hours. Leaders should be familiar with methods of diagnosing altitude illness (e.g. Lake Louise) and methods of treating it (principally by early descent). Leaders should operate the expedition to prioritise the needs of those who are having problems and not those who aspire to go higher. Leaders should be aware that high on Aconcagua evacuation could be more difficult and they should operate a higher margin of safety (i.e. earlier turn-around or evacuation) when assessing any potential altitude illness in this area.


Weather - There are serious and even life threatening risks from bad weather above base camp on Aconcagua and slight risks from bad weather on the whole itinerary. Night time temperatures at high camps are typically -10C to -20C. High winds including gale and storm force winds, are extremely common, almost normal. It can snow at any time of year in these mountains and snow will lie as low as 2500m in December, 3000m in February. We have seen the following examples of severe weather over the years.

- One metre of fresh snow at Plaza Argentina base camp overnight.

- Winds of approx. 150 kph at 5500m, severe difficulty pitching tents and unable to walk against wind. Clients were blown over. (Crawling was still possible!).

- Blizzards at camp one with virtually zero visibility and serious threat to tents.

- Regular winds of gale force or storm force.

- Combined wind and cold on summit day resulting in frozen eyes, frost damage to lips, frost-nip to hands and feet, with some risk of frostbite in extreme cases.

Action - Leaders should watch very carefully for deteriorating weather and be prepared to change plans (and probably descend) if necessary. The mountain should be abandoned in prolonged bad weather.

Warm clothes, (including several fleeces and/or down jackets, windproofs, hat, mitts and gloves) must be carried by all expedition members themselves at all times above base camp. Plastic boots are recommended, but modern leather boots with a yeti gaiter are acceptable. Leaders should personally carry a down jacket and bivi bag or else a sleeping bag in case of emergency.

Tents must be pitched carefully (with due consideration of the potential for strong winds) at all times. The leader must inspect campsites daily to check tents have been and remain securely pitched. Clients should be briefed in the best ways of pitching tents in severe winds, ideally before they have to do this! Tents left unattended should be internally weighted with large rocks (padded). Leaders should be aware and brief clients, that when pitching tents with rocks poor unprotected placement of the rocks can fray tent fabric and poles very quickly.

There is a possibility of actual injury from being blown over or losing footing in high winds. In particular there is a narrow section of the East ridge above the Polish Glacier that should not be attempted in high winds.

Rockfall - In the Cordon del Plata and lower on Aconcagua there are slight risks from rockfall. There is a more general risk high on Aconcagua. There are more serious rockfall risks in the Canaleta, particularly from other parties but also from the cliffs to the west, for which expedition members should be briefed carefully.

Action - Leaders should remain alert to this hazard, assess all areas, and particularly all campsites, for the risk of rockfall. In places they will need to ensure good group control to minimise this hazard. On continuous steep ground, such as the Canaleta, expedition members should be briefed to walk carefully with regard to dislodging stones and to shout a warning to others if anything is dislodged. A zigzag ascent should be used where possible to minimise time spent directly above or below other group members.


Navigational Errors - Navigational errors are possible in several areas and could pose a serious hazard if tents were not found in bad weather. Particular problems identified include frequent afternoon cloud in the Cordon del Plata, losing the path across the glacier immediately above Plaza Argentina base camp (particularly in descent), general difficulties high on Aconcagua in snowy or blizzard conditions and missing the Falso traverse on the descent from the Canaleta.

Action - The leader should be aware of the problem areas above and maintain a hand-written record of any critical points (height and bearing waypoints by GPS or combined compass/altimeter readings) in order to assure a safe retreat. In all problem areas they should monitor, and possibly brief, the group more carefully in order to avoid the possibility of one person becoming lost. Either a compass and altimeter, or GPS and spare batteries, should always be carried.


Crevasse Hazard. There is a very small risk of crevasse falls on the dry glacier above Plaza Argentina base camp, a higher risk on the Polish Glacier route.

Action - The hazards of the dry glacier are easily avoided but they should be pointed out to clients – use of a rope is not necessary. On the Polish Glacier all members should be roped up according to recognised practices, with a clearly designated leader on each rope.

Avalanche. During or after recent snowfall there is likely to be avalanche hazard on the Polish Glacier and there may be potential problems on other slopes such as in the Canaleta. High winds are also likely to cause avalanche danger, particularly on the Polish Glacier.

Action - The Polish Glacier should not be climbed during snowfall or for 24 hours after significant snowfall, or when wind slab is suspected due to recent weather patterns. After this time a careful assessment should be made of the snow conditions by a leader experienced in avalanche hazard evaluation before planning any ascent.

Electrical Storms. These are rare but possible.

Action - During such storms all ridges and high areas should be avoided (or abandoned as quickly as practicable).

Other Groups. A very high percentage of the climbers on Aconcagua are inexperienced and operating out of their depth. Many are also poorly acclimatised and over-enthusiatic.

Action - The leader and clients should not base their decision making or actual actions on what they see or hear of other groups doing. The leader should tactfully inform other groups on the mountain of potential problems he/she can anticipate.

Other Mountain Hazards. All other mountain hazards may be encountered and should be anticipated and avoided or reduced using recognised procedures.


LEADERSHIP AND ORGANISATION

Good leadership and communication can significantly improve the safety and will of course increase the enjoyment of the group in the mountains.

Action - All leaders must be clear that their primary purpose on the expedition is to look after the health and well-being of the clients. All leaders should be careful to monitor their own health and be honest about any problems they are having, in particular with relation to fitness and altitude. All leaders should operate only well within the bounds of their own experience and current physical ability and within the abilities of the expedition members. All leaders must be prepared to make changes to the itinerary, or even abandon the expedition, if this is necessary due to the safety of any participant.

The expedition leader has overall responsibility for the itinerary and actions of the group as a whole. He or she should give clear instructions to any assistant leaders or any client temporarily given charge of a subgroup. In towns and cities clients should be left free to do as they please; the leader should advise them and should be advised by the client if they plan to travel beyond the town centre. In the mountains normal practice will be for the leader or an assistant leader to be with the clients at all times except when clients are left in good health at a designated and equipped camp. However minor operating problems (e.g. fitness, equipment failure) may result in clients being left without a leader at various times, both in valleys, high on the mountains and even on summit days. This should only be done for limited periods of a few hours, in good and stable weather and with all clients in good health. Clear instructions about when and where to regroup (preferably the same place) must be given.

While the whole group is mobile leaders and assistant leaders should encourage a clear system of regrouping (e.g. every hour or more frequently if necessary) in order to assess the group as a whole and any individual needs. Leaders should also have a clear system for monitoring the last person in the group, preferably by visual or vocal contact.

SOME PARTICULAR PROCEDURES

It has quite frequently happened that clients have either a) Walked from base camp out to the road and travelled back to Mendoza on their own or b) Descended from high camp to base camp without a leader/guide. Both of these practices are quite acceptable, as the routes are low hazard and are relatively well travelled by other parties. However careful assessment of the clients competence and current health and fitness is needed. Clients must be told to stay strictly on the main path! Descent from high camp should be made only in settled weather and by a minimum of two clients together, who have been briefed to stay together and watch out for each other.

 


Bolivia Climber

Written May 2002 Revised September 2011

AUTHOR

This risk assessment has been compiled by John Biggar, who has personally trekked and climbed in the Cordillera Real in 1992, 1996, 1998, 2003, the Cordillera Apolobamba in 1998 and 2002 and in the Parinacota area in 1991, 1992, 1995. He has 20 years experience of operating expeditions and holidays in South America under the trading name 'Andes', 19 of these years have included operating in Bolivia using various variations on this itinerary. John Biggar holds the MIC.

GENERAL STATEMENT - SAFETY AND RISK

This is an adventure holiday and by taking part in this itinerary all clients will be exposed to an element of risk beyond that found in everyday life in the UK. While all reasonable precautions should be taken to reduce these additional risks it is neither possible nor desirable to completely eliminate additional risks.
To keep things in perspective 'Andes' have taken over 600 people to South America over a twenty year period and only ever recorded the following incidents:-
Theft 4 minor theft incidents reported, 3 more serious cases (two of many possessions, one of tickets and passport).
Assault, Violence etc. 0 cases on expedition.
Altitude Illness Out of a total of 620 clients and 151 leaders at April 2011 the majority (c. 80-90%) going to over 4000m - we have had many (e.g. 50) minor cases of altitude illness where descent was not necessary. We have only had 13 more serious cases of AMS where descent was necessary.
Injury from slips etc. 4 cases, broken nose, sprained ankle, serious cuts & bruising, severe back pain
Cold Injury 2 cases of frostnip & 1 of minor frostbite on same expedition, 1 more serious frostbite (left thumb) on Aconcagua Jan 2008. Also 1 snowblindness.
Severe exhaustion 2 cases.
Major Illness or Infection 2 cases, 1 of giardia, and 1 eye infection.
Animal Bite 1 case (Dog)

John Biggar has personally spent a total of over seventy months in the mountains of the Andes and never had any personal trouble from serious illness, theft or injury (other than a few stomach bugs!).

RISKS OF THIS ITINERARY AND MEASURES TO REDUCE THEM WHEN POSSIBLE

I have identified the following areas as the principal additional risks of this itinerary. This is not a fully inclusive list.

GENERAL HAZARDS OF OPERATING IN BOLIVIA

General safety standards. In Bolivia, safety standards in almost every aspect of life are lower than at home. Bolivia is a less developed country and the resources are not available in many situations to live and work to the same high safety standards that we have in the UK. It is also fair to say that the population as whole has a less informed and a more laid-back attitude to the risks of everyday life.

Natural hazards. The areas to be visited are in an area of considerable earthquake hazard. Severe weather could also cause catastrophic landslides and flooding in and around the Cordillera Real, though this is less likely at the time of year we travel.

Driving. Driving standards and road and vehicle maintenance standards are not as good as they are in the UK. There will be additional risks of death or injury in a traffic accident from these.

Action - Expedition leaders should use recommended contractors whenever possible, they should visually inspect all vehicles before use and be prepared to use an alternative vehicle if necessary. They should monitor the drivers performance and be prepared to use an alternative driver if necessary.

Crime. Bolivia has relatively high crime rates. All Western tourists are at an increased risk of being victims. There is a small risk of vehicle hijack and robbery. There is a small risk of serious crime, including violent or sexual assault and mugging in La Paz. There is a risk of minor theft and pickpocketing in La Paz and a small risk in more remote areas.

Action - Expedition leaders should obtain up-to-date security advice immediately on arrival in Bolivia and be prepared to make whatever changes are necessary to the itinerary. Expedition leaders should brief members with any relevant local security advice and general personal safety advice. Expedition members should behave in a polite, courteous and respectful manner towards all people in Bolivia. Expedition members should walk confidently and remain alert at all times, especially in busy areas of town. Expedition members should leave valuables in the hotel safe whenever possible and otherwise carry them in a concealed body belt or neck purse. Expedition members will be safer if back in the hotel by 10p.m. Expedition members should remain within the safer central areas of La Paz, particularly after dark. Expedition members should walk in a group if out after dark or take a taxi. Expedition members should drink only small amounts of alcohol and completely avoid any contact with illegal drugs. In the event of any incident members should not attempt to act heroically; hand over money - it is wise always to have approx. $20-30 in your pocket for this purpose.

Hotels. Fire safety standards are not as high as at home. Exits may not be clearly marked or accessible. Construction standards and electrical safety standards are not as good as at home. In small villages fire-safety and construction standards are virtually non-existent.

Action - Expedition members should not use any form of naked flame indoors (candles, stoves, smoking!). Expedition members should familiarise themselves with the best way to escape from the building before retiring overnight and keep a torch handy.

Hygiene. Food and general hygiene standards are not as high in Bolivia as at home. Some stomach and/or bowel upsets are likely and more serious conditions such as giardia and amoebic dysentery are possible.

Action - Expedition members should have all vaccinations and inoculations as recommended by their GP. Expedition members should drink only bottled water or water that has been recently purified (e.g. by iodine, filtration or boiling). Members should avoid the following foods when prepared in cafes and restaurants: ice and ice-cream, seafood (except fish), lettuce and other raw salads, any food that is not freshly cooked. Expedition leaders and members should ensure a good standard of hygiene is practised at campsites, especially with regard to drinking water and toilet.

First Aid

Action - All UK leaders should have a current first aid certificate and carry, or have access to a first aid kit at all times.

Hospital and Medical Care. In the event of an accident or injury the hospital or medical care available will not be at as high a standard as at home, especially in rural areas.


SPECIFIC HAZARDS OF OPERATING IN THE MOUNTAINS

Camping. There is a risk of fire from stoves and candles. There is a risk of theft in most areas if items are left outside tents at night or unattended inside.

Action - All leaders and members should take great care when cooking and refilling stoves and fuel bottles. Whenever possible this should be done outside the tent. Torches should be used instead of candles in expedition members tents.

Minor slips and falls. All members will be exposed to a risk of slipping due to steep, uneven and unstable ground in many areas. Leaders and members should take the usual precautions to avoid such risks.

Remoteness. The expedition may be up to two days walk and a days drive from professional medical help for periods of time. There is no known helicopter rescue service and evacuation from the mountains will probably have to be by foot or on horseback.

Action - Expedition leaders should allow a higher than normal margin of safety for all activities undertaken high on the mountains. They should have a spare horse provided for evacuation where possible.

Altitude. At high altitudes there is an increased risk of medical problems, most obviously altitude illness. In some areas of Bolivia, including La Paz, descent is not easy to achieve quickly.

Action - Leaders should visually and verbally check all members regularly for signs or symptoms of altitude illness. Any type of illness observed at altitude (above 3500m) should be considered as possibly indicative of an underlying altitude illness. It should be treated as such by descending if there is no improvement within 24 hours Leaders should be familiar with methods of diagnosing altitude illness (e.g. Lake Louise) and methods of treating it (principally by early descent). Leaders should operate the expedition to prioritise the needs of those who are having problems and not those who aspire to go higher. In areas where descent will take a long time leaders should operate a higher margin of safety (i.e. earlier evacuation) when assessing any potential altitude illness.

Weather - There are minor risks from bad weather above base camp on the mountains and slight risks from bad weather on the whole itinerary. Night time temperatures are typically as low as -10C. High winds including gale and storm force winds can occur, sometimes accompanied by blizzard conditions. It can snow at any time of year in these mountains and snow will lie as low as 4500m in the June-August season. Combined wind and cold on summit days could result in minor frost-nip.

Action - Leaders should watch very carefully for deteriorating weather and be prepared to change plans (and probably descend) if necessary. The mountains should be abandoned in prolonged bad weather.

Warm clothes, (including fleeces and/or down jacket, windproofs, hat, mitts and gloves) must be carried by all expedition members themselves at all times high in the mountains. Leaders should personally carry a down jacket and bivi bag or else a sleeping bag in case of emergency.

Tents must be pitched carefully (with due consideration of the potential for strong winds) at all times. The leader must inspect campsites daily to check tents have been and remain securely pitched.

Rockfall, Icefall, Crevasse Hazard and Serac Hazard - On this itinerary there are slight risks from rockfall and very minor risks from icefall, serac and crevasse hazard.

Action - Leaders should remain alert to these hazards, assess all areas, and particularly all campsites, for the risk of rockfall, icefall or serac hazard. The hazards of glacier travel should be pointed out clearly to clients. Clients must be instructed and monitored to ensure they use the rope effectively to minimise the risks of a crevasse fall. This should be done according to recognised practices, with a clearly designated leader on each rope.

Avalanche. During or after recent snowfall there is likely to be some avalanche hazard on all mountains.

Action - If possible the highest peaks should be avoided after heavy recent snowfall, or when wind slab is suspected due to recent weather patterns. After this time a careful assessment should be made of the snow conditions by a leader experienced in avalanche hazard evaluation before planning any ascent

Navigational Errors - Navigational errors are possible in several areas and could pose a hazard if tents were not found in bad weather.

Action - On summit days the leader should maintain a hand-written record of any critical points (height and bearing waypoints by GPS or combined compass and altimeter readings) in order to assure a safe retreat. Significant points and turning points should be marked with wands or ski-poles to enable them to be found if descent is necessary in bad weather. A compass and altimeter or a GPS should always be carried.

Electrical Storms. These are relatively rare but possible.

Action - During such storms all ridges and high areas should be avoided (or abandoned as quickly as practicable).

Steep and Technical Ground and Ropework.

These mountains have only very short sections of steep and/or technical terrain where the rope might be necessary to protect clients from falls.

Action - A higher margin of safety should be built in to climbing days than would be used at sea level. Leaders should brief clients very thoroughly on the safe use of the rope in any situation and carefully assess the clients ability to perform instructions correctly without direct visual supervision before leaving them in this situation.

Other Mountain Hazards. All other mountain hazards may be encountered and should be anticipated and avoided or reduced using recognised procedures.

LEADERSHIP AND ORGANISATION

Good leadership and communication can significantly improve the safety and will of course increase the enjoyment of the group in the mountains.

Action - All leaders must be clear that their primary purpose on the expedition is to look after the health and well-being of the clients. All leaders should be careful to monitor their own health and be honest about any problems they are having, in particular with relation to fitness and altitude. All leaders should operate only well within the bounds of their own experience and current physical ability and within the abilities of the expedition members. All leaders must be prepared to make changes to the itinerary, or even abandon the expedition, if this is necessary due to the safety of any participant.

The expedition leader has overall responsibility for the itinerary and actions of the group as a whole. He or she should give clear instructions to any assistant leaders or any client temporarily given charge of a subgroup. In towns and cities clients should be left free to do as they please; the leader should advise them and should be advised by the client if they plan to travel beyond the town centre. In the mountains normal practice will be for the leader or an assistant leader to be with the clients at all times except when clients are left in good health at a designated and equipped camp. However minor operating problems (e.g. fitness, equipment failure) may result in clients being left without a leader lower on the mountains in areas without snow cover. This should only be done for limited periods of a few hours, in good and stable weather and with all clients in good health. Clear instructions about when and where to regroup (preferably the same place) must be given.

While the whole group is mobile leaders and assistant leaders should encourage a clear system of regrouping (e.g. every hour or more frequently if necessary) in order to assess the group as a whole and any individual needs. Leaders should also have a clear system for monitoring the last person in the group, preferably by visual or vocal contact.

 


Bolivia Ski Mountaineering Itineraries

Written April 2014  Revised November 2016

AUTHOR

This risk assessment has been compiled by John Biggar, who has personally run this itinerary once before in 2014. He has also trekked and climbed in the Cordillera Real in 1992, 1996, 1998, 2003, the nearby Cordillera Apolobamba in 1998 and 2002 and in the Parinacota area in 1991, 1992, 1995, 2014 and 2015. He has 25 years experience of operating expeditions and holidays in South America under the trading name 'Andes', 25 of these years have included operating in Bolivia. John Biggar holds the MIC.

GENERAL STATEMENT - SAFETY AND RISK


This is an adventure holiday and by taking part in this itinerary all clients will be exposed to an element of risk beyond that found in everyday life in the UK. While all reasonable precautions should be taken to reduce these additional risks it is neither possible nor desirable to completely eliminate additional risks.
To keep things in perspective 'Andes' have taken over 650 people to South America over a twenty-four year period and only ever recorded the following incidents:-
Theft -- 4 minor theft incidents reported. 4 more serious cases (three of multiple possessions, one of just tickets and passport).
Assault, Violence etc. --  0 cases on expedition.
Altitude Illness -- Out of a total of 669 clients and 174 leaders at April 2015the majority (c. 80-90%) going to over 4000m - we have had many (e.g. 50) minor cases of altitude illness where descent was not necessary. We have only had 15 more serious cases of AMS where descent was necessary.
Injury from slips etc. -- 4 cases. One each of broken nose, sprained ankle, serious cuts & bruising, severe back pain
Cold Injury -- 2 cases of frostnip & 1 of minor frostbite on the same expedition. 1 more serious frostbite (left thumb) on Aconcagua Jan 2008. Also 1 snowblindness.
Severe exhaustion -- 2 cases.
Major Illness or Infection -- 2 cases, 1 of giardia, and 1 eye infection.
Animal Bite -- 1 case (Dog).

John Biggar has personally spent a total of over seventy months in the mountains of the Andes and never had any personal trouble from serious illness, theft or injury (other than a few stomach bugs!).

RISKS OF THIS ITINERARY AND MEASURES TO REDUCE THEM WHEN POSSIBLE

I have identified the following areas as the principal additional risks of this itinerary. This is not a fully inclusive list.

GENERAL HAZARDS OF OPERATING IN BOLIVIA

General safety standards. In Bolivia, safety standards in almost every aspect of life are lower than at home. Bolivia is a less developed country and the resources are not available in many situations to live and work to the same high safety standards that we have in the UK. It is also fair to say that the population as whole has a less informed and a more laid-back attitude to the risks of everyday life.

Natural hazards. The areas to be visited are in an area of considerable earthquake hazard. Severe weather could also cause catastrophic landslides and flooding in and around the Cordillera Real, although this is less likely at the time of year we travel.

Driving. Driving standards and road and vehicle maintenance standards are considerably lower than they are in the UK. There will be additional risks of death or injury in a traffic accident from these.

Action - Expedition leaders should use recommended contractors whenever possible, they should visually inspect all vehicles before use and be prepared to use an alternative vehicle if necessary. They should monitor the drivers performance and be prepared to use an alternative driver if necessary.

Crime. Bolivia has relatively high crime rates. All Western tourists are at an increased risk of being victims. There is a small risk of vehicle hijack and robbery. There is a small risk of serious crime, including violent or sexual assault and mugging in La Paz. There is a risk of minor theft and pickpocketing in La Paz and a small risk in more remote areas.

Action - Expedition leaders should obtain up-to-date security advice immediately on arrival in Bolivia and be prepared to make whatever changes are necessary to the itinerary. Expedition leaders should brief members with any relevant local security advice and general personal safety advice. Expedition members should behave in a polite, courteous and respectful manner towards all people in Bolivia. Expedition members should walk confidently and remain alert at all times, especially in busy areas of town. Expedition members should leave valuables in the hotel safe whenever possible and otherwise carry them in a concealed body belt or neck purse. Expedition members will be safer if back in the hotel by 10p.m. Expedition members should remain within the safer central areas of La Paz, particularly after dark. Expedition members should walk in a group if out after dark or take a taxi. Expedition members should drink only small amounts of alcohol and completely avoid any contact with illegal drugs. In the event of any incident members should not attempt to act heroically; hand over money - it is wise always to have approx. $20-30 in your pocket for this purpose.

Hotels. Fire safety standards are not as high as at home. Exits may not be clearly marked or accessible. Construction standards and electrical safety standards are not as good as at home. In small villages fire-safety and construction standards are virtually non-existent.

Action - Expedition members should not use any form of naked flame indoors (candles, stoves, smoking!). Expedition members should familiarise themselves with the best way to escape from the building before retiring overnight and keep a torch handy.

Hygiene. Food and general hygiene standards are not as high in Bolivia as at home. Some stomach and/or bowel upsets are likely and more serious conditions such as giardia and amoebic dysentery are possible.

Action - Expedition members should have all vaccinations and inoculations as recommended by their GP. Expedition members should drink only bottled water or water that has been recently purified (e.g. by iodine, filtration or boiling). Members should avoid the following foods when prepared in cafes and restaurants: ice and ice-cream, seafood (except fish), lettuce and other raw salads, any food that is not freshly cooked. Expedition leaders and members should ensure a good standard of hygiene is practised at campsites, especially with regard to drinking water and toilet.

First Aid

Action - All UK leaders should have a current first aid certificate and carry, or have access to a first aid kit at all times.

Hospital and Medical Care. In the event of an accident or injury the hospital or medical care available will not be at as high a standard as at home, especially in rural areas.


SPECIFIC HAZARDS OF OPERATING IN THE MOUNTAINS

Slips and falls. All clients will be exposed to a considerable risk of falls when skiing due to poor technique, icy conditions etc. These falls could be serious, including the possibility of broken and/or dislocated limbs. In places there will also be a risk of slipping or falling when walking on foot too.

Action - Leaders and clients should take the usual precautions to avoid such risks, skiing and walking cautiously at all times. Leaders must maintain adequate group control in both ascent and descent, and be aware of changing snow conditions and the hazards they will present.

Off Piste Skiing. All off piste skiing presents a considerable risk of accidents due to the likely presence of invisible hazards (buried rocks, weak snow-bridges over streams, etc.) and difficult skiing conditions (deep snow, heavy snow, icy crusts, etc.).

Action - Leaders should brief clients before each descent, highlighting any areas they believe to be of particular risk. During descent they must maintain adequate control over the line skied. Clients should ski cautiously, in control, and at reasonable speeds, at all times.

Camping. There is a risk of fire from stoves and candles. There is a risk of theft in most areas if items are left outside tents at night or unattended inside.

Action - All leaders and members should take great care when cooking and refilling stoves and fuel bottles. Whenever possible this should be done outside the tent. Torches should be used instead of candles in expedition members tents.

Remoteness. The expedition may be up to two days walk and a days drive from professional medical help for periods of time. There is no known helicopter rescue service and evacuation from the mountains will probably have to be by foot or on horseback.

Action - Expedition leaders should allow a higher than normal margin of safety for all activities undertaken high on the mountains. They should have a spare horse provided for evacuation where possible.

Altitude. At high altitudes there is an increased risk of medical problems, most obviously altitude illness. In some areas of Bolivia, including La Paz, descent is not easy to achieve quickly.

Action - Leaders should visually and verbally check all members regularly for signs or symptoms of altitude illness. Any type of illness observed at altitude (above 3500m) should be considered as possibly indicative of an underlying altitude illness. It should be treated as such by descending if there is no improvement within 24 hours Leaders should be familiar with methods of diagnosing altitude illness (e.g. Lake Louise) and methods of treating it (principally by early descent). Leaders should operate the expedition to prioritise the needs of those who are having problems and not those who aspire to go higher. In areas where descent will take a long time leaders should operate a higher margin of safety (i.e. earlier evacuation) when assessing any potential altitude illness.

Weather - There are minor risks from bad weather above base camp on the mountains and slight risks from bad weather on the whole itinerary. Night time temperatures are typically as low as -10C. High winds including gale and storm force winds can occur, sometimes accompanied by blizzard conditions. It can snow at any time of year in these mountains and snow will lie as low as 4500m in the April-June season. Combined wind and cold on summit days could result in minor frost-nip.

Action - Leaders should watch very carefully for deteriorating weather and be prepared to change plans (and probably descend) if necessary. The mountains should be abandoned in prolonged bad weather.

Warm clothes, (including fleeces and/or down jacket, windproofs, hat, mitts and gloves) must be carried by all expedition members themselves at all times high in the mountains. Leaders should personally carry a down jacket and bivi bag or else a sleeping bag in case of emergency.

Tents must be pitched carefully (with due consideration of the potential for strong winds) at all times. The leader must inspect campsites daily to check tents have been and remain securely pitched.

Rockfall, Icefall and Serac Hazard - On this itinerary there are slight risks from rockfall and considerable risks from icefall and serac hazard.

Action - Leaders should remain alert to these hazards, assess all areas, and particularly all campsites, for the risk of rockfall, icefall or serac hazard. The hazards of glacier travel should be pointed out clearly to clients.

Glacier and Crevasse Hazard - There are glaciers on almost all of the normal ascent routes on this itinerary.  Generally these are not seriously crevassed, but there are areas of problem crevasses on Mururata. On Parinacota there are no crevasses on the normal route.

Action - Clients must be instructed and monitored to ensure they use the rope effectively to minimise the risks of a crevasse fall. This should be done according to recognised practices, with a clearly designated leader on each rope. When skiing downhill careful consideration must be given to the extreme hazards of an un-roped crevasse fall. Normally a line very similar to the ascent lien should be taken, particularly through zones of known crevasse hazard. Clients must be briefed to ski extremely carefully and in full control.  In extreme circumstances it may be necessary to ski roped together

Avalanche. There will be considerable risk of avalanche throughout the itinerary.

Action - The leader should assess any slopes to be climbed or skied and take into account recent weather and snowfall patterns. All leaders and clients must observe normal ski-touring practice with regards to minimising the risks if caught in an avalanche. All leaders and clients must wear a transceiver throughout the day, and check that this works daily. Leaders should ensure that all clients practice transceiver search techniques at the start of the itinerary. All leaders and clients must carry snow shovels and avalanche probes. The leader must manage the group to ensure the safest possible descent of any potentially hazardous slopes. Rest stops and any overnight camps must be sited away from any potential avalanche run-out.

Navigational Errors - Navigational errors are possible in several areas and could pose a hazard if descent routes or tents were not found in bad weather.

Action - On summit days the leader should maintain a hand-written record of any critical points (height and bearing waypoints by GPS or combined compass and altimeter readings) in order to assure a safe retreat. Significant points and turning points should be marked with wands or ski-poles to enable them to be found if descent is necessary in bad weather. A compass and altimeter or a GPS should always be carried.

Electrical Storms. These are relatively rare but possible.

Action - During such storms all ridges and high areas should be avoided (or abandoned as quickly as practicable).

Steep and Technical Ground and Ropework.

These mountains have only very short sections of steep and/or technical terrain where the rope might be necessary to protect clients from falls.

Action - A higher margin of safety should be built in to climbing days than would be used at sea level. Leaders should brief clients very thoroughly on the safe use of the rope in any situation and carefully assess the clients ability to perform instructions correctly without direct visual supervision before leaving them in this situation.

Other Mountain Hazards. All other mountain hazards may be encountered and should be anticipated and avoided or reduced using recognised procedures.

LEADERSHIP AND ORGANISATION

Good leadership and communication can significantly improve the safety and will of course increase the enjoyment of the group in the mountains.

Action - All leaders must be clear that their primary purpose on the expedition is to look after the health and well-being of the clients. All leaders should be careful to monitor their own health and be honest about any problems they are having, in particular with relation to fitness and altitude. All leaders should operate only well within the bounds of their own experience and current physical ability and within the abilities of the expedition members. All leaders must be prepared to make changes to the itinerary, or even abandon the expedition, if this is necessary due to the safety of any participant.

The expedition leader has overall responsibility for the itinerary and actions of the group as a whole. He or she should give clear instructions to any assistant leaders or any client temporarily given charge of a subgroup. In towns and cities clients should be left free to do as they please; the leader should advise them and should be advised by the client if they plan to travel beyond the town centre. In the mountains normal practice will be for the leader or an assistant leader to be with the clients at all times except when clients are left in good health at a designated and equipped camp. However minor operating problems (e.g. fitness, equipment failure) may result in clients being left without a leader lower on the mountains in areas without snow cover. This should only be done for limited periods of a few hours, in good and stable weather and with all clients in good health. Clear instructions about when and where to regroup (preferably the same place) must be given.

While the whole group is mobile leaders and assistant leaders should encourage a clear system of regrouping (e.g. every hour or more frequently if necessary) in order to assess the group as a whole and any individual needs. Leaders should also have a clear system for monitoring the last person in the group, preferably by visual or vocal contact.

 


Brazilian Climber

Written May 2016

AUTHOR

This risk assessment has been compiled by John Biggar, who has personally climbed in the mountains of Brazil on three trips, in 2001 and twice in 2008. He has 24 years experience of operating expeditions and holidays in South America under the trading name 'Andes', 15 of these years have included operating in Brazil. John Biggar holds the MIC.

GENERAL STATEMENT - SAFETY AND RISK


This is an adventure holiday and by taking part in this itinerary all clients will be exposed to an element of risk beyond that found in everyday life in the UK. While all reasonable precautions should be taken to reduce these additional risks it is neither possible nor desirable to completely eliminate additional risks.
To keep things in perspective 'Andes' have taken over 650 people to South America over a twenty-four year period and only ever recorded the following incidents:-
Theft -- 4 minor theft incidents reported. 4 more serious cases (three of multiple possessions, one of just tickets and passport).
Assault, Violence etc. --  0 cases on expedition.
Altitude Illness -- Out of a total of 669 clients and 174 leaders at April 2015the majority (c. 80-90%) going to over 4000m - we have had many (e.g. 50) minor cases of altitude illness where descent was not necessary. We have only had 15 more serious cases of AMS where descent was necessary.
Injury from slips etc. -- 4 cases. One each of broken nose, sprained ankle, serious cuts & bruising, severe back pain
Cold Injury -- 2 cases of frostnip & 1 of minor frostbite on the same expedition. 1 more serious frostbite (left thumb) on Aconcagua Jan 2008. Also 1 snowblindness.
Severe exhaustion -- 2 cases.
Major Illness or Infection -- 2 cases, 1 of giardia, and 1 eye infection.
Animal Bite -- 1 case (Dog).

John Biggar has personally spent a total of over seventy months in the mountains of the Andes and never had any personal trouble from serious illness, theft or injury (other than a few stomach bugs!).

RISKS OF THIS ITINERARY AND MEASURES TO REDUCE THEM WHEN POSSIBLE

I have identified the following areas as the principal additional risks of this itinerary. This is not a fully inclusive list.

GENERAL HAZARDS OF OPERATING IN BRAZIL

General safety standards. In Brazil, safety standards in almost every aspect of life are lower than at home. Brazil is a less developed country and the resources are not available in many situations to live and work to the same high safety standards that we have in the UK. It is also fair to say that the population as whole has a less informed and a more laid-back attitude to the risks of everyday life.

Natural hazards. There are only small risks from severe weather on this itinerary and these are even less likely at the time of year we travel.

Driving. Driving standards and road and vehicle maintenance standards are not nearly as good as they are in the UK. There will be additional risks of death or injury in a traffic accident from these.

Action - Leaders should use recommended contractors whenever possible, they should visually inspect all vehicles before use and be prepared to use an alternative vehicle if necessary. They should monitor the drivers performance and be prepared to use an alternative driver if necessary. When driving vehicles themselves leaders should drive with care, take rest breaks every two hours, and adopt a more defensive approach to driving than when at home.

Crime. Brazil has relatively high crime rates, particularly in urban areas. All Western tourists are at an increased risk of being victims. There is a small risk of vehicle hijack and robbery. There is a small risk of serious crime, including violent or sexual assault and mugging in Rio de Janeiro and a lesser risk elsewhere. There is a risk of minor theft and pickpocketing in Rio and a small risk in more remote areas.

Action - Leaders should obtain up-to-date security advice immediately on arrival in Brazil and be prepared to make whatever changes are necessary to the itinerary. Leaders should brief members with any relevant local security advice and general personal safety advice. Clients should behave in a polite, courteous and respectful manner towards all people in Brazil. Clients should walk confidently and remain alert at all times, especially in busy areas of town. Clients should leave valuables in the hotel safe whenever possible and otherwise carry them in a concealed body belt or neck purse. Clients will be safer if back in the hotel by 10p.m. Clients should remain within the safer central areas of Copacabana in Rio, particularly after dark. Clients should walk in a group if out after dark or take a taxi. Clients should drink only small amounts of alcohol and completely avoid any contact with illegal drugs. In the event of any incident clients should not attempt to act heroically; just hand over money - it is wise always to have approx. $40-50 in your pocket for this purpose.

Hotels. Fire safety standards are not always as high as at home. Exits may not be clearly marked or accessible. Construction standards and electrical safety standards are not as good as at home. In rural areas fire-safety and construction standards are even less rigourous.

Action - Clients should not use any form of naked flame indoors (candles, stoves, smoking!). Expedition members should familiarise themselves with the best way to escape from the building before retiring overnight and keep a torch handy.

Health & Hygiene. Food and general hygiene standards are generally good. Some stomach and/or bowel upsets are possible. There have been problems at times in the area around Rio de Janeiro with both zika and dengue fever, both transmitted by mosquito bites.

Action - Clients should have all vaccinations and inoculations as recommended by their GP. Clients should take all reasonable steps to avoid mosquito bites, including using long sleeve/leg clothing and using effective mosquito repellents.

First Aid

Action - All UK leaders should have a current first aid certificate and carry, or have access to a first aid kit at all times.

Hospital and Medical Care. In the event of an accident or injury the hospital or medical care available may not be quite as high a standard as at home, especially in rural areas.


SPECIFIC HAZARDS OF OPERATING IN THE MOUNTAINS

Camping. There is a risk of fire from stoves and candles. There is a risk of theft in most areas if items are left outside tents at night or unattended inside.

Action - All leaders and members should take great care when cooking and refilling stoves and fuel bottles. Whenever possible this should be done outside the tent. Torches should be used instead of candles in expedition members tents. Items should not be left outside tents overnight, and valuables should not be left in unattended tents.

Minor slips and falls. All members will be exposed to a risk of slipping due to steep, uneven and unstable ground in many areas. Leaders and members should take the usual precautions to avoid such risks.

Remoteness. Clients will be up to half a day travel from professional medical help for periods of time. There is no known helicopter rescue service and evacuation from the more remote parts of the mountains will probably have to be on foot.

Action - Leaders should allow a higher than normal margin of safety for all activities undertaken high in the mountains.

Weather - There are minor risks from bad weather on the whole itinerary. Torrential rain and/or flash flooding is the most likely problem.

Action - Leaders should watch very carefully for deteriorating weather and be prepared to change plans (and probably descend) if necessary. The mountains should be abandoned in serious bad weather.

Rockfall Hazard - On this itinerary there are only slight risks from rockfall as the majority of the rock is very sound.

Action - Leaders should remain alert to this hazards, and brief clients if necessary.

Navigational Errors - Navigational errors are possible in several areas and could pose a hazard in bad weather.

Action - On longer days were mist or cloud is  a possibility the leader should use a GPS in order to assure a safe retreat.

Electrical Storms. These are relatively rare but possible.

Action - During such storms all ridges and high areas should be avoided (or abandoned as quickly as practicable).

Steep and Technical Ground and Ropework - On sections of steep and/or technical terrain clients will be exposed to the regular risks of falling and injury encountered during all rock climbing.

Action -  Leaders should brief clients very thoroughly on the safe use of the rope in any situation and monitor their ability to follow instructions, tie common knots, etc.

Other Mountain Hazards. All other mountain hazards may be encountered and should be anticipated and avoided or reduced using recognised procedures.

LEADERSHIP AND ORGANISATION

Good leadership and communication can significantly improve the safety and will of course increase the enjoyment of the group in the mountains.

Action - All leaders must be clear that their primary purpose on the expedition is to look after the health and well-being of the clients. All leaders should be careful to monitor their own health and be honest about any problems they are having, in particular with relation to fitness and altitude. All leaders should operate only well within the bounds of their own experience and current physical ability and within the abilities of the expedition members. All leaders must be prepared to make changes to the itinerary, or even abandon the expedition, if this is necessary due to the safety of any participant.

The leader has overall responsibility for the itinerary and actions of the group as a whole. He or she should give clear instructions to any assistant leaders or any client temporarily given charge of a subgroup. In towns and cities clients should be left free to do as they please; the leader should advise them and should be advised by the client if they plan to travel beyond the town centre. In the mountains normal practice will be for the leader or an assistant leader to be with the clients at all times except when clients are left in good health at a designated and equipped camp. However minor operating problems (e.g. fitness, equipment failure) may result in clients being left without a leader lower on the mountains. This should only be done for limited periods of a few hours, in good and stable weather and with all clients in good health. Clear instructions about when and where to regroup (preferably the same place) must be given.

While the whole group is mobile leaders and assistant leaders should encourage a clear system of regrouping (e.g. every hour or more frequently if necessary) in order to assess the group as a whole and any individual needs. Leaders should also have a clear system for monitoring the last person in the group, preferably by visual or vocal contact.

 



Chile, Argentina and Patagonia Ski Mountaineering Itineraries

This risk assessment covers our Chile Ski Explorer, Argentine Ski Explorer and Patagonia Ski Explorer itineraries.

First Written September 2003 Last Revised September 2016 

AUTHOR

This risk assessment has been compiled by John Biggar, who has twenty-four years experience of operating expeditions in South America under the trading name 'Andes', twenty-two of these years have included operating in the areas concerned (in summer conditions), and seventeen years operating variations of these ski-mountaineering itineraries. John Biggar has done variations of this ski itinerary himself on nine occasions, in 1999 (twice), 2001, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012 and 2014. John holds the MIC and is a Trainee Ski Instructor with BASI.

GENERAL STATEMENT - SAFETY AND RISK


This is an adventure holiday and by taking part in this itinerary all clients will be exposed to an element of risk beyond that found in everyday life in the UK. While all reasonable precautions should be taken to reduce these additional risks it is neither possible nor desirable to completely eliminate additional risks.
To keep things in perspective 'Andes' have taken over 650 people to South America over a twenty-four year period and only ever recorded the following incidents:-
Theft -- 4 minor theft incidents reported. 4 more serious cases (three of multiple possessions, one of just tickets and passport).
Assault, Violence etc. --  0 cases on expedition.
Altitude Illness -- Out of a total of 669 clients and 174 leaders at April 2015the majority (c. 80-90%) going to over 4000m - we have had many (e.g. 50) minor cases of altitude illness where descent was not necessary. We have only had 15 more serious cases of AMS where descent was necessary.
Injury from slips etc. -- 4 cases. One each of broken nose, sprained ankle, serious cuts & bruising, severe back pain
Cold Injury -- 2 cases of frostnip & 1 of minor frostbite on the same expedition. 1 more serious frostbite (left thumb) on Aconcagua Jan 2008. Also 1 snowblindness.
Severe exhaustion -- 2 cases.
Major Illness or Infection -- 2 cases, 1 of giardia, and 1 eye infection.
Animal Bite -- 1 case (Dog).

John Biggar has personally spent a total of over seventy months in the mountains of the Andes and never had any personal trouble from serious illness, theft or injury (other than a few stomach bugs!).

RISKS OF THIS ITINERARY AND MEASURES TO REDUCE THEM WHEN POSSIBLE

I have identified the following areas as the principal additional risks of this itinerary. This is not a fully inclusive list. Please note that as the itinerary is designed to be flexible to make best use of weather conditions it is possible we may visit other mountain areas not specifically specified below.

In this risk assessment 'skiing' should also be taken to cover those travelling on snowboards or snowshoes.

GENERAL HAZARDS OF OPERATING IN CHILE & ARGENTINA

General safety standards. Although they are well developed countries safety standards in Chile and Argentina are still often lower than at home. It is also fair to say that the population as whole has a less informed and a more laid-back attitude to the risks of everyday life.

Natural hazards. The areas to be visited are in an area of potentially severe volcanic and earthquake hazard. Severe weather could also cause catastrophic landslides and flooding, although these are not as likely at the time of year we travel.

Driving. Chilean and Argentine driving standards and road and vehicle maintenance standards are not as good as they are in the UK and Europe. There will be a small additional risk of death or injury in a traffic accident from these.

Action - When driving vehicles themselves leaders should drive with care, take rest breaks every two hours, and adopt a more defensive approach to driving than when at home.

Crime. Chile and Argentina have relatively low crime rates but Western tourists are at an increased risk of being victims because they can be more easily recognised as wealthy. There is a very small risk of serious crime, including violent or sexual assault and mugging, particularly in and around Buenos Aires and Santiago, and a small risk of pickpocketing and minor theft.

Action - Expedition leaders should obtain up-to-date security advice immediately before the expedition departs and on arrival and be prepared to make any changes necessary to the itinerary. Expedition leaders should brief clients with any relevant local security advice and general personal safety advice. Clients should behave in a polite, courteous and respectful manner towards all people. Clients should leave valuables in the hotel safe whenever possible and otherwise carry them in a concealed body belt or neck purse. Clients should walk in a group after dark or use a taxi. Clients should refrain from drinking more than just a small amount of alcohol and completely avoid any contact with illegal drugs.

Accommodation. Fire safety standards are not as high as at home. Exits may not be clearly marked or accessible. Construction standards and electrical safety standards are not as good as at home. In small villages and other rural areas fire-safety and construction standards are virtually non-existent.

Action - Clients should not use any form of naked flame indoors (candles, stoves, smoking!). Clients should familiarise themselves with the best way to escape from the building before retiring overnight and keep a torch handy.

Hygiene. Food and general hygiene standards are generally similar to home. Some stomach and/or bowel upsets are possible and more serious conditions such as giardia and amoebic dysentery are unlikely but possible.

Action - Clients should have all vaccinations and inoculations as recommended by their GP. Clients should drink only bottled water or water that has been recently purified (e.g. by iodine, boiling or filtration). Clients should choose with some discretion when eating prepared food in cafes and restaurants. Expedition leaders and clients should ensure a good standard of hygiene is practised at any campsites, especially with regard to safe drinking water and toilet.

First Aid

Action - All leaders should have a current first aid certificate and carry, or have quick access to, a first aid kit at all times.

Hospital and Medical Care. In the event of an accident or injury the hospital or medical care available will not be at quite as high a standard as at home, especially in rural areas.


SPECIFIC HAZARDS OF OPERATING IN THE MOUNTAINS OF CHILE & ARGENTINA

Slips and falls. All clients will be exposed to a considerable risk of falls when skiing due to poor technique, icy conditions etc. These falls could be serious, including the possibility of broken and/or dislocated limbs. In places there will also be a risk of slipping or falling when walking on foot too.

Action - Leaders and clients should take the usual precautions to avoid such risks, skiing and walking cautiously at all times. Leaders must maintain adequate group control in both ascent and descent, and be aware of changing snow conditions and the hazards they will present.

Off Piste Skiing. All off piste skiing presents a considerable risk of accidents due to the likely presence of invisible hazards (buried rocks, weak snow-bridges over streams, etc.) and difficult skiing conditions (deep snow, heavy snow, icy crusts, etc.).

Action - Leaders should brief clients before each descent, highlighting any areas they believe to be of particular risk. During descent they must maintain adequate control over the line skied. Clients should ski cautiously, in control, and at reasonable speeds, at all times.

Remoteness. The expedition will be up to a days walk/ski and a half days drive from professional medical help for much of the time. Evacuation will probably only be possible on foot or ski. Helicopter rescue is unlikely, and will certainly be slow, there is no formal service in most mountain areas of Chile and Argentina.

Action - Expedition leaders should allow a higher than normal margin of safety for all activities undertaken in remote areas and be aware of the quickest means of finding extra help.

Weather - There are risks from bad weather on the whole itinerary. The most likely hazard is a combination of prolonged cold and wind putting clients at risk from hypothermia. High winds and blizzard conditions may also be hazardous to navigation and balance.

Action - Warm clothes, (including fleece or down jacket, waterproofs, hat and gloves) should be carried by all clients themselves at all times. Leaders should personally carry a bivi bag and/or a sleeping bag every day in case of bad weather combined with some other problem. Leaders should watch out for deteriorating weather and be prepared to change plans if necessary. Leaders should watch out for conditions that might produce hypothermia and take action if necessary.

Rockfall - On various places on the itinerary there are slight risks from rockfall, both from above and caused by the group.

Action - Leaders should remain alert to this hazard and assess all areas for the risk of rockfall. In group hazard areas clients may need to be briefed to move carefully with respect to dislodging rocks onto other clients, (e.g. zigzagging) and good group control will be necessary.

Navigational Errors - Navigational errors are possible but are not expected to be a serious hazard due to generally good weather and generally straightforward ascent/descent routes.

Action - Leaders should take note of their outward route using GPS waypoints, in order to assure a safe retreat to the accommodation or vehicle.

Glacier and Crevasse Hazard. There are areas where there are very small glaciers near, but not on, the normal ascent routes. These include the upper slopes of Villarrica, Lanin, Llaima and Chillan volcanoes. On these volcanoes there are no crevasses on the slopes we ski. There are larger glaciers with significant crevasses on the south sides of Villarrica and Lanin, so these areas should be completely avoided.

Action - On all the mountains listed above leaders must not vary the ascent and descent routes. Glaciers, even those with only minor crevasse areas, should be avoided.

Avalanche. There will be considerable risk of avalanche throughout the itinerary. Known hazard areas include the approaches to the Maule and Colina valleys, where there could be considerable risk of being hit by large avalanches from above. Also the higher slopes of all the volcanoes, which are generally slightly steeper and are also prone to wind-slab build up.

Action - The leader should assess any slopes to be climbed or skied and take into account recent weather and snowfall patterns. On longer expeditions, particularly with overnight stops, the approach route should be carefully assessed for the safety implications in case stormy weather increases avalanche risk and makes retreat unsafe. Weather forecasts should be checked regularly to see if stormy weather is forecast. The leader must be prepared to modify or abandon plans if necessary.

All leaders and clients must observe normal ski-touring practice with regards to minimising the risks if caught in an avalanche. All leaders and clients must wear a transceiver throughout the day, and check that this works daily. Leaders should ensure that all clients practice transceiver search techniques at the start of the itinerary. All leaders and clients must carry snow shovels and avalanche probes. The leader must manage the group to ensure the safest possible descent of any potentially hazardous slopes. Rest stops and any overnight camps must be sited away from any potential avalanche run-out.

Electrical Storms. These are rare but possible.

Action - During such storms all ridges and high areas should be avoided (or abandoned as quickly as practicable).

Volcanic Hazards. On Villarrica and Llaima (and to a much lesser degree on Chillan, Lonquimay and Antuco) there are hazards from the active nature of these volcanoes. The greatest hazards are from poisonous gases in the summit areas and from loose and unstable ground at the crater edges.

Action - On summits and at crater edges on Villarrica and Llaima great care should be taken. Any locally issued advice to avoid ascents during periods of higher volcanic activity should be followed.

Other Mountain Hazards. Other mountain hazards may be encountered. All such hazards should either be avoided or reduced using recognised procedures.


LEADERSHIP AND ORGANISATION

Good leadership and communication can significantly improve the safety and will of course increase the enjoyment of a group in the mountains.

Action - The leader must be clear that their primary purpose on the expedition is to look after the health and well-being of the clients. The leader must be prepared to make changes to the itinerary, or even abandon the expedition, if this is necessary due to the safety of any participant.

The leader should be careful to monitor their own health and be honest with themselves about any problems they are having. The leader should operate only well within the bounds of their own fitness, experience and current ability. The leader should also operate only within the abilities and fitness of the clients present. The leader has the power to remove a client from the expedition if their fitness and/or ability fall far short of that defined in the expedition dossier and this problem is interfering with the safety of other clients.

The expedition has a designated overall leader, who will take responsibility for the itinerary and actions of the group as a whole. This leader should give clear instructions to any assistants, other persons or any client temporarily given charge of any subgroup. In the mountains normal practice will be for the leader or an assistant to be with the clients at all times. However, minor operating problems (e.g. fitness), may result in clients being left without a leader at various times, both in valleys and on mountain days. This should only be done for very limited periods of an hour or less, in good and stable weather and with clients in good health, and with clear instructions about when and where to regroup (preferably in the same place).

While the group is mobile leaders should encourage a clear system of regrouping every hour (or more frequently if necessary) in order to assess the group as a whole and any individual needs. Leaders should also have a clear system for monitoring the last person in the group, preferably by visual contact.

In towns and cities clients are free to do as they please. Clients should inform the leader if they plan to travel beyond the town centre and/or immediate surroundings of the hotel.

 


Chile Downhill Holidays

First Written September 2003 Last Revised March 2013


AUTHOR

This risk assessment has been compiled by John Biggar, who has twenty years experience of operating expeditions and holidays in South America under the trading name 'Andes', and fourteen years experience of operating variations of these skiing itineraries. John Biggar has himself done variations and sections of the ski itineraries we offer on nine occasions, in 1999 (twice), 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2012. John holds the MIC and is a Trainee BASI Ski Instructor. He also has over 5 weeks personal experience of snowboarding.

GENERAL STATEMENT - SAFETY AND RISK

This is an adventure holiday and by taking part in this itinerary all clients will be exposed to an element of risk beyond that found in everyday life in the UK. While all reasonable precautions should be taken to reduce these additional risks it is neither possible nor desirable to completely eliminate additional risks.

To keep things in perspective 'Andes' have taken over 600 people to South America over a twenty year period and only ever recorded the following incidents:-

Theft 4 minor theft incidents reported, 3 more serious cases (two of many possessions, one of tickets and passport).

Assault, Violence etc. 0 cases on expedition.

Injury from slips etc. 4 cases, broken nose, sprained ankle, serious cuts & bruising, severe back pain

Cold Injury 2 cases of frostnip & 1 of minor frostbite on same expedition, 1 more serious frostbite (left thumb) on Aconcagua Jan 2008. Also 1 snowblindness.

Severe exhaustion 2 cases.

Major Illness or Infection 2 cases, 1 of giardia, and 1 eye infection.

Animal Bite 1 case (Dog)

John Biggar has personally spent a total of over sixty months in the mountains of the Andes and never had any personal trouble from serious illness, theft or injury (other than a few stomach bugs!).

 

RISKS OF THIS ITINERARY AND MEASURES TO REDUCE THEM WHEN POSSIBLE

In this risk assessment “skiing”, “skier” etc, should also be taken to cover those travelling on snowboards, cross-country skis or snowshoes.

I have identified the following areas as the principal additional risks of this itinerary. This is not a fully inclusive list. Please note that as these itineraries are usually designed to be flexible to make best use of weather conditions it is possible we may visit other mountain areas that are not specifically specified below.


GENERAL HAZARDS OF OPERATING IN CHILE

General safety standards. Although they are generally well developed countries, safety standards in Chile and Argentina are still often lower than at home. It is also fair to say that the population as whole has a less informed and a more laid-back attitude to the risks of everyday life.

Natural hazards. The areas to be visited are in an area of potentially severe volcanic and earthquake hazard. Severe winter weather could also cause catastrophic landslides and flooding as well as prolonged road closures.

Driving. Chilean & Argentine driving standards and road and vehicle maintenance standards are generally good, but not as high as they are in the UK and most of western Europe. There will be a small additional risk of death or injury in a traffic accident from these.

Action - Leaders should use recommended contractors whenever possible, they should visually inspect all vehicles before use and be prepared to use an alternative vehicle if necessary. They should monitor the performance of any contracted drivers and be prepared to use an alternative driver if necessary. When driving themselves they should drive with care, take rest breaks approximately every two hours, and adopt a more defensive approach to driving than when at home.

Crime. Chile and Argentina have a relatively low crime rate but Western tourists are at an increased risk of being victims because they can be more easily recognised as wealthy. There is a very small risk of serious crime, including violent or sexual assault and mugging, particularly in and around Buenos Aires and Santiago, and a small risk of pickpocketing and minor theft. Crime in and around the ski resorts is very unusual.

Action - Leaders should obtain up-to-date security advice immediately before the trip departs and on arrival and be prepared to make any changes necessary to the itinerary. Leaders should brief members with any relevant local security advice and general personal safety advice. Clients should behave in a polite, courteous and respectful manner towards all people. Clients should leave valuables in the hotel safe whenever possible and otherwise carry them in a concealed body belt or neck purse. Clients should remain within the safer central areas of Santiago and Buenos Aires, particularly after dark. Clients should walk in a group if out after dark or use taxi(s). Clients should refrain from drinking more than just a small amount of alcohol and completely avoid any contact with illegal drugs. In the unlikely event of any attempted robbery or mugging, clients should not attempt to act heroically; hand over money - it is wise always to have the equivalent of approx. $40-50 in your pocket for this purpose.

Hotels. Fire safety standards are not as high as at home. Exits may not be clearly marked or accessible. Construction standards and electrical safety standards are not as good as at home. In small villages and other rural areas fire safety and construction standards are virtually non-existent.

Action - Clients should not use any form of naked flame indoors (this includes candles and smoking!). Clients should familiarise themselves with the best way to escape from the hotel building before retiring overnight.

Hygiene. Food and general hygiene standards are generally similar to home. Some stomach and/or bowel upsets are possible.

Action - Expedition members should have all vaccinations and inoculations as recommended by their GP. Members should choose with some discretion when eating prepared food in cafes and restaurants.

First Aid

Action - Leaders should have a current first aid certificate and have quick access to, a first aid kit at all times.

Hospital and Medical Care. In the event of an accident or injury the hospital or medical care available may not be at quite as high a standard as at home, especially in more rural areas.

SPECIFIC HAZARDS OF OPERATING IN THE MOUNTAIN RESORTS OF CHILE

Lift & Piste Facilities Resort facilities are generally good in Chile & Argentina, but it is probable that maintenance standards are lower than in Europe, so there is a slightly increased risk of an accident due to an equipment malfunction. One or two resorts have more unusual lifts, e.g. the “Va y Vient” at Portillo which may be dangerous if used incorrectly. Pistes are generally less well marked than they are in Europe, particularly for obstacles, and can also be less well groomed.

Action - All the usual precautions should be taken when using lift machinery, particularly unfamiliar ones. Safety notices should be obeyed, safety bars etc. should always be used. Skiers should take more care skiing than at home, at least until they are familiar with a resort.

Slips, falls and collisions. All members will be exposed to a considerable risk of falling or colliding with other skiers when skiing due to poor technique, icy conditions etc. In general South American skiers can be more dangerous on the piste than Europeans. These falls could be serious, including the possibility of broken and/or dislocated limbs and head injury. In places there will also be a risk of slipping or falling when walking on foot too. Leaders and members should take the usual precautions to avoid such risks, skiing and walking cautiously at all times and taking due regard of other skiers.

Action - In general skiers should take more care skiing than at home, at least until they are familiar with a resort. As always all skiers should abide by the FIS Code of Conduct. We would recommend that you use a helmet.

Off Piste Skiing. All off piste skiing presents a considerable risk of accidents due to the likely presence of invisible hazards (buried rocks, snowbridges over streams, etc.) and difficult skiing conditions (deep snow, heavy snow, icy crusts, etc.). There are also considerable risks from avalanche.

Action - Leaders should only ski off-piste with clients who are fully aware of (and accept) all the risks involved and in generally benign conditions (good weather, low avalanche risk). Leaders must brief members before each off-piste descent, highlighting any areas they believe to be of particular risk. Clients should ski cautiously and at reasonable speeds at all times when off-piste. Full avalanche rescue gear (transceivers, shovel and probe), should be carried by all party members at all times when skiing off-piste.

Weather - There are small risks from bad weather on the whole itinerary. The most likely hazard is a combination of prolonged snow and wind putting clients at risk from hypothermia.

Action - Warm clothes, (including windproof and insulated outer layer, hat and gloves) should be carried or worn by all clients themselves at all times. When skiing off-piste leaders should carry a bivvy bag, survival sack or similar. Leaders should watch out for conditions that might produce hypothermia and take action if necessary.

Navigational Errors - Navigational errors skiing off-piste are possible but are not expected to be a serious hazard due to generally good weather and generally straightforward routes.

Action - Leaders should only take clients to ski off-piste in good conditions.

Other Mountain & Skiing Hazards. Other mountain hazards may be encountered. All such hazards should either be avoided or reduced using recognised procedures.

LEADERSHIP AND ORGANISATION

Good leadership and communication can significantly improve the safety and will of course increase the enjoyment of a group in the mountains.

Action - The leader must be clear that their primary purpose on the holiday is to look after the health and well-being of the clients. The leader should be careful to monitor their own health and be honest with themselves about any problems they are having. The leader should operate only well within the bounds of their own fitness, experience and current ability. The leader should also operate only within the abilities and fitness of the clients present. The leader must be prepared to make changes to the day or the whole itinerary, or even abandon the itinerary, if this is necessary due to the safety of any participant.

In towns and cities clients are free to do as they please. Clients should inform the leader if they plan to travel beyond the town centre and/or immediate surroundings of the hotel.




Huayhuash Treks and Climbs

Written May 2002 Revised April 2015

AUTHOR

This risk assessment has been compiled by John Biggar, who has personally trekked and climbed in the Cordillera Huayhuash in 2004 and has visited the nearby Cordillera Blanca and Huaraz in 1993, 1995, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2008 and 2012. He has 22 years experience of operating expeditions and holidays in South America under the trading name 'Andes', 20 of these years have included operating in Peru and 18 using various variations on this itinerary. John Biggar holds the MIC.

GENERAL STATEMENT - SAFETY AND RISK


This is an adventure holiday and by taking part in this itinerary all clients will be exposed to an element of risk beyond that found in everyday life in the UK. While all reasonable precautions should be taken to reduce these additional risks it is neither possible nor desirable to completely eliminate additional risks.
To keep things in perspective 'Andes' have taken over 650 people to South America over a twenty-four year period and only ever recorded the following incidents:-
Theft -- 4 minor theft incidents reported. 4 more serious cases (three of multiple possessions, one of just tickets and passport).
Assault, Violence etc. --  0 cases on expedition.
Altitude Illness -- Out of a total of 669 clients and 174 leaders at April 2015the majority (c. 80-90%) going to over 4000m - we have had many (e.g. 50) minor cases of altitude illness where descent was not necessary. We have only had 15 more serious cases of AMS where descent was necessary.
Injury from slips etc. -- 4 cases. One each of broken nose, sprained ankle, serious cuts & bruising, severe back pain
Cold Injury -- 2 cases of frostnip & 1 of minor frostbite on the same expedition. 1 more serious frostbite (left thumb) on Aconcagua Jan 2008. Also 1 snowblindness.
Severe exhaustion -- 2 cases.
Major Illness or Infection -- 2 cases, 1 of giardia, and 1 eye infection.
Animal Bite -- 1 case (Dog).

John Biggar has personally spent a total of over seventy months in the mountains of the Andes and never had any personal trouble from serious illness, theft or injury (other than a few stomach bugs!).


RISKS OF THIS ITINERARY AND MEASURES TO REDUCE THEM WHEN POSSIBLE

I have identified the following areas as the principal additional risks of this itinerary. This is not a fully inclusive list.

GENERAL HAZARDS OF OPERATING IN PERU

General safety standards. In Peru safety standards in almost every aspect of life are lower than at home. Peru is a less developed country and the resources are not available in many situations to live and work to the same high safety standards that we have in the UK. It is also fair to say that the population as whole has a less informed and a more laid-back attitude to the risks of everyday life.

Natural hazards. The areas to be visited are in an area of considerable earthquake hazard. Severe weather could also cause catastrophic landslides and flooding, though this is less likely at the time of year we travel.

Driving. Driving standards and road and vehicle maintenance standards are not as good as they are in the UK and Europe. There will be additional risks of death or injury in a traffic accident from these.

Action - Expedition leaders should use recommended contractors whenever possible, they should visually inspect all vehicles before use and be prepared to use an alternative vehicle if necessary. They should monitor the drivers performance and be prepared to use an alternative driver if necessary.

Crime. Peru has relatively high crime rates. All Western tourists are at an increased risk of being victims. There is a small risk of vehicle hijack and robbery. There is a small risk of serious crime, including violent or sexual assault and mugging, particularly in Lima. There is a considerable risk of minor theft and pickpocketing in Lima and a small risk in more remote areas.

Action - Expedition leaders should obtain up-to-date security advice immediately before the expedition departs. Expedition leaders should brief members with any relevant local security advice and general personal safety advice. Expedition members should behave in a polite, courteous and respectful manner towards all people in Peru. Expedition members should walk confidently and remain alert at all times, especially in busy areas of towns. Expedition members should leave valuables in the hotel safe whenever possible and otherwise carry them in a concealed body belt or neck purse. Expedition members will be safer if back in the hotel by 9.p.m. Expedition members should remain within the safer central areas, particularly after dark. Expedition members should walk in a group whenever possible and always walk in a group after dark, or take a taxi. Expedition members should drink only a small amount of alcohol and completely avoid any contact with illegal drugs. In the event of any incident members should not attempt to act heroically; hand over money - it is wise always to have approx. $20-30 in your pocket for this purpose.

Hotels. Fire safety standards are not as high as at home. Exits may not be clearly marked or accessible. Construction standards and electrical safety standards are not as good as at home. In small mountain villages fire-safety and construction standards are virtually non-existent.

Action - Expedition members should not use any form of naked flame indoors (candles, stoves, smoking!). Expedition members should familiarise themselves with the best way to escape from the building before retiring overnight and keep a torch handy.

Hygiene. Food and general hygiene standards are not as high in Peru as at home. Some stomach and/or bowel upsets are likely and more serious conditions such as giardia and amoebic dysentery are possible.

Action - Expedition members should have all vaccinations and inoculations as recommended by their GP. Expedition members should drink only bottled water or water that has been recently purified (e.g. by iodine, filtration or boiling). Members should avoid the following foods when prepared in cafes and restaurants: ice and ice-cream, seafood, lettuce and other raw salads, any food that is not freshly cooked. Expedition leaders and members should ensure a good standard of hygiene is practised at campsites, especially with regard to drinking water and toilet.

First Aid

Action - All UK leaders should have a current first aid certificate and carry, or have access to a first aid kit at all times.

Hospital and Medical Care. In the event of an accident or injury the hospital or medical care available will not be at as high a standard as at home.


SPECIFIC HAZARDS OF OPERATING IN THE MOUNTAINS OF PERU

On previous occasions running this itinerary about 1 in 10 clients have had to be evacuated from the mountains, most often with altitude illness - this should be borne in mind when planning the first few days of the itinerary.

Camping. There is a risk of fire from stoves and candles. There is a risk of theft in a few areas if items are left outside tents.

Action - All leaders and members should take great care when cooking and refilling stoves. Whenever possible this should be done outside or in a specifically designed mess tent. Torches should be used instead of candles in expedition members tents. Keep all belongings inside tents at night except at high mountain camps.

Minor slips and falls. All members will be exposed to a risk of slipping due to steep, uneven and unstable ground. Leaders and members should take the usual precautions to avoid such risks.

Remoteness. The expedition will be up to two days walk and one days drive from professional medical help for much of the time. Evacuation will probably only be possible by foot or on horseback. Helicopter rescue is unlikely, there is no formal service in Peru and parts of the itinerary are above the operating ceiling for many helicopters.

Action - A spare horse should be provided in case evacuation is necessary. Expedition leaders should allow a higher than normal margin of safety for all activities undertaken in remote areas.

Altitude. At high altitudes there is an increased risk of medical problems, most obviously altitude illness. Action - Leaders should visually and verbally check all members regularly for signs or symptoms of altitude illness. Clients must be honest with leaders about signs or symptoms they are experiencing. Any type of illness observed at altitude (above 3500m) should be considered as possibly indicative of an underlying altitude illness. It should be treated as such by descending if there is no improvement within 24 hours. Leaders should be familiar with methods of diagnosing altitude illness and methods of treating it (principally by early descent). Leaders should operate the expedition in accordance with the needs of those who are having problems and not those who aspire to go higher. Leaders should be aware that in many parts of the Huayhuash circuit the easiest evacuation will require going up and over a higher pass and they should therefore operate a higher margin of safety (i.e. earlier evacuation) when assessing any potential altitude illness on this itinerary.

Weather - There are very slight risks from bad weather on the whole itinerary. Night time temperatures are typically 0C to -5C. It can snow at any time of year in the Huayhuash mountains and snow will lie as low as 4000m.

Action - Warm clothes, (including fleece or down jacket, windproofs, hat and gloves) should be carried by all expedition members themselves at all times. Leaders should personally carry a sleeping bag or a tent every day in case of bad weather combined with some other problem. Leaders should watch out for deteriorating weather and be prepared to change plans if necessary.

Rockfall - On Leon Huacanan and Suerococha (Diablo Mudo) there are very slight risks from rockfallin areas of rock scrambling below the glaciers on Leon and on Rasac. Expedition members should be briefed to move carefully over this, with due consideration for other members.

Action - Leaders should remain alert to this hazard and assess all areas for the risk of rockfall. On continuous steep ground expedition members should be briefed to walk carefully with regard to dislodging stones and to shout a warning if anything is dislodged. Good group control and a zigzag ascent should be used where possible to minimise clients moving above others.

Navigational Errors - Navigational errors are possible but not a serious hazard.

Action - On the summit days leaders should have a hand-written record of their ascent route (height and bearing waypoints by GPS or combined compass and altimeter readings) in order to assure a safe retreat. A compass and altimeter or a GPS should always be carried by the leader.

Crevasse Hazard. There is a small risk of crevasse falls on the glacier on the normal route on both Suerococha and Leon. These can be partly hidden by the snow penitentes which are a regular feature of this route.

Action - On both glaciers all members must be roped up according to recognised practices, with a clearly designated leader on each rope. Except in an emergency, individual roped parties should remain in close contact with each other.

Avalanche. During or after recent snowfall there may be some avalanche hazard on the optional peak ascents. There is a considerable risk of serac avalanches from the face of Yerupaja and a route should be chosen carefully (or even abandoned ) if this is necessary.

Action - The peaks should not be climbed during heavy snowfall or for 24 hours after significant snowfall. After this time a careful assessment should be made of the snow condition by a leader experienced in avalanche hazard evaluation before planning any ascent.

Electrical Storms. These are infrequent but possible, commoner in the afternoon.

Action - During such storms all ridges and high areas should be avoided (or abandoned as quickly as practicable). Take care on the exposed ridge on Suerococha

Other Mountain Hazards. Other mountain hazards may be encountered. All such hazards should either be avoided or reduced using recognised procedures.


LEADERSHIP AND ORGANISATION

Good leadership and communication can significantly improve the safety (and will of course increase the enjoyment of a group in the mountains).

Action - The leader must be clear that their primary purpose on the expedition is to look after the health and well-being of the clients. The leader should be careful to monitor their own health and be honest about any problems they are having. The leader should operate only well within the bounds of their own fitness, experience and current health. The leader should also operate only within the abilities and fitness of the expedition members present. The leader has the power to remove a client from the expedition if their fitness and/or ability fall far short of the expectation as defined in the companies dossier and brochure and this problem is interfering with the safety or enjoyment of other clients. The leader must be prepared to make changes to the itinerary, or even abandon the expedition, if this is necessary due to the safety of any participant.

The expedition has a designated overall leader, who should take responsibility for the itinerary and actions of the group as a whole. This leader should give clear instructions to any assistant leaders, other staff or any client temporarily given charge of any subgroup. In the mountains normal practice will be for the leader or an assistant leader to be with the clients at all times except when clients are left in good health at a designated and equipped camp. However, minor operating problems (e.g. fitness), may result in clients being left without a leader at various times, both in valleys and on mountains. This should only be done for limited periods of a few hours, in good and stable weather and with clients in good health, and with clear instructions about when and where to regroup (preferably the same place).

While the group is mobile leaders should encourage a clear system of regrouping every hour (or more frequently if necessary) in order to assess the group as a whole and any individual needs. Leaders should also have a clear system for monitoring the last person in the group, preferably by visual contact.

In towns and cities clients are free to do as they please. Clients should inform the leader if they plan to travel beyond the town centre or immediate surroundings of the hotel.





Ojos del Salado

First Written December 2004    Updated December 2015

AUTHOR
This risk assessment has been compiled by John Biggar, who has personally completed this itinerary, or close variations on it, on eight occasions, 1996, 2003, 2005, 2010 (x2), 2011(x2), 2013 and 2015. He has 23 years experience of operating expeditions and treks in South America under the trading name 'Andes', 22 of these years have included operating in Chile and Argentina and 19 operating this itinerary or close variations. John Biggar holds the Mountaineering Instructor Certificate.

GENERAL STATEMENT - SAFETY AND RISK


This is an adventure holiday and by taking part in this itinerary all clients will be exposed to an element of risk beyond that found in everyday life in the UK. While all reasonable precautions should be taken to reduce these additional risks it is neither possible nor desirable to completely eliminate additional risks.
To keep things in perspective 'Andes' have taken over 650 people to South America over a twenty-four year period and only ever recorded the following incidents:-
Theft -- 4 minor theft incidents reported. 4 more serious cases (three of multiple possessions, one of just tickets and passport).
Assault, Violence etc. --  0 cases on expedition.
Altitude Illness -- Out of a total of 669 clients and 174 leaders at April 2015the majority (c. 80-90%) going to over 4000m - we have had many (e.g. 50) minor cases of altitude illness where descent was not necessary. We have only had 15 more serious cases of AMS where descent was necessary.
Injury from slips etc. -- 4 cases. One each of broken nose, sprained ankle, serious cuts & bruising, severe back pain
Cold Injury -- 2 cases of frostnip & 1 of minor frostbite on the same expedition. 1 more serious frostbite (left thumb) on Aconcagua Jan 2008. Also 1 snowblindness.
Severe exhaustion -- 2 cases.
Major Illness or Infection -- 2 cases, 1 of giardia, and 1 eye infection.
Animal Bite -- 1 case (Dog).

John Biggar has personally spent a total of over seventy months in the mountains of the Andes and never had any personal trouble from serious illness, theft or injury (other than a few stomach bugs!).

RISKS OF THIS ITINERARY AND MEASURES TO REDUCE THEM WHEN POSSIBLE

I have identified the following areas as the principal additional risks of this itinerary. This is not a fully inclusive list.

GENERAL HAZARDS OF OPERATING IN CHILE & ARGENTINA

General safety standards. Although they are well developed countries some safety standards in Argentina and Chile are lower than at home. In some situations the same high safety standards that we have in the UK may not be applied. It is also fair to say that the population as whole has less informed and a more laid-back attitude to the risks of everyday life.

Natural hazards. The areas to be visited are in an area of considerable earthquake hazard. Severe weather could also cause catastrophic landslides and flooding.

Driving. Driving standards and road and vehicle maintenance standards are reasonable but not as good as they are in the UK. There will be a small additional risk of death or injury in a traffic accident from these factors.

Action - When driving vehicles themselves leaders should drive with care, take rest breaks every two hours, and adopt a more defensive approach to driving than when at home.

Crime. Argentina & Chile have relatively low crime rates, but Western tourists are at an increased risk of being victims because they can be recognised as wealthy. There is a very small risk of serious crime, including violent or sexual assault and mugging in and around Santiago, Buenos Aires and Copiapo and a small risk of pickpocketing and minor theft. The nearby city of Calama in Chile appears to be something of a crime hotspot.

Action - Expedition leaders should obtain up-to-date security advice immediately before the expedition departs and on arrival and be prepared to make any changes necessary to the itinerary. Expedition leaders should advise clients about any relevant local security issues and give general personal safety advice. Clients should behave in a polite, courteous and respectful manner towards all people. Clients should leave valuables in the hotel safe whenever possible and otherwise carry them in a concealed body belt or neck purse. Clients should walk in a group after dark or take a taxi. Clients should refrain from drinking more than a small amount of alcohol and completely avoid any contact with illegal drugs.

Accommodation. Fire safety standards are not as high as at home. Emergency exits may not be as clearly marked or as easily accessible. Construction standards and electrical safety standards are not as good as at home and smoke alarms are very rare.

Action - Clients should not use any form of naked flame indoors (candles, stoves, smoking!). Clients should inform themselves of the best way to escape from the building before retiring overnight and keep a torch handy.

Hygiene. Food and general hygiene standards are not quite as high as at home. Stomach upsets are possible.

Action - Clients should have all vaccinations and inoculations as recommended by their GP. Clients should drink only water that has been recently purified (e.g. by boiling) or is clearly from a safe source – e.g. clean & fresh snow. Clients should be wary of the following foods when prepared in cafes and restaurants: seafood (except fish) and any food that is not freshly cooked. Leaders and clients should ensure a good standard of hygiene is practised at campsites, especially with regard to drinking water and toilet.

First Aid

Action - All Leaders should have a current first aid certificate and carry, or have quick access to, a first aid kit at all times.

Hospital and Medical Care. Hospital and Medical Care in Chile & Argentina is generally good, although not quite as high a standard as at home.


SPECIFIC HAZARDS OF OPERATING IN THE MOUNTAINS


Camping. There is a risk of fire from stoves and candles. There is a theoretical risk of theft in most areas if items are left outside tents at night or unattended inside. However we have not previously experienced this type of theft in this area.

Action - All leaders and clients should take great care when cooking and refilling stoves and fuel bottles. Whenever possible this should be done outside the tent. Torches should be used instead of candles in clients tents.

Minor slips and falls. All clients will be exposed to a risk of slipping due to steep, uneven and unstable ground.

Action - Leaders and members should take the usual precautions to avoid such risks. Lava flows and boulder fields formed from lava are particularly unstable and such ground should be crossed carefully.

Remoteness. This expedition may be up to two days walk and a half day drive from professional medical help for periods of time. At high altitudes vehicles may not start reliably and any such problem will increase the time needed to obtain assistance. Evacuation is most likely to have to be by foot or on horseback as helicopter availability is very unreliable and parts of the itinerary are above normal helicopter operating ceilings.

Action - Expedition leaders should allow a higher than normal margin of safety for all activities undertaken in the mountains and particularly for all activities high on Ojos del Salado.

Altitude. At high altitudes there is an increased risk of medical problems, most obviously altitude illness.

Action - Leaders should visually and verbally check all clients regularly for signs or symptoms of altitude illness. Any type of illness observed at altitude (above 3500m) should be considered as possibly indicative of an underlying altitude illness. It should be treated as such by descending if there is no improvement within 24 hours. Leaders should be familiar with methods of diagnosing altitude illness (e.g. Lake Louise) and methods of treating it (principally by early descent). Leaders should manage the expedition to prioritise the needs of those who are having problems and not those who aspire to go higher. Leaders should be aware that high on Ojos del Salado evacuation could be more difficult and they should operate a higher margin of safety (i.e. earlier evacuation) when assessing any potential altitude illness in this area.

Weather - There are serious and even life threatening risks from bad weather above base camp on Ojos del Salado and slight risks from bad weather on the whole itinerary. Night time temperatures at altitude are typically -10C to -20C. High winds including gale and storm force winds, are extremely common, almost normal. It can snow at any time of year in these mountains and snow will lie as low as 4000m in December, 4500m in February. I have seen the following examples of severe weather over the years.

- One metre of fresh snow at high camp (5500m) overnight.

- Winds of approx. 150 kph at 5500m, severe difficulty pitching tents and unable to walk against wind.

- Regular winds of gale force or storm force higher on the mountain.

- Combined wind and cold on summit day resulting in frozen eyes, frost damage to lips, frost-nip to hands.

Action - Leaders should watch very carefully for deteriorating weather and be prepared to change plans (and probably descend) if necessary. The mountain should be abandoned completely in prolonged bad weather.

Warm clothes, (including several fleeces and/or down jackets, windproofs, hat, mitts and gloves) must be carried by all clients themselves at all times above base camp. Plastic boots are recommended, but modern leather boots with a yeti gaiter are acceptable. Leaders should personally carry a down jacket and bivi bag or else a sleeping bag in case of emergency.

Tents must be pitched carefully (with due consideration of the potential for strong winds) at all times. The leader must inspect campsites daily to check tents have been and remain securely pitched. Clients should be briefed in the best ways of pitching tents in severe winds, ideally before they have to do this! Tents left unattended should be internally weighted with large rocks (padded). Leaders should be aware and brief clients, that when pitching tents with rocks poor (unprotected) placement of the rocks can fray tent fabric and poles very quickly.

There is a possibility of actual injury from being blown over or losing footing in high winds. In particular the summit pinnacle should not be attempted in high winds.

Rockfall - There are potential hazard areas from rockfall throughout the itinerary, with a higher risk on the summit pinnacle of Ojos del Salado where the consequences from being hit are also more serious. Lava can be particularly unstable.

Action - Leaders should remain alert to this hazard, assess all areas, including all campsites, for the risk of rockfall. Leaders should watch out particularly for other parties, as many others on the mountain are inexperienced and/or suffering altitude illness. In certain places leaders will need to ensure good group control to minimise this hazard. Clients should be briefed to walk or climb carefully with regard to dislodging stones and to shout a warning to others if anything is dislodged. A zigzag ascent should be used where possible to minimise time spent above and/or below other group members.

Navigational Errors - Navigational errors are possible in several areas and could pose a serious hazard if tents were not found in bad weather.

Action - The leader should maintain a record of any critical points (height and bearing waypoints by GPS or combined compass and altimeter readings) in order to assure a safe retreat. In all problem areas they should monitor, and possibly brief, the group more carefully in order to avoid the possibility of one person becoming lost. Either a compass and altimeter, or GPS and spare batteries, should always be carried.

Avalanche. During or after recent snowfall there is a possibility of some minor avalanche hazard.

Action - After any big storm a careful assessment should be made of the snow conditions by a leader experienced in avalanche hazard evaluation before planning any ascent.

Electrical Storms. These are relatively rare but possible, more commonly in January and February. On the Chilean side of the mountain bad weather and storms are likely to be less visible before they arrive.

Action - During such storms all ridges and high areas should be avoided (or abandoned as quickly as practicable).

Other Groups. A good percentage of the climbers on Ojos del Salado are inexperienced and operating out of their depth.

Action - The leader and clients should not base their decision making or actual actions on what they see or hear of other groups doing. The leader should tactfully inform other groups on the mountain of potential problems he/she can anticipate them having.

Other Mountain Hazards. All other mountain hazards may be encountered and should be anticipated and avoided or reduced using recognised procedures.


LEADERSHIP AND ORGANISATION

Good leadership and communication can significantly improve the safety and will of course increase the enjoyment of the group in the mountains.

Action - All leaders must be clear that their primary purpose on the expedition is to look after the health and well-being of the clients. All leaders must be prepared to make changes to the itinerary, or even abandon the expedition, if this is necessary due to the safety of any participant. All leaders should be careful to monitor their own health and be honest about any problems they are having, in particular with relation to fitness and altitude. All leaders should operate only well within the bounds of their own experience and current physical ability and within the abilities of the expedition members.

The expedition leader, has overall responsibility for the itinerary and actions of the group as a whole. He or she should give clear instructions to any assistant or any client temporarily given charge of a subgroup. In the mountains normal practice will be for the leader or an assistant to be with the clients at all times except when clients are left in good health at a designated and equipped camp. However minor operating problems (e.g. fitness, equipment failure) may result in clients being left without a leader at various times, both in valleys, high on the mountains and even on summit days. This should only be done for limited periods of up to an hour or two, in good and stable weather and with all clients in good health. Clear instructions about when and where to regroup (preferably exactly the same place) must be given.

While the whole group is mobile leaders and assistants should encourage a clear system of regrouping (e.g. every hour or more frequently if necessary) in order to assess the group as a whole and any individual needs. Leaders should also have a clear system for monitoring the last person in the group, preferably by visual or vocal contact.

In towns and cities clients are free to do as they please; the leader should however advise them and should be advised by the client if they plan to travel beyond the town centre.



Peru First Ascents

Written November 2016

AUTHOR

This risk assessment has been compiled by John Biggar, who has personally led "first ascents" trips in Peru on six occasions in 2002, 2003, 2006, 2008, 2013 and 2014. He has 25 years experience of operating expeditions and holidays in South America under the trading name 'Andes', 23 of these years have included operating in Peru using various variations on this itinerary. John Biggar holds the MIC.

GENERAL STATEMENT - SAFETY AND RISK


This is an adventure holiday and by taking part in this itinerary all clients will be exposed to an element of risk beyond that found in everyday life in the UK. While all reasonable precautions should be taken to reduce these additional risks it is neither possible nor desirable to completely eliminate additional risks.
To keep things in perspective 'Andes' have taken over 650 people to South America over a twenty-four year period and only ever recorded the following incidents:-
Theft -- 4 minor theft incidents reported. 4 more serious cases (three of multiple possessions, one of just tickets and passport).
Assault, Violence etc. --  0 cases on expedition.
Altitude Illness -- Out of a total of 669 clients and 174 leaders at April 2015the majority (c. 80-90%) going to over 4000m - we have had many (e.g. 50) minor cases of altitude illness where descent was not necessary. We have only had 15 more serious cases of AMS where descent was necessary.
Injury from slips etc. -- 4 cases. One each of broken nose, sprained ankle, serious cuts & bruising, severe back pain
Cold Injury -- 2 cases of frostnip & 1 of minor frostbite on the same expedition. 1 more serious frostbite (left thumb) on Aconcagua Jan 2008. Also 1 snowblindness.
Severe exhaustion -- 2 cases.
Major Illness or Infection -- 2 cases, 1 of giardia, and 1 eye infection.
Animal Bite -- 1 case (Dog).

John Biggar has personally spent a total of over seventy months in the mountains of the Andes and never had any personal trouble from serious illness, theft or injury (other than a few stomach bugs!).


RISKS OF THIS ITINERARY AND MEASURES TO REDUCE THEM WHEN POSSIBLE

I have identified the following areas as the principal additional risks of these "first ascents" itineraries in Peru. This is not a fully inclusive list.

GENERAL HAZARDS OF OPERATING IN PERU

General safety standards. In Peru, safety standards in almost every aspect of life are lower than at home. Peru is a less developed country and the resources are not available in many situations to live and work to the same high safety standards that we have in the UK. It is also fair to say that the population as whole has a less informed and a more laid-back attitude to the risks of everyday life.

Natural hazards. The areas to be visited are in an area of considerable earthquake hazard. Severe weather could also cause catastrophic landslides and flooding in and around the mountains although this is less likely at the time of year we travel.

Driving. Driving standards and road and vehicle maintenance standards are not as good as they are in the UK. There will be additional risks of death or injury in a traffic accident from these.

Action - Expedition leaders should use recommended contractors whenever possible, they should visually inspect all vehicles before use and be prepared to use an alternative vehicle if necessary. They should monitor the drivers performance and be prepared to use an alternative driver if necessary. When driving vehicles themselves leaders should drive with care, take rest breaks every two hours, and adopt a more defensive approach to driving than when at home.

Crime. Peru has relatively high crime rates. All Western tourists are at an increased risk of being victims. There is a small risk of vehicle hijack and robbery. There is a small risk of serious crime, including violent or sexual assault and mugging in cities such as Cuzco and Arequipa, with generally a lower risk in towns and rural areas. There is a risk of minor theft and pickpocketing in cities and a small risk in more remote areas.

Action - Expedition leaders should obtain up-to-date security advice immediately on arrival in Peru  and be prepared to make whatever changes are necessary to the itinerary. Expedition leaders should brief members with any relevant local security advice and general personal safety advice. Expedition members should behave in a polite, courteous and respectful manner towards all people in Peru. Expedition members should walk confidently and remain alert at all times, especially in busy areas of town. Expedition members should leave valuables in the hotel safe whenever possible and otherwise carry them in a concealed body belt or neck purse. Expedition members will be safer if back in the hotel by 10p.m. Expedition members should remain within the safer central areas of any cities visited, particularly after dark. Expedition members should walk in a group if out after dark or take a taxi. Expedition members should drink only small amounts of alcohol and completely avoid any contact with illegal drugs. In the event of any incident members should not attempt to act heroically; hand over money - it is wise always to have approx. $20-30 in your pocket for this purpose.

Hotels. Fire safety standards are not as high as at home. Exits may not be clearly marked or accessible. Construction standards and electrical safety standards are not as good as at home. In small villages fire-safety and construction standards are virtually non-existent.

Action - Expedition members should not use any form of naked flame indoors (candles, stoves, smoking!). Expedition members should familiarise themselves with the best way to escape from the building before retiring overnight and keep a torch handy.

Hygiene. Food and general hygiene standards are not as high in Peru as at home. Some stomach and/or bowel upsets are likely and more serious conditions such as giardia and amoebic dysentery are possible.

Action - Expedition members should have all vaccinations and inoculations as recommended by their GP. Expedition members should drink only bottled water or water that has been recently purified (e.g. by iodine, filtration or boiling). Members should avoid the following foods when prepared in cafes and restaurants: ice and ice-cream, seafood (except fish), lettuce and other raw salads, any food that is not freshly cooked. Expedition leaders and members should ensure a good standard of hygiene is practised at campsites, especially with regard to drinking water and toilet.

First Aid

Action - All UK leaders should have a current first aid certificate and carry, or have access to a first aid kit at all times.

Hospital and Medical Care. In the event of an accident or injury the hospital or medical care available will not be at as high a standard as at home, especially in rural areas.


SPECIFIC HAZARDS OF OPERATING IN THE MOUNTAINS

Camping. There is a risk of fire from stoves and candles. There is a risk of theft in most areas if items are left outside tents at night or unattended inside.

Action - All leaders and members should take great care when cooking and refilling stoves and fuel bottles. Whenever possible this should be done outside the tent. Torches should be used instead of candles in expedition members tents.

Minor slips and falls. All members will be exposed to a risk of slipping due to steep, uneven and unstable ground in many areas. Leaders and members should take the usual precautions to avoid such risks.

Remoteness. The expedition may be up to two days walk and a days drive from professional medical help for periods of time. At high altitudes vehicles may not start reliably and any such problem will increase the time needed to obtain assistance. There is no known helicopter rescue service and evacuation from the mountains will probably have to be by foot or on horseback.

Action - Expedition leaders should allow a higher than normal margin of safety for all activities undertaken high on the mountains. They should have a spare horse provided for evacuation where possible.

Altitude. At high altitudes there is an increased risk of medical problems, most obviously altitude illness. In some areas visited on these itineraries descent is not easy to achieve quickly.

Action - Leaders should visually and verbally check all members regularly for signs or symptoms of altitude illness. Any type of illness observed at altitude (above 3500m) should be considered as possibly indicative of an underlying altitude illness. It should be treated as such by descending if there is no improvement within 24 hours Leaders should be familiar with methods of diagnosing altitude illness (e.g. Lake Louise) and methods of treating it (principally by early descent). Leaders should operate the expedition to prioritise the needs of those who are having problems and not those who aspire to go higher. In areas where descent will take a long time leaders should operate a higher margin of safety (i.e. earlier evacuation) when assessing any potential altitude illness.

Weather - There are minor risks from bad weather above base camp on the mountains and slight risks from bad weather on the whole itinerary. Night time temperatures are typically as low as -10C. High winds including gale and storm force winds can occur, sometimes accompanied by blizzard conditions. It can snow at any time of year in these mountains and snow will lie as low as 4500m in the June-August season. Combined wind and cold on summit days could result in minor frost-nip.

Action - Leaders should watch very carefully for deteriorating weather and be prepared to change plans (and probably descend) if necessary. The mountains should be abandoned in prolonged bad weather.

Warm clothes, (including fleeces and/or down jacket, windproofs, hat, mitts and gloves) must be carried by all expedition members themselves at all times high in the mountains. Leaders should personally carry a down jacket and bivi bag or else a sleeping bag in case of emergency.

Tents must be pitched carefully (with due consideration of the potential for strong winds) at all times. The leader must inspect campsites daily to check tents have been and remain securely pitched.

Rockfall, Icefall, Crevasse Hazard and Serac Hazard - On this itinerary there are slight risks from rockfall and very minor risks from icefall, serac and crevasse hazard.

Action - Leaders should remain alert to these hazards, assess all areas, and particularly all campsites, for the risk of rockfall, icefall or serac hazard. Helmets should be worn in all hazard areas. The hazards of glacier travel should be pointed out clearly to clients. Clients must be instructed and monitored to ensure they use the rope effectively to minimise the risks of a crevasse fall. This should be done according to recognised practices, with a clearly designated leader on each rope.

Avalanche. During or after recent snowfall there is likely to be some avalanche hazard on all mountains.

Action - If possible the highest peaks should be avoided after heavy recent snowfall, or when wind slab is suspected due to recent weather patterns. After this time a careful assessment should be made of the snow conditions by a leader experienced in avalanche hazard evaluation before planning any ascent

Navigational Errors - Navigational errors are possible in several areas and could pose a hazard if tents were not found in bad weather.

Action - On summit days the leader should maintain a hand-written record of any critical points (height and bearing waypoints by GPS or combined compass and altimeter readings) in order to assure a safe retreat. Significant points and turning points should be marked with wands or ski-poles to enable them to be found if descent is necessary in bad weather. A compass and altimeter or a GPS (and spare batteries)  should always be carried.

Electrical Storms. These are relatively rare but possible.

Action - During such storms all ridges and high areas should be avoided (or abandoned as quickly as practicable).

Steep and Technical Ground and Ropework.

On sections of steep and/or technical terrain clients will be exposed to the regular risks of falling and injury encountered during all climbing. At high altitudes there is an increased risk of human error when rigging and using belays, abseils, etc, due to the oxygen deficit in the brain.

Action - A higher margin of safety should be built in to climbing days than would be used at sea level. Leaders should brief clients very thoroughly on the safe use of the rope in any situation and carefully assess the clients ability to perform instructions correctly without direct visual supervision before leaving them in this situation.

Other Mountain Hazards. All other mountain hazards may be encountered and should be anticipated and avoided or reduced using recognised procedures.

LEADERSHIP AND ORGANISATION

Good leadership and communication can significantly improve the safety and will of course increase the enjoyment of the group in the mountains.

Action - All leaders must be clear that their primary purpose on the expedition is to look after the health and well-being of the clients. All leaders should be careful to monitor their own health and be honest about any problems they are having, in particular with relation to fitness and altitude. All leaders should operate only well within the bounds of their own experience and current physical ability and within the abilities of the expedition members. All leaders must be prepared to make changes to the itinerary, or even abandon the expedition, if this is necessary due to the safety of any participant.

The expedition leader has overall responsibility for the itinerary and actions of the group as a whole. He or she should give clear instructions to any assistant leaders or any client temporarily given charge of a subgroup. In towns and cities clients should be left free to do as they please; the leader should advise them and should be advised by the client if they plan to travel beyond the town centre. In the mountains normal practice will be for the leader or an assistant leader to be with the clients at all times except when clients are left in good health at a designated and equipped camp. However minor operating problems (e.g. fitness, equipment failure) may result in clients being left without a leader lower on the mountains in areas without snow cover. This should only be done for limited periods of a few hours, in good and stable weather and with all clients in good health. Clear instructions about when and where to regroup (preferably the same place) must be given.

While the whole group is mobile leaders and assistant leaders should encourage a clear system of regrouping (e.g. every hour or more frequently if necessary) in order to assess the group as a whole and any individual needs. Leaders should also have a clear system for monitoring the last person in the group, preferably by visual or vocal contact.





Puna First Ascents

First written March 2004     Updated November 2016

AUTHOR
This risk assessment has been compiled by John Biggar, who has personally completed similar "first ascents" itineraries in the Puna de Atacama of Argentina and Chile on eight occasions, 2000, 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2016. He has 23 years experience of operating expeditions and treks in South America under the trading name 'Andes', 22 of these years have included operating in Chile and Argentina and 19 operating this itinerary or close variations. John Biggar holds the Mountaineering Instructor Certificate.

GENERAL STATEMENT - SAFETY AND RISK


This is an adventure holiday and by taking part in this itinerary all clients will be exposed to an element of risk beyond that found in everyday life in the UK. While all reasonable precautions should be taken to reduce these additional risks it is neither possible nor desirable to completely eliminate additional risks.
To keep things in perspective 'Andes' have taken over 650 people to South America over a twenty-four year period and only ever recorded the following incidents:-
Theft -- 4 minor theft incidents reported. 4 more serious cases (three of multiple possessions, one of just tickets and passport).
Assault, Violence etc. --  0 cases on expedition.
Altitude Illness -- Out of a total of 669 clients and 174 leaders at April 2015the majority (c. 80-90%) going to over 4000m - we have had many (e.g. 50) minor cases of altitude illness where descent was not necessary. We have only had 15 more serious cases of AMS where descent was necessary.
Injury from slips etc. -- 4 cases. One each of broken nose, sprained ankle, serious cuts & bruising, severe back pain
Cold Injury -- 2 cases of frostnip & 1 of minor frostbite on the same expedition. 1 more serious frostbite (left thumb) on Aconcagua Jan 2008. Also 1 snowblindness.
Severe exhaustion -- 2 cases.
Major Illness or Infection -- 2 cases, 1 of giardia, and 1 eye infection.
Animal Bite -- 1 case (Dog).

John Biggar has personally spent a total of over seventy months in the mountains of the Andes and never had any personal trouble from serious illness, theft or injury (other than a few stomach bugs!).

RISKS OF THIS ITINERARY AND MEASURES TO REDUCE THEM WHEN POSSIBLE

I have identified the following areas as the principal additional risks of itineraries in northern Chile and Argentina that are planning to attempt unclimbed summits in the Puna de Atacama. This is not a fully inclusive list.

GENERAL HAZARDS OF OPERATING IN CHILE & ARGENTINA

General safety standards. Although they are well developed countries some safety standards in Argentina and Chile are lower than at home. In some situations the same high safety standards that we have in the UK may not be applied. It is also fair to say that the population as whole has less informed and a more laid-back attitude to the risks of everyday life.

Natural hazards. The areas to be visited are in an area of considerable earthquake hazard. Severe weather could also cause catastrophic landslides and flooding.

Driving. Driving standards and road and vehicle maintenance standards are reasonable but not as good as they are in the UK. There will be a small additional risk of death or injury in a traffic accident from these factors.

Action - When driving vehicles themselves leaders should drive with care, take rest breaks every two hours, and adopt a more defensive approach to driving than when at home.

Crime. Argentina & Chile have relatively low crime rates, but Western tourists are at an increased risk of being victims because they can be recognised as wealthy. There is a very small risk of serious crime, including violent or sexual assault and mugging in and around Santiago, Buenos Aires and Copiapo and a small risk of pickpocketing and minor theft. The city of Calama in Chile appears to be something of a crime hotspot.

Action - Expedition leaders should obtain up-to-date security advice immediately before the expedition departs and on arrival and be prepared to make any changes necessary to the itinerary. Expedition leaders should advise clients about any relevant local security issues and give general personal safety advice. Clients should behave in a polite, courteous and respectful manner towards all people. Clients should leave valuables in the hotel safe whenever possible and otherwise carry them in a concealed body belt or neck purse. Clients should walk in a group after dark or take a taxi. Clients should refrain from drinking more than a small amount of alcohol and completely avoid any contact with illegal drugs.

Accommodation. Fire safety standards are not as high as at home. Emergency exits may not be as clearly marked or as easily accessible. Construction standards and electrical safety standards are not as good as at home and smoke alarms are very rare.

Action - Clients should not use any form of naked flame indoors (candles, stoves, smoking!). Clients should inform themselves of the best way to escape from the building before retiring overnight and keep a torch handy.

Hygiene. Food and general hygiene standards are not quite as high as at home. Stomach upsets are possible.

Action - Clients should have all vaccinations and inoculations as recommended by their GP. Clients should drink only water that has been recently purified (e.g. by boiling) or is clearly from a safe source – e.g. clean & fresh snow. Clients should be wary of the following foods when prepared in cafes and restaurants: seafood (except fish) and any food that is not freshly cooked. Leaders and clients should ensure a good standard of hygiene is practised at campsites, especially with regard to drinking water and toilet.

First Aid

Action - All Leaders should have a current first aid certificate and carry, or have quick access to, a first aid kit at all times.

Hospital and Medical Care. Hospital and Medical Care in Chile & Argentina is generally good, although not quite as high a standard as at home.

 

SPECIFIC HAZARDS OF OPERATING IN THE MOUNTAINS


Camping. There is a risk of fire from stoves and candles. There is a theoretical risk of theft in most areas if items are left outside tents at night or unattended inside. However we have not previously experienced this type of theft in this area.

Action - All leaders and clients should take great care when cooking and refilling stoves and fuel bottles. Whenever possible this should be done outside the tent. Torches should be used instead of candles in clients tents.

Minor slips and falls. All clients will be exposed to a risk of slipping due to steep, uneven and unstable ground.

Action - Leaders and members should take the usual precautions to avoid such risks.

Remoteness. These expeditions may be up to several days walk and a half day drive from professional medical help for long periods of time. At high altitudes vehicles may not start reliably and any such problem will increase the time needed to obtain assistance. Evacuation is most likely to have to be by foot or on horseback as helicopter availability is very unreliable and parts of the itinerary are above normal helicopter operating ceilings.

Action - Expedition leaders should allow a higher than normal margin of safety for all activities undertaken in the mountains and particularly for all activities high on Ojos del Salado.

Altitude. At high altitudes there is an increased risk of medical problems, most obviously altitude illness.

Action - Leaders should visually and verbally check all clients regularly for signs or symptoms of altitude illness. Any type of illness observed at altitude (above 3500m) should be considered as possibly indicative of an underlying altitude illness. It should be treated as such by descending if there is no improvement within 24 hours. Leaders should be familiar with methods of diagnosing altitude illness (e.g. Lake Louise) and methods of treating it (principally by early descent). Leaders should manage the expedition to prioritise the needs of those who are having problems and not those who aspire to go higher. Leaders should be aware that high on Ojos del Salado evacuation could be more difficult and they should operate a higher margin of safety (i.e. earlier evacuation) when assessing any potential altitude illness in this area.

Weather - There are serious and even life threatening risks from bad weather in these mountains and minor risks on the whole itinerary. Night time temperatures at altitude are typically -10C to -20C. High winds including gale and storm force winds, are extremely common, almost normal. It can snow at any time of year in these mountains and snow will lie as low as 4000m in December, 4500m in February.

Action - Leaders should watch very carefully for deteriorating weather and be prepared to change plans (and probably descend) if necessary. The mountains should be abandoned completely in prolonged bad weather. There is a possibility of actual injury from being blown over or losing footing in high winds.

Warm clothes, (including several fleeces and/or down jackets, windproofs, hat, mitts and gloves) must be carried by all clients themselves at all times above base camp. Plastic boots are recommended, but modern leather boots with a yeti gaiter are acceptable. Leaders should personally carry a down jacket and bivi bag or else a sleeping bag in case of emergency.

Tents must be pitched carefully (with due consideration of the potential for strong winds) at all times. The leader must inspect campsites daily to check tents have been and remain securely pitched. Clients should be briefed in the best ways of pitching tents in severe winds, ideally before they have to do this! Tents left unattended should be internally weighted with large rocks (padded). Leaders should be aware and brief clients, that when pitching tents with rocks poor (unprotected) placement of the rocks can fray tent fabric and poles very quickly.

Rockfall - There are potential hazard areas from rockfall throughout the itinerary. Lava can be particularly unstable.

Action - Leaders should remain alert to this hazard, assess all areas, including all campsites, for the risk of rockfall. In certain places leaders will need to ensure good group control to minimise this hazard. Clients should be briefed to walk or climb carefully with regard to dislodging stones and to shout a warning to others if anything is dislodged. A zigzag ascent should be used where possible to minimise time spent above and/or below other group members.

Navigational Errors - Navigational errors are possible in several areas and could pose a serious hazard if tents were not found in bad weather.

Action - The leader should maintain a record of any critical points (height and bearing waypoints by GPS or combined compass and altimeter readings) in order to assure a safe retreat. In all problem areas they should monitor, and possibly brief, the group more carefully in order to avoid the possibility of one person becoming lost. Either a compass and altimeter, or GPS and spare batteries, should always be carried.

Avalanche. During or after recent snowfall there is a possibility of some minor avalanche hazard.

Action - After any big storm a careful assessment should be made of the snow conditions by a leader experienced in avalanche hazard evaluation before planning any ascent.

Electrical Storms. These are relatively rare but possible, more commonly in January and February. On the Chilean side of the mountain bad weather and storms are likely to be less visible before they arrive.

Action - During such storms all ridges and high areas should be avoided (or abandoned as quickly as practicable).

Other Mountain Hazards. All other mountain hazards may be encountered and should be anticipated and avoided or reduced using recognised procedures.

LEADERSHIP AND ORGANISATION

Good leadership and communication can significantly improve the safety and will of course increase the enjoyment of the group in the mountains.

Action - All leaders must be clear that their primary purpose on the expedition is to look after the health and well-being of the clients. All leaders must be prepared to make changes to the itinerary, or even abandon the expedition, if this is necessary due to the safety of any participant. All leaders should be careful to monitor their own health and be honest about any problems they are having, in particular with relation to fitness and altitude. All leaders should operate only well within the bounds of their own experience and current physical ability and within the abilities of the expedition members.

The expedition leader, has overall responsibility for the itinerary and actions of the group as a whole. He or she should give clear instructions to any assistant or any client temporarily given charge of a subgroup. In the mountains normal practice will be for the leader or an assistant to be with the clients at all times except when clients are left in good health at a designated and equipped camp. However minor operating problems (e.g. fitness, equipment failure) may result in clients being left without a leader at various times, both in valleys, high on the mountains and even on summit days. This should only be done for limited periods of up to an hour or two, in good and stable weather and with all clients in good health. Clear instructions about when and where to regroup (preferably exactly the same place) must be given.

While the whole group is mobile leaders and assistants should encourage a clear system of regrouping (e.g. every hour or more frequently if necessary) in order to assess the group as a whole and any individual needs. Leaders should also have a clear system for monitoring the last person in the group, preferably by visual or vocal contact.

In towns and cities clients are free to do as they please; the leader should however advise them and should be advised by the client if they plan to travel beyond the town centre.




 

 

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