Highest volcano of the world
Along the 6 140 km of the Nazca plate lies a chain of near 4 000 volcanic centers. Its major elevation is the Ojos del Salado (litterally: Eyes of the Salty mountain), undisputedly appointed as the highest active volcano on earth and, according to some, the highest volcano, period. The controversy about it and mount Pisis beeing the second or third summit of America — after mount Aconcagua — is still unresolved. What is for sure is that Ojos del Salado is the highest summit of Chile. The volcanic complex, composed of 38 craters, shows very scarce activity, except for small fumaroles. There have been no eruptions in the last 500 years and experts calculate tha the last one must have occured some 1 000 to 1 500 years ago. In 1993 there was a small ash ejection. For mountain climbing, Ojos del Salado doesn’t require great tecnical skills. With good weather, no crampons or ice axes are needed. The last 30 meters though, require some simple climbing. The access through vehicle allows the arrival to the Atacama refuge, at 5 200 m, and if there is not penitent ice, even up to 5 800 m. It is for this precise reason that this mountain carry a great risk of insufficient height acclimation.
The mountain climber will find in Ojos del Salado wonderful landscapes and practically untouched nature. Some sources allude wrongly to the Atacama desert to describe its location, but the frecuent snowfalls, even in the middle of the summer, prove that the high Andean plateau, or altiplano, has a different climate than the distant desert. The best time of the year to its ascent is between November and April.
Concerning its height, diverse estimates vary in a few hundred meters. The ones registered here correspond to the mesures of our own GPS instruments, which at the summit indicated 25 m more than the official IGM (Instituto Geográfico Militar) measure of 6893 m. Especially wrong were the summit lectures of different instruments based on atmospheric pressure. The height must be adjusted in each encampment, otherwise, beeing this a «six thousander», the mesure deviation can rapidly vary in 200 or more meters. This can be dangerous when chosing the camps: you could be sleeping higher than you think.
Proposed day by day planning
1. Morning: shopping. Afternoon: 154 km trip by vehicle from Copiapó to Santa Rosa lake at 3800 m. In case of insufficient acclimation, a previous stay in Valle Chico, at 3000 m is needed.
2. Acclimation excursions and vehicle travel to Laguna Verde, at 4400 m. Campment at the hot springs or in the abandoned post on the road to Ojos del Salado.
3. Acclimation excursion to Mulas Muertas (5897 m). Here what it counts is not the summit, but the adaptation to height.
4. Transportation by 4×4 vehicle to the Atacama refuge, at 5280 m.
5. Equipment transportation by foot to the Tejos refuge at 5830 m, and descent back to the Atacama hut.
6. Ascent to the Tejos refuge.
7. First try for the summit (7-9 hours).
8. Second try for the summit and descent to the Atacama refuge.
9. Trip back to Copiapó.