Ojos del Salado
– Chile, South America 6893m / 22,615ft.
Due to its location near the Atacama Desert, the mountain has very dry conditions, with snow usually only remaining on the peak during winter, though heavy storms can cover the surrounding area with a few feet of snow even in summer. Despite the generally dry conditions, there is a permanent crater lake about 100m/330ft in diameter at an elevation of 6390m/20,960ft on the eastern side of the mountain. This is most likely the highest lake of any kind in the world.
The ascent of Ojos del Salado is mostly a hike except for the final section to the summit which is a difficult scramble that may require ropes. The first ascent was made in 1937 by Jan Alfred Szczepański and Justyn Wojsznis, members of a Polish expedition in the Andes.
Its name, meaning roughly “eyes of salt” in Spanish, comes from the enormous deposits of salt that, in the form of lagoons or “eyes”, appear in its glaciers. An international highway between Chile and Argentina runs north of the mountain.
photo credits: Ted Hesser, Carlos Valera
- Dates and Costs
- Gear List
- Why Madison Mountaineering?
Day 1: ARRIVE COPIAPÓ – TRANSFER BY VEHICLES TO EL SALVADOR. You will be met upon arrival at Copiapó Airport (CPO) and start your trip towards the highlands We begin acclimatizing by spending a night in El Salvador, a mining town visited by few tourists. Accommodation will be rather modest, but spending this first night above 8,000 feet will enable us to proceed to a higher camp tomorrow. In the afternoon, your guide will lead an orientation and gear check. [no meals included]
Day 2: TRANSFER TO PEDERNALES SALT FLAT (3362m / 11,030 ft) In the morning, we finish organizing our expedition equipment. After lunch in El Salvador, a 90km/56mi drive takes us east into the Atacama Desert, to our first camp next to Pedernales Salt Flat, which is home to diverse wildlife, including vicuñas, guanacos, flamingoes and foxes. In the evening, we take a short walk to a nearby lagoon, then enjoy the sunset while sipping wine in one of the planet’s most spectacular landscapes. [B, L, D]
Day 3: CLIMB CERRO DOÑA INES (5070m/16,634ft) We wake early and transfer by 4×4 to our trailhead on the flanks of Cerro Doña Inés at roughly 4500m/14,763ft. The ascent takes 5 to 6 hours roundtrip, with amazing views of the brilliantly colored Altiplano and the expansive Pedernales Salt Flat. We descend and spend a second night at our camp next to the salt flat. [B, L, D]
Day 4: TRANSFER TO LAGUNA VERDE (drive 170 km /105 mi) We depart Pedernales and drive along the Maricunga Salt Flat to a customs office in Parque Nacional Nevado Tres Cruces, where we check in for our Ojos del Salado climb. We then wind our way into the highlands near Ojos del Salado with views of many 6,000-meter volcanoes, including Chile’s second highest mountain, Nevado Tres Cruces, and our objective, Ojos del Salado! After a 170km/105mi drive, we arrive at our camp near hot springs on the shore of the brilliant turquoise Laguna Verde. [B, L, D]
Day 5: LAGUNA VERDE REST DAY (4350m / 14,271ft) In the morning we hike a couple of hours up the flanks of Mulas Muertas Volcano, via a trail that starts right in our lakeside camp. In the afternoon, we’re free to relax and soak in the hot springs at Laguna Verde while our bodies adjust to the altitude. We recommend bringing books and movies so that you can enjoy your time while acclimatizing. [B, L, D]
Day 6: CLIMB CERRO SAN FRANCISCO (6018m/19,744ft) We make an alpine start and transfer to our trailhead at roughly 4800m / 15,748ft on the flanks of Cerro San Francisco, just east of Laguna Verde on the Argentinian border. A 6-8 hour climb takes us to the summit with excellent views of Laguna Verde, the massive Incahuazi, Ojos del Salado, and many other mountains. We descend and enjoy dinner at our camp beside Laguna Verde. [B, L, D]
Day 7: TRANSFER TO INCAHUAZI HIGH CAMP (5000m / 16,400ft) After a peaceful morning beside Laguna Verde, we transfer by 4×4 to our high camp on the flanks of Incahuazi. We set up camp and enjoy dinner high above Laguna Verde, then go to bed early in preparation for tomorrow’s climb. [B, L, D]
Day 8: CLIMB INCAHUAZI (6638m / 21,778ft) We begin our ascent of Incahuazi with an alpine start. A 6-8 hour climb takes us to the summit. Incahuazi means “Inca house” in the Quechua language, and the peak is home to one of the planet’s highest archaeological sites: the ruins of an Incan temple. We descend and spend a final night at our Laguna Verde camp. [B, L, D]
Day 9: TRANSFER TO OJOS DEL SALADO BASE CAMP (5255m / 17,240ft) Today we leave Laguna Verde and drive 38km/23mi through sand flats and penitentes (ice pinnacles) to Ojos del Salado Base Camp at the Atacama Hut, at the foot of the mountain. [B, L, D]
Day 10: ACTIVE REST DAY – OJOS BASE CAMP (5255m / 17,240ft) In the morning, we hike up toward Tejos Hut, which is located at nearly 6,000m along the Ojos climbing route. Our goal today is to continue to acclimatize, so we don’t necessarily need to reach the hut. We return to base camp for lunch, then spend the afternoon resting and preparing for tomorrow’s climb. [B, L, D]
Day 11: OJOS DEL SALADO SUMMIT DAY (6893m / 22,614ft) We wake early for an alpine start and drive to our trailhead above Tejos Hut at just under 6,000m. The ascent takes 8 to 9 hours. We climb sandy slopes and snowfields to Ojos’ summit crater, round the crater, then rope up for the final, rocky scramble to the summit. We celebrate our success then descend to base camp. [B, L, D]
Day 12: TRANSFER TO BAHÍA INGLESA We spend the morning dismantling our camp, then we drive to the beachfront resort town of Bahía Inglesa, near the Copiapó Airport on the Pacific Ocean. We check into our 4 star hotel and then celebrate our expedition with a final team dinner. [B, L]
Day 13: PROGRAM CONCLUSION. You will be transfer to Copiapó airport and we conclude our program. Fly to Santiago, continue onward to your home country.
14 Reserve day in case of bad weather, etc.
Actual schedule subject to change due to route conditions, weather, and team health.
Ojos del Salado Climb
- December 8 - 20, 2023
- February 8 - 20, 2023
Deposit: USD 3,500
- Transfer In and Out (Airport-Hotel-Airport)
- Private transportation throughout the entire trip. One 4×4 for the expedition and for the airport transfer
- Base camp manager
- Local mountain guides according to size group
- Meals as mentioned in the itinerary: full board while in expedition [B: Breakfast, L: Lunch or Box-Lunch, D: Dinner]
- Accommodation as mentioned in the itinerary: Two nights in single room in a 4-star hotel at Copiapó; Ten nights camping in single occupancy tents
- All activities as mentioned in the program
- High quality communal camping gear including mess tents, sleeping tents, thick mattresses, as well as full base camp infrastructure and services
- First aid kit and pulse oximeter
- Medical Oxygen for emergencies
- VHF radio communication
- One Satellite phone (on pay per minute basis)
- DIFROL permit (a governmental authorization issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, needed only by non-Chilean mountaineers, to climb summits located close to the country borders)
- 24/7 support and assistance
Costs Do Not Include:
- Bank transfer fees, if applicable
- additional airport transfers
- Excess baggage charges
- Meals in while in the cities or off the mountain
- Trip cancelation insurance (highly recommended) or the required medical evacuation insurance
- Comprehensive medical exam: a physician-signed Medical Release Form is required
- Alcoholic beverages
- Bottled or canned beverages
- Specialty coffee or espresso drinks
- Additional activities or visits not described in the itinerary
- Mountain porter services
- All expenses incurred in the event of early departure (evacuation fees, transport, extra hotel nights, etc.)
- Charges incurred as a result of delays beyond the control of Madison Mountaineering, LLC
- Personal communication (phone, fax, e-mail) between Chile and home country
- Personal gear, clothing and sleeping equipment (see gear list)
- There are no refunds for the deposit or balance payments for this expedition. This includes but is not limited to, expeditions that conclude without reaching or making progress towards expedition objective(s) (for example, the summit) due to route conditions, weather, insufficient manpower, or any other factor outside the control of Madison Mountaineering.
- Expedition leader has the final say on the expedition conclusion and will make all best efforts towards reaching expedition objective(s) within our margin of safety.
- Participants that choose to leave an active expedition for any reason are not entitled to any refunds
- Madison Mountaineering, LLC highly recommends trip cancellation insurance for all expeditions
- Due to the nature and heavy costs of government and operator permits, Madison Mountaineering must adhere to a stringent refund policy
- Deposit due with registration materials
- All balances are due 120 days prior to departure date unless otherwise specified
- Participants whose balances are not received by the 120-day deadline as stated above, risk forfeiture of their funds and their place on the expedition
Note: Madison Mountaineering, LLC reserves the right to waive any fees. As we offer personalized service, we will attempt to accommodate changes and cancellations when necessary, waiving certain fees when feasible. Deposits paid by participants acknowledge the above cancellation terms.
- Synthetic Short Underwear (2-3 pair): non-cotton style underwear
- Lightweight Long Underwear (1-2 pair): long sleeve shirt and long pants
- Heavyweight Long Underwear (1 pair)
- Short Sleeve Synthetic Shirt (1-2)
- Soft Shell Jacket: to be worn over other layers
- Soft Shell Pants: very breathable and water repellant
- Lightweight Nylon Pants (optional)
- Hard Shell Jacket with hood: waterproof and breathable shell jacket
- Hard Shell Pants: waterproof and breathable shell pants
- Insulated Down or Synthetic Jacket with hood
- Insulated Pants (optional)
- Warm Hat: synthetic or wool hat (ski hat)
- Balaclava: to protect your neck and face in high winds
- Baseball Cap or other sun hat: to shade your face/neck from the sun on a hot day
- Bandana or Buff: to protect your neck/face from the sun
- Glacier Glasses: full protection with side covers or wrap around
- Ski Goggles: to be worn in the event of high winds
- Lightweight Synthetic Liner Gloves: for wearing on warm days
- Soft Shell Gloves: to wear for moderate cold/wind
- Shell Glove with Insulated Liner: to wear for severe cold/strong wind
- Expedition Mitts: large enough to fit a liner glove inside
- Liner Socks (3 pairs)
- Wool or Synthetic Socks (3 pairs)
- Mountaineering Boots
- Hiking Shoes/Boots: comfortable hiking boots
- Water Shoes or Sandals: for our camp near the hot springs at Laguna Verde
- Booties (optional): for wearing around camp
- Sleeping Bag: rated to at least -20°F
- Self-inflating Sleeping Pad: full length is preferred
- Closed-cell Foam Pad: to be used in conjunction with the inflating pad for warmth and comfort when sleeping
- Expedition Backpack: approximately 65L
- Compression Stuff Sacks: for reducing the volume of the sleeping bag, down parka, etc. in your pack
- Trash Compactor Bags: to line backpack and stuff sacks as well as for separating gear
- Backpack Rain Cover (optional)
- Trekking Backpack: to carry on the trek to base camp. Simple and light.
- Trekking Poles with Optional Snow Baskets: adjustable
- Ice Axe: general mountaineering tool (~60cm)
- Crampons: general mountaineering crampons
- Climbing Helmet (optional): must be able to fit over your warm hat
- Alpine Climbing Harness: mountaineering harness, with adjustable leg loops. Not a rock-climbing “sport” harness recommended
- Carabineers: 2 regular and 4 locking
- Belay/Rappel Device
- Headlamp: with 2 extra sets of new batteries
- Large Duffel Bag with Lock: for storing gear in our camps while climbing. No hard sides or wheels
- Small Duffel Bag with Lock: to store items in the hotel(s) while on the climb
- Travel Clothes: for days in cities and towns
- Lightweight journal, sketchbook, pencils, pen
- U.S. cash: for currency exchange to purchase SIM cards or merchandise in cities and villages
Additional Food Items
- Snack Food: bring a few days’ supply of your favorite climbing snack food such as bars, gels, nuts, beef jerky, etc. variety of salty and sweet is good
- Cup: plastic 16 oz. minimum cup or mug
- Bowl: large plastic bowl for eating dinner or breakfast
- Spoon: plastic spoon (Lexan)
- Water Bottles (2): wide mouth bottles with 1-liter capacity
- Water Bottle Parkas (2): fully insulated with zip opening
- Thermos (optional): 1-liter
- Water Treatment
- Sunscreen: SPF 40 or better
- Lip Screen (2 sticks): SPF 30 or better
- Toiletry Bag: include toothbrush, toothpaste, toilet paper, baby wipes and hand sanitizer (2 small bottles)
- Pee Bottle: 1-liter minimum bottle for convenience at night in the tent
- Female Urination Device (FUD)
- Knife or Multi-tool (optional)
- Small Personal First-aid Kit: include athletic tape, band-aids, Ibuprofen, blister care, etc.
- Medications and Prescriptions: bring antibiotics (Azithromycin, etc.), and altitude medicine such as Diamox, etc.
- Handkerchiefs/Bandanas (optional)
- Swim Suit for the hot springs at Laguna Verde and the beach at Bahía Inglesa.
- Towel for the hot springs and the beach
- Hand and toe warmers
- Country-appropriate power plug adapters and power transformers
- Adventure Sports Watch: such as Garmin fēnix 6
- GPS/Personal Satellite Communicator: such as Garmin inReach Mini
- Personal Power System: such as Goal Zero Nomad 28 Plus Solar Panel and Sherpa 100AC Power Bank
- Digital Entertainment: movies, tv shows, music, books loaded on to smartphone, iPad, Kindle
- Camera: bring extra batteries, charger, and memory cards
Madison Mountaineering is recognized for well thought out strategy in leading high altitude climbing expeditions, as well as high-quality service throughout. We have two decades of experience in the planning and coordination of mountaineering expeditions, our reputation is excellent. We strive to make each expedition the best possible experience for our climbers and focus on our 3 primary goals of success in reaching the summit, returning safely, and having fun! Safety is always our number one priority.
Our guides are some of the best and most experienced in the industry, having a strong grasp of technical climbing, expedition, and high altitude experience, along with strong interpersonal skills. Our teams are small and equipped with the best support available to ensure the highest chance of success. We are renowned for our comfortable base camps, high-quality food, first-rate communications, and medical support services, all of which are overseen by a professional member of our team.
Most of our climbers have either climbed with us before, been referred by a friend who has climbed with us, or met one of our teams while attempting another peak and decided to join us for their next expedition. We work hard to facilitate safe, successful, and enjoyable expeditions for all of our climbers. Our track record and past climber testimonials prove we are highly competent experts in our field and love what we do!