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

Dates All year except June to August
Duration 17 days
Grade 1B/C
"Andes" Leadership Fee (includes leaders expenses)

about £1800

Easy High Altitude Mountaineering ascents in northern Chile.


All are per person.

"Andes" Leadership Fee (includes leaders expenses) -- about £1800

Estimated Airfares -- £1200

Estimated Travel Costs in Chile -- £400

Estimated Accommodation & Meals -- £600

ESTIMATED TOTAL COST per person  --  £4000


This expedition is based in the remote and scenic Atacama Desert around the city of Calama in northern Chile. There are many beautiful salt flats in this area, as well as high altitude streams, snow capped volcanoes and stretches of desert that look like the surface of Mars. We aim to make ascents of at least four big volcanoes over a period of two weeks. The summits we plan to climb include Lascar, Aucanquilcha, Palpana, San Pedro and San Pablo. The itinerary is flexible enough to allow clients to take a rest day in place of a summit day if they prefer not to climb everything in the schedule. We are also offering a 5-day Optional Extension to travel further north in Chile and climb the very beautiful Volcan Parinacota 6342m which lies in the extreme north of Chile on the border with Bolivia. 

Because of the nature of this expedition, which aims to climb a number of high peaks in a relatively short timescale  we advise clients to have made several previous successful ascents to over 6000m. Although all the ascents are relatively easy, mostly over scree and rock, clients should be fit and experienced walkers, ideally with some previous mountaineering experience. An ice-axe and crampons are very unlikely to be needed for the ascents in the main expedition, but they will definitely be needed for the optional extension to Parinacota and Guallatiri. We can hire these to clients who do not have them, and also instruct you in their use during the expedition.

Outline Itinerary

Day 1-2  Flights to Santiago and Calama
Day 3-5 Acclimatisation phase based in San Pedro de Atacama - day walks to 4500m
Day 6-7 Ascent of Volcan Lascar
Day 8-10 Travel to Ollague and ascent of Volcan Aucanquilcha
Day 11-15 Ascents of Palpana, San Pedro and (probably) San Pablo
Day 16-17 Fly home from Calama via Santiago
Day 16-20 Optional extension to Volcan Parinacota & Guallatiri
Day 21-22 Fly home from Arica via Santiago


General Information about our holidays

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

Who runs 'Andes' and where we are based

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


The expedition will fly out to Calama in northern Chile via the capital Santiago. Calama is a mining town at about 2200m that lies very near the Tropic of Capricorn. From here it's about a 1½ hour drive to the wee town of San Pedro de Atacama at 2400m, where we will be based in a hotel for the first four nights. During these first days we will do day and half-day walks at altitudes of up to 4500m to help with acclimatisation. San Pedro has become quite a touristy wee village in the last decades, but the upside of this is that there are many good restaurants to choose from. The football pitch in San Pedro is pictured in the title photo above.


Our first big summit will be the 5641m high Volcan Lascar. It is a highly active volcano, with a big crater on the north side of the summit and a very recent lava flow on its flanks. It last erupted in a big way in 1993. Lascar is one of the shortest summit days that we will do, starting from the road end beyond Laguna Lejia the ascent often only takes 4 or 5 hours. For this first short trip we camp two nights at Laguna Lejia, at an altitude of 4300m.

Sunrise over Volcan Lascar from the campsite at Laguna Lejia. Lascar is the small (looking) double summit in the middle of the photo.

Sunrise over Volcan Lascar from the campsite at Laguna Lejia. Lascar is the small (looking) but distant double summit in the middle of the photo.


Volcan Aucanquilcha is a 6176m high peak that has a disused mining road to within a few hundred meters of the summit. While it is no longer possible to drive this road anywhere near the summit, the road will still enable us to get fairly high on the mountain, using a a 4x4 vehicle, probably to over 5000m. From this height the summit day will be a long walk up the old mine road, with spectacular views over the nearby salt flats. For more information on Aucanquilcha please click here.


Palpana is a rarely climbed peak of 6023m, which sits quite near the main road from Calama to Ollague. The ascent will take us a day and a half from the road, with a high camp at about 4800m. There is often no snow at all on Palpana. A few further details here.


San Pedro 6145m and its twin volcano of San Pablo 6092m, are a pair of active volcanoes that sit very distinctively on the horizon north of Calama. They are usually climbed from a high camp at 5200m or so, and can be combined into one long day by the fit and well acclimatised.... but there will be the option just to do San Pedro on this summit day. Our ascent to this high camp from the road end at the Ojo de San Pedro at 3900m will involve a day of backpacking. For more details see here.

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

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


Parinacota volcano, pictured below, is a beautiful symmetrical cone, covered in pure white snow. It is the worlds highest volcanic cone and one of the worlds ten highest volcanoes. At 6342m it is also one of the highest peaks in this part of the Andes and the views from the summit out across the 'Altiplano' into Bolivia, and down into the deep volcanic crater are superb. We'll climb the mountain by the south or west flank (depending on the best snow conditions), firstly crossing on foot over an extensive lava desert of pumice to a high camp near the snowline at 5400-5500m. From here we will climb to the summit and back down in one long day.  We'll also travel to and climb the nearby peak of Volcan Guallatiri, 6063m high, during this phase of the expedition. Although we will drive northwards, those staying on for this optional extension can fly home directly from the nearby city of Arica.

The cost of the optional extension is about £800 per person, with expected expenses of about £400, including both a share of vehicle costs and two or three more hotel nights. Flight costs may be slightly higher by £50-100. We will need a minimum of two clients interested to run the extension.

 . Walking towards Parinacota volcano from the Chilean side,  over the lava desert

Walking towards Parinacota volcano from the Chilean side, over the lava desert


Clients should be keen mountaineers or hill-walkers or have previous high altitude trekking experience. A good standard of fitness is essential to make the most of this holiday. We will be backpacking to reach the high camps on San Pedro, Palpana and Parinacota. All of the ascents will be over rough mountain terrain, including sand, boulders and occasionally loose scree with perhaps a dusting of snow. Previous winter skills experience of using an ice-axe and crampons are not needed for the main 17-day expedition. However an ice-axe and crampons will definitely be needed for the extension to Parinacota and it is essential to have these skills before joining the optional extension.


We usually run this expedition during the early part of the dry season in this part of the Andes and we can expect long periods of stable weather. However there will sometimes be high winds and light snow flurries. During the day it normally feels pleasantly warm in the strong sunshine, but at night temperatures at altitude go down to -10ºC during the 12 hours of darkness. Bring a warm sleeping bag and a good book!


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

Sunset over the valley of the moon near the wee village of San Pedro de Atacama.

Sunset over the valley of the moon near the wee village of San Pedro de Atacama.


This is an adventurous trip and all clients will be exposed to an element of risk by taking part in this itinerary. While we take all reasonable precautions to reduce risk it is neither possible nor desirable to completely eliminate these additional risks. Some of these hazards carry the risk of serious injury or death. It is important that you understand the risks involved before signing our booking form. We have identified the following areas as the principal additional risks of this itinerary. This is not a fully inclusive list - please ask if you would like to see a more detailed risk assessment of this itinerary before booking.
Driving, hotels and general safety : In Chile driving, fire safety standards and general safety standards are not quite as high as in Europe.
Minor slips and falls : due to steep, uneven and unstable ground.
Remoteness : You will be up to a days walk from professional medical help for periods of time.
Mountain Hazards : In certain places you may be subjected to a slight risk of rockfall. There are also slight risks from bad weather, volcanic activity and from slips on steep, snowy ground on Volcan Parinacota.
Altitude : At high altitudes there is an increased risk of medical problems, most obviously altitude illness. 


Our trips are designed to be small and flexible. The expedition will be co-ordinated, organised and lead by us, but as far as possible will adapt to the plans and aspirations of the members. We will consult you when planning the details of the expedition. Please note however that the leaders decision is final where the safety of the group or any member is in jeopardy; for example where retreat or diversion is necessary due to illness or bad weather.  The maximum size of the expedition will be four customers plus leader.


There are many species of birds commonly seen in the area, including several species of parrots, Andean geese, rheas and flamingos. We are quite likely to see the magnificent Andean Condor too. Among the mammals often seen are the Andean Fox and the vicuña, a wild relative of the llama. A much rare sight would be a puma (mountain lion) or an armadillo.

Rheas are a common sight in this part of northern Chile. Usually seen running a bit faster than this.!

Rheas are a common sight in this part of northern Chile. Usually seen running a bit faster than this.!