Ojos del Salado Rapid Ascent

9 Days in Chile / (Skill level: Intermediate)

Price per person

$7995

About this trip

Climb the world's highest volcano in just 9 days! Enjoy intimate knowledge of the Andes Mountains, while being lead by Alpenglow mountain guide, Esteban "Topo" Mena, who gives climbers an interactive and authentic experience with Andean culture.

Overview

  • skill level

    Intermediate

  • Duration

    9 Days

This expedition is a combination of climbing one of the highest peaks in South America with Alpenglow’s Rapid Ascent program to create the ideal 9 day climbing trip. It has never before been possible to safely and comfortably climb to over 22,000 feet in less 2 weeks. This has meant that many busy climbers did not have the time to attempt a high altitude peak. We completely changed that by utilizing Hypoxico‘s pre-acclimatization tents at home for 4-weeks prior to the expedition, along with unparalleled logistics in Chile perfected over decades of leading expeditions to the greater ranges of the world. This pre-acclimatization program is the same one used by all of our Everest teams since 2012, successfully shortening their climb by 50%, and increasing our safety and success.

Ojos del Salado the highest active volcano in the world, and towers over the altiplano at a breathtaking 22,615 ft. (6,893m). It’s also the second highest mountain in the southern hemisphere, falling just short of nearby Aconcagua’s by just 200 ft. Ojos del Salado is situated on the border of Chile and Argentina and the name means “Eyes of Salt” and describes the round, salt lagoons that are found on the side of the volcano. These lagoons are home to flamingos who fish for algae and krill in the salt waters. One of them, Laguna Verde, which sits at 14,400 ft. (4,400m) above sea level, is actually a thermal spring fed by the volcanic activity in the area. The crater lake at the top of the Ojos del Salado mountain has an elevation of 20,960 feet (6,390m) making it  the highest lake in the world. At 22,615 ft. (6,893m), the volcano feels remote but remains easily accessible. Other peaks of similar size in Alaska and the Himalaya require weeks just to reach a basecamp but the Alpenglow climbers arrive safely and summit all in just 9 days.

Climbers meet in Chile’s capital of Santiago. After a night to settle in and meet the team, we move to a refuge high at Santa Rosa Lake. This camp provides stunning views of Ojos del Salado while we practice skills and further acclimatize. We spend the next few days moving up higher on the mountain while practicing mountaineering skills.

At this point, we are ready to climb. We wake around midnight and climb in small rope teams, each led by an Alpenglow guide. The terrain varies from hiking on trails, to small glaciers, to a final steep summit ridge. The views from the summit are stunning, encompassing many of the altiplano as well as the active crater of Ojos itself. After enjoying the summit, our descent and arrival back to Santiago is quick, in time for a celebration dinner with the team before catching flights home. If time allows, we will build in extra excursions such as – stopping by neighboring beaches to relax, while viewing penguins, and sand dunes.

Our Ojos del Salado Rapid Ascent climbs are guided by one or more of Alpenglow’s AMGA/IFMGA certified lead guides. This certification is the highest possible training available to guides, and only the most experienced and dedicated attain it. Our small team size and low ratio of climbers to guides (4:1) ensures that you stay healthy and strong, and are able to enjoy each component of your experience. This combined with our fantastic in-country logistics creates a one-of-a-kind experience for you.

Alpenglow’s combination of pre-acclimatization at home, with the leading standards in certified guides, and in-country logistics has revolutionized Himalayan expeditions. The same system has reduced expedition length on peaks like the major peaks of the world by 30-50%. On this Chilean expedition, we utilize the same pre-acclimatization, quality of logistics, and guiding team. We work with you not only on the mountain, but also throughout your pre-acclimatization and preparation. Our goal is for each climber to be healthy, strong, and prepared for their summit climb of Ojos del Salado. Join Us.

Preparation

  • Altitude Experience

    It is required that climbers have prior experience at altitudes of 18,000' / 5500 meters. Alpenglow has many options to get you there. Ecuador, Peru, Kilimanjaro and Elbrus in Russia are great opportunities.

  • Fitness

    Climbers must be in excellent physical shape to join this expedition. This is perhaps the most important aspect of high altitude climbing, and cannot be stressed enough. Regular, challenging exercise for many months in advance of departure is the only way to gain the necessary level of fitness that is needed on big peaks. We highly recommend a structured training regime with a gym or personal trainer to assist you in preparing for climbing at altitude. Please contact us for more information on physical training.

    • Day 1 — Fly to Santiago

      Leave your home for Chile, arriving into Santiago (1,870 feet/570 meters) in the evening. Our guides will pick you up and bring you to our hotel.

    • Day 2 — Transport to Santa Rosa Lake

      After an early breakfast at the hotel, we will fly to Copiapó. From Copiapó we will drive (5 hrs) to Santa Rosa Lake. From here we have the option for a scenice hike near the lake or a visit to the salt flats and flamingo sightseeing. Overnight in campsite (3600m) After touring for half the day, we spend the afternoon preparing for our climb of Ojos del Salado, practicing fixed line techniques, and organizing gear.

    • Day 3 — Overnight at Laguna Verde

      From our campsite in Santa Rosa, we will take a 2 hr Jeep ride to Laguna Verde (2hrs). Overnight in campsite (4200m) Climb Mulas Muertas in the afternoon (8 to 10hrs roundtrip to 5760m).

    • Day 4 — Rest day at Basecamp

      Today we drive (2 hrs) to basecamp and spend the at 5100m to continue practicing our skills and letting our bodies further acclimatize before our summit push the next day. We spend the afternoon resting, hydrating, eating, and getting to bed early for the summit of Ojos del Salado

    • Day 5 — Summit Day

      Summit day (6893m, 12hs roundtrip). After a midnight wake-up call, we begin our climb scrambling a rock ridge to the upper glacier. From there moderate slopes lead to another steep headwall. Often icy, this slope will require all of our climbing techniques to make it to the top. From the summit, we descend to Basecamp for a celebratory evening.

    • Day 6 — Extra Weather Day

      Extra weather day

    • Day 7 — Extra Weather Day

      Extra weather day

    • Day 8 — Transfer to Copiapó

      Transfer to Copiapó - Today we sleep in, eventually waking to the the smell of fresh coffee. When we are ready, we return to Copiapó for dinner, and we will fly back to Santiago taking our flights scheduled at 10pm. We spend the night in a hotel in Santiago.

    • Day 9 — Last Day

      Today, we pack up and say our farewells.

    • Would you consider doing a custom expedition on Ojos?

      We always consider customs. Custom trips make up more than 50% of our groups.

    • What is the longest day I can expect?

      Your longest, most difficult day will be summit day on Ojos del Salado. We wake very early in the morning, using headlamps and warm layers. Climbing steadily through the night, we find ourselves high in the peak when the sun rises. After gaining the summit, we descend all the way back to base camp. You can expect between 8 and 10 hours of steady movement.

    • What is rapid ascent?

      Rapid Ascent is a unique program developed by Alpenglow Expeditions that combines the relatively new application of hypoxic training with precise logistics and small team sizes to greatly increase the chances of success while reducing the overall time spent away from home on an international expedition.

    • What do I need to do to confirm my reservation?

      When an expedition is more than 90 days out, we require a 20% deposit to guarantee your reservation. Within 90 days we require full payment.

    • What happens if we don't use the extra weather days?

      If the team is able to summit early, the guides will be able to take you to local tourist destinations such as Bahia Inglesa – a cozy beach town where you can eat traditional Chilean food, watch penguins, and hike along sand dunes.

Esteban “Topo” Mena

Topo’s formal name is Esteban Mena, but he goes by his nickname. Esteban Topo Mena is 28 years old and began his guiding career at 19, when he climbed Aconcagua’s South Face and became the youngest person to accomplish this difficult climb. Topo began guiding in Ecuador and Peru. In 2012, Topo summited Manaslu and in 2013, he summited Everest – both without using supplementary oxygen. Topo again summited Everest in 2016 while supporting his wonderful partner Carla as she successfully summited without supplemental oxygen. In 2018 Topo summited both Cho Oyu and Everest with clients in under 30 days. An incredible achievement that only the best guides in the word could attempt. He also has climbed challenging new routes in Kyrgyzstan and China and one of his climbs (Kyzyl Asker) has been nominated for the Piolet d’Or (as part of an Ecuadorian team).

Guide Certifications
  • ASEGUIM
  • IVBV IFMGA UIAGM - Mountain Guide

Gaspar Navarrete

Gaspar hails from Ecuador, and has been guiding for over 18 years, and climbing since he was 12. He has extensive experience in Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Patagonia, Aconcagua, the Himalaya, the Cascades, the Alps and the Pyrenees. Gaspar has established new routes in both Ecuador and Bolivia. As an active instructor with the Ecuadorian School for Mountain Guides, he has trained in Ecuador, Bolivia and France. He is a Wilderness First Responder, and has spent a great deal of time working at high altitude.

Gaspar joined one of Quito’s oldest climbing clubs at a young age, which gave him the opportunity to mentor under very experienced climbers. He considers the Andes, including Patagonia, his home, and he love to share his enthusiasm for the mountains, the Andean traditions, food and culture with his guests.

Gaspar is an ASEGUIM/IFMGA mountain guide

Guide Certifications
  • ASEGUIM
  • IVBV IFMGA UIAGM - Mountain Guide

Adrian Ballinger

Adrian Ballinger is one of the USA’s premier high-altitude mountain guides, and the only American guide to have both AMGA/IFMGA guide’s certification (one of roughly 150 in the USA) and more than a fifteen summits of 8,000 meter peaks (16 total, including 8 summits of Mt. Everest, 1 without supplemental oxygen). As founder of Alpenglow Expeditions, Adrian has been guiding full-time for over twenty years and has led over 125 international climbing expeditions on 6 continents.

In 2011 he, along with 2 Sherpa partners, became the first people to summit three 8,000 meter peaks in only 3 weeks (Everest twice and Lhotse once). He is also the first person to ski Manaslu (the 8th tallest mountain in the world) from its summit, and the first American to successfully ski two 8,000-meter peaks. These personal successes are combined with Adrian’s passion for guiding and teaching others. Adrian has led expeditions where more than 100 clients have successfully summited Everest, Lhotse (the 4th tallest mountain in world), Cho Oyu (6th tallest) and Manaslu (8th tallest).

Whether on skis, in rock shoes, or mountain boots, Adrian thrives on sharing the big mountains with friends and clients, and helping them to build their skills and experience to be successful on the world’s most beautiful mountains. In the coming seasons Adrian plans on continuing to enjoy big-mountain skiing, climbing, and guiding in the Himalaya, South America, Europe, and of course closer to home in Squaw Valley, CA. Adrian is a sponsored athlete for Eddie Bauer, La Sportiva, Blizzard, Tecnica, Hiball Energy, and Favre Leuba.

Learn more about Adrian at adrianballinger.com

Guide Certifications
  • AMGA - American Mountain Guide
  • IVBV IFMGA UIAGM - Mountain Guide

Jaime Avila

Jaime is Alpenglow Expeditions’ senior lead guide. A native Ecuadorian, Jaime has been guiding and climbing throughout South America and the world for twenty years. He has successfully led groups on challenging routes like the Southwest Ridge of Ama Dablam (Nepal), the Shield Route of Huascaran (Peru), the Polish Direct on Aconcagua (Argentina), and El Altar (Ecuador). We have been guiding, climbing, and traveling with Jaime since 1998 and the feedback from members is always the same: there is no better teammate. Whether climbing a tough ice route, humping a huge pack, or stuck in a storm, Jaime will keep you laughing, learning, and glad to be in the mountains. He is an ASEGUIM / IFMGA certified mountain guide.

 

Guide Certifications
  • ASEGUIM
  • IVBV IFMGA UIAGM - Mountain Guide

Logan Talbott

director of operations / chief guide

Logan has been guiding professionally for over a decade in the disciplines of Rock, Alpine and Ski Mountaineering. When not out guiding, Logan keeps things running smoothly as the director of operations at Alpenglow Expeditions. From one day ascents of El Capitan to big Alpine climbs in the Himalaya, from ski descents on Denali to backyard ski tours in Lake Tahoe, he can’t help but smile when out running around the hills. Logan is a fully certified AMGA/IFMGA mountain guide, an Avalanche course leader with AIARE, as well as a wilderness EMT. In addition to guiding, Logan has extensive experience in mountain rescue, having worked for rescue teams in both Yosemite and Denali National Parks, and volunteering locally for Tahoe Nordic SAR. When not out in the hills, he lives in Truckee, CA with his lovely wife Lynette and daughter Maggie.

Guide Certifications
  • AMGA - American Mountain Guide
  • IVBV IFMGA UIAGM - Mountain Guide

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    Ojos del Salado Rapid Ascent