Chilemontaña Blog / Technical Corner

How to get a good acclimatisation and feel super strong while climbing in the Andes.

ChileMontaña-Atacama-peaks-1

In ChileMontaña we plan our expedition itineraries very carefully, aiming to give all the expedition members, guests and staff, the maximum chances to acclimatize naturally and safely.

Part of the strategy is based on basic rules, such as:

  • Gain altitude very slowly, moving gradually to higher camps.
  • Plan for moderate exercise at higher altitude every day and keep a lower base camp for the night: “climb high / sleep low”.
  • Keep a slow pace during the acclimatisation hikes and climbs.
  • Provide water and different kinds of warm and cold beverages at all times of the day, in order to ensure hydration to all members.

Nevertheless, acclimatisation to the altitude is a personal feature that partially depends on physiology and greatly depends on yourself. Here some tips that will make the difference when climbing a 6000 meters peak in the Andes

Take care of your mind and body before the expedition:

Avoid as much as possible the pre-expedition stress.

  • Protect your respiratory tract of the dry air and the possible infections in the airplane. A silk scarf while sleeping would be of great help.
  • Keep yourself hydrated, eat light.
  • Avoid alcoholic drinks, drugs/medicines and smoke.
  • Avoid polluted and noisy cities.
  • Put the rest of your life on hold and focus on your upcoming adventure.

Take care of your body and mind along the expedition:

  • Move slowly, always. While setting up your tent, while packing and unpacking, while eating and hiking or climbing.
  • Hydrated, Hydrated, Hydrated.
  • Keep drinking. You lose lot of humidity just by breathing the mountain’s dry air.
  • Be honest with yourself.
  • If you not feeling well, rest, go down, try later. Talk to your guide.
  • Keep an eye on yourself.
  • Don’t dismiss any symptoms as something you should not pay attention. Talk to your guide.
  • Eat light, small portions, avoid meat or other sources of protein for dinner.
  • While walking, keep a pace that enables you to breath almost normally, with your mouth closed.
  • While sleeping, keep your head slightly higher than the rest of the body, using a good and comfortable pillow.
  • During the night, keep your head out of the sleeping bag, in order to ensure you are getting enough air.
  • During the night keep partially open the tent’s windows and doors. You want enough air to come in.
  • Make sure you keep your body warm enough at all times. Wear the down jacket as much as you want!
  • Talk to your guide and listen what she or he has to say. All our staff have climbed high mountains most of their lives. They will have tons of useful recommendations to give you.

You could get a printer ready copy of these tips here

If you desire to know more about the science and today’s knowledge behind the acclimatisation process, you could download this Acclimatization Know-How resume we have put together.

Arrieros

Aconcagua-Mulas

Arrieros is the local word for cowboys. The arrieros are present in the local culture of the Chilean / Argentinean Andes since the development of the first modern ranches in the early 1800’s. In Argentina, they are called Gauchos and have slightly different cultural patterns and activities.

Thanks to them, we are able to use mules, a breed between horses and donkey, as beasts of burden to transport all the necessary gear to our  base camp. Each mule carry as much as 40-45kg (88-99 pounds). They are especially important for El Plomo and El Aconcagua climbs, where we cannot reach the base camp by 4×4.

Properly load the mules and manage their ride is an art in itself, if not well mastered it may result in a big mess of food inside the containers or, even worst, the loss of part of our equipment.

In el Plomo postcard we observe Romulo, an arriero born and raised in Farellones, the local town. He has been doing this job since his early days in life mixed with winter work at the local ski hills.     

The header photo shows Argentinean Gauchos at work, on the way to Aconcagua BC.

Flamingos & Laguna Santa Rosa

Flamencos-Norte-Chile

The Andean flamingo (Phoenicoparrus andinus) is one of the rarest flamingos in the world. It lives in the Andes mountains of South America. It is closely related to James’s flamingo, and the two make up the genus Phoenicoparrus. The Chilean flamingo, Andean flamingo and James’s flamingo are all sympatric, and all live in colonies (including shared nesting areas).

The flamingo has a pale pink body with brighter upperparts, deep vinaceous-pink lower neck, breast, and wing-coverts. It is the only flamingo species with yellow legs and three-toed feet. The bill of the Andean flamingo is pale yellow and black.

These flamingos are filter-feeders and their diet ranges over the entire spectrum of available foods, from fish to invertebrates, from vascular plants to microscopic algae.

The flamingos feed from the bottom layer of the lake for small particles, mainly diatoms. They have a deep-keeled bill; the upper mandible is narrower than the lower, creating a gape on the dorsal surface of the bill. The bill morphology facilitates feeding of diatoms through inertial impaction. This mechanism entails that food particles denser than water, such as diatoms, would impact the filtering surface in the bill causing water to flow out of the mouth and leaving diatoms in the flamingo’s bill. The flamingos forage in shallow salty waters for resources. They exhibit the most flexible foraging pattern compared to that of the Chilean and James’s flamingos.

Located just south of the Salar de Maricunga, the lagoon is known for its Andean flamingos, which reside on the lagoon year-round. Laguna Santa Rosa, along with Laguna del Negro Francisco, is a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention.

 

Cordillera de Los Andes description

Atacama Andes   

Etymology

The etymology of the word Andes has been debated. The majority consensus is that it derives from the Quechua (the Inca’s language) word anti, which means “east” as in Antisuyu (Quechua for “east region”), one of the four regions of the Inca Empire.

The term cordillera comes from the Spanish word “cordel”, meaning “rope”.

Atacama highplateau

Geography

The Andes Cordillera can be divided into three sections:

  • The Southern Andes (south of Llullaillaco) in Argentina and Chile;
  • The Central Andes in Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia
  • The Northern Andes (north of the Nudo de Pasto) in Venezuela and Colombia, which consist of three parallel ranges: the cordillera occidental, central, and oriental.

In the northern part of the Andes, the isolated Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta range is often considered to be part of the Andes. The Andes range is about 200km (124mi) wide throughout its length, except in the Bolivian flexure where it is about 640km (398mi) wide.

The Andes are the longest continental mountain range in the world. They are a continual range of highlands along the western coast of South America. This range is about 7,000km (4,300mi) long, about 200 to 700km (120 to 430mi) wide (widest between 18° south and 20° south latitude), and of an average height of about 4,000m (13,000ft).

The Andes extend from north to south through seven South American countries: Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina. Along their length, the Andes are split into several ranges and high plateaus, which are separated by intermediate depressions.

The Altiplano plateau (southeast Peru, west Bolivia and northeast Chile) is the world’s second-highest after the Tibetan plateau.

These ranges are in turn grouped into three major divisions based on climate: The Tropical Andes, the Dry Andes (Central Chile, Argentina), and the Wet Andes (South Chile, Argentina).

The Dry Andes is a climatic and glaciological sub region of the Andes, that runs from the Atacama Desert in northern Chile and Argentina south to a latitude of 35°S in Chile. In Argentina the Dry Andes reaches 40°S due to the leeward effect of the Andes. Dry Andes can be defined after the distribution of penitentes, with the southernmost well-developed penitentes found on Lanín Volcano.

The Andes are the world’s highest mountain range outside of Asia. The highest mountain outside Asia, Mount Aconcagua, rises to an elevation of about 6.961m (22.838ft). The peak of Chimborazo in the Ecuadorean Andes is farther from the Earth’s center than any other location on the Earth’s surface, due to the equatorial bulge resulting from the Earth’s rotation. The world’s highest volcanoes are in the Andes, including Ojos del Salado on the Chile-Argentina border, which rises to 6.893m (22.615ft).

Andes Bolivia

Geology

The rise of the Andes is the result of plate tectonics processes, mainly caused by the compression of the western rim of the “South American Plate” due to the subduction of the “Nazca Plate” and the “Antarctic Plate”.

The formation of the modern Andes began with the events of the Triassic when Pangaea began to break up and several rifts developed. It continued through the Jurassic Period (200 to 145 million years). It was during the Cretaceous Period (145 to 66 million years) that the Andes began to take their present form, by the uplifting, faulting and folding of sedimentary and metamorphic rocks of the ancient cratons to the east. The rise of the Andes has not been constant and different regions have had different degrees of tectonic stress, uplift, and erosion.

Tectonic forces above the subduction zone along the entire west coast of South America where the Nazca Plate and a part of the Antarctic Plate are sliding beneath the South American Plate continue to produce an ongoing orogenic event resulting in minor to major earthquakes and volcanic eruptions to this day.

The regions immediately east of the Andes experience a series of changes resulting from the Andean orogeny. The Sierras de Córdoba, where the effects of the ancient Pampean orogeny can be observed, owe their modern uplift and relief to the Andean orogeny in the Tertiary (66 to 2.5 million years). Further south in southern Patagonia the onset of the Andean orogeny caused the Magallanes Basin to evolve from being an extensional back-arc basin in the Mesozoic to being a compressional foreland basin in the Cenozoic.

Andes de la Patagonia

Nevado Ojos del Salado description

®-Ojos-del-Salado-with-snow

Ojos del Salado is a massive stratovolcano in the Andes on the Argentina–Chile border and the highest active volcano in the world at 6,893m (22,614ft). It is also the second highest mountain in the American continent and the highest in Chile. It is located about 600 km (370 mi) north of Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the Western Hemisphere at 6,961m (22,838ft).

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 6,390m (20,960ft) on the eastern side of the mountain. This is most likely the highest lake of any kind in the world.

The first ascent of Ojos del Salado was made in 1937 by Jan Alfred Szczepański and Justyn Wojsznis, members of a Polish expedition in the Andes. Ojos del Salado has two summits, one in Argentina and the other in Chile (the border between the two countries runs between the two summits). The difference in elevation of the two summits is less than 1m (3ft).

Ojos del Salado is an active volcano, with its most recent known eruption around 1300 years ago, with large error bars. However, there is also some evidence for a minor ash emission in 1993. The presence of fumaroles high on the mountain and recent-looking lava flows, albeit of uncertain age, also argues in favour of a categorization as “active.” By these definitions Ojos del Salado is the highest historically active volcano on earth.

Ojos del Salado rock is predominantly potassium-rich dacite and rhyodacite. Its lava’s are high in biotite, hornblende, plagioclase, and opaques, with lower levels of augite, quartz, and hypersthene.

Cerro El Plomo description

®-Plomo-with-snow

El Plomo is a mountain located in the Andes roughly 40km above Santiago, Chile’s capital. With an elevation of 5.434m (17.783ft), it is the largest peak visible from downtown on clear days. The adequate season to climb this mountain is between November and March. In spring (September to November), soil conditions have abundant snow on the approach. The best time is in January and March, where the approach is snow free, except for some specific areas, and the climate is more stable. The Incas climbed to its summit periodically in the 15th century. The first European ascent of the mountain was by Gustav Brandt and Rudolph Lucke in 1896.

The mountain it’s the most southern altitude ceremonial shrine site used by the Incas. The mountain achieved its fame in 1954 when a mummy of an approximately nine-year-old girl was found close to the summit. The mummy resides in the “Museo de Historia Natural” in Santiago, Chile.

 

Few reason why to ski in Chile

A few reasons why you should plan a skiing holiday in the Andes.

There are many reasons to come to Chile and skiing is just one of them.  Please enjoy this power point on skiing in the Southern Hemisphere.