(6350 m / 20,833 ft.)
king of the North
The Parinacota volcano is probably one of tourists' favourite
mountains in the north of Chile. It is not only its height that
makes it so interesting, but its stark beauty that takes your
contrast to the dirt road ascents of most volcanoes in the north
of Chile, the Parinacota offers for a change a glacier-covered
summit and therefore an ascent with crampons and ice-axe. Although
the inclination of the slope reaches 40°, under normal weather
conditions, you do not require special gear such as ice screws
or the like. The crater itself is about 700 m wide and 240 m deep.
The fumes from the crater remind you that the volcano is still
active; however its last eruption dates back to 500 or 600 years.
The ascent is rewarded by a fantastic view of the Altiplano as
far as the Bolivian Cordillera Real.
to get there
Putre a 69 km asphalted road leads up to ranger post of Lauca
National Park, next to the Chungará Lake. Best is to consult
the park ranger about the way to the foot of Parinacota. Drive
back 1.5 kms up to a small pumping station by the lake. Then follow
the road to the right, which splits confusingly into two several
times, and drive 9 kms always leading to the volcano. At the high
season you can simply follow the road with most tire-marks. You
can easily recognize the starting point of the ascent by the well-trod
From the foothills at 4,600 meters altitude it’s a very
long climb up to the summit. So a suggestion is to go on for 2-3
hours and then look for a good campsite. However, search carefully
because only a few places below the snow line are plain enough
to camp. Depending on the altitude of the snow line, all your
drinking water may have to be taken (5 lts. daily per person).
the high season, it is not hard to find the path, because it is
heavily tracked and marked out with hummocks of stone. It first
leads you far east to a long ridge. At its upper end, at 5,100
meters altititude, is the last place to camp.
day, you put on crampons, take the ice-axe and climb up the logical
route. Allow 12 hours for the total round trip up to the summit
and back to the starting point.
How to get there
In Putre there are several tour operators which offer transport to Capuena and further up to the base camp of this northern route. Alternatively, if you don't have your own transport, you could request the support of the armed forces of the mountain regiment Huamachuco, however, be advised that you have to apply for this support well in advance. Leaving Putre behind take the international mountain pass till you reach Parinacota, from here on travel further up for another hour till you reach the village of Cauquena at 4401 metres. You might consider staying here for a couple of days to get accustomed to the altitude. 500 metres before you enter the village an offroad piste diverges towards the volcano, this offroad piste runs alongside marsh areas (Bafedales). After a rather sandy stretch you will reach a crossing, turn to your left. The base camp is located right behind the bank in front of you at an altitude of 4823 metres.
Ascent from the base camp - camp "Huisquitistay" (591 m 3 to 4 hours with heavy luggage)
Follow the sandy path on the rocky slope up to large plane. From here you can see at your left hand side a boulder slope and at your right hand side a small gorge. Enter the gorge an ascend to 5272 metres and walk on its ridge, continue on this ridge till you reach the small plane, know as "Huisquitistay" at an altitude of 5414 metres. On this plane set up your camp. It is advisable to explore the ascent on your day of acclimatisation. If you know that there will be no more snow on the mountains carry along your drinking water. In case there is some melt water, take it from as close to the snowfield as possible. Due to the volcanic origin of the rocks stomach pains are allegedly not uncommon.
Campo Alto Huisquitistay - Cumbre - Campo Alto, (941 m 6 to 9 hours and 3 to 4 hours )
The day when you ascend the summit is mainly dependent on the snow conditions. The jagged penitnts can easily tower up to 1 meter, it takes a lot of time to cross it and is also very tiring. It is advisible to start your ascent in the early hours of the day. Firstly you have to climb the secondary summit, from here you can already spot "our" destination. Don't climb too far at the right side, as here more crevices are to be found. Ice picks and climbing irons are an absolute prerequisite for the ascent.
|| 4401 m
|road X to the basecamp
|| 4416 m
|| S 18º08.294'
|| 4823 m
|2nd camp Huisquitistay
|| 5414 m
|| 6355 m
the king from the distance
Chungará Lake is a mirror for Parinacota
3 hours up to this viewpoint
with military help
Prinacota and Pormerape
on the top