Ascension of the Llullaillaco Volcano 6752 meters – Argentina.

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In 1999, a team led by American archaeologist Johan Reinhard and funded by the  National Geographic Society . On the summit of Llullaillaco, he found 3 mummies and dozens of ornamental objects that were part of the ritual. Discovery that changed the history of mountaineering.

The mummies found in perfect condition thanks to negative temperatures, hypoxia and low relative humidity. They were from a teenager about 15 years old called “La Docelita”, a boy about 7 years old and a girl about 6 years old called “la Niña del Rayo”.

In Salta, Argentina, we visited the High Mountain Archaeological Museum (MAAM) which was created to study the mummies and artifacts found. According to the Argentines, it is the best museum in the country and with the knowledge acquired, our desire to reach the summit in Llullaillaco has greatly increased.
We were already in the region making other ascents, such as the summit of Aracar 6093 m and Quehuar 6158 m . A mummy was also found in Quehuar, but looters in the 1970s blew up the place where she was looking for funerary treasures. In all, mummies were found in 7 Andean mountains and this was part of their Capacocha religious rituals.

We slept at the base of Quehuar next to the car after reaching the summit. We later left this place which is close to Santa Rosa de los Pastos Largos on 03/18/2022.
On the way we pass through the Salar de Pocitos and Desierto del Diablo to camp near Tolar Grande. We found the location thanks to the IOverlander app . Protected from the strong winds in an old village next to the railway (Station 6 of the Train de las Nubes). In total there were 117 km of 4×4 roads.
It was a very calm and cool night at 4060 meters of altitude. The day 03/19 promised to be long and beautiful. We did another 191 km of roads and 4×4 trails until arriving at the Lullaillaco base camp. On the way, the most interesting attractions: Ojo del Mar, Salar de Arizaro, Cuesta del Caipe and Caipe Station.
At the Llullaillaco base camp at 4850 meters, we settled in comfortably with our car, food and water next to our tent. This place is the beginning of the trekking of the archaeological route to the summit. While there was sun we stayed outside, but it was only nightfall and the temperature dropped to -7ºC.
At night we received the weather forecast on Inreach for the next 2 days. Stable climate, without much wind and minimum temperatures of up to -22 ºC for the summit. As we were well acclimatized, we decided to do the alpine-style summit and skip the intermediate camp at 5500 m. So the next day’s challenge was to climb directly to the camp at 5900 m with everything in the freighters. A total of 10,466 km on foot according to the Garmin 66i and with 1050 meters of altimetry gain.
On the route of the archaeological route we found a Chilean commercial expedition that was going down. They made the summit and mentioned that the route had little snow and was good to go. We also saw Inca ruins at the camp at 5500 meters.

We arrived at the advanced camp at 5900 meters around 16:20 on 03/20. A sheltered spot with some pretty big rocks and patches of snow. We set up camp and already started the process of melting the snow to obtain water. At around 19:30 we were treated to a beautiful sunset.
At nightfall the temperature dropped to -8°C. Through Inreach Garmin I sent a message to my mother congratulating her on her birthday and said that the summit the other day would be in her honor. After dinner we outlined our strategy of waking up at 03:30 and leaving until 04:30.

However, when waking up at 03:30 on 03/21 with temperature reaching -11 ºC. We got lazy and agreed to go out only in daylight. We woke up at 07:00 with natural light and at 08:02 we started the hike to the summit.
The summit day has a unique look. We were able to see several mountains over 6000 meters within a radius of 180 kilometers. For example Aracar, Socompa, Antofalla, Pular and Pili.
The total walking distance for the day is considerable with 10,098 km on foot according to the Garmin 66i and with 860 meters of accumulated ascent. So a mountain to get acclimatized.

The trail at the beginning is not clear and it was another hit by us. Because doing it at dawn would be more difficult to navigate. After the elevation of 6400 meters the path was already more obvious and sometimes well marked. We started to see more Inca ruins and a lot of wood left by them. Near the summit there are 2 overnight Incan ruins and it indicates that we are almost there.

After a small ramp that in this case had some snow. Anyway, Luciana Moro and I made the summit of Llullaillaco with 6752 meters* at 1:15 pm.
Pleasant temperature just above zero degrees and almost no wind. We enjoyed the summit for about 50 minutes.
Who would have thought that this mountain was only modernly climbed for the first time in 1952!
In 2020, Luciana Moro had already made the summit of Llullaillaco along with Pedro Abrão along the normal Chilean route via Llullaillaco National Park .
On that occasion I had to return guiding the rest of the group from 6500 meters onwards due to fatigue due to the amount of snow. Were with me on this return the Ediceu Pereira , Vinicius Vieira and Micaela Lopez. In the photo below the team at the CONAF refuge.
Our return to the advanced camp was smooth and we arrived around 4:40 pm. With this time well advanced, there was no alternative but to sleep on site. The second photo shows the advanced camp site at 5900 meters and our tent behind a rock.
Again the time-consuming routine of collecting snow and thawing. At nightfall it was quite cold again and after dinner we slept very early.

We woke up naturally on 03/22 only at 07:30 and again with -11 ºC. After breakfast we dismantled the camp and put everything away. Our intention this day was to go down to the car and go to Paso Socompa to sleep.
Arriving at the height of 5200 meters to our amazement we saw a large group:
– Wow, in that outback. Where did so many people come from?
We talked to them, there were 3 male guides and more than 20 female customers. Another nice surprise!
We asked one of the guides for information about Socompa that we would like to do the next day.

Upon arriving at base camp there were 2 more women who were left behind with flu symptoms (maybe COVID). A little desperate to get out of there and even hitchhiked for it. But, we informed that we were going to stay some time in the Puna (lucky us). Then I was thinking about the safety of this group, as there were more than 20 people in an isolated place and there was only 1 car in the place.
It was already around 12:40 and we had lunch next to the car. We packed up our things and headed for Paso Socompa. There were another 74 km between trails and 4×4 roads to arrive at 16:00 in this step disabled due to COVID.
Arriving there, we talked to the military of the National Gendameria and asked for authorization to do the Socompa 6051 m the other day. However, the 4×4 approach was from the Chilean side and because of the pandemic, the paso was disabled.

We even thought about other route options as we knew the Chilean guard would not let us. One of the military offered us the Wi-Fi password, when checking the weather forecast we had to abort the attempt. It would be another 3 days of very windy weather on the summit. Very hospitable, the head of the barracks offered to stay overnight in one of the barracks and we accepted without delay. Despite not having light and bath, it was an excellent late afternoon and night.
On 03/23/2022 we woke up and checked the weather forecast. There was a great weather window to try the Antofalla Volcano 6464 m . But that’s what I’ll tell you in the next story!

*Note . Llullaillaco 6752 meters is the fifth highest mountain in the Andes according to John Biggar’s list. Source:  https://clubetrekking.com.br/dicas-e-tecnicas/100-mais-andes/

Our tracklog :  https://www.wikiloc.com/mountaineering-trails/llullaillaco-6752-metros-argentina-114910508

Next expedition that we will conduct at this location:  https://clubetrekking.com.br/travessias/quewar-llullaillaco/

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Luciana Moro
Guide 9 years ago.
Deuter athlete in Brazil.
Mountaineer since 2011.
Future Physical Educator at UFSM.
Second Brazilian woman with the most different Andean summits above 6000 meters: Aconcagua (6962m along the 360º route), Ojos del Salado (6893m),
Pissis (6795m), Mercedário (6720m – 2x), San Francisco (6018m – 2x), Fraile ( 6061m), Barrancas Blancas (6119m),
Vicuñas (6067m), Peñas Blancas (6037), Ermitaño (6146m) and Nevado Famatina (6115m),
Bonete Chico (6759m), Aracar (6095m), Quewar (6140m),
Llullallaico (6752m ) – 2x), Antofalla (6440m), Laguna Blanca (6018m).
She is the owner of Clube Trekking Santa Maria and Loja Bota na Trilha.

 

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