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Andes in North Chile - Exploring Volcano Land
Trekking around Aucanquilcha, 05-10-00 until 19-11-00

2nd April 2002 - 22.12 GMT

Chile 2000

We had highflying plans for this trip. It was on our mind to climb Ojos Salado, with almost 7000 m the highest volcano in the world. As preparation were some other volcanoes on our list, all in a convenient distance between the copper mine Collahuasi - near Iquique and high in the Andes at around 4000 m - and Ollague. This volcanoes were Miño (5600 m) and Aucanquilcha (6200 m). After that, we had to visit my mother-in-law in Brazil (I considered that the hardest part of the journey)

Trekking around Aucanquilcha

After some initial problems we finally made it to the mine and shortly after we met our friend Victor, I knew well from last year. I was a bit concerned about our fast ascent from sea level to 3700 m in one day. And tomorrow we would already leave to our base camp, which would be even higher. We noticed the effect of the altitude while carrying our stuff up the stairs to our room. Later that day we visited some facilities and saw the daily detonations in "the pit".

Day 1

The driver took us to a suitable place for our base camp between Miño e Aucanquilcha. We were pushing our luck a bit too much, on our third day we were already on 4500 m. We tired to take it VERY easy, but it didn't helped.

Day 2

I couldn't sleep at night and passed the next morning vomiting for hours. That afternoon we tried to get a better understanding of the terrain and tried to discover a route to El Miño. But I felt too weak to do long walks and what we saw from the distance it seemed that El Miño was just a pile of rubble. One step up, slide two steps down. Soon after we abandoned the idea of climbing El Miño and decided to focus on a good acclimatization.

Day 3

The following days were more enjoyable. We walked up to the pass only with a small backpack and discovered the remains of the sulfur mine Polan and went back again to Base Camp.




Day 4

The same trip, but now carrying a lot of food and liquids and leaving it at the pass, then returned to Base Camp.

Day 5

Time to sort out all food and liquids, we had too much. Then we disassembled our tent and made the walk up to the pass for the third time. After a short descent we pitched up our camp in the ruins of Polan "city". A freaky place. Bones everywhere, rusty cans, broken mining tools. I found some snow from last winter and we melted it, hoping to get some water for washing the dishes, but the brownish water smelt totally rotten. Sulfur, I suppose. We were quiet tired and agreed to spent the next day only with some easy exploration of the area and relaying of some supplies.

Day 6

We followed the track, found a crossing, which may lead down to the Salar San Martin and had later a full view of Aucanquilcha and it's old mining road. Then we returned to cozy Polan.

Day 7

Replay of yesterdays activities, but now with all the rest of our belongings. Walking was almost on one level, no ups or downs and we managed to parallel most of Aucan's massive walls. After finding a hidden place for the tent, we had to return half way to get the food, we have hidden the day before.

Day 8

Finally we had consumed so much of food and water, that we could carry all or stuff in one single haul. We started with the smooth way down to the plains of Ollague. Remarkable were some areas with landslides and the giant footprints of some strange bird. We pitched our camp with view on all the beauties down there in the plains.

Day 9

We reached a basic mining settlement, probably abandoned, in the plains. A military truck passed, the first sight of other human beings in more then a week since leaving Collahuasi. Soon after we arrived in "Downtown" Ollague. We reported in at the local police station and were lucky, that some team of scientist had finished there work on Aucanquilcha and were heading back to Calama. They offered some coffee and cazuela in the overheated kitchen of the police station and we accepted gladly. Then we jumped on the truck for the long way back to Calama.


Part 2




map http://www.collahuasi.cl/comp1_1.html

aucan volcano.indstate.edu/ cvz/aucaimg.html