Cerro Barrancas Blancas – 20,075ft
December 28, 2017
After climbing Cerro San Francisco I drove down to spend the night at the Murray Hut to be closer to my next climbing objective, a 20,000ft mountain nearby named Barrancas Blancas. A guide had told me people sometimes use this mountain as an acclimation hike to prepare for Ojos del Salado, though they rarely go all the way to the summit.
I spent the night in the hut with two German climbers, and headed out first thing in the morning. A rough road led up to the normal starting point, but I was worried my 2wd car would get stuck in the sand, so opted to walk. The whole route is actually visible from the hut, and I started out walking on the road towards Atacama Camp, then diverged to the right to follow a jeep track to the edge of the ridge leading to the summit.
At the road end I started up the ridge. This mountain was not actually popular enough to have a trail, but navigation was easy enough in the open talus and scree. I generally followed the eastern ridge for a few hours until I reached a large plateau, and realized that must be where most people turn around. The true summit, though, was farther along the ridge.
I skirted around a small snowfield to the top of a false summit, dropped about 500ft down to a saddle, then climbed slowly up to the true summit, arriving 5 hours after I’d started. Only a small cairn marked the top, with no summit register. I had great views of Ojos del Salado and Laguna Verde far below.
I didn’t want to do any more climbing to return, so instead of retracing my route I descended directly down a very steep scree slope for several thousand feet, then traversed along the base of the mountain back to the hut.
That night the hut was much more crowded, with climbers from Chile, Spain, and the USA all preparing to climb Ojos del Salado.