Cerro Vicunas

Cerro Vicunas – 19,905ft

A field of penitentes on the hike up

Eric Gilbertson

December 29, 2017

I had one more free day left in Chile before I needed to start the long journey back to the US, and decided to climb one final 6000m peak. Cerro Vicunas was the next closest peak to the Murray Hut that I hadn’t yet climbed, and it looked like a fun one.

I left the hut in the morning, and started hiking along the road to Atacama Camp. After about an hour, I left the road on an even rougher jeep track that appeared to head toward a col between Cerro Vicunas and Cerro Barrancas Blancas. I had no idea what the correct route up Cerro Vicunas was, but suspected if I could reach the col, the summit would be attainable from there.

A vicuna crossing the road, with Ojos del Salado in the distance

I passed by an amazing field of delicately-balanced penitentes, and eventually the jeep track petered out as the terrain got too steep and rocky. There was no trail or any sign of other people, so I generally began ascending the slopes of Cerro Vicunas near the col, trying to stay in the region of the most solid-looking rocks (avoiding the difficult scree slopes).

After a few hours of difficult ascending I crested the crater rim, then easily followed a faint climbers trail around a snowfield to the summit. This summit had a register, and I was the first ascent in the last few months. I had amazing views of Ojos del Salado and Barrancas Blancas, and hung out on the summit for a full hour.

For the descent I targeted the scree slopes I’d avoided on the way up, and easily plunge-stepped my way down. Along the hike back I actually saw a real vicuna (kind of like a lama) walking across the road!

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