Ojos del Salado and the Puña de Atacama: the videos

The adventurers’ website ExplorersWeb has been doing a series of blog posts about 100 adventure films to watch during lockdown.

Astonishingly, despite being up to part 4 in the series, and having covered a grand total of 400 films, they have yet to feature any of my videos. Whether this is because my trips are too adventurous for them, they’re frightened by the roar of the wind which seems to appear as soon as I start talking, because the production is of such a high quality that it wouldn’t be fair on the other film makers, or because it takes me so long to produce them that they die of excitement waiting for the next one to appear, I don’t know.

But I do know that you, my loyal readers, always await my latest YouTube playlist with bated breath. So here, to light up your lockdown with another series of adventurous escapades enlivened by witty dialogue, is the next batch.

This week’s delights come from my trip to Ojos del Salado in the Puña de Atacama region of northern Chile the Christmas before last, with the UK expedition operator Jagged Globe. This is quite a long time ago now, and you may have forgotten the blog post I wrote about it last year. But like fine wine, I find that video footage matures with age, so I like to leave it seasoning on my hard drive for a while before I mix it together.

So here it is without further ado, and I hope you will agree that the results don’t disappoint.

The full playlist involves 4 videos and 21 minutes of footage. You can watch the whole thing in one go here. You can also see all my still photos from the trip here.

1 Ascent of Maricunga, Puña de Atacama

Watch on YouTube

The Puña de Atacama is a high-altitude desert region on the border of Chile and Argentina. It is one of the driest and highest places in the world. There are many peaks rising to over 6,000m and the lack of rain and drainage is responsible for the formation of salt lakes that are a habitat for flamingos.

This video follows a road trip by jeep from the town of Copiapo in northern Chile, up to the salt lake of Laguna Santa Rosa, where we made an ascent of an easy peak, Maricunga (4,885m).

2 Salt plains of the Atacama Desert

Watch on YouTube

Leaving the flamingos behind, we continued on the empty metalled highway up to the Argentine border. We had our first view of Ojos del Salado from a roadside and camped beside the shores of another salt lake, Laguna Verde.

This video follows a walking circuit of Laguna Verde, a salt lake encircled by mountains on a high plateau at 4,300m. Crusted slabs and carpets of salt powder line its shores.

3 Ascent of Cerro Vicuñas, Puña de Atacama

Watch on YouTube

The Puña de Atacama is an amazing landscape of rolling desert peaks with some of the widest views on earth. Many of the peaks exceed 6,000m, an extreme altitude, but because they rise above such a high plateau, they are not extreme in scale.

This video follows an ascent of Cerro Vicuñas, a short distance away from Ojos del Salado, the world’s highest volcano. At 6,067m it must be one of the easiest 6,000m peaks in the world, an awkward tramp up boulder fields and a marked absence of snow. It was very windy, but the view from the top was immense, across a vast, open desert landscape.

4 Ascent of Ojos del Salado, Chile

Watch on YouTube

The final video follows an ascent of Ojos del Salado, the main objective of our trip. At 6,893m, it is the world’s highest volcano and the second highest mountain in South America. It is only a few metres lower than the highest one, Aconcagua (6,959m), but its proximity to the desert roads of the high plateau make it far more accessible. It straddles the border of Chile and Argentina, and has two summits of identical height a short distance apart, one in each country. Our expedition climbed the Chilean summit.

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