In December 2001 and January 2002 I spent with a friend 6 weeks in Argentina and Chile. First we climbed several summits in the Cordón de la Ramada. At the end of our holiday we had enough energy to climb the most southern 6000m summit, Cerro Marmolejo.
09.01.02, Santiago de Chile - High Camp Marmolejo, 3100 m
The bus to the Cajón del Maipo left from the metro station Parque O'Higgins at 20 past 7am. It took us at least 3 hours by bus for the 80 kilometres. The bus driver dropped us at the crossing Baños Morales - Lo Valdés (1785 m). More than 2 hours we had to hike on the wide street of gravel where we were dusted from huge lorries of the local cement company at regular intervals. Only at an elevation of 2310 m we could leave the road. First it went through rocks, then in a wide valley over marshy meadows we followed the river of the Marmolejo-Glacier to the left. Over rocks we slowly gained altitude. Over wide-open snowfields we reached a usable place for a camp at shortly past 6pm (3100 m).
10.01.02, High camp Marmolejo 3100 m - 4400 m
First we went up in a basin, and then we followed right the moraine up to 3900 m. Now it seemed that there was only one logical ascent - a steep field of gravel. After good 300 meters we had the worst of all behind us and reached a saddle. Here we had insight into a new field of gravel that outshined the last one by far. This we wanted to keep for tomorrow. There were only a few places for bivouacs at the saddle, however. This stood for spending the night in the open air.
11.01.02, High Camp Marmolejo 4400 m - 4900 m
After two and a half hours we had done the 340 meters finally (4600 m). The difficulties were not only the extreme gradient with loose volcanic rocks, but also the utmost danger for rock falling from overhanging rocks. In periodical intervals rocks loosened and approached us sometimes quite close. Further 200 meters we followed the left ridge up to 4800 m, in order to cross snow-flied and steep fields of gravel of the north slopes of the Volcán San José. There we had to descend to 4760 m, since we found a suitable place for our camp.
12.01.02, Marmolejo, 6110 m
The alarm clock rang at 5am and 1 hour later we started, at -4°C and an unpleasant west-wind. We reached the entry into the crevasse-free west-face. Exactly at 12:05 we overcame the most southern summit higher than 6000 m. There was a fantastic view. In the north Aconcagua and Tupungato, in the west the Pacific Ocean and the pall of smog of Santiago. Exactly across arose the mighty Volcán San José in the south. Because of the icy west-wind we stayed only half an hour. We returned at the tent 1 hour and 50 minutes later - and totally whacked out. We didn't want anything to do with a further descent.
13.01.02, High Camp Marmolejo, 4900 m - Santiago de Chile
In spite of -6°C and a quite strong wind - it was damn cold - we had an early breakfast and shortly before 8am we began the descent, i.e. the ascent. I wanted to get out of here; it was too unpleasant. It took us good two hours to go up, then first down the ridge and finally the steep field of gravel followed. The first half it was difficult to walk. The ground was frozen partly; there was a bad contact to the ground and slippery in the volcanic rocks. And over and over again there was rock-falling.
We reached the bivouac at a quarter past eleven. Actually we wanted to catch the bus to Santiago. Thus we took only a short break, and then further down the second steep field of gravel, we could slide down very well and quickly. Further over the moraine in the basin, over snowfields in the wide valley - and always headwind from west that became only slowly warmer, but still unpleasant. We saw the street at around half past four in the afternoon, and still 600 meters of elevation. We reached the crossing at 10 to 6pm and a quarter of an hour later the bus came - the last bus for today. Finally we reached Santiago at about 9pm.
The entire report and more information as well as pictures you will find at http://members.aol.com/UweKraus2/site27_e.htm