Ampato is a dormant stratovolcano located in the Andes of southern Peru, about 60 miles northwest of Arequipa. It is part of Cordillera de Ampato, along with Solimana and Coropuna. At 6,288 m (20,630 ft) it is the 2nd highest mountain in the Arequipa area. It is part of the Ampato group, which includes the active volcano Sabancaya (5976 m - 19,606 ft) and Nevado Hualca Hualca (6,025 m - 19,767 ft). The first modern ascent of Ampato was in 1966 by Canadian Dick Culbert.
Ampato is famous because of the discovery of the Inca mummy, Juanita, or the Ice Maiden, which was found by archaeologist Johan Reinhard and mountain guide Miguel Zarate in 1995. The discovery was made possible by the melting of the glacier, caused in part by the eruption of Sabancaya just before that. They later found 3 more mummies near the summit as well. These and many artifacts are on display at the Museo Santuarios Andinos in Arequipa. Juanita is on display most of the year, and one of the others is displayed at other times. There is also an informative film that describes the discovery and recovery of the mummies, as well as the history of the sacrificial offerings. It was all very interesting (but slightly over dramatic), after having just climbed the mountain.
Due to the distance from Arequipa, it is expensive to hire transportation to Ampato (up to $250 we were told). The route to take is the main highway to Chivay (Colca Canyon) almost to the point where it starts to descend into the canyon. (On the way, you go through a vicuña reserve. There is also a very interesting tourist information center on the right side of the highway, with many displays of life on the high plain.) First you will pass a lookout on the left side of the road. There are often women in traditional dress selling tourist souveniers here. Just a few minutes after that is a small concrete building on the left and a small road sign on the right. It takes about 2 1/2 to 3 hours from Arequipa to reach this point. The road sign is a red stop sign (PARE) and it says Patapampa underneath it, below that is an arrow pointing left and AMPl. Turn left and follow the main tracks angling away from the highway in the direction of the canyon. Do not take the sharp left angling back in the direction you just came from.
Follow this road for about 2 hours, always staying on the most used tracks. First you go in a westerly direction, going towards Nevado Ampato. Look closely at the mountain and you can see where you need to climb up and you can see the summit plateau in the back, behind the saddle. Remember this! When you get closer, and for most of the climb, you will not see the summit plateau. The sharp peak on the left and the broad peak on the right are false summits - do not be deceived and climb them! (Unless you just want the exercise).
The road on the map looks almost straight - it isn’t, it wanders all over the place. The first landmark you will pass is a building with an antenna tower, on the right side of the road. There are lots of large rocks along the road near here. Soon you will start going southwest and drop down into a minor canyon. You will no longer be able to see the mountain and it may seem like you are going away from it. Don’t panic, follow the road, continuing to go down in elevation. This is the roughest section of the road, with one rocky stream crossing, after that it gets better. You will soon come to a cemetery on the left side of the road. About this time you will also be able to see Ampato once again. The next landmark is El Refugio on the left side of the road. It is a small complex of beautiful stone buildings with tile roofs. It is shown as Sallalli on the map. Just before you arrive there, the road crosses a small stream. There is an old narrow "bridge" (culvert actually) on the left, and a road through the stream on the right. We were told not to cross the bridge as it is not considered safe. There is an old couple who live at the Refuge and raise llamas and sheep. They have a couple of dogs that are very friendly. You can camp here or even stay in an empty room if you want, they only ask for a bag of bread as payment.
From here it is about 5 minutes or less to a set of tracks going off to the right, going right towards Ampato. If you miss the first turn, there is a second one a minute later. There may be a small rock marker at one or both. Follow this "road" until you reach the obvious campsites behind the boulder.
The Climbing Route
The road continues for a very short ways past the basecamp and then there is a poor trail that heads up toward the mountain. Don’t worry if you lose the trail, just head for the glacier. The most direct route is to go up the gully on the left where the glacier meets the bare mountain (actually some of this is glacier as well, just covered with gravel and rocks). Here you have your choice of going up on the glacier or staying on the gravel and rocks. We went up the glacier with crampons and came down the gravel. As you near the top it is best to continue straight up, don't go to the left, which will take you to a false summit. The glacier is not that steep, some use trekking poles instead of an ice axe, and there is no real need to use ropes as crevasse danger is also low. However there are a few "swampy" areas in the glacier when it is warm, and you can posthole and get your feet soaked. It could also be a totally different story after heavy snows during the rainy season. The guides listed below can usually give more up to date information.
When you get near the top of the glacier, you will see the summit plateau directly ahead of you. The ascent route is your choice of the best way up to the ridge to the left of the summit plateau. It is steep and loose. One option is to go farther to the left and there appears to be a snowy traverse. Another is to go up the glacier on the left near the false summit and follow the ridge, but the traverse has some tricky spots.
We were also told of a route to the right of the broad flat false summit and then traverse back to the left on the top of the glacier, but this is a difficult route due to the penitentes covering the glacier.
There is a short 3rd class scramble to climb from the ridge to the summit plateau. This was bare rock in December, an easy snow climb in July. The route down from the summit ridge is a sand glissade which is very steep and fast, using your axe for braking is recommended.
The quickest return route is in the gravel and rocks at the edge of the glacier, just head down towards the basecamp.
Camping, When to Climb
There is a small rock wall in front of the boulder along the road. You can see where cars have turned around and parked. This is basecamp. There are numerous tent sites behind the boulder. There are also a couple of higher camps farther on up. If you are following the faint foot trail, you will go by the higher campsites, the first one in about an hour (5200 m - 17,060 ft), the next in another 1 1/2 or 2 hours (5500 m - 18,045 ft). These sites are not as good as the lower one, but will give you a shorter summit day. If you are well acclimated and in good shape, it is possible to summit from, and return to, the lower base camp in one day (10-12 hours). Most agencies advertise this as a 3 to 4 day trip, from Arequipa. They camp at both the 5000 and 5500 m sites, for acclimatizing.
There is no water at the campsites but there is water in a stream at the Refuge. There are also lots of animals around there so it should probably be treated. There is water up farther on the mountain, but it is dirty glacier melt.
No permits are required for climbing or camping. It is a very remote area, don't expect much company.
Most of the mountains around Arequipa can be climbed year round but due to its height, take special care on Ampato during or near the rainy season (Jan.- March). It will often be clear in the morning and cloud up by around noon, with snow all the way down to basecamp a good possibility.
Mountain Guide ServicesRecommended Mountain Guides
Julver Eguiluz Castro
Cell - 0051-54-95-9601833
Santa Catalina 115-A
Santa Catalina 204 Office 3
Feel free to contact me for any additional information as well.