Also known as Quevar, Quewar, Quehuar, Pastos Grandes or Quironcollo.
Queva is an easy 6,000er situated in the Northern Argentine province of Salta which can be climbed in 2-3 days from Santa Rosa de los Pastos Grandes. It is in the Pastos Grandes range of the Puna de Atacama which consists of 6 peaks of which Queva is the highest. On the summit of Queva there are Inca Ruins. A mummy and other artefacts were also found on the summit but these were removed and are now part of the Salta MAAM museum’s collection. The climb involves an easy walk up a beautiful valley from the village of Santa Rosa de los Pastos Grande to the base camp at about 5000m and then a simple walk to the summit, possibly over snow.
Salta is the nearest major city and has regular connections by plane and bus to Buenos Aires. From Salta there are daily buses to San Antonio de Los Cobres.
Hitch a ride with one of these minetrucks to Santa Rosa
San Antonio de los Cobres is a run down ex-mining town on the altiplano with a population of about 4,000 people. The town attracts some tourists because it is a stop on the famous ‘Tren de los Nubes’ and is situated near the huge La Polvorilla viaduct. Most of these tourists pay only a fleeting visit, but there are still a handful of places to stay. We can recommend the basic El Palenque for its warm shower and warm welcome. San Antonio has internet and a few shops and it is advisable to stock up on all your food here. From San Antonio to Santa Rosa de los Pastos Grandes there are a number of mine trucks with whom the villagers of Santa Rosa hitch. Ask around in San Antonio as to where you can find a truck heading that way. Alternatively is may be possible to hire a jeep to get you to Santa Rosa.
Santa Rosa is a very small village with a couple of unmarked shops which sell an extremely limited selection of fizzy drinks, biscuits and tinned foods. If you are looking for information about the mountain, ask for Dante Vega at the shop next to the church. Dante has climbed Queva a number of times and he can give you advice about the route, or may be able to guide you up Queva if you wish. It is worth leaving your details with him and telling him when you expect to return.
Pleasant walk along a bubbling stream to base camp
From Santa Rosa take the 4x4 track heading north on the east side of the stream. Follow the track towards the mountain until it peters out after 7km near a large boulder. Here the main valley turns north-northwest and you must stay in this. After a short while you will see a small shack in a side valley where it would be possible to shelter. Stick to the main valley until you reach a large cascade/waterfall. Climb the grassy slope by the side of this to reach a large, flat, open boggy space. There are three valleys that leave this bog, and it is necessary to take the largest of these that leaves from the far left hand side of the boggy area and heads just north of west. The valley curves back around towards the north and you will climb to a smaller waterfall. Climb up beside this waterfall to a flat sheltered area where it is good to camp. Just above this area is the source of the stream that the route has followed since Santa Rosa.
Collect all your water for the remainder of the day and the following summit day from this spring. Then continue up the main valley, which opens up after a while, and at about 5,000m someone has built a wall which is a good windbreak to pitch your tent behind. It is possible to reach this base camp in one long day from Santa Rosa or break it up into 2 shorter days.
From this base camp follow the wide south east slopes straight to the summit. It is possible that this final section is covered in snow so you may need to bring your crampons and ice axe. The highest point of the crater rim is the northwest summit. Just below the summit you will find the Inca ruins, and from the top there sweeping 360 degree views. To the west are the Sico and Socompa passes to Chile, and to the southeast are the Nevados de Cachi.
On the lower summit with the true summit in the background
On the lower south summit of Queva there are offerings to Pachamama and a summit log. In December 2010 we were only the ninth entry in the log since the turn of the century (though I'm sure there have been more ascents than this by people who haven't bothered climbing the lower summit and those who didn't bring a pen with them, but nonetheless this is a nice quiet mountain to climb).
According to John Biggar’s ‘The Andes - A Guide for Climbers’ it is also possible to climb Queva from the village of Olacapato on the road from San Antonio to the Paso Sico. However from the summit this route appeared more complicated and a longer route than that from Santa Rosa, and it also might be difficult to find water.
There are no permits for this peak however it is wise to inform the local authorities in San Antonio de los Cobres of where you are going and when you expect to be back.
When to Climb
The warmest period is between December and March however this climb can be carried out at anytime of year. Crampons and an ice axe will probably be necessary in the winter months.
Base camp at 5,030m
There is nowhere to stay in Santa Rosa although I am sure the friendly locals would find you somewhere to pitch your tent. It is possible to camp anywhere in the valley on the walk up to base camp. There is an excellent sheltered campsite with some walls at about 4,800m just below the spring and another wall to pitch a tent behind at 5,030m. Either of these makes a good base camp.
Junction just E of Sta Rosa - turn N up track
End of track
Source of stream
Nev. Queva summit
* This was the height our GPS gave, the official height is 6,140m.
Google Earth Image Showing entire route from the trailhead to the summit
Google Earth Image of the route from the end of 4x4 track to the summit
John Biggar’s excellent ‘The Andes - A Guide for Climbers’ states that the best map for this area is: AIGM 1:250,000 sheet 2566-I ‘San Antonio de Los Cobres’.
Our Pikes on Hikes website has a short trip report about our climb of Queva, as well as information on a number of other mountains on the Puna.