ApproachFrom the mine in the Rio Colorado valley follow a trail on the right hand side of the river. After about 2-4 hrs you will get to the beginning of the Rio Museo valley, which you will see to your right.
Follow up the valley on a trail. Soon you will be facing the problem that you have to cross the river. There is a hidden bridge - your mule driver hopefully knows where it is, otherwise it will be hard to find.
I try to explain how to find it: You will reach soon after turning right to go up the Museo valley - after a quite prominent drop where you loose a few vertical mts. - a small meadow with a big Breccie boulder - a few hundred mts./feet further up the trail (20-30 vertical mts/60-100vertical ft higher up) the bridge is hidden to your left, between the second and third large prominent boulder you will encounter to your left.
From there you ascent upt to a plateau (into which the river has cut itself), and follow it (passing horses, cows and some bulls - watch out), which leads to base camp (do not take the valley to your left! It leads to the very steep west faces of Cerro Alto and Piuquenes!) on a lovely meadow at 3100 m(10170 ft) with an amazing view towards Cerro Rabicano (5334 m/17500 ft) and unclimbed Cerro Chimbote (5493 m/18022 ft).
A stream runs right out of the mountain next to the camp.
From here you hike towards the SE, further into the Museo valley. At 3400 m/11150 ft) the mules will leave you gear. From here you have to hike on your own. Take the left-hand valley, and follow it.
It is still a long way from here, but there are many convinient places to camp.
At about 4250 m/14000 m you will be beneath Cerro Trono´s (5477 m/17970 ft) impressive south face, with it's glaciers and seracs. Pass beneath it, and another glacier that comes down from the plateau between Trono and Piuquenes (not visible yet) following the valley.
Soon you have two possibilities to continue on:
1. take one of the steep rock couloirs to your right to reach to plateau above you
2. continue up the valley on a snow/penitentes field, which will lead up to the plateau as well. The snow field seems to turn soon into a glacier though and we suspect over crevassed terrain (we had still a lot of snow in December 2005, so it was not clear whether it is a glacier or not) as well - but is certainly the preferable way to go down.
Once on the plateau you see Nevado de los Piuquenes in front of you!
Hike to shortly below the ridge that marks the border Chile-Argentina and that seperates Cerro Pyramide (5484 m/17922 ft) and Piuquenes.
A few meters below the ridge at 5000 m/16404 ft are a few boulders and pentientes fields (water!) that are a convinient for pitiching your last camp.
Here the actual route starts.
It is really hard to say how long it takes to get to the last camp. It took us 9 days, with 1,5 days sitting out a snow storm and the neccessary rest days for proper acclimatization.
Route DescriptionSee routes overview photo here
For this route you will actually head into Argentine territory. Head up to the ridge above you, drop down a bit and traverse along the slope (steep and with snow fields -> crampons!) to reach a prominent snow field that leads up the SE flank.
Follow it up (over 45° steep in one part) to the summit (it becomes gradually gentler towards the summit).
Essential Gear- clothing for high-alpine climbing;
- down jacket recommended (I use down pants as well when climbing in these regions, although I always climb in the early months - September to November - when it is considerably colder! )
- storm-proof tent
- trekking poles
- piolet or two ice axes (as you prefer on 45° slopes)
- glacier gear: half/twin rope, pulleys, accessory cord, etc.
- satellite phone if you can, as you are really far away from civilization