ApproachSee the "Getting There" section for Argentina on the main page for details on how to get to Las Grutas.
Also read the warning in "The Border" section at the bottom of the main page.
Try to catch a ride from Las Grutas to Incahuasi BC. There are quite a lot of archeologists there in the warmer season and perhaps you're lucky to get a ride. It's about 45 min by jeep and is 5-7 hours by walk. Bring lots of water from Las Grutas. No water in the BC of Incahuasi! Continue along a jeep track towards a the pass in between Incahuasi and Cerro San Francisco. This track disappears after some time, but just go on until you reach the pass. There's a small pass marker telling you, you're on Chilean territory on the other side of the pass.
Head a bit to your left until you arrive in a wide, long and extremely dry valley. You'll now see El Fraile for the first time in the distance to the SW. At first you're on a small downhill, but for the next hours you'll be at a constant 4900-5000m. The route rises a little bit when you get close to the Incahuasi/El Fraile Pass (5005m at the lowest point). You're now back in Argentina and here you start to look for snow to melt and sheltered place for the tent.
Route DescriptionIf you find the right line up to the old crater rim, this ascent isn't a problem. If you don't, you're in for a long and frustrating walk on very loose scree, trying to find better places to walk than where you're at the moment.
The key is to walk a bit back and forth and study the N, NE and E slopes.
This place - 27*03’295S - 68*21’539W at 5165 meters is where I camped. Good because it; A). is very sheltered from the wind and B). there are snow in the many small valleys close by. Possibly also in the wider valley were you pitch the tent.
Heading straight for the peak from here is probably a mistake as there are tricky passages through the rock-band just below the crater rim. Head along the base of the peak (right/N)and walk until you see a strip of scree which reaches all the way from where you are, to the crater rim. There has to be a gap in the rock band, or you better don't go for this option. It's a bit hard to describe exactly which line you should follow as I don't have any reference photos of this section and also forgot to take waypoints. When you have reached the rock band, be sure to walk in along a line where there are no rocks above you. Not only that you may have trouble to find a suitable path through, you may also have trouble with rockfalls.
When you have arrived at the crater rim, you see the summit on the far side of the summit plateau. Follow the path of least resistence and climb the little pyramid. Also here, you better watch out for loose rocks and instable scree.
On the far end of the pyramid, you may find two small wooden pieces, which must have been brought there by humans.