Page Type Page Type: Mountain/Rock
Location Lat/Lon: 27.85036°S / 68.81904°W
Activities Activities: Mountaineering
Additional Information Elevation: 19472 ft / 5935 m
Sign the Climber's Log


A summit view to the south....
Caldera del Inca

Bonete Grande is hard to access. Very hard. Even if the topography in the area is negotiable, the way to the peak is a long way on high altitude. Mountain ranges blocking the way are another factor that makes the peak one of the hardest to reach on the South American continent. In the north the impressive Pissis massif is in the way, in the west the Veladero range and in the east 6000m high peaks north of Bonete Chico makes an easy access impossible. The only “easy” approach is from the south. You can drive to a day's walk from the peak. This may sound easy, but here we're talking rough 4W driving on high altitude.

The peak is "just one amongst other peaks" in the area and the reason why it appears on a lot of maps, where other much higher peaks don't is a mystery to me and everyone I have asked. When asking the locals how to recognize Bonete Grande, I was told to look for; "A blade-like peak, which looks like an Alpamayo without snow". That’s a bit of a glorification I would say, but who knows what Alpamayo would look like without snow. The views from the summit are fantastic as there are impressive peaks, lots of colourful lakes and the grandeur of a high plateau all around you. The peak is located close to the Caldera del Inca and it’s the only summit from where you can look into it from above.

From a climber's point of view, it's an easy ascent from the east. The west ridge looks quite easy, but the south and north faces are steep and rock falls are a consideration. When I summited the peak, I expected to find the normal little cairn, a flag from a local climbing club or at least some sort of a trace that someone had been there before. I found nothing. When talking to the few persons who have been to the area, it seemed like they gave Bonete Grande a miss. Please drop me a line if you know of any ascents.

The views from the summit are outstanding!
To the north you can watch the whole grandeur of the huge Pissis massif. Look more to the east and Nacimiento del Jagüe and some unclimbed 6000m bumps in the Bonete Chico range appears. Bonete Chico is in the SSE and in between it and Veladero, some far away ranges are visible. SW of Veladero you can see Baboso, Reclus and almost dead east Cerro Gemelos is clearly visible.
Far below you small blue and green lakes and Caldera del Inca can be seen.

Getting There

Areas you don t want to walk...
Penitentes fields

The last city of any size before the wilderness takes over is Villa Union, a pleasant sleepy place where all provisions can be bought. This is also the place for arranging a 4x4 vehicle which can take you to the target. The companies who deal with travel to the mountains are all located around the town's central square. The main tourist attraction in the area is Laguna Brava, a super-saline lake with beautiful colours. To travel there is easy to arrange, but demand for going to the mountains beyond is low. There are tours to Caldera del Inca, the highest water-filled crater in the world. The crater is located a day’s walk south of Bonete Grande. The tour to Caldera del Inca is a one-day excursion and the vehicle usually returns to Villa Union the same day. if you want a ride to Bonete Grande, you’ll need to either arrange a pick up later, or make arrangements so the arranging party stays in the area. Make sure to set a precise pickup time and exactly where that pick up will be. If you want the jeep plus personal to stay close to the peak, it'll be a much more expensive deal. I don't know what the going prices for a tour from Villa Union is, but from the provincial capital, La Rioja, it's about 550-700 Argentinean Pesos. If you're of the really hardcore type and wants to arrange the whole venture by yourself hitching is the only option after Jagüe. Count on three to five cars a day, but as this is a very dry area there's a high chance they all stop for you. Be prepared to carry water for at least two days when leaving the main road at Refugio Veladero and the same rule applies on the way back.

From wherever you arrive in the area, you have to pass through Villa Union, La Rioja Province. From there a good asphalt road takes you past Castelli to Vinchina. The latter is the last real outpost of civilisation. There is an internet café, some small supermarkets, good restaurants and two hotels. You now leave the plains and enter a narrow gorge with strange-looking rock formations. The road is in an awful state for about 20 km and rivers, mud and sand has to be negotiated. When leaving the gorge, the landscape opens up again, the asphalt is back and the going is easy to Jagüe. The little settlement is a where you have to pay the park fees and register at the police station. Road construction, mixed with stretches of good asphalt for another 35 km to Punta del Agua, which is a gold miner’s settlement consisting of 10-12 newly built barracks. From there on; only gravel road all the way to the border of Chile. The first refugio en route is El Peñón, where you can find fresh water. A steep climb, with lots of llamas grazing on the sides, takes you to Paso Laguna Brava, a windswept pass from where you have the first close views of the peaks in the area. A small hill down to Laguna Brava and from there the road continues to the refugio on the northern end of the salty, light blue lake. You will follow the dusty road for another 11km to Refugio Veladero.

Extreme desolation. A good...

This is where you'll leave the road and head into the wilderness for real. If you're on your own here the track can be hard to find. Leave the road approximately 450-500m before the refugio. It's very hard to find in the beginning, but after a km or two it's almost like a "real" dirt road. A sandy track follows a dry riverbed in the direction of Bonete Chico, the dominating peak on your right hand side. The pyramid-shaped peak on your left is Veladero. The vehicle will take you past Bonete Chico and after 30km you’ll enter a narrow canyon. The road conditions here are partly extremely sandy, partly muddy and be prepared to work hard to get the jeep unstuck. A strange castle-like rock formation marks the end of the canyon and a short climb takes you up to a small plateau, from where you can see Bonete Grande for the first time. The vehicle can’t go any further than to the Caldera del Inca. Start walking towards a bulky brown gravel-peak on the right hand side of the Caldera. In order to avoid too much elevation loss in the deep and steep valley ahead, walk 30 degrees right/west. The small river on the bottom of the valley is a good source of water. When up on the other side of the valley, continue in between the small peaks, and head for Bonete Grande, which is now visible again. There are many small lakes fed by glaciers after an hour’s walk and this is a good place for setting up base camp. This area is of high elevation, so you have to be acclimatized for at least 5500m.

It is not advisable to make the journey from Villa Union directly to Laguna Brava, let alone to Caldera del Inca if not acclimatized as the former is at 4300m. Count on a full day of rough travel from Villa Union

Red Tape

Bonete Grande and a lot of...
Bonete Grande seen from Pissis

The police want you to register in Villa Union, Vincina and Jagüe. Free of cost. You do need to pay the entrance fee to Laguna Brava National Park in Jagüe Park HQ, which is located next to the road and there is a barrier over the road, so you can’t miss it.

Fees for Laguna Verde NP - 2005:
  • Argentinean citizens from La Rioja province - 10 Arg. Pesos.
  • Argentinean citizens from all other provinces - 25 Arg. Pesos.
  • Foreigners - 50 Arg. Pesos.
  • If you arrive in your own car, a 10 Arg. Pesos/day fee has to be paid.
  • There are other fees, but these are the ones relevant for mountaineers.
  • No peak fees.

    1 Arg. Peso = USD 0.3 - 2005 03 30
  • When To Climb

    Scary. <br />
Crevasses and...
    Crevasses hidden under sand

    The normal months for climbing are late November to late March. The reason for these to be the most suitable months is the higher temperatures and in general the weather is more stabile. Some propose to rather go in the colder months of April, May and even June because it's easier to find water then. Personally, I don't think it was that hard to find water and that the southern hemisphere's summer months is the preferable time to go.

    One thing to consider when going to a peak like Bonete Grande is that most tour organizers don't operate in the winter, early fall or late fall. So, of you want to try this peak in the off-season, you may have to there all on your own or make a special deal with a person with a sturdy 4W-drive.


    Camping is allowed everywhere in the park. There are some old Refugios (huts) along the main road. They were built in 1873 by the legendary president Sarmiento and deserve a visit, even if they are inconveniently located for mountaineering purposes. The architecture of the huts is something I've never seen before. They are all made by rocks and nothing else. Very nice "architecture".
    A tent with storm/snow mats is of help as the ground can be very hard. Rock pegs instead of normal ones are also recommended.

    Mountain Conditions

    The views from 5850m on...
    Views from up high

    It's very difficult to find any info about the conditions on the actual mountain and any area close to it. The best source is to make a phone call to the customs officers in Barrancas Blancas border post. They are the only population remotely close to the peak and keep good track of the weather forecast. I have lost the phone number, but ask in the Park HQ in Jagüe. They are happy to make a call for you and the same goes for the police in Vincina.

    The Name

    Caldera del Inca - the...
    The Caldera

    I have asked a lot of people why it's called Bonete Grande - the Big Bonete. It would have been an ok name unless there had been a huge mountain not far away called Bonete Chico - the Little Bonete. There is no doubt about which of the two mountains the small are and the big either. Chico is 6759 meters and a massive peak in all aspects. Grande is 5942 meters and a blade-like steep little thing, so there is no way a mistake of that kind has been made.

    Johan Reinhard, who made some research in the area proposed to re-name the peak to Peñas Azules and at least some authorities have started to use this very suitable name. I choose to use the old and most known name, at least until I see an official map using the new, more logical name. If anyone has any info about this mystery; please drop me a line.


    Bonete Grande seen from my...
    Going up

    The Puna is one of earth's driest places and sources of water are not so easy to find. To play it safe; fill up all your reserves whenever you have the chance. Here are some important locations for water. All directions supposing you're heading north.

  • Punta del Agua - You can get water from the personal in the little settlement. There is also a river on the left hand side of the road. This river continues almost all the way to Refugio El Peñón, but some of the arms of the river are quite salty.
  • Refugio El Peñón - Roughly 150m before the hut, there is a pipe coming straight out of the sandy mountain side. It is just beside the road. Fresh and nice water.
  • At the northern end of Laguna Brava there is a man-made basin. It is quite large and separated from the salty lagoon. This water is sweet, but it has a strange and stale taste. We tried to find someone to ask about the quality of the water, but got no answers. If not getting an ok from someone who knows this source of water, I would only think of it as emergency water.
  • Refugio Laguna Brava - You may find water here, but don't count on it. I was told most motorists who go there leave as much water they dare here, in order to help out other travellers who may not have any. When I was there, about 20 litres of water in plastic bottles were found inside the hut.
  • Refugio Veladero - Same as above. There may be some bottles of water inside the hut. When I was there, I found half a litre of old water.
  • If you for some reason don’t have enough water before entering the narrow part of the canyon, head for Cerro Veladero. On the western side of the peak you’ll see snowfields and glaciers. See Arroyo Veladero in table below.
  • Approximately 30 km from the main road, in the valley leading to the peak, you’ll find snow fields and water in the evenings. Morning time and most of the day, you have to head another couple of km north/up-canyon to find water.
  • The closer you get to the Bonete Grande, the easier to find water. This is becuase of the increasing altitude and therefore the more frequent snow-, and icefields, penitentes and small glaciers. There are also some small fresh water springs in the area of Bonete Grande.

    Useful GPS Waypoints

    Altitudes should be +/- 20m. Some of the waypoints are off the normal route to the mountain. We went a bit too far west because we wanted to play it safe with the water. More snow and small glaciers closer to Veladero. If you approach the peak in jeep you will not have this potential problem. The waypoints off route are in italic. A jeep can normally take you to at least the fifth entry from the bottom; “snowfield”. In the summer, it may be possible to go to entry; “Camp 12” and a bit beyond.


    Lattitude S

    Longitude W



    Villa Union




    Decent size city





    Small town

    30 km




    Road better again

    Camp 6




    No water





    Water in creek W

    Punta de Agua




    Settlement, water

    Camp 7




    Water nearby

    El Peñón





    Water finished




    No more water in river





    Nice views

    Camp 8




    No water

    Turn off




    Go left, dead end right

    Turn off




    To ref. L. Brava

    Ref. Veladero





    Camp 9




    No water

    Arroyo Veladero




    Snow further up





    Don´t count on it





    Good fresh water





    Off the normal route. Water.

    Good Camp




    Fresh water. Wind protection.

    Camp 13




    Past Bonete G. Water, shelter

    Peak list & links

    The most correct peak list for the peaks of the Puna and South America in general is John Biggar's list. It is well researched and updated if new data arrives. The only problem with it (personal opinion) is the prominence limit, which is set at a high 400m. I have therefore choosen to also link to sub-list with some peaks which almost qualified for the main list.

  • Jonson Reynoso can arrange transport to the peak and is considered the expert of the area.
  • Main list 6000m peaks.
  • Sub list, with peaks over 6000m, but with prominence less than 400m.
  • Dry Andes A scientific site about the area.

  • Children


    Children refers to the set of objects that logically fall under a given object. For example, the Aconcagua mountain page is a child of the 'Aconcagua Group' and the 'Seven Summits.' The Aconcagua mountain itself has many routes, photos, and trip reports as children.



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    Puna de AtacamaMountains & Rocks