Incahuasi from summit of El Muerto
The peak is famous for its many archeological sites and close to the peak's summit you'll find the second highest in the world, only beaten by the Inca altar on top of Llullaillaco (6739m). Most other mountains in the Puna can be climbed along almost any line, but Incahuasi is relatively steep on all sides and you have to take a good look at the peak before you start climbing. The most common route is the north ridge, which is mostly a long scramble. Itï¿½s a border peak on the Argentinian - Chilean border close to the high border pass San Francisco. There are excellent views of both the southern Puna with some of the Andesï¿½ highest peaks (Ojos del Salado, Pissis, Cazadero, Tres Cruces etc.) and middle Puna with El Condor, Laudo and Ermitaï¿½o.
The Lower Marmot adds:
A little bit of random information that you may or may not have use for--huasi is Quechua (the language of the Incas which is still spoken throughout much of South America) for house.
There are no public transport further north than Fiambalï¿½. A taxi cost 1 Argentinian Peso/km, which equals 0.3 US$ (March 2005). Itï¿½s about 200km from Fiambalï¿½ to Las Grutas. Itï¿½s also very easy to hitchhike. This is a dry and desolate area and all cars stop. From Las Grutas border post you walk towards the mountainï¿½s E side. Itï¿½s about 15 km/3-3,5h walk on a sandy jeep road. Youï¿½ll pass small salty lagoons with flamingoes. The Base Camp is usually inhabited with archeologists during the warmer months and therefore easy to find. In the off season youï¿½ll easily find it anyway because there are lots of old tent platforms. Bring water for two days as you will not find any water until 5000m. If youï¿½re a strong walker and acclimatized you can reach that far in one day, but itï¿½s a long walk. The jeep road continues about 3 km past the base camp and when it does, you just continue towards the peakï¿½s prominent north ridge if you wanna climb the normal route.
If you want to hitchhike on the road from Fiambala to the border bring enough time. We stayed 8 days in Las Grutas and we had days where no car went in either direction although the conditions were perfect. Count on max. 10 cars in each direction but the average is 4 or 5. Good luck!
My comment on this:
As Gehlhaar says, there's very little traffic but I think almost every car stops in these desolate places. It's like an unwritten law. I hitched with a fully loaded touring bike and the first car stopped and brought me to Fiambalï¿½. Another time when I left from Las Grutas, also with by bike I also got a hitch with the first car. I can imagine it to be harder to hitch from
Maybe I was lucky, but it's for sure an alternative.
I did a lot of hitchiking on this road and generally it worked out well. First from Fiambala I waited 1hour 1/2 and arrived at Las Grutas refuge. Back to Fiambala I waited only 5 minutes. Second time from Fiambala I waited an entire 9 hour day and nothing, the next morning I met someone in my hotel that was going. From 28km from Las Grutas I waited an entire day, 2 cars passed and 2 Swiss mountaneers with an empty pickup passed by( couldnt believe it, thanks guys) I then walked 15km until the aduana(customs officers) picked me up and brought meto Las Grutas. I got a ride to the refuge at Paso San francisco by some hikers heading for Cerro San Francisco, getting back to Las grutas I was lucky but its a bad place to wait because you cant see cars coming from inside the refuge(if the wind is blowing hard you dont want to hang around outside)later I waited 9 hours to get to Chile, only 1 car passed by Las grutas and then finally a Chilain family drove me right to Copiapo.
With the right atitude hitchhiking is very fun. There is a nice tree with shade at the edge of Fiambala for waiting so bring abook and a bagof grapes and chill out. Waiting in Las Grutas is relaxing and youcant miss a car from the front porch because they all stop at the Aduana. Waiting an entire day in the middle of nowhere in harsh wind and blowing sand is not as fun but I sortof enjoyed itanyway.
What Im saying is that if there are other mountaneers like me with more mountains than money this is a great area to do cheap, and get a lttle extra satisfaction from climbing each peak right from the road. All the roads going up the mountains really dont help the asthetic and wild unclimbed appeal Also its ecological, just asmuch as biking. Have fun and bring an enormous amount of water.
No peak fee. You have to register at the police station when you leave Fiambalï¿½. Coming from the town center, itï¿½s located 2 km past the bus station. When you arrive in Las Grutas border post, you also have to register there and give the custom officers a time schedule for your climb. Itï¿½s strictly forbidden to touch or remove anything at the archeological sites.
When To Climb
The normal climbing season is from early December to late March. This is a very dry mountain, even more so than many other places on the Puna and some people would say it may be better to deal with the cold a bit later in the season than going when itï¿½s really hard to find water.
Free camping everywhere in the area. Itï¿½s hard to find a camp spot with running water. I donï¿½t know of any streams at all. Snow and ice to melt starts at about 5000m.
If you arrive to Las Grutas late, it's no problem. One of the main buildings is a restaurant and hostel. It's basic, cheap and friendly. Expect to pay about US$2/night.
If you need help with transport, renting some gear, info etc - contact Jonson Reynoso in Fiambalï¿½. Jonson has lots of photos, maps and a limited amount of equipment for rent. He can also organize transport to Incahuasi and all the other peaks in the area.
On the web:AndesTravesias.
In Fiambalï¿½ on the corner of the plaza, in a small TV-shop. Big signs saying "DirectTV" all over the shop walls.
Mountain ConditionsThe best ways to find out about the weather forecast is to ask the customs officers in Las Grutas. During the climbing season there are archeologists on the mountain, usually at a camp in between Cerro San Francisco and Incahuasi. Pay them a visit and ask about weather patterns and if they have any fresh weather forecast. They have usually been in the area for some time and are good at predicting the weather.
Fiambalï¿½A pleasant little town which is the perfect base for Incahuasi. All provisions can be bought here. When tired after climbing in the dry Puna, go to the wonderful bath in the thermals 15km away from Fiambalï¿½.
There is a municipal hotel and three hostels/hospedajes in town. You can also camp or stay in a small guest house at the thermals. There are a couple of restaurants in town, of which Pizzeria Roma is the best.
GPS and more numbersBase camp - 26*58'676 68*14'665 4313m
Camp I - 27*00'245 68*17'521 5280m
It's the 12'th highest peak in South America.
The GPS had a larger discrepancy on Incahuasi than on most other peaks. The archeologists also measured the peak to an elevation over 6650m. The highest 6665m. We had 6653m. It may be one of the peaks attacking the Top Ten South America List. Most other peaks have been measured lower, here it may be the opposite.
More about elevations of South American peaks.