The Puna de Atacama is a high plateau with a height of mostly over 4.000 m over sea level. This plateau is approx. 300 kilometres wide and extends from south Bolivia and north Chile into the northwest of Argentina. There are many mountains over 6.000 m, but also very interesting 5.000 summits, e.g. the dos Conos at the Paso de San Francisco. The few of these mountains have permanent snow.
The largest problems of climbing are the extreme isolation, the water shortage at most mountains and durable and unpleasant cold weather as well as the violent, continuous wind. All these points should not be underestimated with a climbing.
Since the high plateau of the Puna de Atacama, as previously mentioned, is itself on a height of at least 4.000 m, it is advisable to be acclimatised in other places before entering this region. Who enters via Santiago de Chile, has to do this best conditions around the capital.
Cerro Veladero NE, also known as Cerro Baboso, is laying only few kilometres west of Cerro Bonete in the Puna de Atacama. Its isolation and the little name recognition are surely the reasons for the fact that this mountain is climbed so rarely. The mountain world is unique around the Laguna Brava, which lies untouched in a volcanic high mountain landscape.
Cerro Veladero NE is attainable from the two largest, international airports of the region Santiago de Chile and Buenos Aires.
From Santiago there are several times daily bus connections to Mendoza, (approx. 7 hours), which can be fully booked in the high season in December or January days in advance, however.
That approx. 150 kilometres distant San Juan can be attained likewise very well with buses. At the latest here one should supply oneself with food supply. Numerous supermarkets have a rich offer; actually one will miss nothing. Also one should carry sufficient quantities of water, since it can be very dry at Laguna Brava and one meets only occasionally clean drinking water and/or snowfields.
The access to the Cerro Veladero NE does not become so simple. Either one confide oneself in an agency, which represents the more comfortable and safe variant with security. As alternative one can rent a car (4x4) in Mendoza or San Juan and drive on own risk into the region around the Laguna Brava. The advantage is that one is independent and not under time pressure.
One leaves San Juan on the 40 in northern direction to San José de Jáchal, then further via Villa Unión to Vinchina. At the city limit is the last gas station before the mountains. From here one continues to drive to Jagüé.
One flies via Buenos Aires to La Rioja. Over Nonogasta and Villa Unión one reaches Jagüé.
In Jagüé one passes first the police post, where one will be registered. One continues some hundred meters to come to the control post of the Reserva de Vicuña Laguna Brava. Here one pays a fee of 50 Pesos (13.70 Euro, conditions February 2005) per person as well as 15 Pesos (4.10 Euro) daily for the car.
On good road one arrives at the Refugio del Peñon, which can serve as base for the first acclimatisation tour. On the road, which leads across the Paso de Pircas Negras towards Copiapó, Chile, one drives through an impressive mountain landscape to the Laguna Brava.
The Refugio Laguna Brava is suitable as starting point for further acclimatisation. E.g. one can climb Cerro Morado or Cerro Fandango.
From the Refugio one drives further toward the Paso de Pircas Negras. After 8,9 km one turns to the right into the broad valley of the Río Veladero. After further 25 km one reaches the starting point for climbing the Cerro Veladero NE. Here one can establish a camp in front of an enormous rock barrier.
Either one flies to Santiago, in order to acclimatise oneself here somewhat, or one continues to fly right to Copiapó, an oasis in the midst of the arid coastal strip of Chile.
Also several buses drive several times daily from Santiago to Copiapó. It is recommended to take one of the many night buses.
From Copiapó drive by car (rented or with an agency) over the Paso de Pircas Negras and further to the valley of the Río Veladero.
In Jagüé a fee must be paid by 50 Pesos (13.70 Euro, conditions February 2005) per person as well as 15 Pesos (4.10 Euro) daily for the car at the control post of the Reserva de Vicuña Laguna Brava.
When To Climb
The best time for climbing is the southern summer, i.e. from December to February.
Camping is possible at each place.
One leaves the base camp in northwestern direction and climbs over scree at the edge of the enormous rock barrier with enormous ashlars till one reaches a pass. Further to west-northwest to the northern foot of the summit ridge. Over steep rubble or snow fields on the ridge to the summit.
The Cerro Veladero NE climb concerns simply high mountain climbing. Only at the summit ridge a steep edge must be overcome, with crushed stone as well as snow and ice. Crampons are not necessary usually.
Even if no large, technical demand is made against the mountain climber, one should not underestimate also this mountain. Because of its isolation and inviolacy in case of emergency assistance can arrive only after days.