29-Apr-2006 -- The confluence: On the western slope of a line of volcanoes and mountains that runs from Volcan Licancabur to the North to Volcan Lascar to the South, at an approximate altitude of 2950m, facing the Salar de Atacama, about 30 Km southeast of the town of San Pedro de Atacama, Region II,(Antofagasta).
Following previous attempt visitor's instructions, and trying to avoid the problems they mentioned, we developed a new strategy. On route Ch23, road from San Pedro de Atacama to Toconao there is a left side road leading to a gas pipeline valve station. (See track map)Just before arriving to this station, a trail that we had glimpsed in Google Earth, which beginning has been erased by rain washouts goes up in a straight line to the mountains. Unfortunately this trail was cut by rain rushing down a canyon, some 5 Km up from the fork.
We made the rest of the journey walking up the slope, trying to follow ancient trails from local shepherds, who marked their way with rock piles, locally called "Apachetas". The trail we followed, we had previously studied looking at the Google Earth local photos, trying to make a diagonal route from where we left the vehicle to the confluence point. We had figured out previously which were the canyons to avoid crossing.
Luckily our route choice was correct as the crossing place of the canyons we had had anticipated were rather easy. In some places they are too deep and impossible to cross.
We started the journey from our base in the ALMA Camp around 7:30 AM and by 9:00 we were walking up the slope, until around 12:00 AM in which we arrived to the confluence. Our selected route was 9,7 Km. to walk up and close to 500 m climbing. Total tour, close to 20 Km, so consider 5 to 6 hours walking.
(Visit N° 3 description starting from San Pedro and our trip are the ways to reach the point)
Be sure to wear appropriate shoes and take a lot of water with you. The whole trail is volcanic rock, with sharp edges. Sun protection and hat are needed.
There is no rescue alternative in case of an accident, so it is important to travel in groups. Mobile phone signal is always available from the nearby town of San Pedro.