Definitions

Batalla del Salado

Ojos del Salado

Ojos del Salado is a massive stratovolcano in the Andes on the Argentina-Chile border and the highest volcano in the world at . It is also the second highest mountain in the Western Hemisphere and the highest in Chile. It is located about north of Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the Western Hemisphere at .

Due to its location near the Atacama desert, the mountain has very dry conditions with snow only remaining on the peak during winter. Despite the generally dry conditions, there is a permanent crater lake about in diameter at an elevation of on the eastern side of Ojos del Salado. This is most likely the highest lake of any kind in the world.

The ascent of Ojos del Salado is mostly a hike except for the final section to the summit which is a difficult scramble that may require ropes. The first ascent was made in 1937 by Jan Alfred Szczepański and Justyn Wojsznis, members of a Polish andinist expedition.

Volcanic activity

There is no doubt that Ojos del Salado is a recently active volcano, but the question of whether it should be considered currently (or "historically") active is arguable. According to the Smithsonian Institution's Global Volcanism Program, the most recent known eruption was around 1300 years ago, with large error bars. However, there is also some evidence for a minor ash emission in 1993, which would definitely qualify the volcano as historically active. The presence of fumaroles high on the mountain and recent-looking lava flows, albeit of uncertain age, also argues in favor of a categorization as "active." By these definitions Ojos del Salado is the highest historically active volcano on earth. If the older date is accepted, the title of "highest historically active volcano" might reside instead with the somewhat lower Llullaillaco volcano, which certainly has erupted in historic times (most recently in 1877) and should still be considered active. Definitions of "active" being themselves controversial and somewhat arbitrary, the point is mainly of trivial interest.

Elevation

The elevation of Ojos del Salado has been the subject of debate. Contrary to widely reproduced claims made by Argentine authorities in 1994, which still appear in some maps, publications and websites, Ojos del Salado is about higher than Argentina's nearby Monte Pissis (6,793 m).

A claim in Andes magazine in 2006 that Ojos del Salado may be higher than Aconcagua, Argentina, was based on older surveys that used inaccurate methods. The results of these older surveys assigned Ojos del Salado an elevation of , which would have made it nearly higher than Aconcagua. In fact, as early as 1955, an estimate was made that the elevation of Ojos del Salado was , but that was "simply an estimate based on the altitude of the final camp, and the hours of ascent to the summit."

In 2007, a Chilean-European expedition performed a precise survey on both Ojos del Salado and Monte Pissis, using more accurate instruments. It found the former to be 6,891 m and the latter 6,793 m. This is slightly lower than recent hand held Global Positioning System (GPS) surveys, which have put it at 6,900–6,905 m (22,630–22,650 ft), though within the vertical error margin of the GPS system.

Two summit peaks

There are two summit peaks; one, which is slightly higher but by no more than a metre, is known as the "Chilean summit"; the other, which is more substantial, is known as the "Argentine summit". These are so named because they are usually climbed from the Chilean and Argentine sides respectively, although the international border passes over both peaks. There is a short distance but steep and dangerous drop between the two peaks, so it is unusual for climbers to reach them both.

Motorized ascent

On Saturday, April 21, 2007, Chileans Gonzalo Bravo G. and his co-driver, Eduardo Canales Moya, claimed to have broken the New High Altitude World Record aboard a vehicle on Ojos del Salado, reaching in altitude, claiming a new Guinness record for Chile, surpassing the mark imposed by a German expedition during the previous March. (The three previous Guinness records were achieved by German expeditions in the same volcano, which, with larger budgets, had set the previous record of .

This record was duly certified by the Guinness World Record on July 2007.

The vehicle used by this expedition was a heavily modified Suzuki SJ (named Suzuki Samurai for the Chilean market) by Bravo. This included: engine swap, axles and suspension modification and important additional equipment such as Air Locker differential , supercharger and a special computer for Air/Fuel modification, among others. The route was planned on the basis of cartography, photographs, satellite images, advice from expert climbers of the volcano, and the routes followed by previous expeditions.

Besides the height and the oxygen shortage, the most significant difficulty in achieving the goal was the variety of terrain, including large rocks, hard sandy slopes, two glaciers, and snowfields. The 800 metre (½ mile) crossing of the main glacier involved "very technical driving", according to Gonzalo Bravo.

The expedition was notable for having only two participants, without support equipment, and with limited resources, as opposed to previous expeditions with used multiple vehicles, up to 19 participants, and up to €500,000.

See also

References

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