This was our favourite mountain on our trip to the Puna. Seldom climbed despite the fact it is the 9th highest in the Andes it has a fascinating summit – a jumble of rocky pinnacles which look like some post-apocalyptic scene.
It was a nice 2 hour stroll from El Arenal to get to our basecamp at 5,700m on the northeast side of the mountain. Most of the climbing was done right at the beginning as we went up a small valley, then there is a 2-3km long plateau to cross to get to the base of a canaleta with a small stream in it next to which we pitched our tent.
In the morning we followed this canaleta up to a penitente field by a red coloured little lake at 5,980m, then headed a bit to the right on easy ground to make it to the large canaleta that comes down from between Cazadero’s two highest peaks. We followed this, past a few penitentes fields but walking all on sand/rocks until we were near the shoulder between the main summit and the secondary hump to the SE. Here we turned right/NW up steep boulder slopes towards the summit. Most of the rocks/boulders are firmly in place, but a few are loose so we had to watch where we were treading.
When we made it to the summit area we spent a little while confused as to where the actual top was. Rocky pinnacles everywhere and it seemed like it might take a while to work out which was the highest. Fortunately, from the first one that Neil climbed up it was obvious which the highest was, so we were able to scramble up there and leave an old credit card in the plastic bag of testimonios.
There were views of Nacimiento to the south, Tres Cruces to the west, Ojos to the north and Incahuasi to the northeast, as well as of Pissis to the southwest and all the beautiful couloured lakes near it. We’d felt good on the climb and it took 4 1/2 hours to climb the 1,000 vertical metres from our basecamp to the summit. The descent was also nice and quick and in less than 2 hours we were packing up our tent and returning to the ‘lowlands’ at El Arenal.
Some GPS points
|El Arenal south basecamp||27.15916 S||68.50412 W||5,496m|
|Cazadero/Walter Penck high camp||27.17818 S||68.53392 W||5,693m|
|Near red lake||27.18518 S||68.53726 W||5,983m|
|In canaleta||27.18821 S||68.54209 W||6,134m|
|Cazadero/Walter Penck Summit||27.19626 S||68.56070 W||6,684m|