South America 3 Peaks Expedition – Phase 1: Acclimatisation, Cerro Bertrand

The South America 3 Peaks Expedition took place in Dec 2013/Jan 2014. Carolina Morales, David Kenealy and I spent 35 days in the Puna de Atacama and High Andes of northern Argentina and attempted to climb Monte Pissis (6,795m), Ojos del Salado (6,893m) & Aconcagua (6,959m). The expedition was also the third leg of my long-term project to climb the Triple 7 Summits; the 3 highest peaks on each continent.

The first phase of the expedition was a 9-day acclimatization phase, where we would attempt to climb 4 peaks over 4,000m.

Cerro Bertrand – 5,300m

The day after climbing Falso Morocho, I attempted to reach the third objective of the acclimatisation program: 5,300m volcano Cerro Bertrand. Meanwhile, Caro rested at Las Grutas and Dave finally arrived today after receiving his luggage. Although Bertrand looks close from the refuge, it’s actually a 25km return trek to the summit and back. With the local guide, I climbed 1,300m and covered the 25km to the summit and back in only 8.5 hours, indicating that I was acclimatising well to the thin air, and that my fitness level was good. At the summit there is a spectacular 4.5km diameter crater, which is 300m deep, and provides stunning summit views. Like other peaks in the area, the first ascents of Cerro Bertrand were made by the Incas at the end of the 15th century, which we know thanks to the remains found close to the top; just a few metres from the peak, a simple circular structure of rocks against a rock was found, for protection against the wind. The following day, both Dave and Caro attempted to reach the Balcon del Bertrand (the shoulder of Bertrand), rather than exert themselves by going for the summit. This shortens both the altitude (5,000m) and the distance (18km) considerably. I joined them both up to 4,700m to help my acclimatisation.

You can listen to Dave’s post-ascent message and satphone update below:

At the end of this day, we visited the nearby natural thermals for a relaxing soak, and then enjoyed a typical Argentinean ‘asado’, or barbecue, in the refuge at Las Grutas. The next day was a rest day for our tired bodies, to prepare us for our first 6,000m peak, and the final acclimatisation peak in Phase 1 – San Francisco (6,016m).

You can read the story of the whole expedition in the official Expedition Report below, which is also available for download: