South America 3 Peaks Expedition – Phase 1: Acclimatisation, Falso Morocho

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.

Falso Morocho – 4,500m

After a second night in Pastos Largos, we drove to Las Grutas refuge at 4,000m to continue our acclimatisation program. We stamped out of Argentina at the nearby border crossing, but did not officially enter Chile – since the Chilean border post is another 100km down the Paso de San Francisco.

You can watch my ipadio video blog below:

You can listen to my pre-ascent New Year message and satphone update below:

Falso Morocho was another easy high-altitude trek that took us just a few hours and helped our bodies adjust to the thin air in the high plateau of the Puna de Atacama – at 4,500m, the atmospheric pressure is only 58%, compared to 100% at sea level. It was another hot and clear day, and the views across the Laguna San Francisco were spectacular. We rested on the summit for more than an hour to gain maximum benefit from being at 4,500m, before descending down towards the laguna. On one of the small soda lakes, there was a large flock of flamingoes, and we tried to approach carefully in order to photograph them without disturbing them – but they scrambled out of the water and circled over our heads.

Meanwhile, Dave had received his bags from KLM and had transferred from La Rioja to Fiambala, and would now join us the following day.



The refuge was empty when we arrived, but soon filled up with a large group from the Catamarca Mountaineering Association and several itinerant long-distance cyclists. The mountain scenery around the refuge was extraordinary, with several 6,000m+ peaks visible, including Incahuasi, El Muerto, Chucula and San Francisco, which would be the final objective of our acclimatisation phase. Vicunas and guanacos roamed across the Puna, and we spotted several Andean condors soaring high overhead.

You can listen to Caro’s satphone update after our ascent – in Spanish – below.

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

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