Chile 2017 – Ojos Del Salado

Mars Analog Expedition

February 1 – 15, 2017

Join Science in the Wild as we make our way to the top of the world’s highest active volcano: Ojos del Salado (6,890 m/22,605 ft.)! During this unique expedition, we will be visiting Martian analog sites used by NASA and ESA scientists. While we travel through Chile’s Atacama desert, we’ll follow in the ‘wheel prints’ of prototype Mars rovers, as they searched for signs of microbial life in the soil. At Laguna Verde, we’ll get to soak in some hot springs, while also investigating the quality of the briny water. Finally, as we ascend the volcano, keep your eyes peeled for rocks with interesting light-colored coatings – these are signs of weathering and excellent analogs to rocks found in the volcanic terrain of Mars.

WILD option: For those interested in exploring the Atacama Desert, Laguna Santa Rosa and Laguna Verde with us, please join from February 1 – 9, 2017. You’ll get to ‘rove’ the desert, soak in hot springs, learn about and use our state-of-the-art technology, and make discoveries for yourself regarding rock, soil and water properties in this arid alien landscape.

Includes: hotels in Santiago and Copiapo (single supplements apply) at start and end of trip; private 4WD transport to/from volcano; 3 meals/day, tea and tents on trail and volcano summit attempt; park entrance and climbing permits/fees.

Excludes: international airfare, excess baggage fees (international), meals on travel days, visa (if needed), gear rental, rescue insurance, helicopter, alcoholic beverages, guide tips.

As a citizen-scientist participant, you’ll help us sample and measure soil, water, and volcanic rock properties, learning how this unique terrain on Earth serves as an excellent analog to Mars. As the air gets thinner and thinner, you’ll gain an appreciation for working in difficult and dusty conditions, similar to what astronauts may someday experience on Mars – though we won’t need spacesuits up here!

We look forward to taking you on this unique journey to the top of the (volcanic) world.


Trip Itinerary

February 1 - Travel Day

Please plan to arrive from your home country to Santiago, Chile today. If transferring from Aconcagua, we will fly from Mendoza, Argentina. Overnight in a 3 or 4-star hotel.

February 2 - Copiapo

Today the group will fly from Santiago to the small city of Copiapo (390 m/1,280 ft.). We will do a gear check and have an evening discussion about the science and climbing ahead, including some equipment demos. Overnight in a local hotel.

February 3 - Valle Chico

We will drive from the city of Copiapo to Valle Chico (3000 m/9,843 ft.) today and start our acclimatization process. In the evening, we’ll chat about Earth and Mars while camping under the beautiful southern sky in this arid alien landscape.

February 4 - Atacama Desert

We will ‘rove’ along the Atacama desert today, stopping a few times to measure soil and rock properties and collect samples for  laboratory investigation. Try your hand at rock and mineral identification using standard geology tools like a rock hammer, hand lens (magnifying glass), and mineral guide sheet. Then, validate your guesses using a handheld portable spectrometer built specifically to identify primary and secondary (alteration) minerals in rocks.

February 5 - Atacama and Laguna Santa Rosa

We will wrap up our work in the desert today and head to the Laguna Santa Rosa (3700 m/12,139 ft.) in Nevado Tres Cruces National Park. If we’re lucky, we’ll spot some flamingos and vicuñas!

February 6 - Laguna Santa Rosa

Today we’ll do an acclimatization trek in Salar de Maricunga, nearby to Laguna Santa Rosa. On the science side, we will do some water sampling and measurements in the lake, investigating pH, heavy metals presence, and bacteria.

February 7 - Laguna Verde

We’ll make our way over to the gorgeous Laguna Verde (4350 m/14,272 ft.) for continued acclimatization and science exploration today. We will be able to compare what we find here (pH, heavy metals, and bacteria) with results from Laguna Santa Rosa. To continue with our acclimatization, we will attempt to go up as far as we can on Mulas Muertas (5,897 m/19,347 ft.)


February 8 - Atacama Refuge

Today we will drive to our base camp at Atacama Refuge (5255 m/17,240 ft.), crossing beautiful sand flats and steep rocky slopes of surrounding mountains. The rest of the day will be spent resting and repacking for a gear drop tomorrow at Camp 1.

February 9 - Tejos Refuge and return

Today we will carry and cache some of our gear on an acclimatization hike to 5825 m/19,110 ft. at the Tejos Refuge (Camp 1). On the way back, we’ll collect any interesting rocks we find, to study with our portable spectrometer at base camp.

February 10 - Rest day

Today is a mandatory rest day at base camp before we attempt the summit. We’ll spend part of the day working on science, studying our rocks and soils collected from the stretch of trail from base camp to Camp 1.

February 11 - Camp 1 - Tejos Refuge

Today we make the hike back up to Tejos Refuge (5825 m/19,110 ft.), carrying the rest of our gear up to our cache. We’ll go to sleep early, given an early rise in the morning for our summit attempt.

February 12 - Summit Day

Today is the day! Depending on the cold and wind, we’ll get up between 3-5 AM and climb our way to the summit of the world’s highest active volcano. This is easy scrambling/climbing with the last short section before the summit requiring harness and fixed rope. We’ll take photos, measurements and samples of rocks and soils from the summit and as we descend back to Camp 1.

February 13 - Extra summit day

Today is reserved as an extra day for weather. Else, we will head back to Copiapo on this day (6-8 hours driving).

February 14 - Copiapo

We’ll spend the day resting in Copiapo or driving back from Ojos Del Salado base camp.

February 15 - Santiago and Departure

Today we’ll fly back to Santiago, have a celebratory group dinner, overnight in a hotel, and prepare for international departure. Please do not book outbound flights any sooner than today.

Ok, I'm interested, what do I do now?

Send us an email or give us a call to register your interest. We’ll provide you with a more detailed itinerary, route map, equipment list and required medical forms.

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