Climbing the Chachani volcano with an altitude of 6075 meters is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Not many people have been on a mountain higher than 6000 meters. If you live in Arequipa and prepare yourself a bit, you can make this dream of many mountain-lovers come true.
The Chachani is said to be one of the world’s “easiest” 6000-meter mountains, as you don’t need technical skills nor ice-crampons to climb it. However, to reach the top of this beautiful volcano you need physical fitness, proper acclimatization and a strong will.
Preparation and Acclimatization
When you live in Arequipa at an altitude of 2300 meters and you do sports regularly, you are already on the best way to acclimatization. A few weeks before the big adventure we went running more regularly to prepare ourselves. One week before the hike, we did an acclimatization trip at 5300 meters, hiking around the Mirador de los Volcanes in Patapampa. We felt ready for the adventure!
Hiking the Chachani: Day 1
On the first day, we got picked up by our guide German at 7 in the morning from our accommodation. As we were driving closer to the Chachani in a four-wheel jeep, we were getting higher and higher and more and more excited. During two short acclimatization breaks at 4000 meters and 4600 meters, we got a first glimpse of the beauty of the surrounding landscapes and were greeted by a wild Vicuña and her baby.
After around 2 hours we reached the end of the dirt road at 5000 meters. The beautiful landscape reminded us of the famous rainbow mountains around Cusco. We started the hike with our 15-kilo heavy backpacks, as we carried 5 litres of water per person as well as our tents, mats and sleeping bags. The hike started quite easy, the only hard part was a short climb over huge rocks with the heavy backpacks. After around 2 hours we reached the Chachani basecamp at 5300 meters where we set up our tents and enjoyed the spectacular surroundings. Our guide German cooked a delicious dinner and at around 5.30 we went into our tents already, as it started to get really cold.
Hiking the Chachani: The night
As it got dark, we went inside the tents wearing all our clothes. Because of the high altitude and the cold, nobody could sleep, so we stayed awake until breakfast at 1 in the morning. Luckily, no one of us got sick of the altitude! We were cold all night long, but nothing prepared us for the sharp cold when crawling out of our (icy!) tent in the middle of the night. At around -15 degrees we were shivering while having a quick breakfast before starting our ascent on the Chachani volcano.
Hiking the Chachani: Day 2
To prevent us from getting altitude sickness, our guide German started the hike with a slow pace. Consequently, we did not get warm during the hike but, as a contrary, it got colder and colder the higher we got. Our water bottles froze and I was constantly shivering and could not feel my fingers anymore. In addition to that, one of us got altitude sickness, so we continued with the slow pace, putting one step after the other, following our guide. We hoped it would get warmer as soon as the sun rises but with the rising sun, the icy wind also got stronger, so it got even colder. However, the view of the surrounding mountains in the morning light was spectacular!
The higher we got, the slower we moved forward. We were constantly chewing Coca leaves as they are supposed to help against altitude sickness. We finally reached the top after long and cold 6 hours of hiking. The breath-taking view mixed with the proud feeling of standing on over 6000 meters was definitely worth all the suffering! Hiking back down was fast and fun, as we slid down the sand like skiing.
Conclusions and tips
With a good physical fitness and proper acclimatization, the Chachani is definitely doable and a great experience! However, we do not recommend hiking in the winter months (June-August), as it was way too cold. If you do, take your own professional high-mountain equipment instead of renting it locally. All in all, we are happy and proud of our achievement and will remember this experience probably for the rest of our lives!