About South America
South America was home of the Inca Empire. At the time of the Spanish conquest in 1532 the Inca Empire extended along the Pacific coast and Andean highlands from the northern border of modern Ecuador to the Maule River in central Chile. Peru is best known as the birthplace of the Inca Empire and home of the mystical ruins of Machu Picchu. The Andes extend from north to south through seven countries: Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina. The Andes are split into several ranges, separated by intermediate depressions. The Andes are the location of several high plateaus, some of which host major cities such as Quito, Bogota, Cali, Arequipa, Medellin, Bucaramanga, Sucre, Merida, El Alto and La Paz. The Altiplano is the second highest plateau in the world after the Tibetan plateau.
The Tropical Andes are located in South America following the path of the Andes. They run mainly through five countries including Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. There are diverse landscapes featuring diverse habitats and the ability to provide needed resources for many species. The diverse landscape includes snow-topped mountains down to canyons and valleys. The different vegetation as altitude changes includes tropical rainforests in the jungle, cloud forests ranging from 800 to 3,500 meters and the highest altitudes of 3,000 to 4,800 meters contain grasslands up to snow. Huascaran (6,768m) in Peru has the distinction of being the highest tropical mountain in the world. The most diverse cloud forests found in Peru and Bolivia covers 500,000 km2. Dry forests and woodlands are also found throughout the Tropical Andes. The range is also home to the deepest gorge in Peru at 3,223 meters deep and Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable water with an altitude of 3,810 meters.
The Wet Andes is a climatic and glaciological subregion of the Andes. Together with the Dry Andes it is one of the two subregions of the Argentine and Chilean Andes. According to Luis Lliboutry, the Wet Andes can be classified after the absence of penitentes. In Argentina, well developed penitentes are found on Aconcagua Mountain and as south as on Lanín Volcano. Another difference is that the Wet Andes is largely devoid of rock glaciers. The glaciers of the Wet Andes have a far more stable line of equilibrium than those of the Dry Andes due to summer precipitations, low thermal oscillations, and an overall high moisture.
Why South America?
South America offers a variety of flora and fauna with its incredible landscape, and the Tropical Andes is an area of rich biodiversity. This location contains about 45,000 plant species of which 20,000 are endemic. There are over 3,000 vertebrate species with about 1,500 that are endemic to the region. Besides plants and vertebrates, 1,666 bird species, 479 reptile species, and 830 amphibian species reside in the Tropical Andes. All hotspots are important for conservation biology, but especially the Tropical Andes with so many endemic species. The biodiversity within the Tropical Andes is full of mountain ranges where you will can explore the plateau that will take you from low to high elevation, to the mountain peaks with sculpted ice ridges, to awe-inspiring glaciers, to beautiful bright turquoise lagoons. The Andes in South America undoubtedly offers impressive scenery and an opportunity to immerse yourself in gorgeous natural landscapes. A wide variety of environments makes it simple to design the perfect trip for anyone.
What will the temperature and climate be like?
Peruvian Andes - Between the months of May and September is the best time to climb during Peru's dry season. Recently, however, the climate has undergone some changes and has been getting some precipitation during this period, as well as some snowy days on the mountains and some rain in the urban centres. This is happening due to global warming resulting in climate change in the highlands and in different altiplanos, when days are clear and spectacularly sunny, with chilly or downright cold nights, especially at high elevations. In general, the temperature is stable. In Huaraz, the epicentre for mountaineers, you can expect temperatures between 2ºC (40ºF) at night and 20ºC (70ºF) during the day. In the mountains and at higher altitude, it will be colder depending on the weather conditions at the time, ranging from -5ºC (23ºF) to -20ºC (-04ºF).
Ecuadorian Andes - As the name suggests, Ecuador is bisected (in the north) by the Equator, the imaginary line that divides the Earth into two halves, and where the day lasts 12 hours throughout the year. Therefore, one would expect an equatorial climate, hot and humid with year-round rains, but this is only true for the eastern part of the country and the northernmost part of the coast, both covered by forests. In fact, the central part is crossed by the Andes and is therefore more or less cold depending on altitude. Average daytime high temperatures range from 84 to 91 °F (29 to 33 °C), while night-time lows fall to between 68 and 75 °F (20 to 24°C). As elevation increases, temperatures drop fairly predictably at a rate of about 9 to 11 °F (5 to 6°C) for every 3,300 feet (1,000 metres). November to February is considered to be the best time for climbing. Cotopaxi can be climbed year round because it creates its own microclimate and has the most number of clear days of all the Ecuadorian mountains.
Colombian Andes - The dry season is December through March, and this is the best time to climb. Due to being high up in the Andes, it is consistently cold on the volcanos year-round, with the temperature range staying between 3°C to -9°C.
Argentinian Andes - The best time to climb is November to February each year, which is during the South American summertime. The only form of precipitation falls mostly as snow at higher altitudes. The climate on Aconcagua changes between periods of bright sunlight with little wind at base camp where there is little or no vegetation and it is dry and cold with temperatures ranging from -15°C to +15°C with relatively warm days where thin layers of clothing can be worn as well as bitterly frozen nights. As a result of bad weather from the south, the Base Camp (Plaza de Mulas) temperature can drop as low as -18°C and up high as -25°C.
Bolivian Andes - The conditions for a mountaineering trip are generally during Spring, early-Autumn, and Summer (April to September). Usually June, July and August are the best months. This period is the Bolivian winter, which is dry and when normally the weather is quite stable with the possibility for fresh snowfalls at times. These seasons provide more pleasant and stable weather conditions and allow mountaineers to avoid heavy snowfalls, extremely cold temperatures, and strong winds.
What can I expect for altitude and how to avoid altitude sickness?
South America’s places are located high in elevation because its backyard starts at 2,500 to 4,000 meters above sea level at the toe of Andean Mountain range. People who are not used to high altitudes may experience a shortness of breath, dizziness, insomnia and loss of appetite as your body adjusts during the first days. All our guided tours and expeditions will take account of a certain period of proper acclimatization before ascending to great heights.
What level of physical fitness is required?
To be able to enjoy your experience, we recommend a good physical preparation: you should be able to run two mountain miles in 20 minutes or less and be in a good condition to hike 10 miles per day. Training should be considered absolutely necessary for anyone about to embark on high altitude mountain treks and it is imperative for all climbs in the Andes. This will be essential for your comfort and success in any of our programs.
What clothing and equipment do I need?
A general clothing and equipment list for all expeditions will be provided to you once we confirm your travel itinerary. For short trips and spending less time in the mountains, you may need less than what you find on the list that we offer. If you have specific questions about your trip for either climbing or hiking, please feel free to contact us.
Should I purchase travel insurance?
International travel insurance is highly recommended due to the risks involved with mountain climbing activities. In South America, costs associated with emergency rescue are not covered as part of logistical costs; hence, guests must be prepared to cover these costs through their own emergency fund or have sufficient insurance coverage. It is recommended that guests purchase both trip cancellation and medical insurance. Ensure that your medical insurance plan adequately covers costs associated with high altitude activities and rescue operations in the event of an emergency.
Should I get vaccinated at a travel clinic before my trip?
Ask your doctor about vaccines being recommended for travellers heading to South American countries. Remember that the places we start are located in the Andean highlands where there are less risks (above 7,550 feet, or 2,300 m). Vaccinations are not required for travel to mountain regions in South America if you do not plan to travel to the Amazon before or after your adventure in the Andes. To stay healthy it is recommended to drink bottled water, to be vigilant of where and what you eat, and to wash your hands frequently. If you have specific health concerns, please let us know.
Will I have access to ATMs or other forms of electronic payment?
Travelling with a large amount of money on hand is not recommended. In the closest cities to our playground zone in the Andes there are different types of ATM machines accepting credit cards like VISA and MASTERCARD. Traveller’s checks are another option, but the possibilities to change them are limited depending on location and time of day. Even if all expenses on your climbing expedition or trek are covered, however, you will be responsible for buying all your meals in the city.
Is it safe in South America?
During the last few years, Peru has made remarkable progress in becoming a stable and friendly place for all visitors. As a traveler, however, you will attract attention: make sure that your valuables are hidden and secured. You should keep your valuable items (wallets, music, cameras) with you at all times and out of sight. Always be alert to watch your luggage. Going out at night, you should keep safe your important documents, cards and cash, or even better, lock them up in a secure place. Always walk through main avenues where there are more people around.
Where can I store my baggage or how will it be transported during trips?
During the hikes and climbs, we use donkeys, llamas, or porters to transport all equipment, gear and food. We recommend to use a daypack large enough to carry your personal needs like water bottles, jacket, camera, etc. For climbing trips you should have a backpack that has enough space for your sleeping bag, clothes and personal items, typically weighing about 10 to 15 kilos. Storage can also be arranged at hotels for extra luggage that is not required during hiking or climbing trips.
How do I arrange transfers to get to meeting destinations in the itinerary?
In Peru, for example, we can arrange your transfer from the airport in Lima to Huaraz and return for all guided trips and expeditions. If you spend the night in Lima we will make a hotel reservation. You will be received personally at the airport in Lima for the transfer to the hotel, as well as for the transfer with the bus to Huaraz. No matter if you are English, French, Italian, Japanese speaking – you will be attended by someone who will be well-informed about the details of your trip. This is the same case for all other countries in South America.
What will the accommodation be like?
We provide clean, friendly and comfortable accommodation in Lima, Huaraz, Ecuador, Bolivia and Argentina for the period or extension of your trip (in-between trip dates). Depending on the trip itinerary, overnight stays in refugios or camping in tents may be required.
Can I be guaranteed that I will reach the summit of my objective?
As safety is our unquestioned priority, we cannot in any way guarantee that you will reach the summit. Our certified guides and instructors have undergone extensive skills training and have been trained for emergencies. They are hired for their impeccable safety records and attention to your well-being. Above all, they will act conservatively in the interest of safety, but they will also do their best to help you achieve your objective of reaching the summit of your desired peak.