A Spondylus scientific team realized the fifth successful climb of the Salin volcano, opening a new north east route. The expedition was designed to search for pre-Columbian artifacts, in a very remote and inhospitable region.
The whole project had been equipped by the outdoor company Lippi. The achievement would not have been possible without this support.
6 andinists of 5 nationalities composed the international team: Jean Claude Piessevaux (Belgium), Luis Alberto Martinez (Chile), Santiago Manterola (Chile), Adrian Germishuizen (South Africa), Nicolas Manterola (USA) and Hans-Martin Schmitt (Germany).
The San Pedro de Atacama region, a transition zone to the altiplano, hosted the 4-days acclimatization period. The team went for various 6 to 9 hours treks, in order to prepare the expedition at more than 5000m.
After this a last stop in San Pedro oasis was made to refill water and food, after which the vehicles headed north to the almost completely isolated region of Salin volcano. The base camp has been reached after a 11 hours trip, and thanks to the GPS and the useful hints of the Chilean andinist Claudio Lois (Pamir Moutain club). The GPS accessories helped to go around a minefield, which had been carefully identified and hence avoided. The base camp was set at 4800m, last step before climbing.
Research showed that 4 expeditions succeeded to climb this specifically difficult volcano; 3 of them started from the south face, whereas an argentine team chose the west side. The North east side attempted by the Spondylus team was the first ever recorded.
The climb started the 20th of may at 5:00 in the morning, at 5100m, with a chilly -27°C. "It was exiting to go where no man set foot before" commented Jean-Claude Piessevaux.
Yet exempted of technical difficulties, the slippery rocky climb challenged the team heavily. 3 from the 5 climbers decided to abort the climbing and go down at 5922m / 19 430 feet, out of security.14:06: Hans-Martin Schmitt and Adrian Germishuizen hit the summit at 6051m / 19853 feet. Exhausted but beaming with joy, the two climbers fell in the arms of one another. The view over the Atacama salt flats and the countless volcanoes down helps forget the suffering of the climbing. The generous conditions allow the two friends to take the necessary time to enjoy all the mixed feelings and steps of the victory: exhaustion, luck, hug, enjoyment of the silence.
Before heading back, the search for archeological remains on the summit was conducted. The ruins mentioned in some books are not to be seen but many smaller objects show that the place has been actually used as a ritual performing altar, a good 500 years ago.
Richer of an unforgettable experience, the group returned back to San Pedro de Atacama, on the 21th of may. The goal of every expedition: everybody back safe and sound, was reached after every single participant playing his part so thoroughly, without forgetting Lippi, Spondylus' sponsor.
The results of the expedition are now to be studied and were hence given to the experts.