The journey to base camp turned out to be the hardest part of climbing the mountain. Fierce headwinds and a sandy road meant that we were forced to push our bikes almost from the moment we left our refugio at Laguna Blanca. Three and a half hours and 7kms later we decided to dump the bikes behind some rocks by Laguna Verde, transfer our kit to our rucksacks and hike the rest of way. We were so tired from the pushing that the 4km walk took us 2 hours.
We were delighted to find that the Inca ruins provided perfect shelter for our tent from the wind, and we passed a comfortable night as the temperature only fell to -2C. This meant we didn't have any trouble getting up early the next morning, and set off as the sun came up at 07:00. As the mountain is climbed reasonably often (though for the 2 days we were there we saw no other sign of life - human, animal, bird or even insect) there is a decent path for most of the way to the summit, and we followed this up a sheltered gulley to around 5,200m.
We made it to the top 4h45 after setting off - which was longer than we'd expected it to take, but Haz didn't have any problems with the altitude as she had on Cerro Plata. We didn't stay long on the summit (even though the views were good and it would have been interesting to go down to the frozen crater lake) because of the wind, and soon began our descent. This also took longer than expected as we didn't find the fast route down scree to camp (we went into the main gulley but it was full of big loose rocks that we didn't like being on at all) so ended up going back down the path in the wind, arriving at camp 8 hours after we'd set off.
Some GPS points
|Inca ruins basecamp||22.83209 S||67.85630 W||4,701m|
|Licancabur Summit cairn||22.83315 S||67.88270 W||5,938m|
(As most of the way is on a clear path that starts by the ruins, I didn't keep any other waymarks.)