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In early1835, Charles Darwin crossed the Andes through the Piuquenes Pass from Chile to Argentina. In his journey handbooks he wrote that Nature in these places teaches you a lot about the geological processes. It was there where he finally understood and learned about the origins of the Cordillera.
Our proposal is to do the same crossing the English biologist did back in the XIX century but the other way round, from Argentina to Chile. Why? Because this way is easier, effortless and much more enjoyable.
Through the Portillo Argentino, a cut in the mountain up to 14,370 fasl (4380 masl), 18,5 mi (30 km) from the Manzano Histórico (Tunuyán District, Mendoza), we walk into an entirely different world, far from civilization. We go into the valleys between two chains of mountains, we cross them and finally we leave that hidden paradise behind to cross into Chile at 13,270 fasl (4045 masl) through the Piuquenes Pass into the Cajón del Maipo which is where we end our traverse.
History tells us that this pass was frequently used by the "arrieros" that crossed cattle on foot to the neighbouring country until ending XIX century that for different political and economical reasons, the pass was no longer used for this purpose. There are stories that say that Jesuits also used this pass. General Don José de San Martin and a few of his soldiers came back through these valleys from his Liberation Campaign. At the beginning of this Campaign he sent a column through it with no more than 40 men to distract the realists and tactically confuse them.
Since then, these valleys are reserved for adventurers who attempt the pass on foot or on horse back. Mountains of more than 18,000 fasl (5500 masl) are part of the spectacular landscape, like the Mesón San Juan, the Marmolejo or the wellknown Volcán Tupungato.
We invite you to be part of this real adventure that will be full of unforgettable sensations.


1st Day: At 8 AM we leave Mendoza city at 2,460 fasl (750 masl) on our way to Tunuyán. After clearing immigration and customs at the Police Station and passing by the Manzano Histórico we move on to the Scaravelli Refuge surroundings at 10,360 fasl (3160 masl) where we spend our first night in tents and start our acclimatization.

2nd Day: Heading west, in a four wheel drive vehicle, we go up over the morraines reaching as far up as we can where we start walking to the Portillo Argentino, a pass over 14,370 fasl (4380 masl). The trekking will be slow, to adapt our rhythm to the height. The landscape viewed from this pass is spectacular but nothing compared with the way down to the Tunuyán River valley, full of glorious views.
From this moment on we are out of any contact with civilization, apart from a satellite phone which is only used if necessary. In this valley we find the impressive Real de la Cruz Refuge at 9380 fasl (2860 masl), a military hut built back in the 40´s. We will spend our second night in tents next to the refuge. Dinner will be served next to the fire and card games for the brave ones will be a very entertaining way to end our day (8 hours trekking)

3rd Day: Then a resting day at the Real de la Cruz Refuge and short treks in the surrounding area.

4th Day: Continuing our trekking to the west and traversing the valleys that lead us to the Piuquenes Pass, it is necessary to cross the Tunuyán River early in the morning when the water runs at its lowest level. The trekking this day is long but with not much difference in altitude.
The view of the Cerro Marmolejo, the most austral peak in the world with a height of more than 19,680 fasl (6000 masl), is magnificent at dawn. Its orange tanned glaciers will lead us to our third camp at 10,500 fasl (3200 masl). Mountains like the Palomares or the Mesón San Juan serve as spectacular backdrops the whole day. (7 to 8 hours trekking)

5th Day: On the last day of the expedition, we begin with the glacier ascent to the frontier borderline always in sight. The trekking will be a pleasant challenge, viewing everything at a slow pace, even when we reach the Piuquenes Pass at 13,270 fasl (4045 masl). Back to the east and far away, we can see the chain we have already passed to enter the valleys we crossed. In a few minutes everything is out of sight when we start our steep descent to the west after several snowy turns. It will be a safe, slow and magnificent way down. The Chilean mountains have a more abrupt formation, rock folds, sheer cliffs, sharp edges, and a vast variety of rock formations. We arrive at the Plomo River in the Cajón del Maipo at 9,680 fasl (2950 masl), and we cross it before we arrive at the road where transportation will be waiting to drive us to Santiago de Chile. A hot shower and a farewell dinner with the group with which we spent five marvellous days together, will be the end of the expedition. (6 hours trekking)

6th Day: Return to origin.


Suggested personal equipment

1 Pair underwear polypropylene pants
1 Pair fleece pant (or similar warm pants)
1 Pair waterproof pants
1 Long sleeved polypropylene sweat shirt
1 Short sleeved t-shirt
1 Turtleneck polypropylene sweat shirt (or synthetic)
1 Fleece top (or similar warm top)
1 Duvet jacket (or synthetic)
1 Waterproof shell jacket
1 Pair of first skin gloves
1 Pair of fleece gloves (or similar warm gloves)
1 Pair of waterproof gloves or mittens
1 Fleece or synthetic balaclava
1 Warm stocking cap
1 Cap
1 Pair of sun glasses
1 Headlamp or a small flashlight
1 Duvet sleeping bag for -4°F (-20ºC) (or synthetic)
1 Neoprene mattress
1 80 Litres Backpack
1 Pair of mountaineering double shoes
1 Pair of trekking shoes
2 Pairs of warm cotton socks
2 Pairs of warm synthetic socks
1 Pair of ski poles
1 Pair of gaiters (for winter crossings)
1 UV Sun block cream (minimum 30 protection)
Personal aid kit


Travel personal documents: passport for foreigners and DNI for argentinians.

Hotels in Mendoza and Santiago de Chile: howeaver we do not include the nights in hotels, we can make bookings and arrangements.

Weather: the expeditions are from december to march, during southern hemisphere summer, depending on the amount of snow acumulated in winter. Sometimes, the snow does not melt until end of december. The days are usually clear and warm with cold nights. Short snow storms are often but the snow melts very fast. During these situations winds will cause a sensation of lower temperature. In normal conditions, the temperature during the day can go from 68ºF to 32ºF or less, when its cloudy. During the night the temperature can get 5ºF.

Water and beverages: we will drink clear water from the springs, wine, beer and juice.

Meals: meals are chosen to recover the same amount of calories consumed during the day. Quick meals during the trekking and dinners in camps. If you are allergic, vegeterian or you are following any special diet, please let us know asap in order to reorganice the menu.

Camps: we will sleep in double base dome tents. If there is availability, we will use the Real de la Cruz refuge (in Tunuyán river valley) for dinner.

Previous knowledge and physical condition: not previous knowledge is required. Good physical condition is necessary. In case of being under any medical treatment or consuming any medicine we will need this information before the departure in order to evaluate its effects with altitude. We need you to fill in the medical form with the precisly information so we can proceed correctly in emercency situations.

Important: the head guide can decide to change the itinerary due to weather conditions or any other situation that can endanger passengers health or integrity. Anyway, this activity carries risks that passenger declares to know and although guides are experimented, passengers are responsible to accept the decisions taken by the guide.

Technical difficulty

Low to Medium (Low: doesn´t require previous knowledge nor special skills. Medium: requires well developed motor skills coordination and previous knowledge.)

Physical condition

Good: person who trains systematically not more than three times a week.


Please, contact us.


Transfer Mendoza-Tunuyán-Portinari and the closest point for ascent to the Portillo Argentino. Transfer Cajón del Maipo-Santiago de Chile.
Transportation of shared gear and part of personal gear (33 pounds per person) in mules up to the Chilean border, from then onwards personal gear will be carried down by porters (3 hours descent).
Crossing Río Tunuyán horseback or mule.
Nights in double base tent.
All meals during expedition except for the one in Mendoza and Santiago de Chile.
One billingual guide for each four passengers.
Satellite telephone in case of emergency.

Not included

Tickets from origin to Mendoza and from Santiago de Chile to origin.
Meals in Mendoza and Santiago de Chile.
Personal equipment.
Personal calls from satellite phone, which will be charged based on determined rate.
Nights in Hotels in Mendoza or Santiago de Chile.
Extra costs if quitting the expedition.

Date of Departure

March 3, 2012

Discover the Andes, Expeditions: tel +54 -261-156571967, EVT Legajo 16431