Chilean Andes


the volcanic borderlands

DATES: 11 Mar 201825 Mar 2018 TEAM SIZE: 12 COST: £2699

The land which boasts jaw-dropping night skies, the Atacama desert, and miles upon miles of seemingly never-ending coastline, undoubtedly sits at the forefront of adventure possibilities. Not to mention its share of Patagonia and the Andes mountains. Yet amidst this vast and diverse utopia, still remains a wild, rugged beauty, sidestepping the clasp of mainstream discovery. Combine new trails with a taste of the world renowned Condor Circuit on this Chilean trekking expedition along the Argentina border.

Descabezado Grande
Andean Condor
Santiago, the city in the shadow of the Andes
Plancha Peteroa

Forging a new route from north to south through the Chilean Andes, this trekking expedition will combine fresh trails and parts of the renowned existing Condor Circuit to connect four volcanoes straddling the Argentina border.

March 2018 will mark our first attempted connection through the wild borderlands of Chile and the heart of its volcano territory on this route. The team will take the opportunity to attempt multiple peaks including Descobezado Grande, Cerro Azul, Plancho Peteroa and Volcan Peteroa during this 140km trek.


  • Wilderness journey through the Andes.
  • Pioneer a new trekking route.
  • Summit attempts on active volcanoes.
  • Wild camp and swim in mountain lakes.
  • Look out for condors soaring overhead.
  • Explore Santiago and sample Chilean wine.

New trekking routes

Chile has been a haven for outdoor enthusiasts for years, but with the vast majority of it’s visitors focussed on Patagonia for the chance to shorten their bucket-lists, the vast tracts of beautiful, dramatic scenery remain rarely, if ever, visited. Secret Compass are taking this a step (or few thousand) further by taking the highlights of several trails and linking them together through the best of local scenery with challenging ascents thrown in for good measure.

Land of the condors

With wingspans of over three metres which puts them among the largest birds in the world, Andean condors use the strong wind currents from the Andes for their soaring flights. Listed as ‘near-threatened’ with populations steadily declining, the black birds and their distinctive white collar can be found coasting above the high mountains or stooping down to feast on deer or cattle carcasses up and down the Chile-Argentina border.

Volcanic scenery

The Andes, otherwise known as the spine of South America, dominate this dramatic landscape. This expedition explores the Planchon-Peteroa group of volcanoes before heading south to Descabezado Grande, the iconic flat-topped, headless volcano. With eruptions in the region as recently as 2011 and plenty of evidence of volcanic activity from smoking vents to hot springs, the result is the ultimate backdrop to a day’s trekking.

Explore historic Santiago

This expedition starts and ends in Santiago, the capital and cultural centre of Chile. Not only will the city host the pre-expedition briefing but also the final celebratory meal. To extend your South American experience, extra days could be spent discovering the nearby coastal towns, its even closer wine region, or closer still the city’s few surviving colonial buildings, relaxing with a pisco sour as the sunset illuminates the distant snow-capped peaks.

Secret Compass runs expeditions with framework itineraries, rather than guided tours with set daily plans. Read more about Our Approach here. The following is the outline plan for this classic Chile expedition – the ‘substance’ rather than the specifics. A fuller itinerary is provided in the Chile Expedition Handbook which is available on request or upon application to join the team.

Teammates arrive

The expedition starts in Chile’s capital, Santiago, which is well-served by international flights. The team will meet at the group hotel for an expedition briefing at 1700 before heading into town for a meal. The next morning, after shopping for final supplies, the team will drive out of Santiago and south on the famous Pan-American Highway to the Rio Clara valley on the Argentina border. Where the road ends, the trekking begins.

On expedition

Trekking east initially, the team will follow a river valley to the foot of the Planchon Peteroa volcano system. This is a complex system with barren pumice fields – a reminder of previous eruptions – smoking vents and high glaciers. With shorter trekking days to optimise acclimatisation, the progress on this pioneering route will be steady with difficult terrain as the altitude increases. Descending south into the valley, there will be several river crossings as the team approach Laguna Mondaca and the glacier which feeds it. The team will then be rewarded with a widened valley offering up the first views of Descabezado Grande, the headless volcano with its curiously flat top. Ascending Descabezado and Cerro Azul sees the team on the home-stretch with the welcome opportunity to soak off the dust in the Laguna la Inverneda.

Goal achieved

Covering the final steps with around 140km of wilderness behind them, the team will be met at the boundary of the Altos del Lircay national park to be picked up and driven back to Santiago for showers, celebrations and plenty of post-expedition reflection. A final team dinner will round off your expedition before the trip officially ends after breakfast on March 25. Team members are free to depart anytime that day or extend your stay.


Secret Compass expeditions are achievable by anyone with a healthy lifestyle and a good level of general fitness. Team members should be willing to work as part of a team to achieve the expedition goals. The biggest challenges on this expedition will be its uneven volcanic terrain mixed with high altitude.

Teammates who arrive without meeting the agreed minimum fitness requirements can jeopardise themselves and the expedition’s goal so do take training seriously, prepare as appropriate and arrive fit and ready to go. Teammates must be comfortable with the following.

Minimum fitness requirements

  • Trek: up to 20km for 13 days with a total ascent of 7777m+.
  • Carry: up to 25kg per person (personal kit plus food and a share of camping/emergency equipment).
  • Terrain: Challenging, steep climbs; uneven, rocky paths or no paths at all; scree slopes and morraine fields; some scrambling. Altitudes up to 4107m.
  • Climate: from 25°C down to -0°C at night/ altitude.
  • Swim: potential river crossings so swimming preferred.
  • Age: 21+


  • Professional Secret Compass expedition leader with full medical and communications kits.
  • All accommodation throughout.
  • All food (snacks and meals) and soft drinks.
  • All transport as outlined in itinerary.
  • Special permits and permissions if required.
  • 24 hour Operations Room.


Not included

  • International flights/ travel to and from the team hotel.
  • Travel insurance (obligatory).
  • Visas if required.
  • Tips to local guides (discretionary).
  • Alcohol unless provided by hosts with meals.
  • Personal equipment (full kit list in the Handbook).

On application to join this classic expedition to Chile, potential teammates will receive a detailed Expedition Handbook. Here are some expedition-specific questions and our general FAQ will answer many other questions. Get in touch if your question remains unanswered.

What if a volcano erupts?

Secret Compass have robust contingency plans and alternative routes for each aspect of the expedition should they prove necessary. The most recent eruption along this route was in 2011 and the volcanos are monitored by several agencies of volcanologists as well as by our local partners.

Can someone else carry my kit?

For this expedition we expect team members to carry their personal equipment along with a share of the group kit (tents, cooking equipment, comprehensive med kit, communications pack) and food. Depending on the weight of your personal kit this should not exceed 20kg and will get lighter as you eat food and burn fuel. If you have concerns about this aspect of the expedition, please contact Secret Compass for a copy of our expedition training guide and to discuss equipment options.

Do we need Argentinian visas?

Although the expedition follows part of the Chile-Argentinian border, the route remains within Chile so Argentinian visas are not needed although there will be document checks on the road to the trailhead.

Do I have to swim?

Of course not! Although after several days of trekking, the opportunity for a good wash in a mountain lake will seem like the height of indulgence. The trekking route will include several river crossings so you will need to be comfortable around water and we highly recommend bringing trekking poles to assist.

Can I arrive a day late?

As The Plan outlines, there is a chain of transport to get teammates out to and back from the start of the trek and so start and end dates are not flexible.

I’m a vegetarian. Can I join?

Teammates with dietary requirements are welcome to apply for this expedition and should state their specific requirements when applying and Secret Compass will be in touch to discuss.

How can I find out more?

Apply for this expedition team using the button below to receive your Expedition Handbook with fuller details. Secret Compass is then on hand to answer any questions or to firm up your place on the team. The Handbook contains a kit list for this expedition.

The Journal

Adventure Inspiration

To receive expedition updates and adventure inspiration from Secret Compass, just add your email below.

See you on a team soon…

Terms and Conditions
  1. One entry per person.
  2. Closing date for entries is 12:00 JAN 19th.
  3. Entrants must be at least 18 years old.
  4. The prize includes: 1 ticket valid for one-day entry on either Saturday 20th or Sunday 21st January 2018
  5. Getting to the venue in London is the responsibility of the winner.
  6. The prize is only available from 20th – 21st August 2018.
  7. The prize cannot be exchanged for a cash alternative.
  8. The prize cannot be sold or used by anyone other than the winner.
  9. The promoter reserves the right to provide an alternative prize of similar value should the specified prize become unavailable for any reason.
  10. Neither the Promoter nor any other person or party associated with this promotion shall be liable for any loss or damage whatsoever suffered (including, but not limited to, indirect or consequential loss or damage) or personal injury or death suffered or sustained in connection with either participation in this promotion or with any prizes offered.
  11. The promoter reserves the right to cancel or amend the terms of this prize and without notice in the unlikely event of a major catastrophe, war, earthquake or any anticipated or alleged breach of any applicable law or regulation or any similar event or if circumstances arise outside of its control.
  12. The winner will be selected randomly by Secret Compass on 19 JAN 2017.
  13. Attempts will be made to notify the winner using the email address provided at the time of entry. If the promoter, having used reasonable efforts, is unable to contact the winner, then the prize is forfeited and further draw(s) may be conducted.
  14. The winner may be required to take part in reasonable publicity as specified by the Promoter.
  15. The Promoter cannot be held liable for IT system failures or delays or loss of entries.
  16. The organiser reserves the right to cancel this competition, or to change any condition of this competition, without notice.
  17. Acceptance of these terms and conditions is a condition of entry.
  18. No purchase necessary.