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Cerro Bertrand (5275m) | Alta Catamarca, Argentina


The most classical peak for climbing from "Las Grutas", and for doing a first walk at 5000m. This is an ascent of many kilometres at a great height (approximately 25 km there and back), which will surely be longer than it appears at first sight, as it seems a mid-morning stroll. At the peak, there is a spectacular crater, which will make the whole climb worthwhile.

The name of this peak comes from the Chilean geographer and engineer Alejandro Bertrand Huillard (1854-1942). Amongst other things, he was entrusted with defining the border limits with Argentina, worked on the planning of the Catamarca-Atacama railway across the Andes, and was also responsible for the topography of the Andes range between Pas de San Francisco and San Pedro de Atacama.

Like other peaks in the area, the first ascents of Cerro Bertrand were made by the Incas at the end of the 15th century, which is known thanks to the remains found close to the top; just a few metres from the peak, a simple circular structure of rocks against a rock was found, for protection against the wind. Inside, there was wood used for burning offerings (which they must have carried from the Inca ruins of las Vegas de San Francisco). Today, the peak is reached with a certain frequency, but just think that the first modern ascents were made in 1965 by the Europeans Verena and Anders Bolinder accompanied by the “baqueano” Víctor Bustamante, and the second by Marcelo Scanu in 1995, and although it might seem incredible, the area was highly virgin until very recently.

In February 2008, Marcelo Scanu and José Luis Querlico made the first known descent of the enormous crater of the Bertrand volcano (4.5 km in diameter and over 300m deep), from the west. In the days that followed, Marcelo also climbed the northern peak (5188m), where he found a landmark but without documentation of the first ascent. You can see magnificent photos he kindly provided, following this article.


Area: Alta Catamarca, Argentina               Andes

Type of activity: Expeditions

I also recommend reading:  Index of the area     Villages and refuges     Recommendations     Transports






1 Map Argentine IGM

2 Diagram


4 In the background, the San Francisco Lagoon



Difficulty: A moderate high altitude stroll, extremely dry, and often windy climate. Distances longer than they seem.

Recommended material: Trekking equipment with thermal clothing

Best time: November-March

Difference in level: 1300m

Times: For information only, as the conditions of the terrain and the personal conditions can vary a great deal. Las Grutas-Cerro Bertrand 5-6h    Cerro Bertrand-Las Grutas 3h30m

Map:  Carta topográfica-Hoja 2769-17 Paso de San Francisco 1:100.000 IGM Argentino

Recommendations: There is no water along the route, and the distance we will do is much longer than it seems at first sight. Altitude is gained very gradually, which means that the descent is not much faster than the climb.

Waypoints in UPS UTM/Datum WGS84 position format: Las Grutas  19J  0586324   7022823 Cerro Bertrand   19J 0583164  7031710



We will leave "Las Grutas" on foot.






5 Final part, we have to divert to the right

6 If we go straight on, we will find this

7 To the right, there is a much more comfortable area

8 The crater seen from a distant peak



We will do the climb by any route, as the peak is visible throughout. It must only be said that the final part is done to the right, as the culminating point is hidden. If we go the way that seems the highest (straight on.), we will come to a chaos of blocks, which makes progress slower and harder. So when we come to the bottom of the peak, we will go to the right and find a path further up at the end.






 9 Descending, immensity of scenery

10 It seems closer from Las Grutas

11 But the linear distance is much longer

12 The Crater seen from the peak (5275m)






13 From the base camp (to the west), with a small volcano in the foreground, and behind this the Bertrand northern peak to the left (5188m)

14 José Luis Querlico reaching the bottom of the Bertrand crater during the first known descent





15 Marcelo Scanu at the bottom of the crater with the Bertrand peak behind. There are still places to be explored in Argentina.

16 From the main peak of Bertrand to the northern peak

17 Back to front. Vegas de San Francisco to the right and a storm.





18 The Bertrand volcano crater from the northern peak (5188m)

19 From the northern peak of Bertrand looking at San Francisco Volcano and its crater (6016m), and El Muerto behind

20 Panoramic view from the northern peak


Different names we can find along the route

Cerro Bertrand, Bertrand Volcano


Date of information: 2007

Date of the route: December 2006




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