Paso San Francisco – 4,767m

Provincia de Catamarca, Argentina


Paso San Francisco sits in the heart of the Puna, an area of other-worldly landscapes which boasts the highest concentration of 6,000m peaks anywhere outside Asia. In the vicinity of the pass there are views of some of the loftiest mountains in the Andes – Ojos del Salado, Tres Cruces, Incahuasi and El Muerto, to name but a few. From the pass the acclimatized can climb Volcan San Francisco in a day – probably making it the easiest 6,000er in the world.

Any experience of cycling this pass is entirely dependent on the weather gods. If you strike it lucky and are blessed with sunny, windless summer days then the climb from Fiambala is not too taxing as the road is paved and the gradients are gentle. However, this region is infamous for savage winds and terrible weather at any time of year – it would be a very bad idea to get caught out in the open during a winter storm.

The Chilean side is currently all ripio, though large teams of road workers are in the process of paving the corrugated surface. 20kms from the pass, but still days away from the nearest Chilean village, lie the dazzling emerald green waters of Laguna Verde.

Name of Pass Paso San Francisco
Where Between Fiambala (205km) and Laguna Verde campsite (21km)
GPS Co-ords 26.8735 S, 68.2988 W
Altitude 4,767m
Amount climbed 3,820m (all on tarmac) in 3 days from Fiambala


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Argentina Pass List
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2 Responses to “Paso San Francisco – 4,767m”

  1. JOVELINO MARTINI JR 03/08/2012 at 17:06 # Reply

    Esse lugar é fantástico, parabéns, visite nosso blog, grande abraço!
    MArtini.

  2. Leendert van Staalduinen 02/12/2018 at 23:47 # Reply

    Paso de San Francisco:
    · Cycled from Fiambalá (Argentina) to the top (where is also Rifugio № 6).
    I hitchhiked from the top to Copiapó (Chile).
    · Period February 09–12, 2018. Weather: windy of course, but also sunny.
    · According to my smartphone GPS the top is at 4.762 m. The road sign shows 4.726 m.
    · I rode this pass for the very first time. I intend to bicycle this pass all the way from Copiapó to Fiambalá in January 2020.
    · The asphalt in Argentina (from Fiambalá to the top) is very good.
    · Between the top and the Chilean customs the ripio can be extremely rough, except for the final 30 km before the Chilean customs, which has very good asphalt.
    · The Chilean authorities are preparing to asphalt several parts of the ripio road between the Chilean customs and Copiapó. I saw parts of a new asphalt road not open yet for cars. I can’t provide details about the length of the new asphalt.
    · There is sparse traffic. Traffic can be a safety net in case of trouble. I found hitchhiking with my bicycle pretty easy.
    · Extremely nice for bicyclist are the six refuges (refugios cordilleranos) between Fiambalá and the top. Approximate distances (km) plus altitudes (m) from Fiambalá to the refuges:
    · Fiambalá 000 1.506
    · № 1, Gallina Muerta 053 2.872
    · № 2, Chaschuil 070 3.016
    · Hotel Cortaderas 095 3.232
    · № 3, Cazadero Grande 112 ???
    · № 4, Las Losas 133 3.698
    · № 5, Las Peladas 164 4.006
    · № 6, Limite (International) 208 4.762
    · All these refuges are open and operational.
    · Apart from the six refuges, Hotel Cortaderas is at about 95 km from Fiambalá. This hotel did not accept credit card payments. Single room, including breakfast (February 2018): AR$ 800.

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