Paso Socompa (San Pedro – Salar de Pocitos)

This is an adventurous ride, and by far the least transited of the high routes between Argentina and Chile. There are various reasons for this, including that the road surface is often poor, and that if you ask officials in San Pedro de Atacama or San Antonio de Los Cobres about the pass, they’ll often deny its existence or claim it’s not a legal crossing point.

The Argentine Gendarmeria and Chilean Difrol websites both state it is possible to cross the pass, and we found this to be true in practice. Exiting Chile, we obtained exit stamps in San Pedro (though we are aware of at least one cyclist who has since obtained an exit stamp at the border) and Argentine entry stamps at the border.

The bad surface, a lack of water sources, zero traffic and the heat in the desert on the Chilean side make this the most challenging of the six Chile-Argentina 4000m+ crossing options, despite it being the lowest. The Chilean scenery is dull from San Pedro to Monturaqui, but after this it is very beautiful, classic Puna as you cross a wild part of Salta province.

It will take most people at least five days between Peine, the last village on the Chilean side, and Tolar Grande, the first village on the Argentina side. Carrying provisions for this amount of time, added to the fact you have to carry a lot of water makes for a heavy bike.

We’ve only cycled the section from San Pedro to Paso Socompa. Thanks to Reginaldo Rohden for providing us with information and a GPX file for the whole route from San Pedro to Salar de Pocitos.

Reginaldo’s photos:

Dist (km) Altitude (m) Information
0 2430 San Pedro de Atacama. Take paved road towards Paso Sico.
37.5 2500 Toconao. Shops, accommodation.
71.3 2550 R to Peine, onto dirt road.
78.9 2320 L to Peine/Antofagasta.
86.6 2320 Straight.
101 2360 Straight. R goes to Antofagasta.
101.9 2360 R. L is for short detour to Peine (basic shops, water). Stock up on water – nothing reliable after this until the border.
~115 2370 R, in Tilomonte (some trees, slightly salty stream, but not an inhabited place).
138.4 2740 L, under pylons. Hot, desert, no water.
149.6 2880 Pozo 4 (concrete tank with leaking pipes, so maybe can get water).
155.6 2930 Campamento, normally unoccupied.
182.8 3370 R.
185.2 3480 R. (L goes to Baical). A few mine vehicles for a while.
186.7 3450 L.
192 3340 L to Socompa on Carretera Internacional. Straight goes to Mina Escondida. End of traffic.
203.6 3920 High point, and junction (take L of the 3).
210.9 3450 L.
214.7 3440 L. R to Estacion Monturaqui (uninhabited) and Llullaillaco (78km).
221.8 3430 R. L goes to Pozo Monturaqui.
238 3880 Portezuelo Socompa, Chilean Carabineros.
239 3880 Argentine Gendarmeria, immigration. Get water.
~378 3530 Tolar Grande. Basic shops, water, accommodation, fuel for multifuel stoves available.
~402 4050 Abra Navarro.
~462 3670 Salar de Pocitos. Shops.

San Pedro – Salar de Pocitos Details
Distance (of which paved) 462km (71km)
Time taken 7 days
Amount climbed ~5000m
Traffic Some between San Pedro and Peine, a few vehicles an hour between Baical junction and the Carretera International. Zero elsewhere.
Best time to cycle October – January, March – April
When we cycled December 2013
Difficulty 5
How much we had to push on this route 1km

[map maptype=satellit gpx=”” style=”width:610px; height:610px; border:1px solid gray;”]

Files for Pikes’ Route: San Pedro to Socompa:

Files for Reginaldo’s Route: San Pedro to Salar de Pocitos:

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