My Chilean experience.
This information is not about Far Eastern tours and at first I doubted whether I should share my negative experience in Chile because after some time all bad memories have started to fade. I had sent this information to the Chilean Tourism Bureau, but did't receive a response,so I decided to write this post to warn other travelers of my adventures. I prefer to organize all my trekkings and summit ascents through local companies because I like international groups where I can enjoy the mountains and also communicate with people from different countries. And until Chile I have always been lucky to have the best tour guides and organizers as well as other participant of the ascents. My home city – Khabarovsk – is rather far from any mountains. To get to Latin America I have to change three planes so you can guess that carrying all mountaineering equipment with me is not convenient. Therefore, I prefer to rent sizable things such as sleeping bag from local companies. In 2017 I climbed Aconcagua with Argentinean company and rented from them almost every piece of equipment including sleeping bag and down parka. Everything was of excellent quality. While preparing for Chile and Ojos del Salado peak I searched Internet for Chilean travel agencies that could offer such tours. I found that only Andes Mountain Expediciones agency could offer me a suitable program for convinient dates. Besides, they had a good website. The head of the agency – Pedro Marzolo – responded me swiftly and gave rather detailed answer to my questions: “After accommodate in our hotel, we will check your personal mountaineering equipment according to our equipment list. This is a very important step for our expedition; sometimes we discover some clothes not warm enough for climb Ojos del Salado volcano. In that case we can suggest some alternatives and also stores where you can buy or rent extra equipment (let us know in advance).” “Yes, we offer rent equipment for you, here is our price list:” “Remember that Ojos del Salado could be a very cold mountain, at night temperatures could arrive at -20°C or less, especially at high camps. So you need adequate equipment.” Besides, it was also said in Pedro’s letter and his website: “We carry in our expeditions a satellite phone for any emergency and also you can use for an extra fee for call friends or family reports.” “Our guide will have a Nonin Pulse oxymeters for high mountaineering expeditions. Every expedition has one of these instruments to measure the saturation of oxygen of each client allowing for daily control and safety in the route to the summit.” “Full base camp set up dining tent, chair, tables, etc.” Several times I additionally clarified that I would be able to rent sleeping bag and every time Pedro affirmed that they could provide it. So I booked a tour in Andes Mountain Expediciones. I arrived to Santiago by international flight. Pedro was supposed to buy me a ticket from Santiago to Copiapo. But in Santiago I found out that he had bought me a ticket for the opposite direction, from Copiapo to Santiago. Another man who accompanied me helped me to get in touch with Pedro and the ticket was exchanged but I had to spend half a day in Santiago instead of going straight to my destination. I didn’t give that mistake much thought back then. Upon arrival I was met by a tour guide and his assistant. As Pedro mentioned before there were no other participants and I was their only tourist for this tour. I asked the guide about a sleeping bag and he told me not to worry because it had already been booked and would be delivered the next day before we leave. In the morning I asked again and was told that my sleeping bag is packed and I would see it at camp in the evening. You can imagine my surprise when in the evening I received a sleeping bag for -7°C while the agency’s website said, “Remember that Ojos del Salado could be a very cold mountain, at night temperatures could arrive at -20°C or less, especially at high camps. So you need adequate equipment.” It was freezing cold that first night at the altitude of 2890m. During the trip we were supposed to go higher than 5000m and have sleepovers there. Only after 5 days, when I was already completely sick and had fever, my guide went to get another sleeping bag. Despite my requests, he brought a similar one. His suggestion was to put one bag inside the other which was absolutely unacceptable. Good rest is critical in these conditions, but I was unable to sleep due to the discomfort of narrow sleeping bags and the cold. Due to the poor equipment they had supplied I fell ill and was unable to reach the summit. More than that, apart from the bag, none of the equipment mentioned in Pedro’s letter and his website had been provided. Here is what was promised to me: “We carry in our expeditions a satellite phone for any emergency and also you can use for an extra fee for call friends or family reports.” “Our guide will have a Nonin Pulse oxymeters for high mountaineering expeditions. Every expedition has one of these instruments to measure the saturation of oxygen of each client allowing for daily control and safety in the route to the summit.” “Full base camp set up dining tent, chair, tables, etc. “ But there were no oxymeters. I had promised my wife to make a call at least once in three or four days, but my guide didn’t have a satellite phone. Also he didn’t have a dining tent so when we were camping at the Lake Verge we were unable to light an open fire due to the strong winds. Apparently, Pedro has made a decently looking website using information from the Internet and websites of other mountain tours companies but in reality he cannot provide any of the services he promotes. Looks like the whole agency consist of Pedro himself and he has never met personally with his guides, he doesn’t know what equipment they have and what kind of people they are. He communicates with them only by email. Basically, he sends tourists on serious, dangerous routes with complete strangers. In addition to the lack of equipment, during the whole trip we had problems with our car. It was in a very bad condition and every morning my guides had to waste considerable amount of time to get it started. There was not a single morning that we left the camp at the planned time. The day we were going back down from the camp at 5200m they couldn’t start the car at all. Luckily, there was a group of Russians who helped us start the engine with a cable. Chile is a wonderful country and of course there are reliable tour agencies. My trip had been saved from becoming a complete disaster by a guide Cristian Ordenes. He accompanied another Russian tourist on the same route there and kindly agreed to help me out from time to time. He acted professionally and obviously knew his trade. It was him who had an oxymeter. When I got sick he brought thermometer and spared me some medicines which my guides didn’t have. Also Cristian had a dining tent that we shared while camping. It is such a shame that there are people like Pedro, who build up a negate reputation for Chile. Still, returning back from the mountain did not mean the end of my misadventures. The tour price included one night at the hotel in Capio and transfer from the hotel to the airport. Nevertheless, when we approached Capio my guides told me to look for the place to stay by myself. Since the Internet started to work only 50 km away from the city I basically had to stop at the first available hotel. I was proposed to pay for it and later contact Pedro about refund. Also my guides suggested that I booked a taxi to the airport. Only after my insistent demand they agreed to take me to the airport. I have travelled a lot and used services of tour agencies all around the world. Chile happened to be the first country where I encountered a company that didn’t meet any of my expectations and didn’t fulfill any promises. After Andes I went to Easter Island with the AdventureLife agency. Everything was organized perfectly and went smoothly. That trip to the island took off most of my stress after travelling with Andes Mountain Expediciones. Thanks to AdventureLife, Chile left a good impression after all. I will certainly come there again but most definitely won’t use the services of Andes Mountain Expediciones.