Abra el Acay is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 4.972m (16,312ft), above the sea level, located in La Poma Departament, Salta Province, Argentina. It’s said to be the highest road pass in the whole of America.
The pass is traversed by the Argentina's National Route 40. The road is asphalted but on this part is unpaved, with gravel, sand and ripio. It’s one of the highest mountain roads of Argentina, and the highest in the Americas if you are sufficiently sceptical of Peruvian heights. This part of the road was inaugurated on 8 July 1960 after three years of construction. Do not take this drive if you have respiratory problems or any type of heart condition. Notorius lack of oxygen that tests the organisms and a high degree of steepness. Most people feel altitude sickness at around 2,500-2,800 meters. Extremely low oxygen for engine combustion. A major hazard of altitude is the sickness that can indiscriminately affect anyone regardless of age or fitness. The summit has about 40% less oxygen than at sea level, thus breathing is more difficult. Your pulse rate will increase and movement will be more laborious at the summit. The high elevation with its risk of altitude sickness, weather concerns, steep road grade, and overall inaccessibility make the pass dangerous and summit trips difficult.
Due its unique location and the climb in elevation over thousands of feet, and passing through remote areas, it is important when driving in these conditions to be prepared. The climb to Abra el Acay is only suitable for all terrain vehicles, with the exception of some months in the year when meteorological and maintenance conditions allow normal vehicles to transit.
Pic: Francisco Chiarella