Cerro Estrella

Driving the road to Cerro Estrella is not a piece of cake

Cerro Estrella is a high mountain peak at an elevation of 5.389m (17,680ft) above the sea level, located on the Chilean-Argentinian border. It’s one of the highest mountain roads of the country.

Set high in the Andes mountain range, the road to the summit, also known as Lastarria or Estrella, is totally unpaved and impassable in winters (weather permitting). 4x4 vehicle required. The summit hosted a mine called Mina La Julia, also known as Mina La Casualidad. It’s a now abandoned Sulphur mine active from August 1953 until November 1979, when the Argentinian Government decided that it was not anymore profitable and closed it. The name Mine La Casualidad is used interchangeably to refer to both the abandoned town and the old sulfur mill "Mina Julia" that gave rise to it. 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.

The summit lies on the border between Salta Province (in northwestern Argentina) and Antofagasta (in northern Chile). The road is steep, hitting a 13% of maximum gradient through some of the ramps.  The wind is usually quite strong at mountain areas. This harsh site is constantly beaten by very strong winds. High winds blow here all year long. Even in summer you can confront with snowy days. Temperatures here in the winter are brutally cold. With such a high summit altitude the road can be closed anytime due to snowfalls. The zone is prone to heavy mist and can be dangerous in low visibility conditions.
Pic: rodolfo

 

 

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