The Sairécabur Receiver Lab Telescope lies at an elevation of 5.525m (18,127ft) above the sea level and is located approximately 38 km (24 mi) northeast of San Pedro de Atacama, and directly south of the Putana Volcano, on the border between Bolivia and Chile, on the Cerro Sairécabur. The surface of the road is gravel and sand and you can get there by 4x4. It's one of the highest mountain roads of the country.
This spectacular high mountain path starts in San Pedro de Atacama at 2.400m above the sea level, and climbs continuously for 60km. At 5.300m of altitude there’s a mine of sulfur. The telescope is situated at an altitude of over 5.500m. To 5.400m the surface is OK and if you’re fit and well acclimatized it’s all rideable, but above this most people will find themselves pushing.
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. All food must be taken from San Pedro, and it’s best to carry all water from there too as that on the mountain is said to be contaminated with sulphur.
Some road sections may require a high clearance 4WD vehicle, driven by a driver experienced in 4WD drive techniques and being familiar with backcountry conditions. Sairecabur volcano has a huge crater at 5.500m above sea level. You can get there by car (4x4 of course) and stop at the Receiver Lab Telescope facility.
The weather on this zone is harsh and highly unpredictable and it does not take much time for the bright sun shine to change over to moderate to heavy snow fall. It is really windy and cold, and the access road to Cerro Sairecabur is not signposted at all and quite hard to find. A sudden drop in the temperature, even in summer, can trigger winter-like conditions.
The climb is simply terrible, with a notorius lack of oxygen that tests the organisms and a high degree of steepness. If you don't acclimatize for that mountain, you can get a serious altitude sickness, such as cerebral edema or pulmonary edema. Don't underestimate the volcano, it is a hard and cold climb especially if you never reached that altitude before. It has a well-deserved reputation for being dangerous. East of the pass, an abandoned long mining dirt road climbs up to 5.753m (18,874ft) above the sea level to a mountain outcast. The trip is essentially horrendous. (-22.725181, -67.885623). It’s one of the highest roads of South America.
Pic: Dani Canga