Paso Socompa is an international high mountain pass at an elevation of 3.876m (12,716ft) above the sea level, on the Argentinian-Chilean border.
The pass links the Argentinian Salta region and the Chilean Antofagasta region. The road over the pass is very steep and gravel. It’s one of the less transited of the high routes between Argentina and Chile. The pass is located close the Socompa volcano, a 6.031m giant. On the Chilean side the road is called B-55. This is a maintained road where a high clearance 2WD vehicle is able to travel safely at low speeds on long dry straight-of-ways, without losing control due to wash boarding, ruts, or dips. The bad surface, a lack of water sources, zero traffic and the heat in the desert on the Chilean side make this a very challenging drive. The pass has been used by the Rally Dakar. On the summit there’s an abandoned train station. It’s important to stay on marked roads when traveling on this zone. Chile had tense relations with Argentina at 1970’s, and the military government decided to mine its northern border to prevent an invasion. Minefields are found in Chile’s southern border with Argentina in Patagonia. Minefields are generally marked, but markers may have shifted or may not be visible. Follow clearly identified roads and trails when traveling in minefield areas. Border crossings should only be made at authorized locations. Consult with park or other local officials concerning minefields and other. The climb is simply terrible, with a notorius lack of oxygen that tests the organisms and a high degree of steepness. It has a well-deserved reputation for being dangerous because of unpredictable snowstorms and blizzards, and driving under these conditions, can be extremely challenging. The air dryness and the oscillation of temperatures that takes place during the day and night is one of the features of this area. Day is warm by direct sun and nights are extremely cold.
Pic: Vicky Yened