Across the Andes Mountain Range from Chile to Mendoza
The Andes is the longest mountain range in the world and the second tallest after the Himalayas. The Andes Mountain Range extends nearly 7,000 kilometres from Central America to Cape Horn, traversing seven countries: Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Chile.
The border between Chile and Argentina roughly follows the line along the highest peaks of the Andes. One of the most important crossings between the two countries is “Los Libertadores” (Chile) or “Uspallata” (Argentina). In the vicinity of Los Libertadores is Mount Aconcagua (6,962 MASL; meters above sea level). Aconcagua is the highest mountain in both the Western and Southern Hemispheres, followed by Mount McKinley, the highest peak in North America (6,194 MASL), located in Alaska, United States.
The mountain pass across the Andes has historic relevance since this was the route taken in 1817 by the Argentine General Jos de San Martn and his “Army of the Andes”. The army was composed of about 5000 men, heavy artillery, 1600 horses and about 9,000 mules. The crossing of the Andes took almost a month. The soldiers ate dry meat and cheese. They consumed garlic and onion to improve appetite and to prevent altitude sickness. Only 4,300 mules and 511 horses survived. The objective was to end the Spanish domination in Chile,
restore the independent government and rout the Spanish rule in South America controlled from the Viceroyalty of Peru.
The road on the Chilean side rises in a relatively short stretch with many bends and steep slopes.
The “Los Libertadores/Uspallata” Pass crosses the Andes at an altitude of about 3,900 meters above sea level. At this point is located the seven meter high bronze statue of “Christ the Redeemer of the Andes”. The statue weighs four tons and stands on a four meter high granite pedestal. The monumental sculpture was installed at the site in 1904 to celebrate the agreement of Chile and Argentina about the line that marks the border between the two countries. An inscription on the statue reads: “These Mountains will first collapse before Argentines and Chileans break the peace sworn at the feet of Christ the Redeemer”.
Christ the Redeemer of the Andes, monument erected in 1904 at the border between Argentina and Chile to celebrate the peaceful settlement of a conflict over boundary issues that had brought the two countries to the brink of war.
The road passing by the monument of Christ the Redeemer of the Andes is rarely used today since a tunnel, also called “Christ the Redeemer”, opened in 1980. The 3,080 meter long tunnel is located at 3,200 MASL. Due to the extreme weather conditions, traffic through both the pass by the statue or the tunnel is often suspended, sometimes for long periods.
The “Los Libertadores/Uspallata” Pass links Santiago de Chile and the city of Mendoza in Argentina. The distance between the two cities is 179 km (as the crow flies), but extends for 364 kilometers including local roads and the winding road through the mountain passes.
Nearing the highest peaks of the Andes, the mountains are covered with snow all year long and storms may cause road closures.
The geography on both sides of the range is quite different. The Argentine section (the border to Mendoza) is three times longer than the Chilean side (Santiago to the border). The road on the Chilean side rises in a relatively short stretch with many bends and steep slopes. On the Argentine side, the slopes are gentler and the road bends are broader. The landscape in the Chilean side has mountains with steep, heavily eroded cliffs, washed clean of sediments. On the Argentine side, the mountains have moderate slopes with plenty of sedimentary material and low vegetation, creating a beautiful contrast of colors. On the Chilean side, the Aconcagua River bounces down the mountains among large rocks with a steep gradient while in the Argentine side, the Mendoza River flows peacefully along a wide sedimentary valley.
The distance between Santiago and Mendoza is 179 km (as the crow flies), but extends for 364 kilometers including local roads and the winding road through the mountain passes.