Aconcagua Expedition Itinerary
Depart country of origin.
Arrive in Mendoza, Argentina. Climbers should arrive on a morning flight. After checking into your hotel, we will have a mandatory climb orientation session, a Leave No Trace discussion, and an equipment check. This will be followed by a group dinner in one of Mendoza’s many fine restaurants.
After completing the permit process in the morning, we board our private bus to the town of Penitentes. We generally stop for lunch in the town of Ushpallata (where the movie Seven Years In Tibet was filmed). After we arrive in Penitentes, we organize our mule loads, then have dinner in the lodge-style hotel.
After one night in Penitentes, we drive 15 minutes to Punta de Vacas (8,000 ft.), where we will begin our three-day, 30-mile trek into Plaza Argentina (13,800 ft.), which serves as Base Camp for our expedition. Mules will carry our gear so we can enjoy the trek without heavy loads. During our daily lunch stop, we’ll enjoy a picnic-style buffet, including sandwiches, fresh fruit and vegetables, prepared by the guides. On the approach, we’ll walk through green desert valleys dramatically enclosed between the mountains of the Andes. Sometimes we’ll see wildlife, such as condors or guanacos. During the first half of the approach, our objective will remain hidden by the nearby mountains. However, at the end of the second day, the stunning east face of Aconcagua will be dramatically revealed. On the final day of the trek to Base Camp, we’ll cross the Vacas River in the morning, then ascend up the Relinchos Valley, for a steeper and more challenging day of trekking. We’ll set up our camp and say goodbye to the mules and Arrieros that transported our gear.
A rest day, limited to sorting our loads for the remainder of the climb. We’ll explore the local terrain to gain acclimatization to this higher altitude, and enjoy another day of plentiful meals while we relax in the comfort of Base Camp.
We’ll carry supplies to Camp Medio (also known as Camp I) and return to Base Camp for the night. Camp Medio is located behind an old glacial moraine at 15,500 ft. This camp is private and only Alpine Ascents uses it. Generally we’ll have lunch at this location while the guides cache our loads. We’ll “double carry” to keep pack weight down and to help ensure good acclimatization.
We’ll move to Camp Medio, departing base camp after a hearty breakfast and taking our time on the ascent. We’ll climb for approximately one hour, rest for 15 to 20 minutes to rehydrate, refuel and tend to other climber needs. This allows for efficient climbing and helps us arrive Camp Medio with sufficient energy to build camp.
We’ll carry to Camp II, located on a high pass known as Ameghino Col, at 17,700 ft. (In windy weather, many guides bypass this camp.) Sometimes we’ll use crampons (depending on snow level) to ascend the slopes below the Col. Often we encounter the “penitentes” – tall snow triangles that can reach 6-plus feet in the air – for which Aconcagua is famous. Ameghino Camp provides spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and the upper route of the Polish Glacier. This is the saddle between Aconcagua and neighboring Ameghino peak.
Rest day at Camp Medio. After the previous day’s carry to Ameghino Col, this is a well-deserved and much-appreciated rest day. This gives us further acclimatization time and rest before moving higher to sleep. Since we won’t be climbing or carrying on this day, we’ll enjoy creative and plentiful meals while in camp.
We’ll carry and move to Camp II, ascending the same route as the prior carry, while feeling much stronger and better acclimatized. We’ll arrive at Ameghino Col and set up our tents, then prepare our dinner and rest.
We’ll carry to Camp III (19,200 ft.), located just below the Polish Glacier, then return to Camp II. This day involves ascending directly upward then traversing west to the base of the Polish Glacier. At camp, we’ll cache our loads and have a brief rest before descending back to Camp II for dinner.
Move to Camp III. We’ll build camp, often constructing rock walls around our tents in case of high winds. From there, we’ll have a great view of the Polish Glacier, as well as our route to High Camp.
Rest and acclimatization at Camp III. This will prepare us for our move to Camp IV (High Camp). We’ll soak up the views from Camp III and rest while enjoying more lengthy and creative meals. While contemplating our summit attempt (two days out) we’ll be closely monitoring the weather to plan for the best day available.
Move to High Camp, aka Camp IV (20,600 ft.), located on the North Ridge. On the approach, we’ll enjoy magnificent views of the Polish Glacier. We’ll traverse west across the Polish Glacier and up the snow/scree slope leading to our Camp IV, which offers breathtaking scenes of many of the highest peaks of the Andes.
This is a single carry day in which pack weight may reach approximately 55 lbs. The weight depends on a number of factors including: weight of personal gear such as backpack; if extra days were used earlier in the trip consuming food and fuel; and temperature on the day of this carry (if all clothing is worn).
Summit day begins at 5 a.m. After breakfast, we’ll generally leave camp at 7 a.m. and climb the North Ridge to Refugio Independencia at approximately 21,400 ft. From there, we’ll traverse the West Face and climb up into the Canaleta, an 800-foot couloir that leads to the summit ridge. Finally, the Guanaco Ridge poses an easy traverse to the summit. On the top, we’ll have a spectacular 360° view. All around, you will see the Andes Mountains consisting of several 20,000-foot peaks, including Mercedario, another of the highest peaks in South America. To the west lies Chile and the Pacific Ocean; to the east, the plains of Argentina. You’ll also be able to look directly down the 9,000-foot South Face of Aconcagua, which is considered one of the great faces of the world.
These extra days are built in to provide the best possible conditions for each participant to summit, and can be used for acclimatization, rest, or as bad weather days. If not used, you’ll have two additional days to enjoy Mendoza, and the great restaurants and wine for which the city is famous.
We’ll descend from High Camp to Plaza de Mulas (Base Camp on the west side of the mountain). This day involves a 6,000-foot descent into the Horcones Valley. Once at Base Camp, we’ll enjoy dinner while appreciating the new perspective from this side of the mountain, and watch the sun set on Aconcagua’s summit.
We’ll trek out from Plaza de Mulas to the Horcones visitor center. This trek follows the Horcones River, and we’ll have several great vantage points to see the South Face of Aconcagua. We’ll arrive at Confluencia camp and enjoy refreshments, then finish the hike to the Horcones visitor center. Our outfitter will pick us up and take us a few minutes to Penitentes, where we’ll have our celebration dinner and hot hotel showers.
We’ll return to Mendoza and our hotel, celebrate our time in the mountains and enjoy the wonders of Argentina. If climbers have extra days and want to tour the many wineries surrounding Mendoza, our guides can provide suggestions.
Arrive at your country of origin.
Excellent, very organized; virtually hassle-free. The guide was top notch – world class – excellent -very confident; in control, excellent source of information, very patient and very helpful to all.