Vacas Valley Route Itinerary
Our hallmark trip of nearly 30 years, this route offers:
- Lesser travelled
- More aesthetically appealing
- Chance to traverse the mountain
- Trek into base camp
- Double carries at lower camp reducing weight
- Porters available
- Approximately 40-45 lbs pack w/out porters (based on gear list items)
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, group dynamics, leadership, and Leave No Trace discussions, and an equipment check. This will be followed by a group dinner in one of Mendoza’s many fine restaurants and overnight at Park Hyatt or similar.
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 and 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 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 1, located at 16,300’, and return to Base Camp for the night. Generally, we’ll have lunch at this location while the guides cache our loads. We’ll “double carry” on this and most moves on the upper mountain to keep pack weight down and to help ensure good acclimatization.
We’ll move to Camp I, 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 to Camp I with sufficient energy to erect tents and build camp.
We’ll carry to Camp III / Guanacos which sits at 18,200 ft, located beyond the north side of a high pass known as Ameghino Col. 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. Camp III / Guanacos provides spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and a vista looking down into the Guanacos Valley, a wilderness preserve off limit to humans.
Rest day at Camp I. After the previous day’s carry to Camp III / Guanacos, 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 III / Guanacos, ascending the same route as the prior carry, while feeling much stronger and better acclimatized. We’ll arrive at camp and set up our tents, then prepare our dinner and rest.
We’ll carry to Camp Colera (19,500 ft.), located at the intersection with the North Ridge near Refugio Berlin, then return to Camp III / Guanacos. At camp, we’ll cache our loads and have a brief rest before descending back to Camp III / Guanacos for dinner.
Rest and acclimatization at Camp III / Guanacos. 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 Colera Camp. On the relatively short move, we’ll enjoy magnificent views of the Polish Glacier. We’ll build camp, often constructing rock walls around our tents in case of high winds, or at least carefully reinforcing all rock tie downs. From there, we’ll have a great view of the West side of the mountain and across the Andes into Chile, as well as some of our route to the summit.
Summit day begins at 4 a.m. After breakfast, we’ll generally leave camp at 6 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.
Days 17 – 19
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.
Normal Route Itinerary
- Easiest ( not easy) route on the mountain
- Includes porters for all moves – climbers carry personal gear on acclimatization hikes
- Acclimate in well-appointed base camp (limits nights on upper mountain)
- Shorter in duration then other routes
- Acclimitization climb during base camp stay of Mt. Bonete ( 16,732ft)
- 20/25 lbs pack weight based on gear list items
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, group dynamics, leadership, and Leave No Trace discussions, and an equipment check. This will be followed by a group dinner in one of Mendoza’s many fine restaurants and lodging at Park Hyatt or similar.
After completing the permit process in the morning, we board our private bus to the town of Penitentes ( 8940 ft). 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 and have dinner in the lodge-style hotel.
Day 4 – PENITENTES / CONFLUENCIA (10,826ft)
We travel to the entrance of the Park in a private van. There permits will be presented and you will start with the trekking to Confluencia Camp. The equipment will be carried by mules. At arrival, you will set up your tent with your partner and will be able to rest.
Day 5 – CONFLUENCIA / PLAZA FRANCIA (13,123) / CONFLUENCIA
Trek to Plaza Francia, base of the south face of Mt. Aconcagua. Here we enjoy a delicious lunch and a spectacular view. Then return to Confluencia. This trekking is considered part of the acclimatization process, fundamental in our expedition
Day 6 – CONFLUENCIA / PLAZA DE MULAS (13,976)
The trek to Plaza de Mulas Base Camp lasts around 8 hours. We will stay in our own base camp with the necessary commodities for you to be as comfortable as possible.
Day 7 – PLAZA DE MULAS
Rest day. You will make a short trek in Plaza de Mulas area, to contemplate the beauty of the mountain. Conditions may require crampons on this part of the trek.
Day 8 – PLAZA DE MULAS / MT. BONETE (16,732) / PLAZA DE MULAS
Acclimatization trek to Mt. Bonete summit and return to Plaza de Mulas. This climb will takes about 6 hours and we will reach near 17,000 feet in altitude.
Day 9 – PLAZA DE MULAS / CAMP 1 CANADÁ (16,108) / PLAZA DE MULAS
Acclimatization trekking to Camp 1 “Canada”. We travel to Camp 1 ( Canada Camp), where we lunch at return to Base Camp. Guides will discuss the gear need to be carried but our move in two days will have porter support. Climbers carry own personal gear.
Day 10 – PLAZA DE MULAS
Rest and acclimatization day. Rest day in preparation for next day’s move to higher altitude
Day 11 – PLAZA DE MULAS / CAMP 1 CANADÁ
After a 3-4 hour trek, we reach Camp 1 “Canada”. On this day, each climber will be responsible for carrying personal equipment only. Group gear will be carried by our porter staff. Once at Canada, the group will enjoy lunch after tents and camp is set.
Day 12 – CAMP 1 CANADÁ / CAMP 2 NIDO DE CÓNDORES (17,244)
Climb to Camp 2 “Nido de Cóndores” 4hrs. Group gear carries by porters.
Day 13 – NIDO DE CÓNDORES
Rest and acclimatization day al “Nido de Cóndores”.
Day 14 – CAMP 2 NIDO DE CÓNDORES / CAMP 3 CÓLERA (19,685)
Move to Camp 3 “Cólera” which will be our high camp. This will be a short hike but very demanding climb at , around 3 -4 hours. Group gear carried by porters.
Day 15 – CAMP 3 CÓLERA / SUMMIT (22,841) / CAMP 3 CÓLERA
Climb from Cólera to the summit and return to Camp 3. The group will get up very early in the morning, have breakfast and start climbing with plans to reach Aconcagua summit.
Day 16 – CAMP 3 CÓLERA/ PLAZA DE MULAS
After a long descent, we reach to Plaza de Mulas Base Camp. Once in Plaza de Mulas, the group will have the day.
Day 17 – PLAZA DE MULAS / PUENTE DEL INCA / MENDOZA
Descend to Puente del Inca and last trek in the expedition. Your belongings will be carried by mules, transfer to Mendoza and assistance with hotel and check in.
Days 18– 19
Extra days for rest and inclement weather.
I did enjoy the expedition. I would book again with Alpine Ascents in the future. Alpine Ascents did a good job at explaining the physical demands of this climb. The programs greatest strength is the logistics provided by your company.