Piercing the austral winds with its rocky 22,841’ summit, Aconcagua is the highest mountain in both the Western and Southern Hemispheres, the tallest peak on earth outside of the Himalayas, and one of the fabled Seven Summits.
Beginning our expedition in the tree lined streets of Mendoza, home of Argentina’s famed Malbec grapes, we head into the heart of the Andes on our way to the foot of Aconcagua. We avoid the busier Ruta Normal and instead follow the Vacas Valley on our approach to the mountain, gradually introducing ourselves to the thin mountain air along the way. Three days of trekking, fording rivers, and navigating twisting valleys brings us to the base of Aconcagua’s hidden east side where the climbing begins.
Standing in the heart of the Andes, wedged between Chile and Argentina, Aconcagua’s lofty heights make it the ideal introduction to high altitude mountaineering.
From our Base Camp at Plaza Argentina we follow the Guanacos Variation. We establish three successive camps on the mountain, navigating the mountain’s sprawling rock moraines and towering snow penitentes as we climb to our high camp at 19,600’ on the mountain’s northeastern side. Once properly acclimatized we set out on our summit bid, climbing past the looming rock gendarmes, beneath the cliffs guarding its summit, and up the narrow Canaleta couloir to Aconcagua’s summit.
While the ascent is a relatively straightforward technical endeavor, the mountain’s sheer height and unpredictable weather makes any attempt to scale it a true challenge. This is the ideal expedition for climbers looking to break new height records, gain valuable experience on long climbing expeditions to high altitudes, and challenge themselves on one of the world’s great peaks.
Rainier Mountaineering, Inc. was established in 1969 and is one of America’s oldest and most-trusted guide services. We are the largest guide service on Mt. Rainier and Denali and leaders in guiding climbs and treks around the globe. Our years of leading mountain adventures give us the experience and knowledge to create the best possible trips and we work hard to live up to our reputation as an industry leader. Our trip preparation before departure takes care of the details for you, from hotels to airport transfers, so that you can focus on preparing for the climb of Aconcagua instead of the distraction that comes with coordinating logistics.
Our Aconcagua climbs are led by RMI’s foremost U.S. guides, who bring years of climbing experience on not only Aconcagua but on mountains all over the world, from the Andes to the Alaska Range to the Himalayas. As you reach higher elevations and test the limits of your experience, the value of an accomplished, highly trained RMI Guide held to our standards cannot be understated. We are also fortunate to have Grajales Expeditions as our partners in Argentina. Our close relationship with Grajales offers our expeditions the support needed to ensure a seamless experience and is a major factor behind our trips’ successes.
With fresh food and dining tents at Base Camp, our expeditions are carefully planned to give our climbers the greatest level of safety, comfort and chances of success on Aconcagua. We use RMI’s own climbing equipment brought from the U.S., ensuring that our expedition standards of safety, quality, and reliability are met. Our exceptional focus on detail, our unparalleled level of climber attention, and our genuine excitement for these adventures are what make our Aconcagua guided climbs truly memorable.
Safety has always been RMI’s top priority and we strive to create the safest mountain experience possible. RMI’s experienced team of guides focus on leading a fun and successful climb without compromising safety. We apply the same standards of safety we bring to Alaska and the Himalayas to our climbs of Aconcagua. Medical facilities and doctors are stationed at Base Camp and comprehensive medical kits, rescue equipment, and radio and satellite communication equipment are carried with the team throughout the climb.
Careful planning, precise ascent profiles, flexibility in our itinerary, daily weather forecasts via satellite, and diligent attention are taken as we venture to high altitudes.
Depart U.S.A. Travel to Mendoza, Argentina (MDZ) typically takes 18 – 27 hours from the U.S. depending on your departure city, available connections, and flight times.
Upon arrival in Mendoza, we are picked up at the airport and transferred to our hotel. After checking into your room, time is available to explore the city and its many beautiful parks, or simply relax by the pool. At 5:00 pm in the hotel lobby we gather for our first team meeting. Overnight in Mendoza.
We depart from the hotel and head to the permit office to obtain the climbing permits for our expedition. With our climbing permits secured, we depart Mendoza and head west towards Aconcagua. We drive out of the fertile wine country and into the mountains, reaching Los Penitentes at 9,000′. Los Penitentes is the center of activity for climbers heading up the mountain and it is here that we finalize our preparations for the expedition. Overnight in Los Penitentes. (B, D)
We begin the approach to Base Camp at Plaza Argentina. We make our way into the heart of the Andes as we ascend the gentle, winding trail of the Vacas Valley. Team members carry 20 to 25 pounds in their packs; mules carry the remaining personal and group gear. Our first camp is at Pampa de Las Leñas (9,000′). (B, D)
We continue towards Base Camp as the Vacas Valley opens up and the surrounding mountains grow taller. We are greeted by impressive views of the Eastern Face of Aconcagua as we reach our second night’s camp at Casa de Piedra (10,550′). (B, D)
We complete the approach to Base Camp by following the Relinchos Valley to Plaza Argentina. Base Camp (13,800′) is on a glacial moraine overlooking the river valleys of our approach. We unpack our climbing gear carried by the mules and establish camp. (B, D)
We relax and adjust to the new altitudes while we focus on packing and organizing our gear for the mountain. (B, D)
Our trek ends and the climb begins with our first carry of the expedition. We climb to Camp 1, caching a portion of our supplies and equipment. We descend to Base Camp to sleep. (B, D)
We continue to build upon our acclimatization today with a hike outside of camp. We rest in the afternoon and make the final preparations for our move to Camp 1. (B, D)
We allow for flexibility in our mountain itinerary for considerations such as weather, route conditions, acclimatization and the strength of the climbing team. This allows us to move higher when the weather permits and climbers are ready, not just because of the need to adhere to a pre-determined schedule. Our experienced guides closely monitor climbers’ performance and acclimatization throughout the team’s ascent and may make day-to-day variations in order to better your chances of reaching the summit.
We leave Base Camp with our remaining gear and climb up to occupy Camp 1. (B, D)
Today we get our first view to the north across the expansive scree fields above the Guanacos Valley. The snow covered peaks of the central Andes spread out in the distance. (B, D)
We rest in camp for the day as we prepare for higher altitudes. (B, D)
Shouldering the rest of our gear we climb to Camp 2. (B, D)
We continue traversing high above the Guanacos Valley to our High Camp and leave a cache of gear before returning to Camp 2. (B, D)
In anticipation of our summit bid, we stay at Camp 2 resting and acclimatizing before moving higher. (B, D)
We climb to our High Camp, setting up camp and preparing for our push to the summit. (B, D)
Making an early alpine start, we climb out of camp to join the Ruta Normal. A gradual traverse along the mountain’s northwest flank takes us past the abandoned Refugio Independencia and to the base of the Canaleta, a 1,000′ high couloir leading to the summit ridge. Upon reaching the top of the Canaleta, a straightforward traverse leads to the summit. After celebrating on the summit, we descend to High Camp for the night. (B, D)
This extra day is scheduled into the itinerary in case we encounter poor weather or need additional time for acclimatization. Having this extra day has proven to dramatically improve the team’s success. (B, D)
Another extra day. (B, D)
We leave High Camp and descend to our Base Camp at Plaza Argentina. (B, D)
After we pack up Base Camp and prepare our loads for the mules, we begin our trek out. We descend the Relinchos Valley and continue down the Vacas Valley to Pampa de Las Leñas. We celebrate our last night in the mountains with a traditional Argentine-style BBQ. (B, D)
We finish the trek, reaching Los Penitentes early in the afternoon. After packing our gear, we leave Los Penitentes and return to Mendoza. Our final evening in this beautiful city is the perfect place for our team celebration. Overnight in Mendoza. (B)
Depart Mendoza for scheduled flights back to the U.S. (B)