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ACONCAGUA OVERVIEW

2017/2018 proved our best season yet as we added the Normal Route to our offerings and had 100% team success for the 2nd season in a row. This followed our 100% team success in 2016/17. For 2018/19 we have increased our offerings on both the Normal Route and Vacas Valley Route.

Vacas Valley Route: This is the tried and true route that we have been offering since 1990 (private porter support available). Quieter, more aesthetically pleasing, and offering a chance to traverse the mountain, this route employs three camps above basecamp, and offers ample rest and extra days — Aconcagua at its finest. More about the Vacas Valley Route

Aconcagua Normal Route: This is a shorter and more direct route with porter support to carry group gear (private porter support also available). This trip is competitively priced and includes acclimation days as well as a well-appointed Base Camp, so less moves and carries then Vacas Valley, coupled with less time on the higher mountain camps. More about the Normal Route

We encourage you to review our Why Climb section.

While not technical, Aconcagua is a highly underestimated climb. Traveling with Alpine Ascents and our nearly 30 years of experience, our knowledgeable, expert guides will greatly increase your chances of summiting and being safe on the mountain. Essential logistics like food prep, quality camps, porter options, and days spent on the mountain may seem like areas where you can “cut corners,” however, we profess the importance of these details along with reasonable team sizes (many of our competitors end up combining teams and can have up to 20 people with just a few guides) are paramount to offering a superb experience.

Over the last 25+ years we have developed a superb system on the mountain that affords you the best chance of proper acclimatization and summit success. Our Vacas Valley and Normal Route departures have numerous extra days built into the itinerary, and we methodically ascend the mountain with renowned guide staff at the helm. With a seasonal office in Mendoza, we can quickly respond to issues that arise on the mountain. A low climber-to-guide ratio offers us the ability to closely attend to climbers, which is important to success and safety.

There may be many personal reasons to choose a particular guide service, but there are four main areas of concern that you should look at carefully: safety record, guides, in-country logistics, and pre-trip planning with the climber. In all four categories, Alpine Ascents ranks highest in the climbing industry. No other guide service has the safety record, quality of guides, finely honed programs, food, care, quality, and customer service that we offer.

For me, going on a guided climb is less about paying someone to haul me up a mountain, and more about paying for an education, which I definitely got. I gained an invaluable amount of information and experience because all three guides would turn any given scenario into a learning opportunity. Not only are they extremely knowledgeable, they also each have the ability to convey information and impart knowledge in an effortless, intuitive way. – Aconcagua Climber

VACAS VALLEY ROUTE ITINERARY

Our hallmark trip of nearly 30 years, this route offers:

  • Less traveled route
  • More aesthetically appealing
  • Chance to traverse the mountain
  • Trek into Base Camp
  • Double carries, reducing weight
  • Porters available
  • Pack Weight: Approximately 45-50 lbs. pack without porters (depending on your gear selections)

We highly recommend arriving a day early in case of lost luggage. We are happy to book your extra night in the hotel. Transport from the airport to Mendoza Park Hyatt is simple and straightforward.

DAY 1

Depart country of origin.

DAY 2

Arrive in Mendoza, Argentina. Climbers should arrive on a morning flight. After checking into your hotel, we will have a mandatory climb orientation session covering group dynamics, leadership, and Leave No Trace, as well as a thorough equipment check. This will be followed by a group dinner in one of Mendoza’s many fine restaurants and an overnight stay at the Park Hyatt Hotel or similar accommodations.

DAY 3

After completing the permit process in the morning, we board our private bus and travel 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.

DAYS 4-6

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 our base camp for the 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 all prepared by the guides. On the approach, we’ll walk through green desert valleys dramatically bordered by 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 settle into Base Camp and say goodbye to the mules and arrieros who transported our gear.

DAY 7

A rest day, limited to sorting our loads for the remainder of the climb. We’ll explore the local terrain to continue our acclimatization to the altitude, and enjoy another day of plentiful meals while we relax in the comfort of Base Camp.

DAY 8

We’ll carry supplies to Camp I, located at 16,300 ft., and return to Base Camp for the night. Generally, we’ll have at Camp I while the guides cache our loads. We’ll “double carry” on this moves and most moves on the upper mountain to keep pack weight down and to help ensure good acclimatization.

DAY 9

A rest day, limited to making final packing preparations for our departure from Base Camp. We’ll explore the local terrain to continue our acclimatization to the altitude, and enjoy another day of plentiful meals and Base Camp comforts.

DAY 10

We’ll move to Camp I, departing Base Camp after a hearty breakfast, and will take our time on the ascent. We’ll climb for approximately one hour, rest for 10 to 15 minutes to rehydrate, refuel, and tend any climber needs. This allows for efficient climbing and helps us arrive to Camp I with sufficient energy to erect tents and build camp.

DAY 11

We’ll carry to Camp Guanacos which sits at 18,200 ft., located beyond the north side of a high pass known as Ameghino Col, cache our loads, and return to Camp I for the night. Sometimes we’ll use crampons (depending on snow level) to ascend the slopes below Ameghino Col. Often we encounter “penitentes” – tall snow triangles that can reach six-plus feet in the air – for which Aconcagua is famous. Camp Guanacos provides spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and a vista looking down into the Guanacos Valley, a wilderness preserve off-limits to humans.

DAY 12

Rest day at Camp I. After the previous day’s carry to Camp 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.

DAY 13

We’ll move to Camp 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.

DAY 14

We’ll carry to Camp Colera (19,500 ft.), located at the intersection with the North Ridge near Refugio Berlin. At camp, we’ll cache our loads and have a brief rest before descending back to Camp Guanacos for dinner and a well-earned night of rest.

DAY 15

Rest and acclimatization at Camp Guanacos. We’ll soak up the views from Camp Guanacos and enjoy 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.

DAY 16

Move to Camp Colera. On this 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 tent anchors made by stacking rocks. From here, 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.

DAY 17

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-ft. couloir that leads to the summit ridge. Finally, the Guanaco Ridge offers an easy traverse to the summit. On the top, we’ll have a spectacular 360 degree view. All around, you will see the Andes Mountains consisting of several 20,000-ft. 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-ft. south face of Aconcagua, which is considered one of the great faces of the world.

DAY 18

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-ft. 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.

DAY 19

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 from which 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 transport us a few minutes to Penitentes, where we’ll have our celebration dinner and hot hotel showers.

DAY 20

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.

DAYS 21–22

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.

DAY 23

Depart Mendoza.

DAY 24

Arrive at your country of origin.

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Q WHAT IS THE SKILL LEVEL OF THIS CLIMB?

Climbers should have completed a substantial trek or climb and carried a heavy pack prior to this climb. We highly recommend prior crampon training or a program such as a three-day climb of Mt. Rainier or Mt. Baker. Usually it will be well worth your time to complete a beginning mountaineering climbing course, such as one of the following by Alpine Ascents: Cascades 6 Day, Rainier 8 Day, Alaska 8 Day, Alaska 12 Day, or have equivalent skills and experience.
The Aconcagua climb requires very basic cramponing and expedition camping skills. It is our goal to have similarly skilled climbers on our expeditions. For more information, please see our Aconcagua Training regimen to get a sense of how to prepare and learn the physical demands of this climb.

Q WHAT IS THE PHYSICAL CONDITIONING FOR THIS CLIMB?

Climbers are expected to be in excellent physical condition.

Q ANY TIPS ON HOW CLIMBERS CAN MAXIMIZE THEIR CHANCES OF SUCCESS?

Review the Aconcagua Training page of our website.

Q WHO IS THE GUIDING TEAM COMPOSED OF (HOW MANY GUIDES? CLIMBER TO GUIDE RATIO?)

Our 10- or 11-person teams depart with three guides. Additionally, we utilize other Alpine Ascents teams already on the mountain who may help with descending climbers.

Q WHAT IS THE BEST SEASON TO CLIMB / WHICH DATES WILL HAVE THE HIGHEST CHANCE FOR SUCCESS?

December through February are the months when the weather is most stable, however, high winds can occur any time of the year.

Q HOW MANY CLIMBERS ARE ON THIS EXPEDITION?

Rarely more than 10; on occasion we may have 11.

Q WILL I BE SHARING A TENT OR LODGING WITH OTHER CLIMBERS?

On the climb, you will be sharing expedition tents. You will share rooms on this expedition in town, or you can pay a higher fee for single rooms. Contact our office for information on single rooms.

Q HOW MUCH WILL MY PACK WEIGH?

Vacas Valley Route: 45/50 lbs. Less with porter.
Normal Route: 35/40 lbs. Less with porter

Q HOW DOES YOUR GEAR RENTAL SYSTEM WORK?

All rental gear will be mailed to the climber prior to the climb (US climbers only). Climbers requesting rental gear must submit an expedition rental form (same form as the Gear List).

Q ANY FURTHER ADVICE ON GEAR AND USING YOUR GEAR LIST?

While all items are required, there may be times when some of the items on the Gear List are not used (such as during warm weather or changing conditions). The Gear Lists are created by the guides so that climbers will be prepared to summit in any conditions.

While it is impossible for us to list all brands for certain gear, we do offer a wide variety of equipment in our Gear Shop, that has been handpicked by our staff of mountaineering experts. Please feel free to call our offices with any gear questions or substitutes. Plastic boots are required for this climb.

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