Aconcagua is the highest peak in South America, which gives it membership to the “Seven Summits” club.
It is also the highest trekking peak in the world, though the fact that it is a ‘trekking peak’ does not mean that it’s easy. The altitude and weather combine to make this an adventure that tests even the toughest. In good conditions it is hard but not technically difficult. In bad conditions it is virtually unclimbable.
As a result of this we build plenty of rest and contingency days into the itinerary. This gives you the best chance of summiting and seeing the great views of the Andes from the top. Our highly experienced local guides have a great record of getting climbers to the summit safely.
If you have already climbed Kilimanjaro, or summited one of the trekking peaks in Nepal, then this is a great next step. However, make sure you turn up the fittest you have ever been and ready for an endurance marathon. The reward for those summiting are amazing – stunning views across the Andes!
Book your adventure now with Kandoo, the specialists in high altitude adventures
We recommend what is known as the ‘Normal’ route to climb Aconcagua, as this has the best success rate. A map of this route is below.
The Normal Route has a high success rate for four reasons.
- It is the only route that does not require technical climbing experience
- The distance between the high camps is relatively short and the camps are relatively evenly spaced. This makes the effort over the final summit days more manageable
- It is much cheaper and easier to hire private porters on this route which can be a huge help
- The approach from Confluencia is easier, so less energy is used before you really get into the climb
Not only is the success rate highest on the Normal Route, but it is also the safest route. This is because there is a medical service in the Confluencia and Plaza de Mulas base camps, where the level of care is very high. Since it is the busiest route, it is monitored very closely by the Rescue Patrol, which has its operation centre in the Plaza de Mulas base camp. If anything should go wrong, help can be at hand very quickly.
A final attraction of the route is that the descent is the fastest and most direct, taking only two days to the Park exit.
One downside of this route is that the high camps are very exposed to wind storms – our itineraries have contingency days built in to mitigate this. During the high season, it is the busiest, as everyone wants to climb the route with the best chance of success.
The best time to climb Aconcagua is during the high season, from mid December to the end of January. This period generally offers the most stable weather on the mountain and lots of summit window opportunities. If your schedule doesn’t allow for a high season climb, then we recommend looking at the shoulder weeks of the mid-season from either early December or early February.
There are three contingency days in our itinerary to allow for unpredictable weather and the best summit window opportunity. The chart below summarises the weather conditions by climbing season.
There is no technical climbing on the “Normal Route” up Aconcagua. You need experience walking in crampons and with the use of an ice axe but nothing more. However, the sheer height of Aconcagua, along with extremely cold temperatures on the mountain, make it a challenging ascent, even for accomplished mountaineers.
Since the summit is close to 7,000m, climbers have to spend sustained periods camping in tough conditions at high altitude – this can be mentally and physically draining. Climbers also have to help take kit to the high base camp which involves carrying more than your day pack.
Moreover, weather conditions high up on the mountain can change rapidly, with extremely cold temperatures as low as -30°C not uncommon.
Aconcagua is a big step up from Kilimanjaro. That being said, summiting Aconcagua via the Normal Route is very attainable for those with the right attitude, who have trained well and are mentally prepared for the rigours of high altitude trekking.
Day 1 Arrive in Mendoza
Day 2 Mendoza to Penitentes
Day 3 Los Penitentes via the Horcones Valley to Confluencia (3400m)
Day 4 Confluencia – Plaza de Francia – Confluencia
Day 5 Confluencia – Plaza de Mulas
Day 6 Rest and acclimatise day at Plaza de Mulas
Day 7 Plaza de Mulas – Cerro Bonete – Plaza de Mulas
Day 8 Equipment carry to Plaza Canadá returning to Plaza de Mulas
Day 9 Rest day in Plaza Mulas
Day 10 Plaza de Mulas – Plaza Canadá
Day 11 Canadá – Nido de Condores
Day 12 Nido de Cóndores – Berlín
Day 13 Summit day (6962m)
Day 14 Contingency day
Day 15 Contingency day
Day 16 Berlín – Plaza de Mulas
Day 17 Plaza de Mulas – Mendoza
Day 18 Departure day
To give yourself the best shot at summiting Aconcagua we recommend being in the best physical shape that you can possibly be. This means having a strong cardiovascular system and aerobic fitness level. If you live in an area that is blessed with mountainous terrain, then the the best training you can do is to take frequent hiking excursions. However, for the majority of folk who don't live near mountains, then we recommend a strict gym training regime for 3-5 months before taking on Aconcagua. Your training regime should consist of aerobic activities like running, spinning or spending time on the rowing machine. You should couple aerobic exercises with weight training to strengthen your legs and core. We recommend squats, lunges, kettle bell swings and sit ups.
The best time to climb Aconcagua is from mid December to the end of January. This is the high season and is characterised by the most stable and predictable weather on the mountain. The shoulder weeks on either side of the high season (i.e. mid November to mid December and the month of February) are also generally good for climbing Aconcagua.
Yes, unlike many operators who do not include the Aconcagua permit in their tour cost, all Kandoo Aconcagua climbs include your park permit. The fees for permits vary by season (low, mid and high season), route and by nationality (Argentinians and Latin American's get a discount). Prices for permits are released a few weeks before the climbing season and can be accessed here: www.aconcagua.mendoza.gov.ar
Our guide-to-client ratios are 1/3 - 2/7 - 3/11. We like to keep our groups relatively small to give everyone a good chance of summiting. In our experience an optimum group number is 6 climbers. If we reach 9 climbers in a group we split the group. Our highly experienced local guides have qualifications from the High Mountain and Trekking Guides School in Mendoza (EPGAMT) and/or from the Bolivian (AGMTB) and Argentinian (AAGM) Mountain Guides associations. Our staff are carefully selected and trained. Our camps are coordinated by a Head of Camp and attended by a specialist (and assistant chef) trained to satisfy your needs. At base camp we have dining tents with electricity, tables, chairs and crockery. Rooms with beds set up in large tents. Kitchen, bathroom and a tent luggage deposit. You can rent a mountain tent in our base camp, although it is recommend that you let us know about it in advance, to ensure stock. We offer high quality North Face or MSR tents.
Summit success varies and is often highly dependent on weather. If conditions are favourable we generally achieve an 80% summit success rate.
It is a condition of joining an Aconcagua climb that you have insurance that covers you up to 7000m and that cover extends to the full cost of evacuation if needed. Policy providers we recommend are Dog Tag and World Nomads, both of whom sell specialist climbing insurance.
We recommend bringing three types of bags for your Aconcagua expedition: a large duffle bag (80-90L), an expedition rucksack (70L-90L) and a light daypack (30-35L).
From the hike into Base Camp we use mules to carry most gear and supplies. As a climber you will only carry your daypack (water, snacks, camera, jacket, sunscreen, etc.).
From Base Camp to High Camps you can expect to carry all of your personal gear plus a share of the common gear (although we provide porters for group equipment). On average, a fully-loaded Aconcagua backpack weighs 18-22 kg.
We offer our own reliable team of porters to carry gear up and down the mountain. Each porter carries up to 20 kg from Base Camp to any given camp and down from high camp or other camps to Base Camp. On our trips we include one porter for every four climbers, to carry common gear only when the group moves from one camp to the next. Porters don't assist in the cache and carry trips (i.e. not when the group carries gear to a cache and comes back to camp). Climbers who don’t want to carry weight can hire a personal porter, on a daily basis or for the whole trip. Please contact us for personal porter rates.
Common gear, such as tents, stoves, garbage, first aid kit is carried up to Base Camp by mules.
From Base Camp up to the first High Camp we do not use mules as they cannot work at these higher altitudes. One porter for every 4 climbers will take over carrying some of the "common gear", plus the clients will also be expected to carry a share of common gear. You will need to be able to carry a load of between 18-24kg (personal gear + share of common gear) and ensure that your rucksack is large enough to accommodate the extra load you will need to carry from Base Camp up to the first High Camp.
The success rate fluctuates around 60% each year, with failed summits largely due to altitude related issues.