Key information on climbing Aconcagua

If your objective is to climb the seven summits, Aconcagua is the highest mountain in South America and generally described as the highest non-technical climb in the world at 22,842 feet (6962 meters).

I climbed Aconcagua in January 2014 which is generally considered the best time of the year for climbing in Argentina, but even then we had several days of inclement weather which forced us to remain in Base Camp 2.

There are two primary routes up Mt. Aconcagua. Most climbers take the shorter and more direct route called the Horcones Valley route. I climbed with IMG and took the longer route called the Vacas Valley. The advantages of this route include far fewer climbers and more time to acclimatize. During the first several days, you can use mules to carry much of your luggage, but once you reach the Base Camp on either route, you will be carrying your entire load. We would take half of our equipment up to the next camp on a day, and return back to the previous camp to bring the remainder of the equipment on the next day. This helped with acclimatization and also in building strength and endurance for the final approach.

On the final approach day, you can expect to begin climbing at 5:30 am. We had a very cold and windy approach for the first several hours and a number of climbers had to turn back either because of extreme cold, high acute mountain sickness and/or fatigue. I had 7 layers. We reached the summit at about 2 pm which was already a bit late and spent a very brief period of time on top. On the several day hike back from the summit, we did use porter services to help with some of the luggage and removing human waste accumulated during our climb.

Some quick notes:

-       Have experience using crampons prior to climbing Aconcagua

-       Be prepared to climb with at least 50 lbs in your pack

-       Be physically fit. This is much more challenging than Kilimanjaro

-       Have adequate warm weather clothing for extreme conditions

-       No oxygen required. Generally the use of oxygen starts at 24,000 feet

-       Don’t expect to summit on your first attempt. There are many reasons why you might fail to summit ranging from weather to difficulty acclimatizing

-       Be prepared for unhygienic conditions for most of the journey. While showers are available at Base camp(s) for a fee, expect to eat off the same greasy plates for a week plus

-       You are engaging in a life-threating sport, and will suffer at least some mild Cerebral Edema

-       The visa for climbing is good for up to 20 days as of 2017. A successful climb can take several days less although one should be prepared for extreme weather conditions.

-       Very important to have a good climbing team that works well together

Plaza de Mulas

Plaza de Mulas
Talmadge O'Neill
Plaza de Mulas (Base Camp for the more common Horcones route). Note this is about the most beautiful shot you can get of the second largest base camp after Everest.

Camp 3 @ 19,500 Feet

Camp 3 @ 19,500 Feet

Camp 3 on the Vacas Valley route. Interesting tufa like rock structures. About 5900 meters or 19,500 feet. This is the highest you will sleep.

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