Aconcagua Course & Ascent

Health & Fitness

Your Health

Expedition members will be provided with pre-trip medical advice and a medical questionnaire and asked to visit their family physician to receive a full medical examination.  This information will be sighted only by the expedition leader and our medical adviser and treated with full confidentiality.

Level of Skills Required

Climbing to a summit that is almost 7,000 metres in elevation is an extreme undertaking. The ascent of Aconcagua is a very physically demanding objective that is frequently underestimated due to the incorrect assumption that because the climb is not technically difficult it is not extremely physically challenging. Climbers on Aconcagua must be prepared to endure an environment that can be potentially life threatening; you may encounter extreme weather conditions including cold temperatures and very high winds, as well as the effects of extreme altitude. We suggest you prepare yourself physically and mentally for the Aconcagua expedition through a physical training program and mountain skills training.

To climb Aconcagua you need to be physically fit, have strong mental stamina and be capable of strenuous exercise for several days duration. Expedition members can expect to be exerting themselves for about six hours per day and be capable of carrying a 25 kg pack (although porter support is available – see Add Ons).  To be successful you must train by carrying a heavy pack in mountainous terrain.

Climbing at altitude affects people differently, most climbers notice a lower performance rate than normal. Our climbing days are mostly short to accommodate this and vital rest days are usually welcomed! Our graduated acclimatisation program and pre-climb on Vallecitos allows you to progressively consolidate your fitness but you must arrive on the expedition in good health and with a good level of fitness. Summit day is the most physically demanding of the days and entails an 1,100m or 3,500ft ascent at altitude. This rewarding and photogenic day typically takes between twelve and fourteen hours.

The Aconcagua expedition is suitable for people with general mountaineering skills.  If your prior mountain experience is limited or you find you need more time than others to acclimatise to high altitude, then the Course & Ascent provides additional acclimatisation and instruction during our pre-climb on Mt Vallecitos.

Importantly, participants should be of a positive frame of mind and be willing to operate as part of a team.

Specific Training for Aconcagua

In order for your Aconcagua expedition to be both more enjoyable and to increase your chance of summit success you should train for at least 3-4 months prior to your climb.  Focus on pack carrying on steep and varied terrain, aiming to carry 5-10% more than the required pack weight of 25kg; so up to 28kg.  If you do not live close to any significant elevation gain, train on a Stairmaster or treadmill, while wearing a pack, but also on varied terrain such as grass, gravel or hilly sand dunes for a more complete training outcome.  You should also incorporate downhill training to increase your quad strength for the descent. 

Endurance training is also important as you will have to be able to climb, carrying a heavy pack for up to 6 hours on most days, and 10-14 hours on summit day.

Add back-to-back pack carrying days in the 4-6 weeks prior to departure; either in the form of overnight backpacking or with the first day on stairs or in the gym, building up to the 1000m ascent required on summit day, and a second day of flatter, outdoor walking with a lighter pack. 

Interval training can help prepare your body for exertion at altitude – see Training for High Altitude Mountaineering.

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Photos

Aconcagua - Polish Glacier route © Guy Cotter

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