To develop sufficient skills to ascend Aconcagua, South America’s highest peak:
- Development of footwork, cramponing and snow climbing skills
- Expedition camping skills
- A training climb on Mt Vallecitos
- An ascent of Aconcagua
You will be taught basic snow climbing techniques that will prepare you for the ascent of Aconcagua. The training will focus on teaching good footwork by spending as much time as possible on similar slopes to what you would find on the climbing route up and down the mountain.
- Footwork and mountain travel techniques
- Basic snow climbing using crampons and ice axe
- Pacing and acclimatisation practices
- Expedition camping skills
Training on Vallecitos
The expedition begins and culminates in the charming Argentine city of Mendoza. Tree lined avenues, beautiful tiled plazas, lively markets and outdoor cafes with vibrant latin rhythms, offer a unique setting to sample the region’s fine cuisine and wine.
We have time in Mendoza to finalise our equipment, though please arrive the day before day one if you have equipment to rent or purchase. We then travel by coach 95 kilometres to the Vallecitos ski field at 2,800m/9,186ft where we stay two nights in the San Bernardo Hut enjoying day hikes around the area to aid our acclimatisation.
We continue the ascent by trekking 4-5 hours through picturesque green meadows and up steep grass and scree slopes to an interim camp Piedra Grande Camp (3,580m/11,745ft). The following day we continue trekking for 3 hours through to our Base Camp known as El Salto. El Salto is situated at the base of the glacier (4,200m/13,779ft). We spend a further day here, acclimatising and reviewing skills for the next day’s summit attempt.
The climb begins by following an easy path through open basins to a saddle from where we follow the ridge to the summit of Vallecitos. A short but exposed scramble leads to the summit itself. After celebrations and a photographic session which includes views to Aconcagua, we descend to El Salto for a well-earned meal and rest, before our trek out to Vallecitos.
Trekking to Base Camp
From here we drive to the town of Uspallata where we enjoy a shower and a rest day and prepare for the next phase of the expedition. Mule loads will be organised for the trek to Aconcagua Base Camp, while final gear preparations are completed.
Approaching the Vacas Valley route involves a three day trek along the desert-like Vacas and Relinchos Valleys, which are distinguished by striking colourful rock formations and spectacular glaciers contrasting with the interspersed greenery. ‘Gauchos’, the ‘cowboys’ of the Argentine Pampa will lead mules carrying our equipment to the Base Camp at Plaza Argentina (4,200m/13,800ft). During the trek we will be accompanied by the muleteers, enabling us to hike with lightweight daypacks and to be ferried across the Rio de las Vacas, if the waters are high.
Upon arriving at Plaza Argentina Base Camp, our sleeping tents will be established in rock windbreaks on the moraine of the Relinchos Glacier. We utilise a large heated and insulated dining tent, complete with sturdy flooring, and have excellent catered meals whilst at Base Camp. After dinner, we can relax in the comfortable lounge area to read or socialise with other members. There is power for charging devices, wi-fi and hot showers available free of charge. A valuable acclimatisation and organisation day will occur before we begin carrying and caching equipment to Camp 1 (4,700m/15,400ft) the following morning. We continue to ascend in a lightweight expedition style progressively establishing three camps over a seven to ten day period. Camps on the mountain are as comfortable as the conditions allow; we have a dining tent in Camp 1 and Camp 2 where meals of ‘real’ (not dried) food are prepared by your guides and at Camp 3 there is a large cook tent staffed by a dedicated guide who assists in preparing food and drinks and provides additional support to the group.
The exact climbing itinerary is not fixed to allow for the optimal acclimatisation program and any inclement weather. The Aconcagua massif is often subject to very cold temperatures and storms that sweep in from the Pacific Ocean; 160km to the west. Hence your guide will be working around any forecasted weather systems to plan for the best summit program.
Climbing at altitude is more arduous than at lower elevations due to the thinner atmosphere. Our experience at high altitude has enabled us to develop a successful strategy for climbing high peaks with sensible acclimatisation. Rest days will be interspersed between camp move days and load shuttling. The terrain during the majority of the ascent entails unroped travel over moraine, scree and permanent snow fields where the unique neve penitentes or ‘ice towers’ will be encountered.
Summit day begins from Camp 3 and it is here we join the normal route from the Horcones Valley, which meanders up the ‘Canaleta’ and through to the summit. The ascent is never technical and conditions are varied; some seasons the route is completely free of snow, whereas other years see deep snow on this section so we must be prepared for all eventualities. Aconcagua is known for very cold weather high on the mountain. About 6-10 hours after leaving top camp we reach the summit and its splendid panoramas. It’s only a few hours back to the camp and a well-earned brew!
Having completed the climb, we now descend in one day to Plaza de Mulas in the Horcones Valley for a good meal and rest at the comfortable Base Camp. The following morning we embark on the trek out down the valley and pass through Penitentes, to then return to Mendoza on the same day.
To maximise safety and summit opportunities our schedule allows several contingency days. We operate with small groups to ensure individualised attention and further enhance our efficiency and safety. We place special emphasis on ensuring the highest standards in accommodation, transport, food, equipment and guiding expertise.