Aconcagua

  • Aconcagua

Share

At 6962 metres Aconcagua is the highest peak in the world outside of the Himalayas and one of the Seven Summits. It is the highest mountain in the Americas and it dominates the great Andes mountain range that forms the spine of South America. Although Aconcagua is within the abilities of most strong, fit and experienced trekkers, this mighty mountain is not an easy undertaking. Many climbers fail, some never return.

There are three non-technical routes up the mountain - trails that bypass the Polish Glacier. We describe each route, suggest itineraries and provide you with the information you need to plan an expedition to the summit. If you have recently returned from a trip to Aconcagua, please contribute your information, tips and advice so other climbers can benefit from your experience.

The information we provide is to the best of our knowledge accurate and not misleading. However, we accept no responsibility for any errors. Climbing Aconcagua is a serious and dangerous undertaking. You should plan an expedition carefully and take all necessary steps to ensure the safety of all group members at all times. If in doubt, seek expert mountaineering advice.

Location of Aconcagua on the globe

Permits to climb Aconcagua must be obtained from the Argentinean authorities in Mendoza. This vibrant city has many fine restaurants and bars so is a great place to spend some time before hitting the mountain. There are also plenty of gear shops where you can purchase or hire all the items you need for a 16-20 day expedition.

A 3-4 hour bus journey from Mendoza takes you to the tiny ski-resort of Penitentes, the base from which most local service companies operate their mule services into the Aconcagua National Park. At 2600 metres most climbers spend a night here acclimatising to the new altitude.

Aconcagua climbing routes, Horcones Valley and Vacas Valley

There are two base camps on the mountain, Plaza De Mulas at the head of the Horcones Valley and Plaza Argentina reached via the Vacas Valley. Mules can carry your climbing gear from Penitentes to the base camps at approx. 4200 metres. From here your gear is transported higher up the mountain on your back in a series of moves that help with altitude acclimatisation.

Horcones Valley, Aconcagua, Argentina

Horcones Valley (Normal Route)

The Horcones Valley, usually referred to as the Normal route, starts at the Horcones Park entrance where you will have your climbing permit checked. From here it is a 1-2 day trek to Plaza De Mulas. However, most climbers add an extra day for a recommended acclimatisation walk to Plaza Francia.

There are 3 camps above Plaza De Mulas: Camp Canada at 4900 metres (Camp 1), Nido de Cóndores at approx 5400 metres (Camp 2) and Camp Berlin or Colera at 6000 metres (Camp 3).

Before leaving base camp it is worth considering adding a day or two to your itinerary for an acclimatisation climb of Mt. Bonete, a summit at approx 5100 metres that offers fine views across to Aconcagua.

Normal Route
  • Day 01. Arrive Mendoza (760 m)
  • Day 02. Mendoza - Penitentes (2600 m)
  • Day 03. Penitentes - Confluencia (3370 m)
  • Day 04. Confluencia - Plaza Francia (4200 m) - Confluencia (3370 m)
  • Day 05. Confluencia - Plaza de Mulas (4250 m)
  • Day 06. Rest Day at Plaza de Mulas (4250 m)
  • Day 07. Plaza de Mulas - Camp 1 (4900 m) - Plaza de Mulas (4250 m)
  • Day 08. Rest Day at Plaza de Mulas (4250 m)
  • Day 09. Plaza de Mulas - Camp 1 (4900 m)
  • Day 10. Camp 1 - Camp 2 (5400 m)
  • Day 11. Camp 2 - Camp 3 (6000 m) - Camp 2 (5400 m)
  • Day 12. Rest day at Camp 2 (5400 m)
  • Day 13. Camp 2 - Camp 3 (6000 m)
  • Day 14. Camp 3 - Summit (6962 m) - Camp 3 (6000 m)
  • Day 15. Summit Reserve Day
  • Day 16. Summit Reserve Day *
  • Day 17. Camp 3 - Plaza de Mulas (4250 m)
  • Day 18. Plaza de Mulas - Penitentes (2600 m) - Mendoza (760 m)
  • Day 19. Mendoza (760 m)
  • Day 20. Depart Mendoza
Normal Route & Mt. Bonete
  • Day 01. Arrive Mendoza (760 m)
  • Day 02. Mendoza - Penitentes (2600 m)
  • Day 03. Penitentes - Confluencia (3370 m)
  • Day 04. Confluencia - Plaza Francia (4200 m) - Confluencia (3370 m)
  • Day 05. Confluencia - Plaza de Mulas (4250 m)
  • Day 06. Rest Day at Plaza de Mulas (4250 m)
  • Day 07. Plaza de Mulas - Mt. Bonete (5100 m) - Plaza de Mulas (4250 m)
  • Day 08. Plaza de Mulas - Camp 1 (4900 m) - Plaza de Mulas (4250 m)
  • Day 09. Rest Day at Plaza de Mulas (4250 m)
  • Day 10. Plaza de Mulas - Camp 1 (4900 m)
  • Day 11. Camp 1 - Camp 2 (5400 m)
  • Day 12. Camp 2 - Camp 3 (6000 m) - Camp 2 (5400 m)
  • Day 13. Rest day at Camp 2 (5400 m)
  • Day 14. Camp 2 - Camp 3 (6000 m)
  • Day 15. Camp 3 - Summit (6962 m) - Camp 3 (6000 m)
  • Day 16. Summit Reserve Day *
  • Day 17. Camp 3 - Plaza de Mulas (4250 m)
  • Day 18. Plaza de Mulas - Penitentes (2600 m) - Mendoza (760 m)
  • Day 19. Mendoza (760 m)
  • Day 20. Depart Mendoza

* Most groups allocate three summit days. However we recommend planning for two days, as few groups are prepared to wait on the mountain in bad weather for three days. Most people find the conditions too tough and the attraction of fine food and wine in Mendoza too strong.

Vacas Valley, Aconcagua, Argentina

Vacas Valley

The three day walk through the Vacas Valley to Plaza Argentina base camp offers a more gradual ascent up the mountain than the Normal route. For this reason you acclimatise more slowly, which can improve your chances of avoiding altitude sickness.

The Vacas Valley is less used than the Normal Route so you will meet fewer climbers on your journey and the base camp is much smaller than Plaza De Mulas.

Above base camp there are two routes that you can follow. The Polish Traverse is a tough climb and is now rarely used by the large climbing groups. The Ameghino Traverse offers a more gradual ascent but is much more crowded as it is the route favoured by many of the commercial groups.

After your summit attempt, if you are leaving the park via the Vacas Valley expect a long punishing walk. For this reason the Aconcagua 360° route is recommended, as exiting the park via the Horcones Valley requires one less day of walking.

Polish Traverse
  • Day 01. Arrive Mendoza (760 m)
  • Day 02. Mendoza - Penitentes (2600 m)
  • Day 03. Penitentes - Pampa De Leñas (2800 m)
  • Day 04. Pampa De Leñas - Casa De Piedras (3240 m)
  • Day 05. Casa De Piedras - Plaza Argentina (4200 m)
  • Day 06. Rest Day at Plaza Argentina (4200 m)
  • Day 07. Plaza Argentina - Camp 1 (5000 m) - Plaza Argentina (4200 m)
  • Day 08. Rest Day at Plaza Argentina (4200 m)
  • Day 09. Plaza Argentina - Camp 1 (5000 m)
  • Day 10. Camp 1 - Camp 2 (5800 m) - Camp 1 (5000 m)
  • Day 11. Rest Day at Camp 1 (5000 m)
  • Day 12. Camp 1 - Camp 2 (5800 m)
  • Day 13. Camp 2 - Summit (6962 m) - Camp 2 (5800 m)
  • Day 14. Summit Reserve Day
  • Day 15. Summit Reserve Day *
  • Day 16. Camp 2 - Plaza Argentina (4200 m)
  • Day 17. Plaza Argentina - Pampa De Leñas (2800 m)
  • Day 18. Pampa De Leñas - Penitentes (2600 m) - Mendoza (760 m)
  • Day 19. Mendoza (760 m)
  • Day 20. Depart Mendoza
Ameghino Traverse
  • Day 01. Arrive Mendoza (760 m)
  • Day 02. Mendoza - Penitentes (2600 m)
  • Day 03. Penitentes - Pampa De Leñas (2800 m)
  • Day 04. Pampa De Leñas - Casa De Piedras (3240 m)
  • Day 05. Casa De Piedras - Plaza Argentina (4200 m)
  • Day 06. Rest Day at Plaza Argentina (4200 m)
  • Day 07. Plaza Argentina - Camp 1 (5000 m) - Plaza Argentina (4200 m)
  • Day 08. Rest Day at Plaza Argentina (4200 m)
  • Day 09. Plaza Argentina - Camp 1 (5000 m)
  • Day 10. Camp 1 - Camp 2 (5500 m) - Camp 1 (5000 m)
  • Day 11. Rest Day at Camp 1 (5000 m)
  • Day 12. Camp 1 - Camp 2 (5500 m)
  • Day 13. Camp 2 - Camp 3 (6000 m)
  • Day 14. Camp 3 - Summit (6962 m) - Camp 3 (6000 m)
  • Day 15. Summit Reserve Day *
  • Day 16. Camp 3 - Plaza Argentina (4200 m)
  • Day 17. Plaza Argentina - Pampa De Leñas (2800 m)
  • Day 18. Pampa De Leñas - Penitentes (2600 m) - Mendoza (760 m)
  • Day 19. Mendoza (760 m)
  • Day 20. Depart Mendoza

* Most groups allocate three summit days. However we recommend planning for two days, as few groups are prepared to wait on the mountain in bad weather for three days. Most people find the conditions too tough and the attraction of fine food and wine in Mendoza too strong.

Aconcagua climbing routes, Polish Traverse and Ameghino Traverse
Camp Colera, Aconcagua, Argentina

Aconcagua 360° - Vacas & Horcones Valleys

With the Aconcagua 360° route you ascend the mountain via the Vacas Valley and descend through the Horcones Valley. You gain from the slower ascent up the mountain that the Vacas Valley offers and then leave the park in only two days after making your summit attempt.

If you are going to visit Aconcagua only once in your life and you would like to experience the most that the mountain offers, the Aconcagua 360° is the route to take.

With the Polish Traverse you make your summit attempt from Camp 2 at approx 5800 metres. When you descend off the mountain, to enter the Horcones Valley you need to pass through Camp Colera at 6000 metres. This makes the descent to Plaza De Mulas a tough day as you will be carrying all your gear.

With both the Polish Traverse and the Ameghino Traverse, as you do not return to Plaza Argentina you must carry all items of gear that you need for the walk out of the park, up to 6000 metres and then down to Plaza De Mulas. This adds 1-2 kilograms to your load but is worth the effort, as it avoids the extra day walk out via the Vacas Valley.

Polish Traverse
  • Day 01. Arrive Mendoza (760 m)
  • Day 02. Mendoza - Penitentes (2600 m)
  • Day 03. Penitentes - Pampa De Leñas (2800 m)
  • Day 04. Pampa De Leñas - Casa De Piedras (3240 m)
  • Day 05. Casa De Piedras - Plaza Argentina (4200 m)
  • Day 06. Rest Day at Plaza Argentina (4200 m)
  • Day 07. Plaza Argentina - Camp 1 (5000 m) - Plaza Argentina (4200 m)
  • Day 08. Rest Day at Plaza Argentina (4200 m)
  • Day 09. Plaza Argentina - Camp 1 (5000 m)
  • Day 10. Camp 1 - Camp 2 (5800 m) - Camp 1 (5000 m)
  • Day 11. Rest Day at Camp 1 (5000 m)
  • Day 12. Camp 1 - Camp 2 (5800 m)
  • Day 13. Camp 2 - Summit (6962 m) - Camp 2 (5800 m)
  • Day 14. Summit Reserve Day
  • Day 15. Summit Reserve Day *
  • Day 16. Camp 2 - Camp 3 (6000 m) - Plaza de Mulas (4250 m)
  • Day 17. Plaza de Mulas - Penitentes (2600 m) - Mendoza (760 m)
  • Day 18. Mendoza (760 m)
  • Day 19. Depart Mendoza
Ameghino Traverse
  • Day 01. Arrive Mendoza (760 m)
  • Day 02. Mendoza - Penitentes (2600 m)
  • Day 03. Penitentes - Pampa De Leñas (2800 m)
  • Day 04. Pampa De Leñas - Casa De Piedras (3240 m)
  • Day 05. Casa De Piedras - Plaza Argentina (4200 m)
  • Day 06. Rest Day at Plaza Argentina (4200 m)
  • Day 07. Plaza Argentina - Camp 1 (5000 m) - Plaza Argentina (4200 m)
  • Day 08. Rest Day at Plaza Argentina (4200 m)
  • Day 09. Plaza Argentina - Camp 1 (5000 m)
  • Day 10. Camp 1 - Camp 2 (5500 m) - Camp 1 (5000 m)
  • Day 11. Rest Day at Camp 1 (5000 m)
  • Day 12. Camp 1 - Camp 2 (5500 m)
  • Day 13. Camp 2 - Camp 3 (6000 m)
  • Day 14. Camp 3 - Summit (6962 m) - Camp 3 (6000 m)
  • Day 15. Summit Reserve Day *
  • Day 16. Camp 3 - Plaza de Mulas (4250 m)
  • Day 17. Plaza de Mulas - Penitentes (2600 m) - Mendoza (760 m)
  • Day 18. Mendoza (760 m)
  • Day 19. Depart Mendoza

* Most groups allocate three summit days. However we recommend planning for two days, as few groups are prepared to wait on the mountain in bad weather for three days. Most people find the conditions too tough and the attraction of fine food and wine in Mendoza too strong.

    

Readers' Comments

  • Sat 20 Jan 2018, 16:12
    Allan Johnson

    The 360 degrees is by far the best route because you see all sides of the mountain. Also, the 2 day walk off from summit to a bar in Mendoza is brilliant. That said, it's two very long days, I had bad blisters by the end of it.