|Our treks||Expeditions||Contact us||About us||Photos & Diaries|
Learning the hard way
Peter U has a nightmare Aconcagua climb
I don't want to say you should always climb with a guide, but sometimes it saves you learning the hard way.
See Our treks for our latest treks.
In an email to Jamie, unedited, and don't laugh (!):
What a coincidence..... Just got out from hospital i Mendoza. The wind has been fucking a lot with me under at Aconcagua. And with not anough water and storm, the mountain gave me a cerebral onemia at 6316mts for 5 days ago. Stil a bit paralized in the face, donīt see or hear to well, 3 broken ribs from heart compresson (was dead for a minute!), sora ass from 2 days on muel (heli couldnt land because of the storm), frozen dick (pissed in my pants) and not to good balanse. BUT I have progressed alot the last days, and the nevrologians says I will get 100% in shape again. Changed my flight back, so will relaxe home for x-mas before I start planning again. Aconcagua has been harsh this year with the winds. Only one US who sightet from bc that reached the summit on the glacier. Several others had to go down, and also more than 4 people with frostbites onemia and other injuries. But had a very nice trip before the shit hit me. Deffinately going again. Not the kind that gives up to easely.....
Brief guide to climbing Aconcagua
My friends all told me that Aconcagua is just a walk up an endless scree slope - well, avoid the scree slope, have a better trek in, but still take the easy way up. Briefly here is how to for the more independent and experienced climber...
Start the expedition in early-mid December if you want some snow. Avoid Jan, it is overrun. Starting mid-February into early March is also a good time, little snow although it can fall, then melts over a day or two. In Nov or later March there won't be many people around at all, and conditions perhaps more challenging, colder, but still doable. The few days trekking in feature stunning panoramas totally reminiscent of Ladakh. I will post a photo gallery sometime.
The weather is mostly fine, it is the back side of the Andes and mostly dry. There are periods of high winds, and periods of usually light snow. With lighter falls of snow there is little avalanche risk.
There are two routes but avoid the standard, basically 2000m scree slope out of PLaza de Mulas (BC). It is cheaper and slightly shorter hence the popularity. Instead take the Vacas Valley-Plaza Argentina route. We actually traversed, i.e. ended on the standard route, and this was a good way to do it. Colera is the highest point where you have to carry all gear to if you do this.
If the Guanacos route opens up again then seriously consider it.
People talk about the Polish route (direct or classic), which is climbing on a glacier rather than walking up. Looks good, sounds good but then means you need to carry ropes etc, which adds substantial weight, so you would end up having to do two load carries per camp, rather than one. Take the Plaza Argentina route in and out for this.
Climbing independently is easy enough. All you need are mules into BC and time, take longer than everyone else does. However book a mule or two through a reputed local agency, we did through Inka, as then you get partial transfers, water and toilet at their BC, rubbish disposal and things that are otherwise a hassle. They also have weather forecasts.
You can buy all the supplies you need in Mendoza, but you can also instead buy BC meals there at US$100 a day (great if you have to come back down to wait for weather). On the mountain porters are expensive so carry your own gear. This means load carrying, which is good for acclimatization. So one load carry to C1, then next carry is to stay. Then load to C1.5, then next day up...
The load is cold weather gear, crampons, axe and food and fuel, on our first load this was around 20kgs each. In February I didn’t pull out my warm pants and down jacket, crampons or axe until 5950m.
So that left tent and 2-3 days food and light fuel for us to carry when we moved camps, around 16kgs. This was also our trekking gear. So quite manageable.
Take a strong tent, enough room for gear. Plan all other gear carefully, go relatively light. Do have insulated pants and good down jacket for summit day. We had a perfect summit day but count on strong, cold winds.
This is weather-dependent but here is the ideal:
1 - trekking: enter park, stay at entrance, Pampa de Lenas
2 - trek to Casa Piedra
3 - trek to Plaza Argentina BC
4 - Plaza Argentina BC, day trip down
5 - Plaza Argentina BC, day trip up somewhere
6 - Plaza Argentina BC
7 - Plaza Argentina BC, carry load to C1
8 - Plaza Argentina BC or better stay C0.5 (make one, there isn’t a standard camp)
9 - move C1 4900m?
10 - C1, load carry to C1.5 (actually called Guanacos Camp III)
11 - move C1.5 5300m
12 - load carry to Colera
13 - move Colera 5950m
14 - rest Colera
15 - Colera, Summit
16 - down to Plaza De Mulas
17 - down to Confluencia (use a mule for excess gear)
18 - back to Mendoza
Allow an extra 4-5 days for weather.
All in US$. If you are not experienced enough to arrange and climb independently then don't. Simply book with a local company in advance, or an expedition lead by a guide from home. The cost will be around $4000.
For us it was a cheap holiday, costing less than the air tickets to get here. Costs in Mendoza are real though, almost home country prices for hotels/hostels, meals etc.
$10? each for bus to Penitentes, public bus but book at least a day ahead, stay the the hostel in Penitentes (give us a double room, $15 each) or stay at hotel, $100 a double
US$320 for first mule to Plaza Argentina, 60kgs. Second and third mule (for a bigger group) are cheaper. Paid in Mendoza.
US$80 for 1/2 mule from Plaza De Mulas out.
Park fee - this changes every year or two so I won't list here.