Aconcagua Normal Route

The route of the first climber

Back in 1897, Swiss mountaineer Matthias Zurbriggen reached the summit via the north which is now considered the ‘normal route’.

Facts

6962 m
Argentina
medium
easy
4C

The adventure

What is the next step after climbing Kilimanjaro? Reaching the summit of Aconcagua! This is the best way to refine your high-altitude climbing skills.

We run this expedition with a minimum of 4 members (see “Support”). Every group of four will be accompanied by a local guide.

NB: If this trip is not suitable for you, please check out our other Aconcagua offers. Every trip has different dates, services included and approaches to the mountain.

Safety on the mountain: K&P is the only operator in Argentina who provides on-site oxygen systems in case of altitude sickness, just as we do in the Himalaya.

High camps with comfort - dining tents in all high camps.

At 6,962m, Cerro Aconcagua, or simply Aconcagua, is the highest mountain in South America, in the entire southern hemisphere and the highest mountain outside the Trans Himalayas.

The origin of the name is uncertain, but it most probably comes from the Quechua word: Ackon Cahuak which means ‘Sentinel of Stone’. In 1897, Swiss mountaineer Matthias Zurbriggen became the first person to reach the summit via the north which is now considered the ‘normal route’. The giant peak in the Argentinean province of Mendoza near the Chilean border has its origins in volcanic activity, however, it is not an active volcano.

The normal route on Aconcagua which is also called the ‘first ascent route’ follows the Horcones Valley as opposed to our 360° Express route which follows the Valle Vacas. Base camp can be reached in 1 ½ days, however, the ascent must not be underestimated. The actual base camp, Plaza de Mulas, is usually quite busy with tents and operators. Our climbing route has three high camps: Plaza Canada (4,900m), Nido de Condores (5,400m) and Colera (6,000m). The routes of the Valle Horcones and the Valle Vacas merge at the last camp. The ascent via the normal route is more cost efficient as it is shorter and logistically less demanding.

Day 1: Flight to Santiago

Day 2: Arrival in Santiago – connecting flight to Mendoza

We arrive in Santiago in the morning and catch a connecting flight to Mendoza, the wine metropolis of Argentina, where we check into our hotel in the city centre. The first two days of a trip are usually tiring, however, as we want to spend as much time on the mountain as possible, we will try to get there quickly. We start our first day in Argentina with visiting some interesting sights and finish it with a typical Argentinean dinner enjoying excellent Mendoza wines and the traditional Bife de Chorizo. Overnight stay at a hotel.

Day 3: Drive Mendoza – Penitentes

After a good night’s sleep, we will wake up with the realisation that we are in South America and will soon tackle the highest mountain in the southern hemisphere! But before we can continue, we must obtain our climbing permit in Mendoza. Unfortunately, this cannot be done in advance as all members have to be present when the permit is handed out. With our permit in hand, we get on our private bus and continue our journey which first goes through the pre-cordillera and then through the high cordillera of the Andes. Our drive along the Mendoza River takes us through a beautiful cactus-lined scenery and over more than 2,000 metres of altitude before we reach the gorgeous green valley of Uspallata. After gaining a little more altitude we arrive in Penitentes in the afternoon. The rest of the day will be spent with sorting through our gear and getting ready for our expedition while our support team is preparing delicious food for the trip.

Day 4: Drive Penitentes – National Park entrance at Confluencia

We leave in the morning and drive to the National Park, from where we start the first stage of our trek to Confluencia, which means ‘confluence’. We take our time and enjoy the walk along a small lake offering spectacular views of Aconcagua. We cross a bridge across the Rio Horcones and after about 3 to 4 hours and 12km we reach Confluencia, our first camp at 3,450m.

Day 5: Acclimatisation walk to the south face of Aconcagua

One of the highlights of this trip is certainly the close-up view of the gigantic Aconcagua south face. Many mountaineers, including Reinhold Messner, started their high-altitude climbing career on this 3,000m-high face. The ascent in combination with a beautiful 5-hour-walk is perfect to acclimatise our bodies to the high altitude.

Day 6: Confluencia – Plaza de Mulas (4,367 m)

Today, we continue our ascent to base camp. We start off walking leisurely across wide planes before the trail gets steeper and trickier towards Plaza de Mulas base camp, which sits at an altitude of 4,367m. After about 7 to 9 hours, we reach the place where many international expeditions are preparing for the summit. There is a slightly nervous atmosphere at base camp as after all, Aconcagua is one of the Seven Summits which some of the contenders here are trying to reach.

Day 7: Rest Day

Acclimatising means getting slowly adjusted to the high altitude. Acclimatisation and strenuous exercise are hard on the body; hence we need to rest and recover to recharge our batteries for summit day. The benefit of such a permanent base camp is that in cases of emergency, i.e., altitude sickness or bad weather, we can abandon the expedition or descend at any time.

Day 8: Rest day at base camp or climbing Cerro Bonete (5,050m)

It is very important to give your body time. Acclimatising means to adapt your body to the high altitude and new surroundings, which is a slow process. For our acclimatisation, we climb high and sleep low, however, the body only acclimatises to an altitude of 5,500m, anything beyond that is adaptation. Those who acclimatise quickly can climb Cerro Bonete (5,050m) with our guide. The climb starts at base camp from where we cross the glacier coming down from Aconcagua and follow a good path to the summit.

Day 9: Base Camp (Plaza de Mulas, 4,267m) – Camp I (Canada, 4,900m) – Plaza de Mulas (4,267m)

Today, we carry some of our personal gear to Camp I which is also known as Camp Canada. We will climb slowly to get used to our pace for our summit day of Aconcagua. We descend to base camp via the same route, where we can enjoy the last rest phase before summit push.

Day 10: Plaza de Mulas (4,267m) – Camp I (4,900m)

It’s time to go! We grab our personal gear and ascend to Camp I where we stay the night.

Day 11: Camp I – Camp II (Nido de Condores, 5,400m)

Camp II, or the ‘birds’ nest’, is as big as several football fields and offers a spectacular view of Cerro Cuerno, the continuation of our ascent route and the wide valleys cutting like rivers through the Andes.

Day 12: Camp II (5,400m) – Camp III (Colera, 6,000m) – Camp II (5,400m)

We carry our gear to Camp III, Colera. This climb requires more surefootedness as the terrain is a bit rougher and uneven than before. The summit of Aconcagua can also be reached via ‘Berlin’ Camp, however, we prefer Colera as it offers more tent space and has plenty of clean snow to melt. Once we have dumped our equipment at Camp III, we return to Camp II for the night.

Day 13: Camp II (5,400m) – Camp III (6,000m)

If the weather allows, we will climb back up to Colera where we spend the night before our summit attempt.

Day 14: Camp III (6,000m) – Summit (6,963m)

The atmosphere in the camp is getting increasingly tense as members are becoming nervous about the summit push and wonder whether they will be able to make it or not. Climbing Aconcagua is actually like eating a piece of Black Forest Gateau: neither should be devoured in one go, they should be enjoyed slowly. If you try to eat the gateau in one go, you will probably get very sick or even suffocate. The same applies to Aconcagua. If you ascend too quickly, it could end up in tears. For this reason, we will inch our way up and all of a sudden, we will stand on the summit…

Route:

We start our summit push between 5am and 6am, depending on the weather and the overall conditions. It is generally cold, but hopefully we will have a calm summit day. We follow the well-defined route, pass the white rocks and soon join the normal route. The small wooden hut at Independencia (6,400m) is the perfect place for a break. We continue to Krete from where we can see the traverse to the Canaleta very well. But first, we have to negotiate another traverse which can be quite demanding depending on the snow conditions and the wind as it can make an otherwise easy ascent a tricky one. At the foot of the Canaleta, we have another rest before we tackle the last part of the ascent. Without having to climb, we ascend through the famous Canaleta which ends just short of the summit. For many people, this section is the last crux before they step on the summit which is almost as big as a football pitch. Our efforts will be rewarded with a magnificent view of the surrounding Andes.

Note: There are various ways of how to reach the summit which vary depending on the fitness and acclimatisation of the team as well as the snow and weather conditions. Taking all this into consideration, the expedition leader will discuss his plan with the team and decide which way strategy follow. Skipping a camp could be an option.

Day 15 to 16: Spare days

Reaching the summit of this wind-swept and weather-beaten mountain on the first attempt needs a bit of luck. For this reason, we have incorporated two spare days into the itinerary. It would be a shame not to reach the summit for a lack of time!

Day 17: Descent to Camp III – Plaza de Mulas

After we have recharged our batteries and dismantled our camp, we descend all the way to base camp (Plaza de Mulas). We go down via the normal route in the north, pass Nido de Condores and continue to Plaza de Mulas where we find ourselves back in civilisation. If we are too tired to cover the long way to base camp, we can stay another night at Camp III.

Day 18: Plaza de Mulas – Penitentes

The walk to Horcones is long, however, as mules will be carrying our luggage, we will only be carrying light packs. During our hike through the Horcones Valley we have time to relive our climb. While we walk past imposing rock formations, we can look back to the impressive south face. From Horcones, a jeep will take us to Uspallata, where we will check into hotel and spend a relaxed evening talking about the experiences of the last two days. Accommodation in a simple hotel.

Day 19: Drive from Penitentes to Mendoza

We leave Uspallata and return to Mendoza, Argentina’s wine metropolis. The city has a lot to offer, which is one of the reasons why K&P adds another stop here. In case we finish our ascent early, Mendoza is the perfect place to go on excursions or simply enjoy the pleasures of civilisation. Additional nights in Mendoza have to be covered by the members.

Day 20: Return flight to home country

Transfer to airport and flight to home country.

Day 21: Arrival at home country

Important info

The Profile Check is an integral part of our expedition. Please read it thoroughly and assess your skills and physical condition. Due to the score required for this expedition, your score will indicate whether or not your skills, fitness and mountaineering experience are sufficient to join this expedition. Your registration is a testimony of your physical and technical abilities to participate in this expedition.

Please take note of the following points concerning the procedure of this expedition:

This expedition is demanding and exhausting. The high altitude alone entails several risks.

The members do not have to be super alpinists, but some high-altitude experience is required. Members will have to rope up independently. Your active participation, comradery and tolerance are of utmost importance to us.

You have to be able to recognise your own limits on the mountain and be prepared to, if necessary, abandon the attempt and turn back. You join this expedition at your own responsibility.

-The leader of the expedition is responsible for the management of the entire group, and personal support is not one of his/her responsibilities. Nevertheless, every member has to prepared to follow the decisions made by the expedition leader. The decisions are always made in the group’s interest.

Depending on the circumstances and conditions on the mountain, improvisations and changes to the itinerary might be necessary

Kobler & Partner does not take any liability for accidents, damage or loss of equipment.

Aconcagua is not a technically difficult mountain. Depending on the conditions, some sections on the travers can be snowy with a gradient of max. 25°. However, we must not forget that Aconcagua is almost 7,000m high. Reaching the top of Aconcagua depends on many different factors, but if you have stamina, acclimatise well and are prepared to accept the rough weather conditions, you will have a good chance to get there!

Included

Organisation of the entire expedition by K&P

All transfers by bus and jeep

Pre-expedition meeting at Bächli Bergsport, including a 10% voucher for gear purchases

Full board on the mountain and half board in Mendoza

2 nights in a hotel (basic double room) in Mendoza

2 nights in a hotel (basic double room) in Penitentes

Comfortable mess tent, toilet tent, shower facilities at base camp

Accommodation in a two-men-tent

High altitude stove

Garbage fee inside the National Park

Communication (radio) at base camp

Radios (9 Volt)

Weather forecast at Aconcagua base camp

Free Wi-Fi at base camp

Mules to and from base camp (max. 22kg personal luggage)

Medical kit with pulsometer

Kitchen: cook and kitchen boys

Local mountain guide per 4 members

Not included

International flights to/from Mendoza/Argentina. We are happy assist you in booking your flight. Depending on the dates, flights will cost between CHF 1,400 and 1,600)

Personal Insurance

All beverages

Personal medication (see leaflet)

Permit fee (see “What you need to know”)

In case we cannot find someone to share a double room with you, K&P will cover half of the surcharge for a single room (see additional costs)

Additional charges that may arise due to possible changes to the itinerary

Individual tips

General:

Kobler & Partner’s base camp at Plaza Mulas is of a high standard and has a very good kitchen. This is the best place to recharge your batteries and gain some strength for carrying your gear and reaching the summit.

Food at the high camps:

Apart from their personal gear, every member has to carry their own food to the high camps. Note: Members are also obliged to carry their rubbish down to base camp.

We run the trip with a minimum of four members. Every group of four members will be accompanied by an additional local guide.

Personal gear:

If you don’t have the required high-altitude gear, you can rent some of the essential equipment from us in Mendoza. Please note that the rental costs will be charged in USD and have to be paid in cash in Mendoza.

Rental prices for the entire expedition:

Down jacket USD 80

Sleeping bag USD 220

Expedition boots 7000m/8000m (La Sportiva, Scarpa Millet and Lowa) USD 180

Crampons USD 30

Helmet USD 20

Trekking poles USD 30

Expedition gloves USD 70

Sunglasses USD 30

Sleeping mat (inflatable) USD 50

Headlamp USD 30

Single tent to base camp including transport USD 130

Single tent to Camp III including transport USD 490

Personal high-altitude porter:

There is an option of hiring a personal high-altitude porter to help you carry your gear between the various camps. The following prices are for the transport of 20kg.

Base camp (Plaza Mulas) – Camp I (Canada): USD 170

Camp I–Camp II (Nido Condores): USD 270

Camp II (Nido Condores)–Camp III (Colera): USD 320

Camp III (Colera)–Plaza de Mulas: USD 320

Another option is to hire a personal porter, who will assist you during the entire trip, for about USD 1,200. However, it makes more sense and is more cost-effective to hire a porter together with other members. The maximum load for a porter is 20kg. The porter fee remains unchanged, no matter whether he carries 20kg or less.

If you need to rent equipment or want to hire a personal porter, please let us know at least three weeks before the start of the expedition.

Please state your clothing size, shoe size and body size when placing an order. All rental equipment must be paid for in cash in USD in Mendoza.

Local agency

Together with our Argentinean partner, we have set up our own local agency which gives us the rare permission to run permanent camps on the mountain. Being on the mountain permanently, we know what’s going on and are in a better position to act more quickly and flexibly. It also improves our cooperation with local organisations and the authorities and enables us to meet our members’ individual needs.

Climate

Argentina’s north is arid and subject to significant daily temperature fluctuations while Aconcagua is infamous for its aridity, low level of oxygen and violent storms. The winds from the Pacific carry humidity and cool down once they hit the Andes. For this reason, the highest mountain of the Americas is not only subject to high winds but also to snowstorms. The ‘Hongo’ (mushroom) which forms at an altitude of around 5,500m is a strange weather phenomenon. It can be seen from Plaza de Mulas and even though it looks amazing, it is also a sign for strong winds or precipitation in the high mountains. In summer, temperatures can drop to -20°C at 5,000m during the night while the summit can get as cold as -30°C. But don’t worry, Aconcagua also has its sunny sides. Even though you may have to wear a super warm expedition jacket on the summit, you will probably be able to walk around in a t-shirt at base camp. This mountain is full of weather surprises, which means we have to be prepared for sudden changes. Climbing Aconcagua certainly needs the blessing of the weather gods. Our experience has shown that the best time to reach the summit is the period between December and the beginning of March.

b>Permit or National Park fees

Expected permit fees to be paid at the entrance of the National Park (subject to season).

Off season: 20 Nov – 14 Dec and 1 Feb to 15 March: USD 590

High season: 15 Dec – 31 Jan: USD 800

Please make sure you bring large denominations of US dollars (better exchange rate) which we will exchange in an exchange office before we apply for the permit which has to be paid in Argentine pesos. Unfortunately, the latest permit fees are only announced a short time before the season begins. The reasons are the high inflation and the unpredictable exchange rate.

Important

In case we finish the expedition earlier than expected or one of the members has to leave the expedition early for some reason, the extra days will be spent in Mendoza. The additional costs are not part of the expedition price and have to be paid for by the members.

Hotel and tent accommodation is indicated in the itinerary.

There are large, insulated mess tents at Plaza Argentina and Plaza de Mulas as well as free hot showers!

Trip preparation

Return flights to Mendoza are NOT included in the expedition price. We are happy to assist you with the booking.

Argentina does not require a visa. Please make sure that your passport is valid for at least six months beyond the dates of your trip.

Gear list expedition Aconcagua normal route

2 duffle bags 90 - 110 L (waterproof, available from K&P at a discount for members)

Clothes

Jackets

Down jacket or down suit for expeditions

Primaloft jacket or light down jacket

Goretex Jacket

Softshell Jacket

Midlayer (fleece sweater or jacket)

Pants

Trekking pants, light and long

Softshell pants for mountaineering

Goretex pants

Expedition down pants or down suit

Shorts

Baselayers / T-shirts

T-shirts

Underwear

Long-sleeved thermal top

Thermal tights

Gloves

Insulated shell gloves

Expedition down mittens

Liner gloves, thin, silk or fleece

Shoes/socks

Comfortable shoes (running shoes)

Trekking boots

Expedition boots for 7,000m

Trekking socks

Heavyweight socks, thick and warm

Sleeping

-20°C down sleeping bag

Insulated inflatable sleeping pad

Down booties (nice to have!)

Pillowcase (stuffed with your down jacket, it makes a nice pillow!)

Headgear, face and eye protection

Sunglasses

Glacier goggles (with nose guard, if possible)

Ski goggles, high UV-protection (also protects from the wind)

Buff

Baseball cap

Headband

Beanie, warm

Balaclava or face mask (wind-stopper or neoprene)

Sunscreen, SPF 50

Lipscreen, SPF 50

Technical Equipment

Backpack approximately 40 l

Raincover for backpack

Ice axe, light

Walking poles

Crampons with anti-balling plates (customised to fit expedition boots)

Compression bags for down equipment

Food utensils, light, for high camps (bowl including cutlery)

Water bottle with large opening (Nalgene)

Thermos

Pee bottle / Plastic bags

Headlamp (including spare batteries) and a small spare headlamp

Pocket knife or multi-tool/Leatherman

Lighter

Altimeter

hand and toe warmer (nice to have!)

Miscellaneous

Departure letter from K&P (contains the final information)

Cash for personal use and tips

Credit card (MasterCard or Visa)

Passport

Passport copy

2 Passport photographs

Small personal first-aid kit (personal medication / compeed)

Writing utensils

Cellphone

Toiletry bag

Microfibre travel towel

Hand sanitizer (50 ml)

Ear plugs

Tissues, wet wipes

Swimwear

Photographic equipment

Your K&P mountain guide will provide well-stocked medical kits for base and high camps, radios, GPS, travel books and maps.

Dates

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Ulla Mengel

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