Aconcagua 360°

Aconcagua 360° © OpenStreetMap contributors, CC-BY-SA, Tiles: Mapbox
Crossing the Aconcagua is a very special treat. The ascent through the Vacas valley is the best way to get acclimatized for a successful ascent.
  • What to do after climbing Kilimanjaro? Summitting Aconcagua! This is the ideal way to refine your high-altitude climbing skills.
  • We walk in through Valle Vacas and walk back trough Valle Horcones - so we fully circle the Aconcagua, hence the name "Aconcagua 360°."
  • Note: Please also check out our other Aconcagua expeditions. All of them differ regarding dates, included services and journey to the mountain.
  • Quality bonus: 1 local guide per 4 participants, food preparation in the high camps, porters for tents and cooking utensils (to the 3 high camps and back down).
  • This expedition is guaranteed with a minimum of 2 participants (see "support")!
  • The Aconcagua, the highest mountain of South America, is one of the Seven Summits - so it's a must for all aspirants of the Seven Summits, which are most safely climbed with K&P.

There are few other countries which can offer such an amazing range of scenic beauty as Argentina and Chile can. The central parts of Chile and Argentina - densely populated in both countries - are still reminiscent of the Spanish colonization. The climate with its Mediterranean character provides the natural preconditions for the flourishing of famous Chilean and Argentinian wines and for exotic fruits such as avocados and cherimoyas.

The Cerro Vallecitos serves quite well as an "antipasto" (appetizer), since it is just along the way to the Aconcagua. The ascent is easy, and from the summit, we have a nice view onto our "main course", the Aconcagua.

The Aconcagua (with complete name "Cerro Aconcagua") reaches 6,962 m and is thus not only the highest mountain of the American continent, but in fact the highest mountain in the world outside of Asia. Swiss mountaineer Matthias Zurbriggen was the first to successfully climb the Aconcagua via today's normal route in 1987. The mountain giant is of volcanic material, even though the Aconcagua itself isn't a volcano. It lies near the Chilean border in the province Mendoza.

When talking about the "Polish route", we have to clarify that the actual Polish route describes the ascent via the steep glacier on the east side of the mountain, which was first attempted by a Polish roped party in 1935. However, there are ways around the glacier. An alternative route preferred by K&P leads via Camp II (Guanaco, 5,470 m) on to Camp III (Colera, 6,000 m), from where on we can get back onto the normal route after about an hour's march. This ascent is called the "false Polish route" or "polacos falsos". While around 4,000 mountaineers aspire to climb Aconcagua during the climbing season (about a third of them via the false Polish Route), only 20-30 climbers attempt the glacier route.

Travel Programme

Day 1: Flight to Santiago

Day 2: Arrival in Santiago–Domestic flight to Mendoza
In the morning, arrival in Santiago and connecting flight to Mendoza, the wine metropolis of Argentina. Hotel accommodation in the city centre. These first two days of travel are tiring, but we want to be able to spend a good amount of time at the mountain and hence try to get there as fast as possible. Still, today we'll find some time for city sightseeing in and dinner in Mendoza. Mendoza is famous for its wines and the Bife de Chorizo – these two combined will leave you travelling into another world. Overnight stay at a hotel.

Day 3: Drive Mendoza–Uspallata (Grand Hotel Uspallata)
Today, we'll truly realise that we're in Argentina, as we're standing at the foot of the highest mountain of America! Before we continue our travel, we will get the permit for the Aconcagua. This can only be done in Mendoza. It cannot be done beforehand and all participants have to be present. We then continue to the lush green valley of Uspallata to the Grand Hotel Uspallata. The afternoon is needed for preparations, our helpers for instance will be preparing the food for the journey. We will also have to assemble our personal equipment: A traverse is next on our agenda. Traverses, fascinating in their own way, are slightly more complex to organise, as we will not return to the same base camp. Overnight stay at a hotel.

Day 4–6: Uspallata (2000m)–Punta de Vacas (2415m)–Pampa de Leñas (2864m)–Casa de Piedra (3245m)–Base camp Plaza Argentina (4198m)
A one-hour drive brings us to Punta de Vacas, where our personal equipment will be picked up by the mules. They will transport it to our base camp Plaza Argentina. Carrying only a day pack, we start our hike to Pama de Leñas. Overnight stay in tents.

Route:
What's ahead of us are three days with a walking distance of 20km per day and an ascent of 2400m to reach Plaza Argentina on 4200m. During the first 2 days, we walk trough the valley of Rio de las Vacas. We reach Pampa de Leñas (2864m) in 4-5 hours. Getting to Casa de Piedra (3245m) takes another 5-6 hours. In both camps, our local helpers will await us and we can enjoy the delicious food they have prepared for us. Shortly before we reach our second camp (Casa de Piedra) we are finally able to see the Aconcagua, towering over us like a rocky giant. What an amazing view! On the third day, the route becomes more adventurous: we have to cross the Rio de las Vacas. Having mastered this feat, the way leads steeply up to base camp Plaza de Argentina, which we can reach in 4-6 hours. It is amazing to think that the mules manage to climb up here! Plaza Argentina is a colourful tent city, yet smaller and somewhat more manageable than Plaza de Mulas, the base camp of the normal route.

Note:
The permanently installed base camp bears the advantage that in case of emergency, we can always abort and descend (e.g. due to high-altitude sickness or bad weather conditions). The camp is also a good place to rest, recover and recharge before the final departure for the summit. At base camp, a compulsory medical examination done by an Argentinian doctor will take place, who will give permission to continue with the ascent.

Day 7: Rest Day
Today we'll take time to settle at base camp and enjoy the stunning scenery.

Day 8: Hike to Cerro Colorado (4566m)
We further support the acclimatization process by going on a short (3-4 hours) tour to the Cerro Colorado (4566m). Cerro Colorado is basically the house mountain of this base camp; it's a mountain with little technical difficulties and typical gravel slopes. Taking it slow, we reach the summit in 2–3 hours, where we are rewarded with a spectacular view. Overnight stay in tents.

Day 9: Equipment transport
Today, we'll carry our equipment to camp I at 5000m, returning to base camp for the night. This is the more convenient alternative to transporting everything in one go and sleeping at camp I (5000m).

Route:
The ascent starts on the broad ridge, along a narrow trench until said trench opens up again. Shortly before camp I, the path becomes slippery, the many loose rocks making it more difficult. Camp I follows just after the terminal moraine. Time for the ascent 4-5 hours, descent about 2 hours. Overnight stay in tents.

Day 10: Base Camp–Camp I (5000m)
We already know the ascent route. Carrying a heavy backpack, we take it slow - we can take the entire day if we want or need to. If needed, you may give some of your equipment to the high-altitude porters to carry. Overnight stay in tents.

Day 11: Equipment transport to Camp II (Guanaco, 5520m)
We'll transport food, fuel, etc. for the last two nights in camp II (Guanaco) and camp III (Colera) today, so that our backpacks will not be too heavy the following days. Good acclimatization is still of vital importance, this transport hike is another chance to support it. In the afternoon, we descend to camp I. Overnight stay in tents.

Route:
The path laid out before us, we start on a wide flank until reaching an intersection, the left path leading to Independencia, the right path leading down over two ridges to Guanaco. Time for ascent about 3 hours, descent about 1.5 hours.

Day 12: Camp I (5000m)–Camp II (Guanaco, 5520m)
Today we will walk only a short distance - but we do so with a heavy backpack, covering an altitude distance of 520m. Once again, we already know the way and we can take the entire day if need be. Overnight stay in tents.

Day 13: Camp II (Guanaco, 5520m)–Camp III (Colera, 6000m)
Soon we are able to see the rocks surrounding Colera. We climb up slowly, always careful not to waste too much energy. Still - we will be feeling the weight of our backpacks! Since we are not making an equipment transport to camp III, we have to carry everything up in one go. The summit getting ever more closer, our excitement grows steadily! Overnight stay in tents.

Route:
After having passed camp II, there is a short but steep part before the ascent becomes more gentle. Leaving the white stones behind, we reach a stone barrier; Colera lies right behind it.

Note:
As soon as the group departs from camp II towards camp III, the guide will organise the transportation of the remaining luggage from base camp Plaza de Argentina to base camp Plaza de Mulas. Thus, we can finish our journey on the other side of the Aconcagua, with our trekking equipment waiting for us at Plaza de Mulas.

Day 14–17: 1 summit day and 3 spare days
We'll start between 4 and 6 o'clock in the morning, depending on the current weather conditions. It's going to be cold; hopefully, the wind will stay calm this day. Following the well visible path, passing the white stones, we'll soon reach the ascent line of the normal route. Once we've reached the small wood cabin (Independencia) at about 6400m, we will stop for a break. Then, we'll continue to the crest from where on the path to the crossing to Canaleta is well visible. What follows is a long crossing, which depending on snow conditions can be more or less demanding. The wind can make things more tricky here and complicate the ascent – it's the one part of the ascent where you can feel it the most, and it's coming directly from the front! At the foot of the Canaleta, there's an ideal place for a rest, which we will make use of before we attempt the last stage of the route. Without climbing, we can continue upwards through the famous Canaleta, which stops just below the peak. This final stage, just below the highest summit of the American continent, can be quite tricky. The summit itself is big enough to play football on, and the view onto the other Andean summits is majestic.

Note:
The ascent to the summit and to the individual camps will be done differently according to the group and the current preconditions. It may well happen that a camp is skipped. The expedition guide will decide upon the right strategy for the ascent on site.
Participants who do not want to go to the summit can descent directly from camp III via the normal route to base camp. Ascent 7-9 hours. Overnight stay in tents.

Day 18: Plaza de Mulas (4367m)–Horcones (2800m)–Uspallata
Today, a long march lies ahead of us, leading us all the way to Horcones, where we will be picked up by car to travel back to Penitentes and finally Uspallata. Fortunately, the mules will be carrying our extra luggage, so we can travel with a light backpack. The way back through the Horcones valley is less adventurous than our walk-in through the Vacas valley, yet the rock formations and the view back to the majestic Aconcagua south face are all the more impressive. Another reason why encircling the Aconcagua is ideal is that the ascent is slower, which helps with acclimatization. The descent then, on the other hand, takes only one day. In Uspallata, we'll check into the hotel we already know before we enjoy a nice dinner, reminiscing fond memories of our adventures. Overnight stay at a hotel.

Day 19: Uspallata–Mendoza
Bus drive from Uspallata to Mendoza. Mendoza offers all the advantages of being back in civilisation again. Parks invite for strolling and the many shops and the pedestrian zone for shopping. Even though Mendoza has more than a million inhabitants, it is of manageable size. Orientation is easy due to the streets' square grid pattern. Our hotel is close to the city centre; on foot, it takes only a few minutes to get there. This will make it easy to find a nice restaurant for dinner together. Overnight stay at a hotel.

Day 20: Flight back: Mendoza–Santiago–Madrid–Europe
There’s enough time for breakfast before we catch our flight via Santiago to Europe in the early afternoon.

Day 21: Flight back to and arrival in Europe

Included services
  • International flights, incl. airport taxes
  • Baggage (for allowance see K&P handbook)
  • All transfers, trips by bus and jeep
  • Organisation of the entire expedition
  • Information meeting at Bächli Bergsport, Bern
  • Full-board during the entire expedition (for individual snacks see K&P handbook)
  • Hotel accommodation in double rooms (see travel programme)
  • Hotel nights: 2 in Mendoza, 2 in Uspallata; rest of nights in tents
  • Good group tent, toilet tent
  • Tips on behalf of Kobler & Partner (for individual tips see K&P handbook)
  • Accommodation in double tents
  • Tents for the high camps
  • High mountain stoves
  • High porters for tents, fuel and stoves
  • Preparation of food by local mountain guides in the high camps
  • Communication (radio) in base camp
  • Walkie-talkies (9 volt)
  • Satellite phone, call charges excluded (only at base camp)
  • Weather forecast at base camp, provided by a local agency
  • Pack animals to/from base camps (see "support")
  • Pharmacy including pulse oximeter
  • Kitchen: cook and kitchen assistants
  • 1 local mountain guide per 4 participants
  • Certified mountain guide (6 or more participants required)
Excluded services
  • Cancellation insurance (see "insurance")
  • All beverages
  • Personal porter to/ from high camps (can be organised on-site)
  • Personal medication (see K&P handbook)
  • Summit permit for the Aconcagua (see "support")
  • Additional costs arising due to changes in the programme
Support

Definite realisation upon confirmation of 2 participants.
For groups of up to (including) 6 participants, the expedition will be lead by an English-speaking, native mountain guide (mountain guide EPGAMT member of AAGM) on site. As of 6 confirmed participants, a German-speaking, certified mountain guide IVBV will be present (see “included services”).

Additional help for a successful ascent:
- Certified mountain guide who can assist you and deal with many small concerns, mainly helping you build trust. Often, this person is the one who “tips the scales.”
- High porters for tents, petrol and cooker of the group.
- Native mountain guides: They prepare the food in the high camps. If a participant should have to descend, they can assist; thus, the rest of the participants don't have to stop the expedition.
- Personal high porter at the mountain: Different people attempt the Aconcagua for different reasons. Many of them want to carry their luggage on their own but end up reaching their limits and are happy if they can turn to someone else who helps carry all or part of their material. The costs for the high porters can vary depending on the stretch to be covered. In 2011/12, the costs per porter (carrying 20kg) were:

  • Base camp (Plaza Argentina)–camp I: USD 160
  • Camp I–camp II: USD 270
  • Camp II–camp III (Colera): USD 380
  • Camp III–Plaza de Mulas: USD 220

Another possibility is hiring a personal porter. A personal porter during the climb (ascent and descent) costs about USD 1200. However, it makes more sense (and it usually is cheaper) to share a porter with other participants, as the costs are always per porter and not depending on the weight (so whether the porter carries 1kg or 20kg doesn't influence the price).

Waste has to be carried back from the high camps as well. This is included in the price so that no unexpected additional costs arise for you.

Included in the price of the Aconcagua 360° expedition is the transportation of material which we're not using from the Plaza Argentina to the Plaza de Mulas during the summit period of our expedition.

Equipment & Checklist
See complete equipment & checklist for this travel

For this travel, you will need the following equipment:

Altitude

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6 962m.

Required Experience Level

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Required experience according to K&P.

Seriousness

On the Kobler scale, the seriousness of a travel can reach from A (high) to D (low).

C