Climbing in South America Aconcagua

Aconcagua is the highest peak in South America and the Southern hemisphere. My husband Stan and I have enjoyed climbing many mountains and decided to tackle Aconcagua, without a guide.

Mendoza, Argentina
We landed in Mendoza, Argentina after a day and a half of flying, with our equipment and food weighing in at about 150 pounds. Since we aren’t going on a guided trip, we have to bring and carry everything we will need and eat for the next two weeks. Getting the permit to climb Mt. Aconcagua was easy, all we needed was a passport and 80-dollars. The ranger informed us that so far this climbing season, seven people have died. This year, 1500 people have attempted all routes on the mountain and around half have made it to the summit. The weather has not been too good because of El Nino. He wished us good luck and that was it! We purchased our bus tickets to Puenta del Inca, the small town near the base of the mountain.

Puenta del Inca
We arrived in Puenta del Inca the next day. It’s actually a wide spot in the road to tell the truth. Immediately an older man approached us and asked us if we wanted to hire some mules. Sr. Grajales said that it would be for 60 kilos (1 mule) $120, 120 kilos (2 mules) $160 and 180 kilos (3 mules) $200. I wasn’t exactly sure how many mules we would need but he said he would weigh everything. He also could store our extra stuff and take us up the road to the trailhead (that saves walking about 2 or 3 miles). We weighed the gear and it came to 128 kilos. He said $160 would do it and to be ready at 10:00 tomorrow. Argentina is much like Spain as far as meal timing. Lunch is usually between 1:30 to 5 PM and dinner starts at 8:30 to midnight.

Puenta del Inca, Confluencia
Puenta del Inca is 2750 meters (8600′). Many climbers spend a couple days here to help acclimatize. We have not had problems with altitude lower than 14,000 feet so we planned on getting on with the trip. The two-day trip to the Plaza de Mulas is around 37 km and the second day is the most lengthy and strenuous. Sr. Grajales’ drove us to the trailhead, which was around 9,400′. The trail was easy at the start and the valley was very nice. The river crossings now have small bridges.

This used to be the most dangerous part of the trip and with the swiftness of the river I can see how. Even in low water it would have been treacherous.

Matt, our climbing partner fell behind when the trail got rocky and hilly. We got together for lunch and agreed the scenery was much more beautiful than we ever expected. We were soon standing above the huge valleys where the rivers come together, i.e. the Confluencia. We met some other Americans who summited on their eighth day. They looked really fried. Their summit day took 14 hours.

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