About the Trip
Operated by AWE and local partner INKA Expediciones
Aconcagua is the highest peak in Argentina and the tallest mountain in the western and southern hemisphere, which means it is also one of the Seven Summits. Even though it is not difficult from a technical perspective as there is no extremely steep or glaciated terrain, Aconcagua’s ruggedness and fierce weather make it an endurance challenge of a special kind. This is an extremely demanding trip that may be suitable for first-time mountaineers as long as they possess a penchant for cold weather and suffering.
About Aconcagua and the Normal Route
Aconcagua is an excellent choice for any mountaineer. It’s incredible position, climate and culture make a unique objective. This route travels the Horcones valley where we trek to our base camp, Plaza de Mulas at 4300m and begin the steep ascent to the summit. Plenty of acclimatization time is provided on the mountain with breathtaking views and multiple possible summit days. Check out our own Sunny Stroeer’s journey on the Normal Route in 2016!
No prior mountaineering experience is required. Participants must be in excellent physical condition. Previous backpacking experience is required. Previous high altitude experience (14,000ft+) is highly recommended but not mandatory. A minimum of 4 participants is required to run this trip.
Trip duration: 20 days / 19 nights
Max group size: 8 guests & 2 guides
All reservations require a $500 deposit at the time of signup; balance of expedition fees typically comes due in two installments 60 and 90 days prior to departure. Ask us about flexible payment plans to space out payments further.
All of our expeditions kick off with a welcome dinner on Day 1. Please plan to arrive at your destination by mid-afternoon of Day 1, with plenty of time to clear immigration and customs and/or check into your hotel prior to meeting your teammates for the welcome dinner, which typically starts around 7pm local time. If you are flying in for an international expedition, your flights should land no later than 3pm local time.
This is your itinerary for AWE’s Aconcagua 360 Expedition:
- Day 1 Arrival in Mendoza, Argentina; welcome dinner
- Day 2 Gear check & transfer to Penitentes
- Day 3 Trek to Confluencia
- Day 4 Acclimatization hike to Plaza Francia
- Day 5 Trek from Confluencia to Plaza de Mulas (8-9 hours)
- Day 6 Rest day at Plaza de Mulas
- Day 7 Carry to Camp I
- Day 8 Rest day
- Day 9 Move to Camp I (16,300ft)
- Day 10 Carry to Camp II
- Day 11 Move to Camp II (18,000ft)
- Day 12 Carry to Camp III (19,200ft)
- Day 13 Rest day
- Day 14 Move to Camp III
- Day 15 Summit day (22,838ft)
- Day 16 Reserve summit day
- Day 17 Descend to Plaza de Mulas (14,300ft)
- Day 18 Trek to Penitentes (~15 miles)
- Day 19 Transfer to Mendoza & final dinner
- Day 20 Depart Mendoza
The last official business for all of our adventures is the final team dinner on the expedition’s penultimate day. While your expedition fee includes a hotel stay after the final team dinner, you may make departure plans for any time after 12:01am on the indicated departure day, including red-eye departures.
All itineraries are subject to change based on weather, team condition, and local logistics.
You will receive a detailed packing list in your expedition handbook after reserving your spot on this expedition. AWExpedition and local partner INKA Expediciones provide the team, cooking and emergency gear for this adventure including sleeping tents and cooking equipment; you are responsible for your personal backpacking gear including the following items:
- Double mountaineering boots
- Ice axe, crampons & climbing helmet
- Sleeping bag, rated to -20F or -40F
- 65l+ backpack
- Sleeping pads
- Expedition weight down jacket
- Hardshell (GoreTex) jacket
- High-altitude mittens
A broad selection of rental gear is available through national brands such as REI or Kit Lender. It is also possible to rent many items, including mountaineering boots and expedition weight down jackets on location in Mendoza.
- Airport transfers
- Hotel accommodation and main meals pre- and post-climb, as well as meals on the mountain (including water & coffee/tea)
- Professional guide team including AWE expedition leader and local Argentinian guide(s)
- Team gear including four-season tents (double occupancy), cooking equipment & team medical kit
- On-trail real-time GPS tracking and communications
- Mule support up to 20kg per person to support the approach to basecamp
- Flights to/from Mendoza
- Government climbing permit (~$950 for 20 days, payable in USD on arrival)
- Personal mountaineering gear
- Gratuities for guides
- Meals not listed in the itinerary
- Sodas & alcoholic beverages
- Personal trekking snacks (such as bars, trail mix, or beef jerky) for on-trail sustenance
- Personal medications
- Medical, travel, and rescue insurance
- Single supplement - contact us to discuss availability and pricing
- Personal porter support above basecamp, if desired
- How is the Normal Route different than the 360?
Both the 360 and Normal Route are comparable in terms of difficulty and technical ability required. Key differences are the itinerary timelines, the 360 allows for an additional day which gives the whole team a better shot at proper acclimatization and an agreeable weather window to summit. It could be argued that a longer climb is more difficult, but the transverse can be true with a shorter, more steep ascent can provide equal challenge. The sweeping views will change throughout the climb since we enter through the more rugged and remote feeling Vacas Valley. The 360 is a loop, meaning everyone in the team has to make it to at least the apex of the loop (Camp III at 19,300ft, just before the summit) and that if a team member can't make it to Camp III, they have to hike or fly out on their own separate from the team.
- How fit do I have to be? Aconcagua is an extremely demanding high-altitude mountaineering expedition. You have to be in outstanding cardio shape to tackle this 23,000ft mountain and enjoy the adventure.
- How difficult is the route? While the technical difficulty of the route is low, it is an extraordinarily (and frequently underestimated) difficult cardio challenge. Each day on Aconcagua is difficult in its own right; summit day may very well prove to be the hardest physical and mental challenge of your life.
- How much weight will I have to carry? Your pack on the way to basecamp should be no heavier than 20lbs, thanks to mule support. Above basecamp, you have to be prepared for 35-40lbs of weight during each leg of our ascent, and up to 65lbs of weight for the return to basecamp after our summit attempt. If you'd like to decrease the weight you have to carry above basecamp, it is possible albeit pricey to hire personal porters on the upper mountain. 20kgs / 44lbs of porter assistance from basecamp to camp 3 and back down to basecamp typically come out to $1,000.
- How many miles will we hike each day? Daily mileage on the Normal Route varies widely, ranging from 2 to 15 miles, with anywhere between 2,000 and 4,000ft of ascent.
- Should I be taking acetazolamide (Diamox) to climb Aconcagua? That's a question for you and your physician. Many climbers are able to summit Aconcagua without Diamox, but if you haven't been to 23,000ft before there is no telling how your body will react to extreme altitude: our bodies' ability to acclimatize is mostly determined by genetics, and the best predictor for your ability to acclimatize is prior performance at high altitude. In addition, Diamox takes 24-48 hours to become effective. Here's what that means for those who don't have prior experience at extreme high altitude, i.e. no insights into their ability to naturally acclimatize: if you'd like to maximize your summit chances, Diamox may be advised (note: it does carry negative side effects; consult with your physician when you seek to obtain a prescription). If you'd like to find out what your body is naturally capable of, pass on the Diamox.