Mount Aconcagua. The Facts.

Its name has roots in the indigenous Quechua language, the Quechua word Anco (white) and Cahuac (sentinel) and when translated means “The Sentinel of Stone”. However, in the Aymara language there are two terms, Kon and Kawa which mean snowed and mount respectively. Therefore, in this language the name Aconcagua would translate as “snow-capped mountain”. 

Aconcagua, at 22830 feet (6959 meters) is the highest point in the Western and Southern hemisphere, towering above the surrounding peaks in the Argentine Andes. Its incredible height can only be explained by its volcanic structure, which was active up to at least 9,5 million years ago, according to the dating of the vulcanites of its summit.

Mount Aconcagua is located entirely in the province of Mendoza, in western Argentina, but it does stand on the border with Chile.

It has a very steep and massive face on its south and a gentle slope on the north, with a huge glacier, the Polish glacier, flowing to the east and a series of âretes and couloirs to the west.

As the highest point in South America, Aconcagua is one of  the “Seven Summits”.

The mountain has two summits – North (6959 meters) and South (6930 meters), joined by a ridge (Cresta del Guanaco) approximately one kilometer long.

The usual approach is from the south up the Quebrada de los Horcones, which circles the western flanks of the peak, to the Plaza de Mulas base camp at a height of 4230 meters. From here 3 routes start: the normal via the Horcones Glaciar Superior and north ridge, the West Buttress route, and the South-West route.

The official climbing season is mid-November to March. In low season approximately 100-200 tourists visitors, however in high season this number rises to nearly 800.

The “Colossus of America” is a physical and psychological goal of climbers from all over the world as well as an attraction to thousands of tourists per year who come enjoy its natural beauty and treasure this unique and magnificent experience.

The harsh weather conditions of this reserve are due to the altitude of the ecosystem, and this explains its low bio-diversity. However, the local animal and plant species are of special interest and show an outstanding adaptation to the altitude.

The predominant vegetation is the steppe with low bushes, such as yellow firewood, yareta (shown below) and goat horn, along with open height pastures made up of huecú and ichus.

Over sixty varieties of birds inhabit the area. Among them, the most typical species are the condor and the purple eagle. The most common land animals are the mountain rats, the agachona, guanacos and the red fox. 

The first attempts to reach the summit of mount Aconcagua, Argentina, were made by Paul Güssfeldt (below), a German explorer who discovered the mountain and traced for the first time the route up to 6560 meters but had to descend in the middle of a hurricane.

Fourteen years later, the englishman Edward Fitz Gerald leds a European team of nine men, together with the Swiss Matthias Zurbriggen (below) as chief guide. Zurbriggen himself on January 14, 1897 reached the summit of mount Aconcagua following the northwest trail (Normal Route), which has since become the most popular path to Aconcagua’s zenith. 

Aconcagua generates its own weather. Between late Nov and late Feb there is a wide range of temperatures, from warm days to freezing nights; snow and winds (some strong) is the usual on Aconcagua. The humidity is extremely low.

Mount Aconcagua is some 160 kilometers from the Pacific Ocean (which it is possible to be seen from the summit in sunny days). Humid winds blowing from the sea generate most of the bad weather of Aconcagua.

If you’re think you’re up for the challenge, check out some of our serious Aconcagua trips, (not for the faint hearted)

Aconcagua Normal Route with porters – An 18 days expedition with an operator that employs many Internationally Certified guides all of whom have extensive knowledge and experience of the region.

The strain of carrying your gear is relieved on this trip as you’ll be using porters/mules. You’ll start the ascent from base camp where you’ll be staying at the Plaza de Mulas (4,367m).

Aconcagua Direct – A rewarding 21 day trip with a leader in exploratory expeditions 

You’ll climb the Polish route, but must have prior ice climbing experience and must acclimatize well to altitudes over 22,000′. On the top you’ll have a spectacular 360º view.

Aconcagua Polish Glacier Expedition – 20 days preparing and climbing this granite tower with an American company that specialises in Mountaineering in the Andes and their guides are American and local Argentinians.

With a summit day that involves an ascent of over 1,000m over the glacier, your guide and the logistics are all important. You’ll be camping at the Plaza Argentina Base Camp and climbing the Polish Direct route




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