Aconcagua Climbing Routes
This is the most popular route on the mountain, and logistically the most practical for a summit attempt. Almost all operators and guides operate this route as their standard service.
It gets some bad press in the forums for having too many people on it (although it's not always clear whether all those people have actually climbed this route). Plaza de Mulas can probably support 200+ people and it has services including hot showers and internet. In our opinion, and for most of our clients, these services are welcomed when you're on the mountain for 14+ days, and the majesty of the mountains and the enormity of the challenge mean that your fellow climbers and other expeditions do not detract from the experience.
The route is:
- Confluencia (normally with an acclimatisation day to Plaza Francia)
- Basecamp: Plaza de Mulas (occasionally with an acclimatisation climb to Cerro Bonnete)
- Canada Camp
- Nido de Condores
- Berlin or Cholera
- Return to Plaza de Mulas and Penitentes
>> See list of expeditions options for the Aconcagua Normal Route, with prices ranging from $3,500 to $5,000 depending on the extent of acclimatisation, guide ratios and time in the season. Or for quotes on a private guided trip please get in touch.
The Traverse: 360 circuit of Aconcagua and Vacas Valley
An alternative route ascending via the quieter eastern side of the summit and then returning via Plaza de Mulas, hence allowing for a circuit rather than a there-and-back route. Plaza Argentina acts as your base camp. This is wilder experience with fewer services and comforts than on the normal route.
Like the Normal Route this is a non-technical climb, and you should allow the same number of days.
NB This route goes by a number of different names: Polish Traverse, Upper Guanacos, Ameghino Traverse, Traverse Route or Two Faces.
>> See list of expeditions options for the Aconcagua Traverse Route, with prices ranging from $3,500 to $5,000 depending on the extent of acclimatisation, guide ratios and time in the season. Or for quotes on a private guided trip please get in touch.
This is a technical summit day over the Polish Glacier, and high altitude and technical mountaineering experience is an absolute must.
Prices depend on group size, but for 2 clients an indicative price would be $5,000-$6,000 per person. If you are looking for logistics services and either local or international guides then please get in touch with your requirements and preferred dates and we'll work with our partners to provide a quote.
Aconcagua: Some Questions to Ask Yourself
Some people refer to Aconcagua as a trekking peak, and it's rumoured that it has been summited by a 10 year old and an 87 year old - do NOT be fooled. This is a really tough climb, especially the summit day which for most is a 14 hour feat of endurance, on the back of sleep deprivation and loss of appetite.
Although there is no technical work you'll probably be using crampons on the higher mountain for 4-5 days, and you need to be confident on the steeper sections.
So if you've ...climbed Kilimanjaro... ask yourself how you'd feel sleeping 2 nights at the same altitude as the Kili summit, at minus 20 degrees, and then tackling nearly a kilometre of ascent over tough terrain. People who've climbed Kili normally get a bit of a shock on Aconcagua ... it's a different beast altogether.
....run a few marathons ... ask yourself if you could carry on for another 10 hours.
In short, the more time you spend acclimatising the more likely you are to succeed, and enjoy it. If you've been over 6,000m in the last 4 months and felt strong then you can probably opt for a shorter expedition. If you're lucky enough to be able to get above 4,000m in the preceding weeks then do it. If not then we'd recommend you take as much time on Aconcagua as you can.
The UIAA (the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation) recommends, for the Normal Route, taking 13 days from Basecamp (Plaza de Mulas at 4,350m) to the summit (plus 2 additional weather days).
The commercial expeditions currently on offer allow between 11 and 14 days from entering the National Park to the summit day (with total trip lengths of 17-20 days). Shorter expeditions are obviously cheaper but if you're able to find the time and the budget to stretch to 14 then you will definitely increase your chances of a summit. The additional days are dedicated to acclimatisation climbs and rest days:
The two main acclimatisation climbs are to Plaza Francia and Cerro Bonete. Nearly all trips include the trek to Plaza Francia (the base of the southern face of Aconcagua) but few include the wonderful climb up to Cerro Bonnete (which for most of us would be worth the trip to Argentina on its own).
The next thing to look out for is the number of rest days scheduled into the programme. Some trips have only one rest day, others factor in 3 days. These are a really important part of the acclimatisation process and are normally great fun, hanging out with your team at basecamp.
The cost of expeditions on the normal route ranges from $3,500 to $5,000, however it's really important to factor the other costs into your budgeting. You'll typically find that the total cost is twice that, for example:
- park permit - this is normally paid separately to the cost of the trip, and as the time of writing was 4200 ARS (Argentinian Pesos) for the high season, around $840 USD.
- expedition kit - if you haven't been been out in sub zero temperatures before, or climbed above 6,000m then you are probably going to need to get some new kit. Allow $1,500 to $3,000. >> Advice on Aconcagua Gear lists.
- insurance - although your permit includes rescue from the mountain you will need insurance that covers you over 5,000m as well. Allow $200.
- reciprocity fee (for US and Australian passport holders), $75.
- tips - for support staff on the mountain and your guides, allow 5-10%, $200-$300
- flights - usually around $1,500 - $2,000.
So on top of the $4,000 for the expedition, you need to allow around $5,000 for everything else. For most of our clients this is a big commitment and you need to be sure that it's right for you. Once you have committed then beware the false economies - give yourself the very best chances with the right kit, enough acclimatisation the best guides.