Climbing Mt Aconcagua is a great challenge if you are looking to cover tougher mountains. The world famous Aconcagua mountain is located in Western Argentina close to the country’s border with Chile. Its elevation is reported to be 22,837 feet (6960 meters above see level), making it the highest mountain in the western hemisphere. This is Conquering the Highest Mountain in South America.
Every season attracts up to 3500 climbers trying to conquer the summit. However, only 40 to 50% of the climbers manage to successfully reach the mountain’s summit. That’s why it is important that you are ready for the challenge (check here to find what to do to prepare yourself for mountain climbing) including finding the right climbing gear.
The high altitude adds to the difficulty of the climb, which is why the summit success rate is half of the climbers who attempt to reach to the top.
During the entire climbing period (see below), the Aconcagua weather is dry because it’s summer season in the Austral hemisphere. The dry weather in the climbing season is accompanied by windy conditions, which consequently lead to lower temperatures especially as you climb higher.
The temperature is usually at -20 Celsius (-4 Fahrenheit) from 16404 feet (5000 meters above see level) and above and -30 Celsius (-22 Fahrenheit) at the summit. Such low temperatures, climbers have to anticipate frostbite, making the experience more challenging.
Climbers have always reported that Aconcagua’s weather to be unpredictable, subjecting climbers to wind chill and sudden drop in temperatures without warning. Besides, lightning storms are also a common occurrence on the mountain.
The climbing season opens on 15th November and extends to 31st March every year. The climbing season is further divided into three phases, starting with the low season from the 15th to the 30th November, mid season from the 1st to the 14th December and end season from the 1st to the 20th February.
The most popular and best time for climbing Mt Aconcagua is the high season, from the 15th December to the 31st January. It is important to note that in the low season, climbers are unlikely to find all the services and supplies they may need because the camps are not fully equipped by then. As the climbing season progresses, the services and supplies become more readily available.
Climbing Mt Aconcagua
On average, climbing Mt Aconcagua takes 20 days. The main reason why Aconcagua attracts a large number of climbers is that, it is considered a moderately difficult mountain. Many climbers have often used it as a practice summit for more challenging peaks such as Mt. Everest or Mount Kilimanjaro (check here important facts about Mt Kilimanjaro). However, while the reviews suggesting that Aconcagua is an easy climb, should not make you underestimate the difficulty of this mountain.
There are two main base camps (Plaza de Mulas and Plaza Argentina) for the Aconcagua climb, which are approachable from the two available main climbing routes.
Plaza de Mulas base camp, is accessible to climbers who use the Normal Route and it is at 14337 feet (4369 meters above see level). You will pretty much find all the necessary services at the camp during the climbing season.
The Plaza Argentina base camp is accessible to climbers who use the Polish Traverse Route. This camp is at 13779 feet (4199 meters above see level).
Secondary Aconcagua Camps
Besides the two main Aconcagua camps, there are numerous approach camps to help climbers acclimatize and rest. Camp Confluencia is the approach camp found along the Normal Route, while both Camp Pampa de Lenas and Casa de Piedra are along the Polish Glacier Traverse Route.
Except for camp Confluencia, you will not find supplies at the other approach camps. There are enough resting and acclimatization points along the climb making the adventure more pleasant.
There are three (3) main climbing routes towards the Aconcagua summit. Each one of them, have different difficulties and challenges that could make feel both experience and beginner climber uncomfortable. At the end, you are the one that have to make the last call based on your training, experience and endurance level.
The Normal Route is the most popular among climbers and it is on the Northwest Ridge. It is described as a moderate difficulty route, although, the altitude is highly challenging to climbers.
Polish Traverse Route
The second most popular is the Polish Traverse Route, which is also considered a “trekking route” being slightly more difficult than the normal route.
Polish Glacier and Direct Routes
The third main route is the Polish Glacier Route that is more challenging, going straight through the east side of the mountain all the way to the summit.
There is a forth route that only experienced climbers should use it, the Polish Direct Route, which is tough and technical enough to make you think twice.
To summarize, here is what you will have at each route:
Aconcagua Climbing Route Difficulty Sightseeing / Popularity Climber's Rate Camp Available
Normal Route Moderate Great / High Solid 4.5 rate Plaza de Mulas and Confluencia
Polish Traverse Route Moderate to High Great / Medium High Solid 4.0 rate Plaza Argentina
Polish Glacier Route High Very good / Medium Solid 4.0 Rate Plaza Argentina, Pampa de Lenas and Casa de Piedra
Polish Direct Route Very High Good / Medium to low Solid 4.0 Rate Plaza Argentina, Pampa de Lenas and Casa de Piedra
In general, all available routes require the ability to use glacier climbing techniques and the ability to withstand the high altitude.
Climbing Cost and Permits
If you are up to the challenge and want to explore Mount Aconcagua, then you need to prepare, not only physically and mentally, also for your climbing expenses.
It is always advisable to pre-book the available services, especially at base camps because during the peak-climbing season, services tend to cost more.
You also need a climbing permit, whose cost depends on the route used and the season of climbing. The permit also states the number of days paid for by climbers. In high season (for 20 days climbing experience), it costs up to $940 USD using the Polish Glacier Route and, $800 USD using the Normal Route.
These are prices that may change over time so always confirm before jumping into the adventure.
Besides the permit costs, you will need to get the right climbing gear (check here to find out what climbing gear is best for you), as well as pay for food, porter services and other needs along the climb.
Aconcagua climbing with no guide
In most cases, climbers go to the mountain in pairs or groups. Climbing Aconcagua solo can be a daunting task because you not only need company to avoid being lonely, but also to look out for each other.
Even if you went solo during the climbing season, you would find other climbers whom you can join along the climb. It is an opportunity to meet new people and form new friendships.
Although, Mount Aconcagua is rated as a mountain of moderate difficulty, you still need adequate preparation to stand a chance to conquer it (check here to find what to do to prepare yourself for mountain climbing). It is important to prepare your mind and body for the strenuous climbing and unpredictable weather, especially for a 20 day climbing experience.
Climbing Mt Aconcagua is a great challenge if you are new to mountaineering or looking to cover tougher mountains because it will give you the practice and experience you need.
REMEMBER: FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS COS THEY KNOW THE WAY