Climbing Mighty Aconcagua in Argentina
Located amidst the Andes mountain range in Argentina, Aconcagua stands at a proud height of 6,962 m, making it the tallest mountain in the Americas. This natural marvel is listed amongst the famous Seven Summits – the highest mountains on each of the seven continents. It stands in the Aconcagua Provincial Park, which was named a protected area in 1983. Aconcagua is a major attraction in the Mendoza Province, drawing mountain climbers and trekkers from around the world.
Paul Gussfeldt of Germany was the first European to try to climb Aconcagua. He made his journey in 1883, approaching from the Rio Volcan and reaching only 6,500 m on the north-west ridge (known today as the normal route). In 1897 the first recorded ascent took place during an expedition led by Britain’s Edward FitzGerald, though Matthias Zurbriggen of Switzerland was the first to reach the top.
The most commonly traversed route up Aconcagua is known as the Normal Route. This non-technical walk guides climbers up the northwest ridge of the mountain. While the route may appear relatively easy, the mountain should not be underestimated as the altitude, cold and winds can make it a real challenge. While ropes, pins, axes and supplemental oxygen are not particularly required, hikers will have to be aware of allowing themselves to become acclimatized so as to avoid severe altitude sickness. A large portion of the route requires climbers to walk on scree. Crampons may prove necessary, depending on the conditions.
It will take two days to reach the base camp at 13,500 feet on the Normal Route. The next camp is Camp Canada, at 16,200 feet. Climbers can take their time to acclimatize at this camp. Nido des Condores at 18,000 feet is a larger camp, but somewhat exposed to the elements. Berlin Camp is next at 19,300 feet, from where you can reach the summit following further acclimatization.
The other most followed route is known as the Polish Glacier Traverse Route. On this route, climbers reach the mountain via the Vacas valley, which takes about three days. Plaza Argentina is the base camp at 13,300 feet. Camp one stands at 16,200feet and camp two lies at 19,200 feet. Climbers can then either continue over to the remainder of the Normal Route, or head up the Polish Glacier.
There are various other routes, as well as shorter treks in the region of Aconcagua. Ensure that you have the correct permits for entering the Aconcagua Provincial Park, which can be obtained from the park authority in Mendoza.