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Planning an Aconcagua trip... How hard can it be?


TheNumberNine
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A buddy and I have been throwing the idea of an Aconcagua trip around for this December/January.. We've both been above 20,000 and are pretty dialed in as a team. We're looking at doing this non-guided and as cheap as possible.

 

Anyone on here ever put together their own Aconcagua trip? What problems did you encounter? What was easy? What would you do differently?

 

Is this a trip that we could do by basically flying ourselves/gear down to South America and figuring it out when we get there?

 

Any advice/info would be greatly appreciated.

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Yep, you can just go organize it in a couple of days in Mendoza no problem. I've done this twice.

 

Most people book their whole trip through an agency, guided, and the mules are included in that, but if you're unguided/independent you just need an agency as a contact to book the mules and provide tent space/toilet in BC. You need this to get a permit and it will be checked by the rangers at the trailhead and again at BC.

 

Last time I did it we spent a few days around 3300-4200m in the Cordon del Plata outside Mendoza. You can get a taxi out there for about $80.

 

I think last time I used the Grajales company for the mules and there was an office right in the middle of town, mostly selling tours but you could just go in and book mules only. Info below is for the normal route, Horcones Valley with Plaza de Mulas BC.

 

You took your bags, on the public bus in our case, to Grajales shed at Puenta del Inca, dropped them off, got them tagged etc and the guy gave us a ride up to the trailhead. Our bags were there at the same place when we got back. Grajales base is in Los Penitentes nearby but they have a shed at Puenta del Inca.

 

The mules travel (much) faster than you, so on the way back you leave BC at, say, 8am and get into Puenta del Inca at 4pm and your bags have been there a few hours. On the way in, if you stop a night or two at Confluencia you need your sleeping bag, water bottle, snacks, camera etc as your bags will go all the way in to BC in that first day, where you won't get to BC (Plaza de Mulas) until the second day.

 

I actually carried our tent to Confluencia then intercepted the mules early the next morning and added it to our load to BC, but normally people use agency tents at Confluencia (they were short of such tents when I was there last). We also bought dinner and breakfast at Confluencia, saving carrying food/stove on the walk-in. On that occasion the food was good, but I've seen mixed offerings at other agencies.

 

It might sound a bit complicated but it works out pretty straightforward and is the best mix of being almost totally independent, unguided, cooking for yourself etc, but not crippled by huge loads and being able to enjoy the place. I did carry all my gear out myself once, no mules, 30kg pack for 40km in plastic boots, and that was awful.

 

The walk in to Confluencia from the road is really easy, about 2.5hrs. But the next day up to Mulas BC is a long one and gains 1000m or so. Start early to make the creek crossings easier, and dress for cold wind and dust. Despite Aconcagua's boring reputation, it's a beautiful valley to walk up, but a long grind.

 

http://www.grajales.net/aconcagua/services/mules.html

 

We cooked all our own food at BC and on the hill, but you can buy $$$ crappy meals at a tent in BC. Both times I've done the normal route I've summited from C1 (Nido Condores), not used C2 (Berlin). Leave around midnight, it was cold up around 6200m, maybe -20C or so. Crampons good but no axe needed both times.

 

The permit office is in the main avenue in the centre of town. It has a big sign above it, but check the opening hours. Permits cost between $300 - $700 depending the time you go. You pay at a little office down the street then take the receipt back to the main office.

 

Food and beer are cheap. Mendoza is a great place to hang for a few days. Also some trad rock out at Arenales but you'll probably need a car.

 

Some of the above I posted a while back at: http://www.ukclimbing.com/forums/t.php?t=476547&v=1#x6573525

Some useful info at: http://www.summitpost.org/aconcagua/150197

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Private trips are easy as explained above. We went via the Vacas Valley in Feb with very few other people which was really nice. For the Vacas Valley the mules will travel on your schedule so all you carry is a day pack. Do not try to be cheap and carry your crap. Go light and enjoy the walk into the base camp. Get a mule for each person and take some luxury items like fresh fruit and melons.

 

I can not remember who we used but they picked us up at the hotel in Mendoza, stopped by the permit office and drove us up to Los Penitentes/Puenta del Inca. I think we hung there for two nights just relaxing. The mules left in the morning and met us at the ranger station that is 8 miles up valley (our first night). We hiked another 8 miles the next day and the mules again met us at our camp. The next morning the mules take off early cause they go up to BC and then head home. We gave our mule handler dinner one night plus a shirt and sunglasses so he made sure we got a ride across the river rather than wadding across 10C water at 7am.

 

On the way out we packed all of our crap up and did the walk out in a long day with nothing but a day pack. The mules came in early that morning and were out by that afternoon. It took me about 13 hours to hike out. And our stuff was waiting for us at Los Penitentes. Most take two days to hike out.

 

If doing the Rutta Normal or False Polish I will echo the comment about take crampons but no ice axe - treking poles are your friend. And even then you will carry them much of the time.

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We went the easy route & just had Grajales organize everything. As others said you can show up and organize it yourself or you can spend a little money & have your hand held. Having someone deal with all the logistics makes for pretty cush travel. Here's some info I put up sometime back:

 

http://www.akmountain.com/index.cfm/2010/01/31/Aconcaguas-Polish-Direct--Resources

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You can roll in to Mendoza and arrange everything there. Super friendly people. Everything except your overnight gear for a couple nights at Confluencia, the rest up by mules. Pretty easy to arrange logistics. Suggest base camp camping by the refugio, more quiet, less puke/piss (and remember people have been doing that in that base camp site for many years). Helipad will be your a.m. alarm clock. Sense of accomplishment arranging a climb like this, but as for the actual climbing I found that my time in Mendoza was more memorable (wine, steak, beautiful friendly women). If I had it to do over, I'd take the time off/cash for Aconcagua and instead go to Ecuador, Bolivia, or Peru and climb several mountains, eat the guinea pig and buy the poncho ;)

 

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