Ascent of Aconcagua on 2016-12-16

Climber: Rick Peterson

Date:Friday, December 16, 2016
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
    Elevation:22841 ft / 6961 m

Ascent Trip Report

My wife has family in Lima so I go to S America semi-regularly. I often sneak up to the Andes for a week or so when I go to visit. This time it was Aconcagua. I have a difficult time getting enough time to go so I decided to hire a guide for a custom trip with my Uncle, the two of us. This is expensive but I didn't have the time for a 17 day itinerary plus travel etc. We made the arrangements with Aconcagua Adventures, which is an agency that hooks you up with the actual climbing companies. It might have been cheaper to go straight to Inka Expediciones, the well established guide service, but everything worked out really well. I had some trouble getting there on time but we were able to move everything back a day. My luggage didn't get to Santiago so I had to wait an extra day there. The airport in Mendoza was closed for renovations so I would recommend flying straight there, an option I didn't have. The bus ride over Paso Internacional Los Libertadores was pretty interesting but it takes the better part of a day. When I finally arrived I found Mendoza to be wonderful and the steaks at the late night sidewalk cafes are spectacular.

The first day we met our guide Popi. She has been working on Aconcagua for well over a decade, including working at the closed down hotel at Plaza de Las Mulas(PM). She looks more like a model for a fitness magazine than a guide. We went though our equipment, went to Chamonix to get rental gear, then headed up to Penitentes, a ski lodge that made me think I was back in the 70's.

On day two, we separated our gear in two bags for mules. Here is one thing I didn't understand, one of the bags goes straight to PM and one to Confluencia. Because of that you can't hardly send up too much stuff, you don't have to carry any of it. It is not that long of a trek to Confluencia and it started snowing just before we got there.

On day three we were afraid to make the 20km trek to PM on 15cm of snow so we stayed there. This was disappointing since we were burning our one extra day right off the bat. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise because the whole climb above PM was on firm perfect snow, no scree ever.

Day four was the hike to PM with a day pack since they take all your stuff by mule. Both at Confluencia and PM they have stand up heavy vinyl tents with bunk beds and lights. On top of that you get a mess tent in which you get better food and service than the average restaurant. About half an hour before arriving every day Popi would call and we would have meat,cheese,tea,coffee and too much more to list. All this food and drink were available at any time. You could get hot water any time from the very impressive kitchen tent. You usually didn't have to bother because they waited on you hand and foot. They WILL hydrate you.

Day five rest day went to vist the hotel and ate and drank.

Day six we carried to camp one and returned to PM.

Day seven move to camp one for a spectacular night under a full moon.

We decided to have a porter come up the next morning to help with the load to camp 2. You can decide to have the porters come up from PM any time, the guide just calls the night before and up they come. One of the reasons we decided to get help was because we decided to skip the planned rest day at camp 2. The weather was predicted to be good for the summit one day before we were lined up at that point. Day eight move to Camp 2.

Day nine move to Camp 3, again we had a porter come take some of our weight. The trip includes porters to carry tents and cooking gear anyway.

Day ten summit. Perfect conditions, low wind clear skies. We headed up on firm easy snow slowly gaining altitude. My Uncle was starting to slow down and we were worried we couldn't make it. The problem with a small private trip of only three under most conditions if either can't continue both must turn back. Fortunately Popi knows many people and there were dozens going for the summit that day. At the base of the Canaleta is a flat area called La Cava and there were several groups there. Some of those groups were separating into those that would continue and those that wouldn't. Popi arranged for Ken to stay there and wait with others for us to summit, still several hours away. If it weren't for the perfect conditions and the large number of climbers I would not have been able to continue. Climbing the Canaleta was probably as easy as it possibly could have been in the week old firm snow and we summited easily. I didn't really have that much difficulty with the thin air, certainly no more than Denali or Huascaran. Of course I didn't have to deal with the legendary scree or high winds, yet.

Day 11 we woke to those high winds so the guides were correct in the best day, glad we skipped camp 2 rest. I don't know if that cost Ken the peak though. We had porters come get our stuff and went down to PM. Brutal breaking camp in the wind. I don't know if anyone would have been going up, I doubt it.

Day 12 hiked out to Horcones and then back to Mendoza.

The climb is not difficult but if you have limited time an outfit like Inka ups your chances of success drastically. The logistics of the permits, the rides, the lodging, all seamless. Knowing the weather patterns and support can make all the difference. On top of that how else are you going to get Argentinian barbeque at 4500M.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:11841 ft / 3609 m
    Round-Trip Distance:49.7 mi / 80 km
    Trailhead:Horcones  11000 ft / 3352 m
    Grade/Class:Class 2
    Quality:8 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Snow on Ground, Scramble, Snow Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons, Guide, Porters, Hut Camp, Tent Camp
    Weather:Snowing, Frigid, Very Windy
Ascent Statistics
    Time:10 Days 
Descent Statistics
    Time:2 Days 

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