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Practical information for climbing Aconcagua on your own
current: February 1997; permit information is updated for the 2000/2001 season.
new information from 2003 is added at the end of this page.
Mendoza (170000 inh.) is situated at the east edge of the Andes, easily accessible
from Santiago and Buenos Aires by bus or plane. Together with
San Juan it's the wine growing area in Argentina.
Due to the permit being required (see below), Mendoca necessarily is the
starting point for climbing Aconcagua travelers "off one's own bat".
From the airport, the city is reached by bus no. 60.
For the reverse direction: The bus departs in Calla Salta in front of
the hospital. In Mendoza, busses have a large number on top (multiples of 10),
and a small number indicated on a sign near the door. Sometimes also the color
of the small number is important. Bus 60 63 goes to the airport, but only those
that show "Aeropuerto" on the small sign. The trip takes 45 minutes and costs
$ 0.80. For other buses, the fare is $ 0.55.
Don't forget to make a sign, otherwise
the bus won't stop.
(Argentinian Pesos are at 1:1 parity to the US$ by law.)
Even in January it was no problem to find a reasonably affordable hotel (double $ 35).
The tourist information is very helpful; address see below.
Post cards to Europe are rather expensive ($1.10) but reliably arrive
after about a week.
In Mendoza, you can buy almost every type of food needed for Aconcagua. The only things one should
take from home might be freeze-dried high camp food and muesli bars; so the 20 kg
baggage allowance for the flight can be observed. The food price level in the
supermarket is similar to Germany, as also prices in restaurants are.
- Tourist Information: at the end of Paseo Sarmiento (pedestrian area)
east of Plaza Independencia. Service hours are 9.00 to 21.00. The counter
at the airport has rather limited opening hours.
- Club Andinista de Mendoza, F.L.Bertran 357 in Guaymallén, Colectivo Nr.
20 (red number) on Av. Bandera de Andes until house no. 1450,
then small side street to the north. Mo-Fr 20.30 to 22.30.
- Trekking agencies and tour guides: most are around Paseo Sarmiento.
Some also have a counter in the building of the tourist board (a minute's walk from
the tourist information counter mentioned above).
- Swimming baths El Olmo: Colectivo No. 20 with red sub-number
from Calle Rioja until about house no. 6200.
- Swimming baths Aguaparque, in the south of the city, bus no. 110 to Alimentación (that ist
in fact the name of a city district) and from there about ten minutes walk southwards.
- Hotels... there are enough; in case of doubt one can get a list printed at the airport "Aeroparque"
in Buenos Aires.
The area around Aconcagua is a provincial park requiring a permit for
entry. There are three types of permit: short trekking (3 days),
long trekking (7 days), and ascent/moutaineering (20 days).
The permit is issued by
the Dirección des Recursos Naturales Renovables in
Parque General San Martín in Mendoza (50 m at the left side of park main entrance (Avda. Civit/Libertador))
(since recently) the Subsecretaria de Turismo de Mendoza,
Avenida San Martín 1143, Mendoza. The prices depend on the season:
(These data for the season 2000/2001 were kindly sent to me by Turismo Aymará.)
|low season||middle seaon||high season||middle season||low season|
|before Dec 01||Dec 01 - Dec 14||Dec 15 - Jan 31||Feb 01 - Feb 20||after Feb 20|
20 days in the park
|long trekking |
7 days in the park
|$20||$30 ||$50 ||$30 ||$20|
|short trekking |
3 days in the park
|$10||$20 ||$30 ||$20 ||$10|
Besides the passport,
the adress of an insurance company which covers eventual back transportation and medical treatment is required.
The 20 days begin with entering the park at Horcones, where the permit is checked and a garbage sack is given,
to be handed back when exiting the park (of course, then filled with the own garbage).
Bus to Puente del Inca
The best way to get to Puente del Inca, the starting point for the normal route,
is the bus of Uspallata company for $ 9.60 from the bus terminal of Mendoza (about 4 h trip to PdI).
The bus terminal is located in the east of the city center; better book the tickets one
day in advance. At the terminal, there is also a post office and
Baggage transport and the walk to the base camp
The way from Puente del Inca (2716 m) to the base camp Plaza de Mulas
(4300 m) is very far, and it is recommended to do it in two steps (also for
better acclimatization). In Confluencia (3368 m) good water can be found; there
is no drinking water elsewhere on the way.
The baggage for the two to three week's time can be transported to the
base camp by mules. This can be booked in advance in Mendoza, or look around
in Puente del Inca. A mule carries up to 60 kg and costs $100 to $120 (one way transport),
two mules $150-$180, three $200-$240. The baggage is brought up in one day and can be
picked up in the basecamp at the relevant company or at the hotel (Aymará).
Protect your things well, since the mules sometimes have their own ideas what to do with
the load on the way. As you will be on the way for one more day, you should
have sleeping bag, tent, stove, and food for these two days with you.
Except for mules and permit, a tolerably experienced and trained mountaineer
can take charge of anything else. However, those who really need it can get everything
possible or impossible, from transfer airport-hotel, individual transport to
Puente del Inca to porter services to the high camps or even to the summit,
this all easily doubling or tripling the overall price of the expedition.
|walking times (way to the base camp)|
|Puente del Inca - valley entrance Horcones (ranger station)||1 h |
|Horcones - Confluencia||3-4 h|
|Confluencia - Plaza de Mulas||about 8 h|
The base camp plaza de mulas lies on 4300 m altitude; good water can be found
15 min. westwards at the rubble-covered glacier (mostly only afternoon).
The hotel built some years ago is found half an hour to the south-west;
beverages can be bought there (a 350 ccm can for $ 3). In the high camps,
there is no water but usually enough snow somewhere nearby.
The weather at Aconcagua in summer is not as stable as further north;
sudden bad weather fronts mostly from the west are frequent. Normally, however,
it is more or less sunny and almost always windy. The main season lasts from
December to February when 200-400 people inhabit the base camp.
It took us 7 days from the base camp to reach the summit. Generally one should be prepared for a total trip length of 2 to 3 weeks from/to Puente del Inca.
|Canada||about 5000 m||a bit off the route (we went directly to Cambio de Pendiente).|
|Cambio de Pendiente||5400 m||only few good places. 4 h from PdM|
|"lower" Nido de Cóndores||5500 m||some well wind-sheltered places. 4 1/2 h from PdM|
|"upper" Nido de Cóndores||5570 m||a big plane with lots of space. 5 h from PdM |
|Refugio Berlin||6000 m||huts not usable; a bit further up there's more place for tents. 3 h from Nido|
Since 1998 a new hut is available, built by DAV Section Kaiserslautern. But don't rely on free space the huts.
|on the north ridge||6160 m||a flat terrace; compared to Berlin more wind. 1 h from Berlin |
|Refugio Independencia||6430 m||hut hardly usable, but much space, quite well wind-sheltered. 3-4 h from Berlin|
|(Summit)||6960 m||from Berlin to the summit: 7-10 h.|
The location of the camps is best seen in the map sketch.
The camp altitudes are (as far as possible) corrected using the altimeter
from the summit downwards.
There are no technical difficulties on the normal route; except for the
Canaleta (loose scree, go on the very right (W) side) there's always a good trail.
The only problem is the height and the very sudden bad weather.
On the other hand, in case of bad weather one can get back to the
base camp very quickly (1 h from Nido, 2 h from Berlin) .
Turismo Aymará (e.g.) sells a brochure with a satellite image with
a sketch of the route for $ 10. The map edited by the American Alpine Club
is mainly only a sketch of the mountain ridges, and the position of camp
Nido de Cóndores is drawn too far west.
Who goes to Aconcagua should roughly know what he needs for a two to three weeks
trip of expedition character. Therefore I mention here only the particular specialities. Everything here applies to the normal route.
- Boots: Normal plastic mountaineering boots are well sufficient. Extreme boots like Everest One Sport are not necessary, we used our normal Koflach boots. The "Arctis Expedition" is not well suited because the material is rather soft and would suffer in all the scree and sand. I would definitely not recommend leather boots because one wont't get them dry once they became wet in the snow.
- Stove: Like in almost all our previous expeditions, we
were very content with the MSR X-GK. Compared to the Whisperlite,
it can use a much bigger varieties of fuel. We had got some liters
of super (it's all unleaded, but quite expensive: $ 1 per liter). For the
two weeks at Aconcagua we spent only 2 liters for two persons. For
longer bad weather periods, of course, one should calculate with enough
- Ski poles are a must, since there's very much scree and stones.
An ice axe is useful very seldom. Crampons can be quite practical in the
big traverse shortly below the Canaleta; often there is snow there.
- Noise stoppers for the ear (those little yellow foamed things) are very
recommendable, otherwise the storm hauling at the tent easily costs all the sleep.
- two tents: a "normal" tent for the base camp and
a "better" one for the high camps.
We used a VauDe Space I for the base camp and a modified Space I (with
snow flaps attached) for the high camps, and both worked well.
- wind-tight closing also for bad weather is needed badly.
As we were there, it was not too cold (minimum -15°C), but that doesn't need to be
always the case.
- Food: In the supermarkets in Mendoza, you can buy almost everything
except for maybe muesli bars and special high camp food (and reasonable bread).
For sure, one can eat one's fill with mashed potatoes, soups and instant noodle dishes.
Don't forget to buy enough instant (powder) drinks.
Links about Aconcagua
The links on my links page might be more accurate, so you should look there, too.
- a) The official site
- b) Other expedition reports or programs
What did it cost?
This trip was about the cheapest "big" mountaineering trip we ever did. No car rental, a long time in our own tent instead of hotels - that can easily be seen in our expenses. For everybody who would like to get an idea about the price level, you find a detailed overview of our expenses in the following table. Everything is given for two persons. The DM conversion is based on a rate of 1.80 DM per US$, and the trip took place - as already said - in 1997.
Date Expense Where Amount Amount in DM
(for 2 pers.)
Flight tickets FRA-MDZ 3436.00 DM 3436.00
19.01.1997 Bus Mdz 1.60 $ 2.88
19.01.1997 Dinner Mdz 14.00 $ 25.20
20.01.1997 Gas (super unleaded) Mdz 5.00 $ 9.00
20.01.1997 Bus tickets to PdI Mdz 19.20 $ 34.56
20.01.1997 Food purchase Mdz 81.42 $ 146.56
20.01.1997 Dinner Mdz 13.00 $ 23.40
20.01.1997 Hotel Mdz 35.00 $ 63.00
20.01.1997 Mules PdI-PdM Mdz 100.00 US$ 180.00
20.01.1997 Permit Mdz 160.00 US$ 288.00
21.01.1997 Hotel Mdz 35.00 $ 63.00
23.01.1997 Drinks PdM 39.00 US$ 70.20
25.01.1997 Drinks PdM 45.00 $ 81.00
01.02.1997 Drinks PdM 21.00 US$ 37.80
03.02.1997 Mules PdM-PdI PdM 120.00 US$ 216.00
03.02.1997 Bus PdI-Mdz PdI 20.00 US$ 36.00
03.02.1997 Food purchase Mdz 9.80 $ 17.64
03.02.1997 Taxi Mdz 3.00 US$ 5.40
03.02.1997 Dinner Mdz 24.00 US$ 43.20
03.02.1997 Bus Mdz 1.10 $ 1.98
03.02.1997 Maps Mdz 17.00 $ 30.60
04.02.1997 Hotel Mdz 36.00 US$ 64.80
04.02.1997 Food purchase Mdz 18.90 $ 34.02
04.02.1997 Tickets to Potrerillos Mdz 9.60 $ 17.28
04.02.1997 Dinner Mdz 14.00 US$ 25.20
05.02.1997 Hotel Mdz 36.00 $ 64.80
05.02.1997 Dinner Mdz 25.00 US$ 45.00
06.02.1997 Hotel Mdz 36.00 $ 64.80
09.02.1997 Tickets to Mdz 6.20 $ 11.16
09.02.1997 Dinner Mdz 16.00 US$ 28.80
10.02.1997 Food purchase Mdz 10.75 $ 19.35
10.02.1997 Dinner Mdz 15.00 US$ 27.00
11.02.1997 Food purchase Mdz 9.95 $ 17.91
11.02.1997 Bus Mdz Mdz 2.20 $ 3.96
11.02.1997 Dinner Mdz 13.00 US$ 23.40
12.02.1997 Hotel (2 N.) Mdz 72.00 $ 129.60
12.02.1997 Taxi Mdz 3.00 $ 5.40
12.02.1997 Bus to airport Mdz 1.60 $ 2.88
12.02.1997 Airport tax Mdz 6.00 US$ 10.80
12.02.1997 Lunch Mdz 7.00 US$ 12.60
Others, e.g. postcards 20.00 $ 36.00
SUM DEM 5456.18
SUM IN EUR EUR 2789.70
In summary, the total cost per person adds up to DM 2728 from/to Frankfurt. (This was about US$ 1515 at the time we did the trip.)
Of course, those who prefer more comfortable accomodation and organisation have to calculate with correspondingly higher cost.
Thomas Fischer reported from his Aconcagua climb in beginning of 2003:
- Permit now costs $200. Still it is available only in Mendoza - don't believe in any other information.
- Argentina has become much cheaper now. Food should be bought in Mendoza.
(Remark by Hartmut: that's what we already did in 1997, except for the things which are not available there: muesli bars, Gummibärchen, freeze-dried high-camp food.)
- Mendoza airport can also be reached by international flights now.
- Hostel "Campo Base" in Mendoza
gave a lot of support to Thomas. Addresses of equipment stores for gas / gasoline, transportation to
the park entrance and back (back on radio call from the base camp), organization of mules, using the kitchen tent
in Confluencia and Plaza de Mulas (others booked including cooking service). Prices were ok.
- After the trip, one can re-fill the stomach in Mendoza; Lavalle 38; Restaurant "Las
Tinajas", for about $4. Top food, and only drinks are not included.
© Hartmut Bielefeldt 1997, partial update 2003.
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Last change: 02 April 2003 by Hartmut Bielefeldt