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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

General

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".

Public Transportation

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.

Other Information

(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.

Addresses

  • 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.

Organisation

Permit

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:
low seasonmiddle seaonhigh seasonmiddle seasonlow season
before Dec 01Dec 01 - Dec 14Dec 15 - Jan 31Feb 01 - Feb 20after Feb 20
expedition
20 days in the park
$80$120$160$120$80
long trekking
7 days in the park
$20$30 $50 $30 $20
short trekking
3 days in the park
$10$20 $30 $20 $10
(These data for the season 2000/2001 were kindly sent to me by external linkTurismo Aymará.)

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 a supermarket.

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 - Confluencia3-4 h
Confluencia - Plaza de Mulasabout 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.

High camps

Canadaabout 5000 ma bit off the route (we went directly to Cambio de Pendiente).
Cambio de Pendiente5400 monly few good places. 4 h from PdM
"lower" Nido de Cóndores5500 msome well wind-sheltered places. 4 1/2 h from PdM
"upper" Nido de Cóndores5570 ma big plane with lots of space. 5 h from PdM
Refugio Berlin6000 mhuts 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 ridge6160 ma flat terrace; compared to Berlin more wind. 1 h from Berlin
Refugio Independencia6430 mhut hardly usable, but much space, quite well wind-sheltered. 3-4 h from Berlin
(Summit)6960 mfrom Berlin to the summit: 7-10 h.
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.
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) .

Maps

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.

Equipment

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 spare fuel.
  • 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.

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.

New information from other sources, March 2003

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 "external linkCampo 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 "external linkLas 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