As with any mountain, there are numerous routes to Aconcagua. Most of them are classified as extremely difficult, but there are two routes that require minimum technical experience (that is, they can be trekked) – the normal route and the valley of Vacas.
The Normal Route is shorter for at least two days than the Valle de Vacas (also called the Polish Glacier Route) – it is easier and does not involve wading through the rivers! The Valley of Vacas route, on the other hand, is quieter and less somber. From the main road to the base camp (Plaza de Mulas) on the Normal Route, it is 36 kilometers while it is 47 kilometers from the base camp (Plaza Argentina) on the Valle de Vacas route. Therefore, it is a short day’s walk, then a very long day to Plaza de Mulas, compared to three moderate days to Plaza Argentina. The distance from the base camp to the summit is a bit longer and harder on the Vacas Valley route, but finally both routes meet before tackling the most difficult part of the climb – the Canaleta. If you are very lucky and there is frozen snow in the Canaleta you should be able to lift it in an hour and a half, but if it is not frozen you can expect it to take several hours.
There is a third trekking route known as the Ruta del Guanaco. Continue through the valley of Vacas to ascend the mountain from the northeast. However, the area is a protected wildlife sanctuary, and the route has never been opened by the park authorities. Apart from the attraction of being less people, this route would have no real advantage over the other two – and it is longer to base camp plus an additional river to cross.
After arriving at the base camps, most expeditions take from a week to 10 days to reach the summit, shuffling between the three upper fields. From the camp above, the day of the summit is a climb of over 1,100 meters, so you need to be prepared for a long slog.
Need to know
When to go: The Aconcagua climbing season starts in mid-November and ends in mid-March. Eighty percent of the trekkers go in December and January.
How to get there: To get to Aconcagua you can fly to Buenos Aires or Santiago de Chile and get an internal flight or a bus to Mendoza The nearest town is Puente del Inca. Another stop is the Los Penitentes ski resort.
Permits: You need a permit to climb the mountain. Costing around £ 350, the permit covers your consultation with the base camp doctor and a helicopter evacuation if you become ill.
Guides: Although you can climb the mountain independently if you wish, Most climbers sign up with an operator. Visit the Mendoza government website (www.aconcagua.mendoza.gov.ar) for a list of licensed operators and guides.
Acclimation: Three-quarters of climbers They do not reach the top often due to altitude sickness. Take acclimatization seriously and use medical tents at base camp.