Aconcagua Expedition 2020
Trip 1: 13 January - 01 February 2020
Trip 1: 27 January - 15 February 2020
Aconcagua at 6,960 metres is the highest peak in both the Western and Southern Hemispheres, and one of the Seven Summits.
Located in the Andes, in the Mendoza province of Argentina, it is 112 km NW of Mendoza city. The summit is also located just 15 km from the border with Chile. The mountain and surroundings are part of the Aconcagua Provincial Park.
The peak is technically straight-forward. However the effects of altitude can be severe - atmospheric pressure is 40% of sea level.
Our expedition’s approach to the peak is done a conservative pace, with multiple forays to higher altitudes. This will give time for most people to acclimate, and prepare for a summit bid - with multiple summit day opportunities.
If conditions are favourable and the group keen, we will be entering the Park via the Vacas valley, and going “up and over” joining the standard route near refuge Berlin to the summit exiting down the shorter Horcones valley.
Departure: ex-Mendoza Argentina
Our trip begins and finishes in Mendoza, the third largest city in Argentina. It is one of the most beautiful cities in the world with top-class restaurants, vineyards and museums/galleries. The climate is warm and sunny. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mendoza,_Argentina
Alpine Guides and Grajales Expeditions
The trip will be lead by one of Alpine Guides experienced expedition guides. If group numbers allow, there will be additional AGL guides. We also use Grajales Expeditions guides on summit attempts, and porters will be employed for load carrying at higher elevations.
Grajales Expeditions have been leading and supporting Aconcagua missions since 1976, and are probably the most trusted local guiding operation in the business. Paul and other AGL guides have worked alongside Grajales several times.
Grajales Expeditions will provide support through ground transport and logistics, mules, porters, base camp services, VHF radio support and assistance with Park permits.
A minimum of 4 bookings are required for the expedition to run.
Day One, Arrival in Mendoza. Transfer from airport to hotel.
If you arrive in Mendoza prior to the first day of trip (or staying later), you need to arrange for your own airport transfers and accommodation until the trip starts.
In addition, all food and refreshments in Mendoza are paid for by the individual, as are evening meals at the Penitentes hotel, before we start the walk in, and at the conclusion of the trip.
Those arriving in advance for sightseeing will need to arrange own transfers and accommodation for any night prior
All meals and refreshments are at your own expense
Hotel accommodation is provided
Day 2 - Morning equipment sort, and into town to organise Park entry permits. The afternoon is free to enjoy sights of Mendoza.
Day 3 - Transfer by coach from Mendoza to Penitentes (2,580 m), approx 3-4 hours. Taking it easy today, no hiking or exertion today. We are starting to play the altitude game. A final gear sort into mule loads/hiking packs.
Accommodation in hotel is provided
Evening meal is at your expense
Day 4 - Short transfer to Vacas Valley entry, where the approach begins.
4-5 hour hike to Pampa de Lenas (2,950 m) where we camp for the night
Military post here – you may be asked to present your Park permit.
Day 5 - A 6 hour hike up the long but beautiful Vacas Valley to our second camp at Casa de Piedra. This is an arid high alpine tundra valley. With mules and people passing by, it can get pretty dusty. We suggest having a Buff/bandana to keep the dust and grit out of your lungs.
Day 6 - First we have to cross the Rio Vacas. Normally knee to thigh deep – but cold! If you have some $US we may be able to ask a “Gaucho” (cowboy/mule driver) to give you a ride across. Then we head up the Relinichos Valley, ever upwards… with views of the mountain.
6 to 7 hours later we arrive at advanced base camp, Plaza Argentina (4,190 m) and the very luxurious camping and dining experience with our local support crew from Grajales Expeditions. A hard day, but well worth the effort.
Day 7 - Rest day.
Day 8 (01 February) - Carry equipment to Camp 1 (4,800 m) and return to base camp. 5 hours.
Day 9 - Rest Day at Base Camp.
Day 10 - Move up to Camp 1.
Day 11 - Carry equipment to Camp 2 (5,350) and return to Camp 1
Day 12 - Rest day.
Day 13 - Move to Camp 2.
Day 14 - Move to Camp 3.
Day 15 (08 February) - Summit attempt.
Day 16 - Alternate summit day.
Day 17 - Another opportunity to summit.
Day 18 - Camp 3 down the other side of the mountain to the normal base camp a Plaza de Mulas.
Day 19 - 6-7 hour hike down the Horcones Valley to Penitentes. Stay the night and pick up our stored gear.
1 night accommodation at Penitentes covered. Meals and other expenses additional.
Day 20 - Picked up by our transport, and driven back to Mendoza (3-4 hours).
1 night accommodation at hotel in Mendoza covered. Meals and other expenses additional. It is a good idea to plan your trip with a day or two free in Mendoza at the end (individuals’ expense). This also gives greater flexibility on the mountain.
Costs included and not included
The Park permit fee is additional at approx. US$970 (approx. 19,000 Pesos). This is payable to the National Park Service office in Mendoza (on Day 2).
The costs cover the following:
Guides fees and expedition organisation
Airport transfers Airport - Mendoza –Airport
Assistance with National Park permits
All land transport ex-Mendoza
3 nights accommodation in Mendoza (1st and 2nd nights, and last night)
Hotel at Penitentes at end of the trip (meals are additional)
Safe storage for additional gear at Penitentes and Base Camp
Expedition food ex-Penitentes
Mules to Plaza Argentina and to Penitentes
Group expedition equipment including: medical kit, oxygen, tents, stoves, and cooking gear
The fee DOES NOT include:
Airfares to Mendoza and required Visa/passport fees, plus excess gear over airline limits
Insurance for travel, medical, and evacuation
Any costs incurred for early evacuation or abandonment of expedition
National park permit fee in Mendoza
Personal clothing and gear
Accommodation in Mendoza prior to the start, and after the end of the expedition
Personal expenses and meals in Mendoza, and tips to guides and locals
Cost and Booking requirements
Price: $US 5,490
All prices are quoted and paid for in US Dollars.
We need a completed expedition application form and a non-refundable deposit for US$500 to confirm your place.
Balance of payment is required by 30 November 2019.
Please make your payment into our US$ bank account and take note of our booking conditions.
Bank account for payments
Account Name: Alpine Guides (Aoraki) Ltd
Bank of New Zealand Account: 836155-0000
Swift Code: BKNZNZ22
Use your family name as a reference for payments.
Passport and Visa Requirements
Passport – make sure it is valid and (if applicable) suitable visas for Argentina and any other countries you are planning to visit. An entry visa is usually not required if staying less than 3 months.
It is important that you have at least 6 months left before expiration of passport as many countries will not let you in with less.
Bring 3 x additional passport sized photos in your luggage for permits, etc.
You will need proof of your evacuation/rescue insurance for the park entry permits issued in Mendoza.
Note that Aust/Canadian passport holders need valid “reciprocity fee” paid
Flights to Mendoza return and Travel Agents
It is cheaper to book well in advance, but we strongly advise ensuring that the return section of your air travel is “flexible” - able to be changed with a small or no fee - to help work around with unforeseen exit circumstances – either earlier, or later than planned.
We recommend travel agents to do trip planning. There is a small surcharge, but over the years we have watched friends and guests who organised all their own travel go through a lot of grief and expense rearranging travel, while we make a single phone call or email…
On more than one occasion our agents have contacted us prior to complications arising.
Recommended Travel Agents
NZ Agent - Grant Lane House of Travel, Timaru
phone +64 3 688 4139
Australian Agent - Colin Hood, Melbourne
Phone Colin at Outdoor Travel in Melbourne - +61 3 5750 1441
It is a long way to travel to Argentina, so think ahead, and if you do have the time it can be a good idea to plan a week or two either prior or after the climb to visit Chile, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, or Bolivia. Those flexible tickets and pre-arranged Visa will come in handy then.
Health and Immunisations
Mendoza is too high for the malarial band in South America, but check with your doctor about relevant immunisations for travel, especially if you are visiting more than one location on your trip.
Anyone with any medical conditions should ensure they have the appropriate medication and that it has not expired (for instance those people who use “twice a year” Ventolin for asthma).
We recommend a full medical examination by your GP, and will provide a questionnaire. It will be useful for insurance purposes and when applying for Park permits in Mendoza. Bring a copy of the results with you.
Be prepared (particularly if you are from NZ or Australia) to return via the Red, “something to declare” line at customs.
Prior to return you should do a thorough clean and check, before packing in Argentina. Then write a list of all the suspect items you have: boots, tents, crampons, stoves wood or fibre souvenirs, medical items etc.
State what you have, how you have cleaned/stored them. When you go through the red line on arrival, hand them the list. Most frequently they appreciate that and ask to see one item, then wave you through – usually you end up being processed much faster than the long line in the green lane.
A few phrases in Spanish are always well appreciated by the locals. The support crew we use generally speak some English, but outside of the big cities, most people do not.
It’s always good to know how to ask where the toilets are, or how to get a drink or food. MP3/IPod Spanish lessons are great ways to pass the time when tent-bound.
Argentina uses Pesos as currency. There are Casa de Cambio (exchanges) in Mendoza. It is useful to bring some $US in cash (other currency less frequently accepted). Have a read about the “Blue Market” online as there is an unofficial exchange rate and a official one. Can be worth researching. Our staff will get local advice when we arrive.
Although there is no prerequisite tipping culture, like the US for example, it is appreciated by the locals to receive a token of gratitude for their efforts. Certainly the porters are used to it.
Insurance & Health
You must organise your own travel insurance and insurance for emergency purposes.
Your Park entry permit will cover any required helicopter evacuation from the mountain. This is only the case when specifically authorized by the on-the-mountain doctor at Plaza Argentina or Plaza de Mulas.
Insurance is available through:
Most standard travel insurance excludes expedition-related claims – but is essential for your basic travel needs.
Once on the mountain, there is usually a requirement by the National Park services for climbers to be checked by a doctor at Plaza Argentina to ensure they are fit to continue ascent.
Bring evidence of your physical examination from you own GP.
Your AGL guide(s) have VHF radio support with Grajales Expeditions, and also carries a satellite phone for emergency situations.
Although Aconcagua is not a super-technical mountain, it is a very strenuous endeavour, and not to be underestimated. Altitude can and does affect everyone differently.
While we will be trying to give each other the best chance for optimal acclimation, everyone will need to pay attention to what their own body is telling them - and let the guide know!
We have the ability to help with your successful ascent and acclimation, but only if we know what is going on.
Essential to a successful ascent is putting in some time to train prior to turning up. The best training you can do are long days carrying moderate to heavy packs. On at least 3- 4 of the days you will need to carry up to 20kg.
We use pulse oximeters right through the expedition. These are small medical instruments that measure the oxygen saturation level of your blood - an indication of how you are acclimatising.
The food on offer at the base camps is plentiful and fresh. As with most dining in Argentina is will tend to be in the Central European style - big on the carnivorous element. The dining tents are large and comfortable with tables and chairs, plenty of snacks and brews.
If you are vegetarian or have particular diet requirements it is essential you let us know about this BEFORE the expedition starts. On the hill we will be cooking in small groups. Mostly lighter carbs/protein and veges of longer lasting variety and for the top camp we will have a few nights of high quality NZ sourced “Backcountry Cuisine” dehydrated meals.
Camps, Porters, and Mulas
We will be staying in a mix of small alpine tents (2-3people per tent), on the way in and high on the mountain, it is possible to arrange to stay in larger “bunk room” style tents at basecamp, but it is an added cost.
We have costed in the assistance of a local porter per 4 people to carry down the extra equipment and tents that we will be leaving on the Vacas side as we move up to Camps 2 and 3. Another porter will help bring the high camp down to the Horcones side after the summit day. Often the groups decide to pitch in to hire extra porters to lighten their personal loads.
These guys work really hard, and at altitude, so are limited to 20kg per carry. This means we will have to carry the remainder to equip and to remove each camp ourselves. See the notes on fitness.
Other Logistical Information
Thirty days before the beginning of the expedition we will send general information such as hotels, contact details, and other logistical data.
Equipment and Clothing
Please bring all the gear listed. There is no facility to rent from Alpine Guides.
You can buy and rent equipment in Mendoza from Orviz Mountain Shop. After the
exchange rate the prices are similar to shopping in NZ/AU.