The Summit of Aconcagua (6956m)

Hermann Härtig, March 93


Aconcagua, 6956 meters high, is the highest mountain of the Americas and the highest mountain outside of Asia. The "normal route" leads to the summit of Aconcagua without the need for technical climbing. However, due to possibly very low temperatures (below -30 C),heavy (snow) storms and especially due to high altitude, it can be very dangerous! Good equipment, physical fitness and a very careful attitude towards watching out for signs of altitude sickness(see e.g. Travel Health Online) is essential for a successful and safe trip.

I wrote this based on personal experience and to the best of my knowledge, but I do not take any responsibility for the correctness of the information. The times and prices given are of winter 92/93 (unless explicitely stated otherwise).

Send a note if this report is useful. Updates, additions, corrections and questions are most welcome.


From Mendoza (paperwork) to Puente del Inca

All trips to Aconcagua start from Mendoza, which is well connected to Buenos Aires and Santiago de Chile by air and road. In Mendoza you'll have to get the climbing permit, but Mendoza is also the place to relax for a while and to visit bodegas and open air restaurants. Very good wine. Plenty of good restaurants.

For typical Argentinian food:

La Parillada 14 (garden restaurant), Avnd. San Lorenzo, near Plaza Espana.


Cheap "Residencials" (10 US-Dollars), e.g. R. Central, Avnd. 9 de Julio 658, near Plaza Espana

I stayed at and recommend:
Hotel Nutibara, Avnd. Mitre 867, near Avnd. San Lorenzo, 55 US-Dollars for a single room, swimming pool, AC; very helpful staff, limited English only, one staff member (Ricardo) fluent in German; store luggage and keep valuables while their guests go for Aconcagua.

The climbing permit costs 120 US-Dollars(Dec 98) and is obtained at Direccion de Recursos Naturales Renovables in San Martin Road near corner to Sarmiento Road. To get the permit took about 15 minutes. Have the name of insurance company and the name of a person to be notified in case of accident.

Getting white gas (bencina blanca) is no more a problem (e.g. Ferreteria Alsina in Avnd. Catamarca 37: 12P for 10 Liters incl tank).I have not seen any dehydrated food, but apart from that, food can be bought in Mendoza's supermercados. Do not rely on finding reasonable equipment in Mendoza.

Bus to/from Puente del Inca:

Busses to PdI leave from the Mendoza central terminal at 6am and 10am; the trip takes about 5 hours and costs ca 8P. Returning buses leave PdI at 1pm and 4pm.

Puente del Inca (2700m) is a summer resort on the road to Chile. It has its name from a natural bridge over the nearby river. It is the starting point for the hike to Aconcagua base camp. To get a first view of A. walk 15 minutes on the road towards Chile and look to your right.


Hosteria del Inca, 30P, breakfast 5P, dinner(not bad) ca 15P. Very good atmosphere, unless large, noisy groups spoil it. Selection of local wines. Almost no English spoken. Camping possible in PdI.

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From Puente del Inca to Plaza de Mulas (4400 m)

From PdI to a place called Confluencia(3000m) takes about 4-5h, from Confluencia to PdM about 8-10h. For acclimatization and to avoid a real long walk it is recommended to spend a night at Confluencia. Confluencia has a few tents, where you can get Coke and similar things. It may be possible to sleep in one of those tents, but I would not rely on it. From Confluencia you have to carry water, unless you have a filter.

Shortly after leaving the road to Chile, you'll find a checkpost who wants to see your permit. They give a plastic bag that you have to show on your way down with your garbage. If you have more luggage than you can or want to carry yourself (I ended up with 42kg including food and fuel), you can arrange transport with mulas to Plaza de Mulas. Get in touch with Andres Garcia or Fernando Grajales. They charge 60P for up to 40kg, 70P for up to 50kg, if you can join a group. If you have to make your own arrangements, add 60P (all one way). Unless having a special agreement, they take the luggage to Plaza de Mulas within one day. So you need to carry sleeping bag and what else you need for staying overnight at Confluencia. Make sure to know, how to reach Fernando Grajales or Andres Garcia for the transport back down (e.g. ask about groups going down appr. at the time of your intended return). Be prepared to find your equipment in bad shape. The muletiers (and the mulas ;-) ) really don't care. There are other companies at Penitentes, a resort few km towards Mendoza (e.g. Andes Sport). With Andes Sports I had personally bad experiences and also heard bad stories (first hand) from two other groups: unreliable, may have to wait days in Puente del Inca for luggage.

Plaza de Mulas has a Hotel :-( : Not yet fully completed, until completion 20P per person in four person bedroom, 40P later. Dinner for about 16P (not bad, except the steaks are well done(no: much more than that) if you don't specify). Small selection of local wines available.

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From Plaza de Mulas to the Summit

The way to the summit follows a trail up to a few hundred meters altitude (appr. 300) below the summit. Then you enter the "Canaleta", a field of loose scree, where you try to stay on snow as long as you can and then keep left. At the end of Canaleta, you reach a ridge where you turn left. Exceptional view! Look down the Southface!

To overview the trail up to Nido de Condores (5500 m) walk over to the Hotel. The remainder of the trail can be seen partially from Nido de Condores. The trail leads over some snowfields, but only the last snowfield that must be traversed to reach the Canaleta is steep and slippery. Here using crampons makes sense, but its not a must. In good weather conditions, the trail is clearly visible. On the way back, make sure not to miss the way out of the Canaleta to the mentioned traverse. As long as there is good visibility, that's probably the only place with danger to get lost. Here is a list of camps from Plaza de Mulas to the summit; the altitudes given are taken from a map or given by locals.

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A possible Itinerary

This was my itinerary:
Take the 6am bus from Mendoza to Puente del Inca. Arrange the Mulas.

Enjoy the hot showers and the dinner!

Some people stay less than 5 nights in Plaza de Mulas, but be warned. I personally saw a corpse, wrapped in plastic laying behind a rock, and I observed another guy, who could not keep his balance or talk consistently any more.
Some stay an extra night in Canada and or Cambio.
Some try to reach summit from Nido de Condores in one day (hard).
You can walk from Placa de Mulas back to Puente del Inca in 1 day, but probably will not be able to catch the 4pm bus to Mendoza.

Watch carefully for any sign of altitude sickness!

See e.g. "Mountain Sickness" by Charles S. Houston, Scientific American, October 1992, page 34. for information about altitude sickness.

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Some Pictures(2.7 ... 4.1 MB )

From Plane: Is it Aconcagua ? , Puente del Inca
At the Checkpost: Latest American Fashion, Mulas and , a Muletier
The Hotel at Plaze de Mulas, and my Hotel , Penitentes
Ferrying Food to Nido de Condores , View down to Basecamp
Evening at Nido de Condores , Tents at Nido , Storm at Nido de Condores , View from Nido to Summit
Berlin Camp with View to Summit , Rest at Berlin Camp
Looking down the Canaleta
We On Top, That is Me On Top, Looking down to the South Summit
View of Aconcagua on the hike Back to Puente, Rich and Poor in Mendoza
Relaxing in Patagonia:
Perito Moreno , Calving, An Ice Cruiser, Cerro Torre

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Cooking gear:

Most people use white gas (Spanish: bencina blanca) stoves. Above Plaza de Mulas you'll need to melt snow for water, hence bring a minimum of 5L fuel per person (anticipating you may have to await the end of a storm above PdM)! Do not rely on finding white gas in Puente del Inca or Plaza de Mulas (in contrast to what some agents say). Bring a (plastic) bag to collect snow. Bring a pot with heat exchanger. Do not forget a thermos! Be sure to drink a lot. Water in Plaza de Mulas and Confluencia is drinkable.


You need a very good tent that can endure heavy storms. While I have been in Nido de Condores and Berlin, I have seen given up tents in shambles and broken tent-poles.


Plastic double boots are recommended. I heard stories about people having lost toes to frostbite.


Warm and waterproof. Remember you'll have to collect snow.

Ski-Stick(s) and glacier goggles.


Protect your rucksack before giving it to the mulas or better carry it yourself. In that case, bring extra bags. Bring a water resistant bag to store things at Nido de Condores(or whereever you intend to camp).

Crampons and iceax:

Not needed, though comfortable. Crampons for the traverse before "Canaleta" and in the Canaleta, iceax for collecting frozen snow. If you intend to climb Cerro Cuerno (just behind Plaza de Mulas, 5462m) for acclimatization you need full ice climbing equipment. Same applies for the Polish glacier route to A.

Sleeping bag and mattress:

Must be good for very low temperatures (-30C).


Also helps forecasting weather.


Temperatures can vary from -30 to +30 degrees Celsius. Expect rain. A hat that just leaves open eyes, nose and mouth for cold storms.

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There is a physician at the ranger station next to the Hotel. They have a Gamov bag.

The best time of year to go is January and early February. In that time, expect hundreds of people in Plaza de Mulas.

In Argentina, the US-Dollar is almost as well accepted as the Peso. The only time I had to pay in Peso was in a public telephone shop. Once, in a supermercado, they deducted one percent. So don't bother to change at a bank or a "casa de cambio". They sometimes rip you off. Bring lots of small (10/20) US-Dollar notes. You'll receive change in Pesos. Travellers' checks cause problems. Mastercard accepted in Hotel Nutibara, Hosteria del Inca and Hotel Plaza de Mulas.

You can leave your passport in Mendoza, but carry your permit.

There are helicopter rides available to Plaza de Mulas, but I don't know any details (rumors: 100 US-Dollar).

Besides the normal route, there are more difficult routes to Aconcagua summit, that involve ice climbing. The most well known are the Southface route and the Polish glaciar route. Both do not start at Plaza de Mulas.

The most rewarding experience again has been to meet people:

greetings to Terry and Petra, Peter from Marburg, Maria and Daniel, Patricia and Mauricio, Ray and his Karate group, the "Indonesian Women Expedition" (one of them had summited Annapurna > 8000m), and especially Brian, Rob, Steve, Karl and Ross (we went to summit together).

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Recommended companies

There are lots of companies organizing trips and expeditions to Aconcagua, some of them of pretty dubious quality. However, I came accross two companies that I do recommend without hesitation:

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More about Aconcagua in the Web

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