Skip to Content

Climbing Aconcagua: Changes Adrian Ballinger Has Seen Over the Years

Sunrise on Aconcagua
Climbers sit on the upper slopes of Aconcagua.
A view of Aconcagua, the tallest mountain in South America.

Climbing Aconcagua in the 90s: A Beautiful Mountain in Disrepair

Alpenglow owner and founder Adrian Ballinger started guiding and climbing Aconcagua in the late 1990s, around the same time that high-altitude mountaineering saw a massive surge in popularity around the world.

However, regulations, ethics, and best practices in the mountaineering world failed to keep pace with the growth of the sport. And so, by the early 2000s, base camps beneath Aconcagua had become cesspools of trash and human waste. Rescues were frequent, poorly managed, and often at the behest of incompetent climbers who were ill-prepared for Aconcagua. Eventually, Alpenglow felt that we could no longer run expeditions to be proud of, and we ceased operations on the mountain.

Reshaping Aconcagua

In the early 2010s, the Argentinian government took steps to return Aconcagua to its former glory and preserve this pristine mountain landscape. By creating a climber registration system, implementing on-mountain rescue and medical protocols, and increasing the permit fee, the government generated enough revenue to employ a fleet of rangers on the mountain to enforce these and other rules, particularly concerning trash and waste removal.

They also developed a revitalized rescue program, installing a helicopter base in the nearest town, hiring professional mountain pilots, and training rangers to carry out technical rescues on the mountain. In the mid 2010s, Alpenglow returned to Aconcagua.

Climbing Aconcagua Today

Today, Aconcagua once again exists in a state of natural beauty, despite the fact that it continues to see more and more climbers each year. The initiative demonstrated by the Argentinian government towards Aconcagua’s continued restoration and preservation is a positive indicator and model for the sustainable growth of mountaineering worldwide, and Alpenglow is thrilled to be back on one of our favorite mountains in the world with our expert guides in the lead.

Click HERE to learn about Alpenglow’s Aconcagua Rapid Ascent Expedition. By pre-acclimatizing, we can lower our risk of accidents and altitude-related illnesses, and reduce our overall impact on the environment by cutting the regular expedition time in half. Alpenglow’s round-trip on Aconcagua caps at just 14 days.

Beyond Climbing Aconcagua

Guided Trips Like Aconcagua