Aconcagua Rapid Ascent

14 Days in Argentina / (Skill level: Intermediate)

Price per person

$12,450.00

About this trip

Aconcagua is the tallest mountain in the Western hemisphere, topping out at 22,841 feet (6,962 meters). This prominent peak translates literally to “Stone Sentinel” and offers a variety of routes to the summit. Its high altitude serves as the ideal training ground for 8,000 meter peaks, like Cho Oyu and Everest.

Overview

  • skill level

    Intermediate

  • Duration

    14 Days

Peaking above the clouds at 22,841 feet (6,962 meters), Aconcagua is impressive both in stature and beauty. The tallest peak in the Western hemisphere is the ideal training ground for 8,000 meter peaks like Cho Oyu and Everest. It is possible to climb Aconcagua without prior technical experience, but the often devastating weather deters inexperienced mountaineers. The peak is fraught with massive storms that generate freezing temperatures and savage winds. A summit of Aconcagua is a proud achievement, requiring critical preparation and dedication. The climb demands extensive acclimatization (made easier by Alpenglow’s use of Hypoxico tents) setting up camps, and carrying heavy loads (although reduced by Alpenglow’s use of extra porters). A summit bid is no small feat.

Given the relatively low technicality, you can attempt Aconcagua without extensive mountaineering experience. Aerobic training, a positive attitude, and excellent logistical support are far more important elements. We’ve designed our expedition to maximize enjoyment while fostering education and high altitude climbing skills. We focus on transforming individual climbers into competent and active members of the expedition team.

To accomplish these goals and maximize your summit chances, we will ascend a route called the 360°. This more obscure itinerary mitigates the issue of crowds, trash, and overuse encountered on the normal route, while enabling us to summit without any technical climbing. True to its name, this exciting route combines parts of four different routes (The Polish Glacier, Normal, Guanacos, and Ameghino) and traverses all the varied elements on Aconcagua.

Our journey begins in Mendoza with a formal meet and greet. The following day we will take a private van to the town of Penitentes. After organizing our gear and food, a helicopter will carry us to our 13,800 foot (4,206 meter) base camp. Here we will spend the next six days establishing and stocking three separate camps, each at a progressively higher elevation. We will set up our highest camp at 19,580 feet (5,968 meters). During this process, we will utilize the traditional acclimatization method of “climbing high and sleeping low”. When we finally arrive to stay at our highest camp, we will prepare for our summit bid.

The summit day is extremely challenging, but entirely attainable. We will climb over 3,200 vertical feet (975 meters) across sand, scree, and — during some seasons — snowfields. When you reach the summit, you will be standing on the highest point in the Americas. Exceptionally stunning views of the encompassing snow-capped Andes serve as your ultimate reward. After summit photos and celebration, we will descend back down to our high camp to rest and rehydrate and then continue on to Plaza des Mulas basecamp. The following morning, a helicopter will whisk us back to Mendoza, where we will enjoy a well-deserved celebration over delectable steaks and flavorful red wine.

While an expedition of this magnitude typically requires three weeks, we can do it in a mere fourteen days. How? One, participants must use Hypoxico tents for one month before departure, (the cost of the trip includes the tent rental fee). This makes for faster acclimatization on the mountain. Additionally, the use of helicopters and porters (also included) adds to our logistical speed and efficiency. Porters reduce the weight of your load, helping you maintain your strength and comfort, while helicopters serve as swift forms of transportation to and from basecamp. We have had great success with our unique pre-acclimatization methods in the highest mountain ranges of the world. We recommend this method as a way to stay strong and healthy on extensive expeditions, and increase your chance of summiting.

Alpenglow’s AMGA-certified lead guides manage our Aconcagua expeditions. AMGA (American Mountain Guides Association) certification is the most prestigious in the world, attained only by the most experienced and dedicated guides. Our lead guides have traveled and climbed extensively throughout South America and possess intimate knowledge of the Andes. A thorough understanding of Andean culture combined with a passion for developing climbers into competent mountaineers guarantees an experience you won’t soon forget. We combine our guides’ experience with the local expertise of one of Argentina’s best logistics operators. This ensures we have the best in transportation, food, equipment, and lodging.

Preparation

  • Altitude Experience

    Alpenglow requires that climbers have prior experience at altitudes of 18,000’/5500 meters. We offer many great options for gaining this experience, including opportunities in Ecuador, Peru, Kilimanjaro, and Elbrus in Russia.

  • Fitness

    Climbers must be in excellent physical shape to join this expedition. We cannot stress this enough -- fitness is the most important aspect of high altitude climbing. To develop the necessary level of fitness needed to climb big mountains, you must adapt a challenging, consistent exercise regime months in advance. We recommend a structured training program at a gym or with a personal trainer. Please contact us for more information on physical training.

  • Technical Experience

    Prior roped climbing, cramponing, and ice axe skills are strongly recommended.

    • Day 1 — Arrival

      Arrive into Mendoza, Argentina by early afternoon. This small city is famous for its wineries and traditional barbeque and steaks. We spend the day exploring the town, applying for our climbing permits and preparing for the climb.

    • Day 2 — Head to Penitentes

      After obtaining permits, we will leave Mendoza by private van, for the town of Penitentes (8,000 feet/2,440 meters). Penitentes sits at the entrance to the valleys leading into Aconcagua. We will spend a couple of hours organizing equipment and food for our climb and then helicopter to base camp as soon as weather and timing allow (either this evening or tomorrow).

    • Day 3 — Helicopter to Base Camp or Rest Day

      Today we might helicopter into base camp if we did not last night, or simply have a rest day in base camp, getting used to life at this new altitude. 13,800 feet (4,206 meters)

    • Day 4 — Move to Camp 1

      Our first day on the mountain proper is truly unique. We move over the moraine and then through a field of tall penitentes (fins of ice that can be over 3 meters tall, formed by the intense sun) on our way to our campsite at 16,000 feet (4,877 meters). We utilize porters to assist in moving our equipment to Camp 1 in a single push.

    • Day 5 — Touch Camp 2

      Approximately four hours of hiking takes us through the Amegheni Col and under the Polish Glacier to our camp on the Guanacos Route at 17,900 feet (5,456 meters).

    • Day 6 — Move to Camp 2

      Move to Camp 2, 17,900 feet (5,456 meters).

    • Day 7 — Rest Day in Camp 2

      Rest in Camp 2, 17,900 feet (5,456 meters).

    • Day 8 — Move to Camp 3

      Today we move to our final camp, at nearly 19,700 feet (6,000 meters). This is where we join the Normal route. The day is not difficult, but can provide fantastic climbing on 30 degree slopes as we traverse below the Polish glacier. Reaching Camp III we begin resting and preparing for our summit bid.

    • Day 9 — Summit Day!

      Leaving camp before dawn, we move up past the ruins of Refugio Independencia on the exposed North Ridge. We then traverse the West Face to the Canaleta, perhaps the physical and mental crux of the entire route. The Canaleta is 1,000 vertical feet of scree and sand and must be climbed slowly but consistently. Our reward is joining the easy Guanacos Ridge, which boasts stunning views in every direction and leads us upward from the lower south summit to the north summit. At 22,841 feet (6,962 meters) it is the highest point in the Western hemisphere. The views of the surrounding Andes, the desert plains, the Pacific, and the 9,000 foot (2,745 meter) South Face are mind-boggling. 10-12 hours of climbing finds us back in high camp. After rehydrating and resting we descend the normal route easily to Plaza de Mulas basecamp (13,800 feet/4,206 meter).

    • Day 10 — Built in Weather Day

      Extra Day to be utilized as needed for weather or altitude is- sues.

    • Day 11 — Built in Weather Day

      Extra Day to be utilized as needed for weather or altitude is- sues.

    • Day 12 — Built in Weather Day

      Extra Day to be utilized as needed for weather or altitude is- sues.

    • Day 13 — Head Back to Mendoza

      Today we leave the mountain in style, with one of the most beautiful helicopter flights in the world. The heli takes us directly from base camp to the road, in about a 15-minute flight. After a quick lunch, we jump in our van for the three-hour drive back to Mendoza. By dinnertime we will be enjoying a celebration dinner of traditional asada (barbecue) at one of Mendoza's best restaurants. We spend the night in our hotel in Mendoza.

    • Day 14 — Depart Argentina

      We all say goodbye and catch our flights home to family and friends.

    • Do I have enough experience for this trip?

      Prior roped climbing, cramponing, and ice axe skills are required. It is recommended that participants have either climbed/ trekked at altitude (over 15,000 feet) It is imperative that you are in excellent physical shape. We are happy to detail training programs as needed to get you ready for this expedition.

    • I’m looking at climbing an 8000 meter peak someday. Will this help me get there?

      At 6,969 meters (22,837’), Aconcagua will give you the necessary altitude experience to attempt the bigger mountains in the world, such as Mt. Cho Oyu in the Himalaya. While there are many other skills needed to be a strong candidate for an 8000 meter peak, having the required altitude experience is often one of the harder things to come by.

    • What is rapid ascent?

      Rapid Ascent is a unique program developed by Alpenglow Expeditions that combines the relatively new application of hypoxic training with precise logistics and small team sizes to greatly increase the chances of success while reducing the overall time spent away from home on an international expedition.

    • What is the longest day I can expect?

      Your longest, most difficult day will be summit day. We wake very early in the morning, using headlamps and warm layers. Climbing steadily through the night, we find ourselves high in the peak when the sun rises. After gaining the summit, we descend all the way back to base camp. You can expect between 12 and 15 hours of steady movement.

    • Do you rent gear for Aconcagua?

      For a peak of this magnitude, we recommend and find that most climbers already own personal climbing gear. If needed, Alpenglow can provide harness, helmet and crampons, reservations required. We do not provide boots for this peak, however; so you must have your own double boots. Please see the equipment list for more information.

    • What level of fitness is required?

      Climbers must be in excellent physical shape to join this expedition. This is perhaps the most important aspect of high altitude climbing, and cannot be stressed enough. Regular, challenging exercise for many months in advance of departure is the only way to gain the necessary level of fitness that is needed on big peaks. We highly recommend a structured training regime with a gym or personal trainer to assist you in preparing for climbing at altitude. Please contact us for more information on physical training.

    • Does your expedition cost cover park permits?

      The Aconcagua National Park permit fee is not included in the trip cost. While Alpenglow endeavors to have as few add-on costs as possible on our climbs, the park has been changing this fee each season making it difficult to plan for this fee. Please be prepared to pay the park service directly at the beginning of your trip. The fee must be paid in cash in US dollars or euro, and, at the time of this writing, was $975/person.

    • Do I really need to purchase trip and rescue insurance?

      We strongly recommend purchasing both types of insurance. Trip insurance covers issues that would cause you to cancel your trip in advance. Rescue insurance can help cover costs in the event that you decide to end your expedition early. We recommend purchasing Travel Guard and Global Rescue. You can find links to both of these insurance companies by heading over to our Partners page.

Jaime Avila

Jaime is Alpenglow Expeditions’ senior lead guide. A native Ecuadorian, Jaime has been guiding and climbing throughout South America and the world for twenty years. He has successfully led groups on challenging routes like the Southwest Ridge of Ama Dablam (Nepal), the Shield Route of Huascaran (Peru), the Polish Direct on Aconcagua (Argentina), and El Altar (Ecuador). We have been guiding, climbing, and traveling with Jaime since 1998 and the feedback from members is always the same: there is no better teammate. Whether climbing a tough ice route, humping a huge pack, or stuck in a storm, Jaime will keep you laughing, learning, and glad to be in the mountains. He is an ASEGUIM / IFMGA certified mountain guide.

 

Guide Certifications
  • ASEGUIM
  • IVBV IFMGA UIAGM - Mountain Guide

Zeb Blais

From bushwhacking miles of Manzanita in ski boots to traversing huge glaciers in exotic ranges, adventure draws Zeb in. Originally from Vermont, Zeb has been hooked on big mountains since his first ski tour in Jackson Hole and has pursued skiing, climbing and exploring ever since. Zeb has climbed and guided in the Himalaya, Alaska, Argentina, Mexico, Ecuador and Asia among others and he’s working hard to keep that list growing. Working as a mountain guide allows Zeb to share his passion for human powered movement in the mountains and to pass along what he’s learned along the way.

Zeb has successfully guided Mt Everest [29,029′], Mt Cho Oyu [26,906′] including a ski descent from the summit, Lobuche East [20,075′],  and four expeditions on Denali [20,320’], including a ski descent from the summit. He has completed 64 summits of Mount Rainier [14,410’]. Additional credentials include 12 summits of Mount Shasta [14,179’]; 5 summits of Mount Shuksan [9,100’]; 3 summits via Mount Baker [10,678’], including one ski descent from the summit, and two ski descents via the North Ridge; 2 summits of Aconcagua [22,841’]; 1 summit of Cotopaxi and 1 summit of Cayabme; 2 summits of Ixtacihuatl in Mexico; 3 summits of Orizaba in Mexico, including a ski descent from the summit; and numerous rock, alpine and ski summits from the Cascades, Sierra Nevada, Coast ranges and Rockies.

Zeb is an AMGA certified ski guide.

Guide Certifications
  • AMGA Certified Ski Guide

Esteban “Topo” Mena

Topo’s formal name is Esteban Mena, but he goes by his nickname. Esteban Topo Mena is 28 years old and began his guiding career at 19, when he climbed Aconcagua’s South Face and became the youngest person to accomplish this difficult climb. Topo began guiding in Ecuador and Peru. In 2012, Topo summited Manaslu and in 2013, he summited Everest – both without using supplementary oxygen. Topo again summited Everest in 2016 while supporting his wonderful partner Carla as she successfully summited without supplemental oxygen. In 2018 Topo summited both Cho Oyu and Everest with clients in under 30 days. An incredible achievement that only the best guides in the word could attempt. He also has climbed challenging new routes in Kyrgyzstan and China and one of his climbs (Kyzyl Asker) has been nominated for the Piolet d’Or (as part of an Ecuadorian team).

Guide Certifications
  • ASEGUIM
  • IVBV IFMGA UIAGM - Mountain Guide

Logan Talbott

director of operations / chief guide

Logan has been guiding professionally for over a decade in the disciplines of Rock, Alpine and Ski Mountaineering. When not out guiding, Logan keeps things running smoothly as the director of operations at Alpenglow Expeditions. From one day ascents of El Capitan to big Alpine climbs in the Himalaya, from ski descents on Denali to backyard ski tours in Lake Tahoe, he can’t help but smile when out running around the hills. Logan is a fully certified AMGA/IFMGA mountain guide, an Avalanche course leader with AIARE, as well as a wilderness EMT. In addition to guiding, Logan has extensive experience in mountain rescue, having worked for rescue teams in both Yosemite and Denali National Parks, and volunteering locally for Tahoe Nordic SAR. When not out in the hills, he lives in Truckee, CA with his lovely wife Lynette and daughter Maggie.

Guide Certifications
  • AMGA - American Mountain Guide
  • IVBV IFMGA UIAGM - Mountain Guide

Gaspar Navarrete

Gaspar hails from Ecuador, and has been guiding for over 18 years, and climbing since he was 12. He has extensive experience in Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Patagonia, Aconcagua, the Himalaya, the Cascades, the Alps and the Pyrenees. Gaspar has established new routes in both Ecuador and Bolivia. As an active instructor with the Ecuadorian School for Mountain Guides, he has trained in Ecuador, Bolivia and France. He is a Wilderness First Responder, and has spent a great deal of time working at high altitude.

Gaspar joined one of Quito’s oldest climbing clubs at a young age, which gave him the opportunity to mentor under very experienced climbers. He considers the Andes, including Patagonia, his home, and he love to share his enthusiasm for the mountains, the Andean traditions, food and culture with his guests.

Gaspar is an ASEGUIM/IFMGA mountain guide

Guide Certifications
  • ASEGUIM
  • IVBV IFMGA UIAGM - Mountain Guide

Carla Perez

Carla has been on the pursuit of her climbing dreams for most of her life, she started climbing as a teenager and her love to the mountains took her to the french Alps, where she studied geology and got a masters degree on geochemistry. In 2007 she decided to become a full time climber, which also put her the path of becoming a mountain guide.

In 2016 she became the sixth women in history to climb Everest without oxygen (first latin american), she also climbed Cho Oyu and Manaslu without oxygen, her resumee includes the South Face of Aconcagua and various 7000m peaks in central Asia among many other climb in south america.
In 2008 she did a biking trip from Ecuador to Argentina and had the opportunity to understand and learn more about her home: the Andes.

Today she splits her time between speaking about her climbing experiences all around the world, chasing new missions with her parter “Topo” and guiding big mountains.

Guide Certifications
  • ASEGUIM

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