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Aconcagua, Argentina

At 6,962 meters Aconcagua is the highest mountain in South America, making it one of the seven summits. It is located in the Andes mountains north-west of Mendoza, Argentina, in the Aconcagua Provincial Park near the Argentina-Chile border. There are a few glaciers on the mountain, the largest of which is the Ventisquero Horcones Inferior which decends from the south face towards Confluencia. Other large glacier systems are the Ventisquero de las Vacas Sur, Glaciar Este/Ventisquero Relinchos, and the Polish Glacier which is on the north-eastern side of the mountain.

Aconcagua is known for being a very windy mountain. Weather forcasts for the summit are available here.

Trip Report

From my home of Winnipeg, Canada, this expedition required a 24 day trip. Full size trip pictures can be found in the gallery.

Day 1 - Sat, Dec 19 - Winnipeg
Day 2 - Sun, Dec 20 - Mendoza
Day 3 - Mon, Dec 21 - Penitentes
Day 4 - Tue, Dec 22 - Pampa de Lenas
Day 5 - Wed, Dec 23 - Casa de Piedra
Day 6 - Thu, Dec 24 - Plaza Argentina
Day 7 - Fri, Dec 25 - Plaza Argentina
Day 8 - Sat, Dec 26 - Plaza Argentina
Day 9 - Sun, Dec 27 - Camp I
Day 10 - Mon, Dec 28 - Camp I
Day 11 - Tue, Dec 29 - Camp I
Day 12 - Wed, Dec 30 - Camp II
Day 13 - Thu, Dec 31 - Carry II
Day 14 - Fri, Jan 1 - Camp III
Day 15 - Sat, Jan 2 - Camp III
Day 16 - Sun, Jan 3 - Camp IV
Day 17 - Mon, Jan 4 - Summit day
Day 18 - Tue, Jan 5 - Extra summit day
Day 19 - Wed, Jan 6 - Extra summit day
Day 20 - Thu, Jan 7 - Plaza de Mulas
Day 21 - Fri, Jan 8 - Penitentes
Day 22 - Sat, Jan 9 - Mendoza
Day 23 - Sun, Jan 10 - Mendoza
Day 24 - Mon, Jan 11 - Winnipeg
The following graph shows an altitude profile for the trip.

The Team
Brien Sheedy David Kratsch Lakpa Rita Sherpa Michael Dyck Adam Harris Jonathan Herring Adam Holtz
Victoria Hughes Stuart Leckie Tom Minor Yael Nagler Nick Perks Jayne Shaw Anuj Thakur

Saturday December 19th, 2009

My flight left Winnipeg a little late, but I had plenty of time on my layover in Toronto, so that would be no problem. In Toronto I spent a bit of time wandering around the airport and then picked a restaurant to have a meal before the long flight to Santiago. Unfortunately the seat back video system on the plane to Santiago was not working so it was a long and boring 11 hour flight. I listened to some music for a while and then got a couple hours of sleep before arriving in Santiago early the next morning.

Sunday December 20th, 2009
After arriving in Santiago I got off the plane and proceeded to the immigration desk. I wasn't sure whether I would have to go through immigration and customs to claim and recheck my luggage or if the airlines would take care of transferring it to my next flight to Mendoza because the tickets had been purchased separately and my baggage claim tags indicated the luggage was only checked to Santiago. I discovered that it would cost me $130 to get a Chilean visa and go through customs so I decided to go to the LAN airlines connections desk instead and inquire about my luggage. The airline representative took the claim numbers from my baggage claim tags and assured me that the airline would take care of having the luggage transferred. So I spent the remaining couple hours of my layover relaxing by the departure gate and looking through a few shops.

The flight to Mendoza was short. I had a window seat on the south side of the plane, so there was no view of Aconcagua, but I could see the Andes to the south as the plane flew across toward Argentina. Once I got to Mendoza I stood by the luggage belt and waited for my luggage. In the back of my mind I was thinking that I should have paid the visa fee and rechecked the baggage myself. I waited for about half an hour until there were only a few people left collecting bags and it was obvious that my luggage hadn't arrived. After filling out a lost luggage claim I hopped on in a cab and headed to the hotel in Mendoza.

The climbing team had already begun to assemble at the Sheraton hotel in downtown Mendoza when I arrived late in the afternoon. I was sharing a room with Adam Harris from California. The climbing team met in the hotel bar. Our head guide Brian Sheedy and another Alpine Ascents guide and , having a drink and a chat at the hotel bar we headed out to a restaurant for some Argentinean cuisine. Most of the team had either soup or salad and steak.

Monday, December 21st
Anuj and Nick arrived on Monday - their flights from the UK had been delayed. The group went to a government office in Mendoza to complete the permit process. In the afternoon I went back to the airport to collect my luggage while the remaining team members excepting Anuj and Nick took a minibus to Penitentes. Later in the afternoon I took a van to Penitentes to catch up with the group while Anuj and Nick remained in Mendoza to wait for their luggage which had not yet arrived.


Once in Penitentes we divided our gear into what would be going on mules and what we would be carrying in our day packs and then headed to the hotel resauraunt for what would be our last really good meal before hitting the trail.

Tuesday, December 22nd
Drive 15 minutes to Punta de Vacas (8,000'). Begin three-day, 30 mile trek to Plaza Argentina. Mules will carry all of our gear so we can enjoy the trek without heavy loads. On the approach, we will walk through green desert valleys enclosed between the mountains of the Andes.

Wednesday, December 23rd
Second day of trek. At the end of this day the east face of Aconcagua will become visible.

Thursday, December 24th
Final day of trek. Arrive at Plaza Argentina base camp (13,800').

Friday, December 25th
At Plaza Argentina we set up camp and spend the day preparing for the climb, exploring the local terrain and acclimatizing to the higher altitude.

Saturday, December 26th
Carry to Camp I. Camp I will be located behind an old moraine at 15,500'. We double carry to keep pack weight down and to help ensure good acclimatization.

Sunday, December 27th
Move to Camp I.

Monday, December 28th
This day we carry to Camp II, located on a high pass known as Ameghino Col, at 17,700'. Ameghino Camp provides spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and the upper route of the Polish Glacier.

Tuesday, December 29th
Rest day at Camp I. This gives us further acclimatization time and rest before moving higher to sleep.

Wednesday, December 30th
Carry and move to Camp II.

Thursday, December 31st
Carry to Camp III (19,200'), located just below the Polish Glacier, then return to Camp II.

Friday, January 1st
Move to Camp III.

Saturday, January 2nd
Rest and acclimatization at Camp III. This will prepare us for our move to Camp IV (high camp)

Sunday, January 3rd
Move to high camp, Camp IV (20,600'), located on the North Ridge. On the approach, we enjoy magnificent views of the Polish Glacier. Camp IV offers breathtaking scenes of many of the highest peaks of the Andes.

Monday, January 4th
Summit day begins at 5:00 am. We climb the North Ridge to Refugio Independencia at approximately 21,400'. From there, we traverse the West Face and climb up into the Canaleta, an 800' couloir that leads to the summit ridge. Finally, the Guanaco Ridge poses an easy traverse to the summit. On the top we have a spectacular 360 degree view. All around we will see the Andes Mountains consisting of several 20,000' peaks, including another of the highest peaks in South America, Mercedario. To the west lies Chile and the Pacific Ocean, and to the east, the plains of Argentina. Also from the summit we will be able to look directly down the 9,000' South Face of Aconcagua, considered one of the great faces of the world.

Tuesday, January 5th
We descend from high camp to Plaza de Mulas (Base Camp on the West side of the mountain).

Wednesday, January 6th
Trek out from Plaza de Mulas to Punta del Inca, where we take a car back to Penitentes for the night.

Thursday, January 7th
Return to Mendoza. Hopefully there will be enough time to do some shopping for wine.

Friday, January 8th
Day in Mendoza

Saturday, January 9th
Day in Mendoza

Sunday, January 10th
Depart Mendoza.

Monday, January 11th
Arrive back in Winnipeg. Gear List

This climb was done in expedition style. Up to the base camp most gear was carried by mules and a small pack was used to carry a small amount of food for lunch and clothes needed for the day. Beyond base camp the gear was double carried between camps to keep the weight down. In addition to the personal gear list given below, there was additional gear shared by the team which including food, tents, and cooking equipment. A pressure cooker was used so that we could get a high enough cooking temperatures.

Ice Axe with leash
Adjustable 3 section trekking poles
Light hiking boots
Water Shoes
Double plastic climbing boots w/ altitude liners.
Gaiters with cordura on the inside.
Wool or Synthetic Socks - 3 pair heavyweight wool
Liner Socks. 3 pair of smooth thin wool, nylon or Capilene.
Lightweight Long Underwear - 2 pair tops & bottoms
Heavyweight Long Underwear Top
Soft shell jacket
Soft shell pants
Hard shell jacket w/ hood
Hard shell pants
Expedition down parka
Insulated synthetic pants
Lightweight synthetic liner gloves
Soft shell gloves
Expedition mitts
Hand & toe warmers - 3 sets of each
Sun hat
Wool ski hat
Glacier glasses
Expedition backpack
Trekking pack
Sleeping bag
Compression stuff sacks
Self Inflating pad
Closed-Cell foam pad
Headlamp & batteries
Water bottles (3)
Water purification tablets (2 bottles)
Pee bottle
Toiletries (Toothpaste, Toothbrush, Baby Wipes, Hand Sanitizer)
Trash compactor bags (4)
Large duffel bag w/lock
Smaller Duffel w/lock
Travel clothes
Camera Gear
First Aid Kit

Gear check about two weeks prior to the trip with just a few more items on the list to get.