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Aconcagua Questions

Discussion area for peaks outside of the USA.
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Aconcagua Questions

Postby lonewolf210 » Mon Jun 13, 2011 11:31 am

Hey everyone first post but I have been lurking here for some time.

I had a couple questions that I couldn't really find answers to.

First what is everyone's opinion on guides for the climb? there seems to be about an even split on people doing it guided versus unguided. I am leaning towards unguided as medical support seems to be fairly good on the mountain and that would be my primary reason for going with one.

Second is it possible to do a sorta hybrid between alpine and expedition styles? what I mean is do a climb high sleep low to the first camp and then climb to camp 2 directly and then summit. This seems to provide more acclimatization then a straight alpine ascent and limits time at extreme elevations.

Those are my main two questions. There are a lot of threads on gear so i think I can figure that out myself but if there is one piece of equipment that you think is absolutely vital (other than clothes) I would appreciate the input.

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Re: Aconcagua Questions

Postby schrund » Mon Jun 13, 2011 11:58 am

It's certainly not very technical, so no guide needed as far as terrain goes. A guide would be beneficial for communications and logistics though. You can certainly climb high, sleep low and then alpine-it further up the mountain. Which side are you considering? The Plaza de Mulas side is a shorter approach but has a lot of annoying gain directly above Plaza de Mulas. You might could use a local outfitter (suggest Grajales in Pentitentes- http://www.grajales.net/aconcagua/services/guides.html) to help get your stuff into Base Camp.
We did not think of the great open plains, the beautiful rolling hills, and winding streams... as "wild". Only to the white man was nature a "wilderness".
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Re: Aconcagua Questions

Postby lonewolf210 » Mon Jun 13, 2011 12:39 pm

I was planning on the normal route and I was also planning on not using mules or porters. Not sure how realistic that is but I kind of have this vision of doing it all myself. I feel like it's a more pure climb that way. Idk how to explain it but I have always had this dream of climbing one of the big mountains without help from porters or anything.

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Re: Aconcagua Questions

Postby schrund » Mon Jun 13, 2011 12:42 pm

Some folks consider going through Plaza de Argentina the "normal" route, and some consider going through Plaza de Mulas the "normal" route; but they are on completely opposite sides of the mountain. FYI-
We did not think of the great open plains, the beautiful rolling hills, and winding streams... as "wild". Only to the white man was nature a "wilderness".
-Luther Standing Bear, Oglala Chief

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Re: Aconcagua Questions

Postby lonewolf210 » Mon Jun 13, 2011 1:02 pm

I was looking at plaza de Mulas. I haven't read anything that says the actual Normal route (that is the name of the route) starts at the plaza de Argentina. The Polish Direct and the False Polish routes start there from what I have read.

Re: Aconcagua Questions

Postby benners » Mon Jun 13, 2011 3:01 pm

lonewolf210 wrote:I was looking at plaza de Mulas. I haven't read anything that says the actual Normal route (that is the name of the route) starts at the plaza de Argentina. The Polish Direct and the False Polish routes start there from what I have read.


Yep, the Ruta Normal starts from Mulas and heads through Canada, Nido, and Berlin en route to Independencia and the summit. The False Polish and Polish Glacier start from Argentina. Never heard anyone refer to a route on the Argentina side as the "Normal Route", doing so would be a confusion of the established route names.

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Re: Aconcagua Questions

Postby lonewolf210 » Mon Jun 13, 2011 4:47 pm

How many camps should I plan on stopping at? I have read about people going from plaza de mulas to Canada and then their high camp but have seen people use three. Which is better?

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Re: Aconcagua Questions

Postby Dave B » Mon Jun 13, 2011 7:28 pm

We did it unguided - there were two people in charge of our team but we did not go with a professional guiding service.

IMO the benefits to a guide service are the ability to walk into camp, already have your tents set up and other people cooking your food and melting your snow for you. While this would be nice (and there were several days I really wish I was with a guided service) I, personally, would have a hard time considering myself as having actually climbed a mountain if I never ever pitched my own tent. On the other hand I'm sure there are guided services that don't offer such pampered services.

I met this guy in Mendoza - seemed like a really cool guy and probably a great guide, he tunes his trips to his clients expectations. I think he's a bit pricey through.

The route we took is referred to as the Polish Traverse - came in through the Vacas Valley to Plaza Argentina, worked our way up through camp 1 & 2 to White Rocks as our high camp. From there we descended in a day down to Plaza de Mulas for a night, spent the next night at Confluencia and then made it out the following day. Overall it was a cool trip and traversing the entire mountain (especially considering we didn't summit) made it feel like an accomplishment in and of itself.

As far as the mules go, I think they're incredibly beneficial. The wide range in climate, warm on the hike in to cold and windy up high, makes a true alpine ascent logistically difficult. It is, however, entirely possible to hire only the services of the muleteers sans a guide service (that's what we did).
"There is no cheating in climbing, only lying." - Semi-Rad

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Re: Aconcagua Questions

Postby lonewolf210 » Mon Jun 13, 2011 8:36 pm

davey_rocket wrote:As far as the mules go, I think they're incredibly beneficial. The wide range in climate, warm on the hike in to cold and windy up high, makes a true alpine ascent logistically difficult. It is, however, entirely possible to hire only the services of the muleteers sans a guide service (that's what we did).


So you wouldn't recommend doing it with out mules? I figured if we stayed pretty light weight we could do without. This however was just something I would like to do not a money thing same with going unguided.

Also each climber needs a permit correct? It is not one per group.

Finally what's everyone's opinion on bringing someone with low experience along? The majority of the group will be experienced but I was contemplating bringing my brother who at the moment has little mountaineering experience. He is in very good shape and by the time the trip would happen (if it goes at all but that's another issue) I will be able to have taken him up some fourteeners. I was also planning on trying to some camping on them to gain some experience spending prolonged periods of time at extreme altitude.

Also sorry to hear that you didn't make the top maybe next time

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Re: Aconcagua Questions

Postby polishruben » Tue Jun 14, 2011 2:48 pm

Aconcagua is not a technical mountain. it is high altitude hike, no climbing experience is necessary. If your brother is up to a challenge, then I would say he should totally do it. And the trail to the top is like a marked highway, I don't see a point in hiring guides. check youtube videos. The trail is usually packed with people.

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Re: Aconcagua Questions

Postby Gabriel » Tue Jun 14, 2011 4:20 pm

I climbed the normal route from Mulas, but many also refer to th false polish as normal as it is often guided and not technical. My hike was alone and without guides.

I don't consider Aconcagua an expeditionary outing due to the many sevices available at base camp. You really don't need to take much with you as tents, food and drinks are all available for sale/rent in the base camps.

I flew to Mendoza got my permit and then spent a night in a hotel. The next day was to penitentes and hike in to Confluencia. Following day to basecamp. Rest day. Next day hike to Canada return to base. Next day hike to Nido and return to base. Next day hike to Berlin and return to base. rest day. Move camp to Nido. Next day summit and return to base in a very long day.

The weather was incredible for a mountain of this height. Warm, mostly dry with some wind up high.

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Re: Aconcagua Questions

Postby Dave B » Tue Jun 14, 2011 6:03 pm

lonewolf210 wrote:
So you wouldn't recommend doing it with out mules? I figured if we stayed pretty light weight we could do without. This however was just something I would like to do not a money thing same with going unguided.

Also each climber needs a permit correct? It is not one per group.



I took a pair of size 13 Scarpa Inverno's for the days above Camp 1. Those boots alone necessitated having a mule as they took up the vast majority of my pack space. But we also packed and planned on expedition style climbing. If you plan to do it lightweight it could probably be done. When I was preparing for my trip a friend sent me a trip report of a couple who did the mountain UL style and included a painstakingly precise gear list. Let me look around and see if I can find that again.

And yes, each climber needs a permit which will have to be approved in Mendoza, by a doctor at basecamp before the climb and again on the return when you turn in your lovely poop bags.
"There is no cheating in climbing, only lying." - Semi-Rad

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