Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Route Profile: "The Stone Sentinel"

Aconcagua – 22,842 ft / 6962 m

Route: Upper Guanacos Traverse

Climbing Season: December – February

Alpenglow on Aconcagua during the approach.
Known as the “Stone Sentinel,” Aconcagua rises to 22,842 feet in the heart of the central Andes and is world renowned as one of the Seven Summits. Climbers begin their adventure in the famous wine-producing region of Argentina and complete the final gear check in the welcoming city of Mendoza. With all the supplies ready and logistics complete, you will travel along a mountain highway that connects Buenos Aires, Argentina and Santiago, Chile. Mules will carry your gear and expedition food to the main base camp, Plaza Argentina, while you complete the 3-day trek with lighter daypacks. Following the Rio Vacas, you’ll pass other mule teams carrying gear, enjoy stunning views of Aconcagua, and see the rich geologic history that has shaped the highest mountain in South America. This is a great introduction to the dry climate around Aconcagua and allows you to acclimate as you to steadily approach the base camp at 14,000 feet.

Carrying a supply cache higher on the mountain.
After a rest day and some time reorganizing our gear, you will begin climbing higher on the mountain with a sequence of carrying supply cache and moving camp days. Settling into Camp II at 18,000 feet, climbers high on the mountain might be spotted attempting the Polish Glacier route. Requiring glacier travel and steep snow and ice climbing skills, this route follows a fairly direct line up the Polish glacier and receives less attempts due to the receding glacier and increased objective hazards. Your path follows the Upper Guanacos Traverse as you cross through Ameghino Pass and move to Camp III at 19,600 feet.

Camp III is your high camp as you set out on an alpine start for the “Summit of the Americas.” Higher than any other peak outside the Himalaya, your views from the top of Aconcagua at 22,842 are, simply put, breathtaking. To the north and south, the Andes stretch as far as the eye can see. The stunning South Face of Aconcagua drops over 8,000 feet from the summit. To the west, you can see over Chile and almost identify the Pacific Ocean, which lies only a couple hundred miles away.

Taking a break next to an abandoned hut high on Aconcagua.

After summit day you descend via the Normal Route, a very popular climbing route on the mountain. A night in Plaza de Mulas allows us to experience another major base camp and recount the adventure with other climbers hoping to summit. Mules carry expedition gear and surplus food as you trek with lighter packs down the Horcones Valley and back to Penitentes. Returning to Mendoza, you will have the chance to sample local Malbec wines and enjoy savory steaks, a food in which Argentina takes great pride.
Success on the summit of Aconcagua!
Sound like a sweet experience? We hope you can join us for an Aconcagua Expedition!

--Dylan Cembalski, Alaska Range and Seven Summits Program Coordinator and Guide

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