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Summit Aconcagua

Trip Information
Argentina is the second largest country in South America and the eighth largest in the world. Argentina occupies a continental surface area of 1,068,302 sq miles between the Andes mountain range in the west and the southern Atlantic Ocean in the east and south. It is bordered by Paraguay and Bolivia in the north, Brazil and Uruguay in the northeast, and Chile in the west and south. Argentina also claims 374,312 sq miles of Antarctica, known as Argentine Antarctica. The climate of Argentina is classified as temperate.

Mendoza is located in the northern-central part of the province, in a region of foothills and high plains, on the eastern side of the Andes. As of 2001 Mendoza's population was 110,993. The metropolitan population was 848,660 in 2001, making Greater Mendoza the fourth largest census metropolitan area in the country. Mendoza was founded in 1561 by Pedro del Castillo. Before this time it was populated by three tribes, the Huarpes, the Puelches, and the Incas. The Huarpes devised a system of irrigation that was later developed by the Spanish. This allowed for an increase in population that might not have otherwise occurred. The system is still evident today in the wide trenches that run parallel to the city streets. It is estimated that less than 80 Spanish settlers lived in the area before 1600, but later prosperity increased due to the use of indigenous and slave labor. The temperature in December and January ranges from highs of 90 to lows of 64.

The Mountain
Cerro Aconcagua is the highest mountain in the Americas, and the highest mountain outside Asia. It is located in the Andes mountain range, in the Argentine province of Mendoza. The summit is located about 5 kilometers from San Juan Province and 15 kilometers from the international border with Chile. It lies 112 km (70 mi) west by north of the city of Mendoza. Aconcagua is bounded by the Valle de las Vacas to the north and east and the Valle de los Horcones Inferior to the West and South. The mountain has a number of glaciers. The most substantial are the north-eastern or Polish Glacier and the eastern or English Glacier. The origin of the name is contested, it is either from the Arauca Aconca-Hue, which refers to the Aconcagua River and means 'comes from the other side' or the Quechua Ackon Cahuak, meaning 'Sentinel of Stone'.
The mountain has two summits - North (22,841 ft. 6962 meters) and South (22,736 ft. 6930 meters), joined by a ridge (Cresta del Guanaco), pictured to the right, approximately one kilometer long. Various ridges radiate from each summit and the whole massif is isolated from other high peaks. Only to the northwest is it connected by a high snow ridge with the surrounding mountain systems. The usual approach is from the south up the Quebrada de los Horcones, which circles the western flanks of the peak, to the Plaza de Mulas base camp. From here 3 routes start: the Normal, will be the route we are taking, via the Horcones Glacier Superior and north ridge, the West Buttress route, and the South-West route.

Climbing History
The first ascent of Aconcagua was led by the English alpinist Edward Fitz Gerald, during the summer of 1897. Fitz Gerald's group acceded to the stony slope of the Northwest side of the mountain after following upstream the Horcones River. After several tries, the Swiss teammate Mathias Zurbriggen reached the summit alone on the 14th of January, 1897. This was followed a few days later by Nicholas Lanti and Stuart Vines, members of the same expedition, made the second climb following the same route. The youngest person to reach the summit of Aconcagua was Jordan Romero of Big Bear Lake, California. He was 11 years old when he reached the summit on December 30, 2007.

The height of Aconcagua is not a result of active volcanoes such as Mt. Tupungato, rather the elevation is caused by the tectonic lifting of the mountain range. The tectonic characteristics are controlled by the interaction of the Nazca and South American plates, and the geometry of the zone of subduction. The glacial action was much more active in the past and the rock forms that resulted from this action are now found modified by the action of the other processes mainly mass removal and the actions of the rivers. The glaciations in the principal pre-mountain range don't reach the level of the glaciers of Patagonia due to more arid conditions and intense tectonic activity. The action of the ice took the form of the valley glaciations, forming caps in the high mountain only united at the highest elevations, such as Aconcagua, Plomo Juncal, and the Ramada Range. In the area around Aconcagua one finds a series of glaciers including the Lower Glacier Horcones that have their birth at the foot of Mt Aconcagua and the Upper Horcones. We travel through this valley and the presence of the moraine is still evident until base camp. A famous geologist, Espizua (1993), described the Horcones drift as: "a current of ice some 50 meters thick occupied the valleys of the Lower Horcones Rivers and the Upper Horcones, extending for 20 kilometers from Mt. Aconcagua as far as the Puente del Inca (Inca Bridge), at 2750 meters, where it finds the last moraine." 

Your Guide
Each climb is led by the Climb Leader with a maximum of 3:1 ratio. The climb leader is responsible for overseeing all aspects of the climb and looks after the physical well-being of the crew.

Your Crew
On Aconcagua we will have a large support crew assisting us to the summit. Included are:
Mules: We have a pack of mules to carry our equipment to our first and second camp. The mules are a very important part of our climb and offer great support with logistic transfers and evacuations.
Porters: Included are a team of porters to carry all of our personal and expedition equipment to each of the high camps. Our porters will take over after camp (2) and carry the load up to the high camps.
Camp Staff: We will have group dining in the first two camps with our second camp offering a variety of meals in Plaza de Mulas. After we depart for our high camps we will have a crew cooking all our meals to ensure we have the energy on our summit bid.

Your Team on the Ground
The operations base for the climb is Mendoza and Plaza de Mulas, AR. Your guide leader will have constant contact with both bases during various periods of the expedition. The base team is responsible for the logistics of operating on the mountain and ensures that the equipment used is clean and in good condition. The operating team works closely with your team and is responsible for handling all transfers, meal preparation, porter coordination, and accommodations. Each climb is run with process checks and quality management built in to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

Normal Route
The normal route along the Northwest Ridge is a non-technical, however, a physically demanding climb that involves all the logistics of climbing a big mountain. The ascent does require mountaineering skills such as the use of crampons and trekking at high altitude. Our route begins at Plaza de Mulas located at the end of the Horcones Valley. We will utilize three higher camps, Canada 4,907 m (16,200 ft.), Nido de Condores 5,395 m (17,500 ft.) and Colera 5,861 m (19,200 ft.) to obtain our summit.

Aconcagua, like all big mountains, attracts and generates its own weather patterns making it very difficult to predict. Be prepared for freezing nights, snowy and windy conditions, bright sunshine, and plenty of variety. Because our climb is late in the season we should expect to see large snowfields at the high camps. Aconcagua is located at 32 degrees 39 minutes south, the same distance from the equator as San Diego, California. The best time to climb the mountain is from DecemberóMarch but the chance of storms during these months still exists due to moist humid winds blowing from the west off of the Pacific Ocean. As this humid air rises over the slopes of the Andes, its speed increases and it condenses to form lenticular clouds on the summit. Generally, winds from the south are a sign of good weather and enable us to go for a successful summit bid.

What to Expect on the Mountain
Each morning our team will be up at a reasonable hour, have a good breakfast, and begin our activity for the day. Some days we will arrive early and have a chance to relax at our site. We will be issued a bag from the ranger station for our waste, as well as our permit, which we will need to have on our person at all times.


Air Travel:
Please make flight arrangements to fly into Mendoza, Argentina (airport code MDZ). LAN and American Airlines have the most direct flights through Santiago with a connecting flight to Mendoza. Please make your departure arrangements for an evening departure out of Mendoza since the majority of international flights leave after 9pm out of Santiago, Chile. If you elect to get a direct flight to Santiago, Chile and take a bus transfer over the mountains please be aware you will be required to pay a reciprocity charge passing through immigration. It is recommended that all participants book flights that can be changed in the event we exit the mountain earlier than expected. 

Ground Transfers:
Included in your program are private transfers from the airport to the hotel, to and from the mountain, back to Mendoza and then to the airport after the climb. The vehicles are van style and have plenty of capacity for our team as well as our equipment we are taking to Confluencia. For transfer around the city there are several taxis available if you would like to explore the city reaches. Taxis are inexpensive but it is recommended to have pesos to pay for the taxi in order to get an accurate rate. For those who are traveling in via the bus route we will have a guide meet you at the terminal and transfer you to the hotel. All transfers are with insured and certified vehicles approved by our organization. 

Helicopter Transfers:
After our summit bid we will stay one additional night at our high camp before transferring back to base camp at Refugio Plaza de Mulas. The following morning we will have the opportunity to descend via helicopter to the trail head and have a view of your route from above. The helicopter is an Ecureuil AS-350-B3. The single engine AS350 Ecureuil is renowned for its altitude performance and its safety. The AS350 B3 is "the high performance" version of the single engine Ecureuil range. Powered by a Turbomeca Arriel 2B turbine engine it is equipped with the FADEC system. It is totally suited for operations in conditions such as mountainous areas, hot countries or for very demanding missions, performance wise. The helicopter will be optional for anyone who wishes to depart this way. The other option is to hike the 17 miles back to the Horcones trail head. The team departing by foot will leave around 8 am and the team departing by air will leave around 2pm. We will all meet at the park entrance before heading back to Mendoza as a group.

Mule Services:
We will have mules carrying our equipment from the trail head to Confluencia and then from Confluencia to Plaza de Mulas. The mules can carry 132 lbs (60 kg) each. All our food will be provided at the camps and the majority of the high altitude equipment resides at our elevated base camp. We have mules to transfer our equipment back to the trail head on our descent enabling us to carry minimal weight for a speedy exit. On our descent from base camp the mules will depart at 10am from base camp. Mules are also available to ride out if you have, or encounter, knee trouble or other physical injury that may make your descent difficult. We can arrange this transfer for you prior to the program departure.