Aconcagua

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 RyanA 17 Feb 2021

Hi All,

Like most people, I have been long since dreaming of getting back to the mountains... or any form of climbing/mountaineering etc for that matter!

I have been considering planning my next trip and have set Aconcagua in my sights. 

I have a few of questions if anyone reading has been up there:

- I have the Scarpa Ribelle HD boots which I have used with absolute pleasure around the alps. For Aconcagua, would I need to get a higher altitude boot? I have seen some conflicting info on the boot and where it can go up to. I do love them, but love my non-frost bitten toes more!

- The trend seems to be that the mountain can be scaled and return in 18 odd days. I have historically been able to operate well with faster acclimatisation (and full well knowing this is very personal), but have people been able to shave a couple of days off this?

- I was looking to do this without a guide. Looking into accounts of people attempting this without, there is the possibility to hire the services of donkeys to get equipment to base camp etc. Does anyone have any helpful resources on booking these?

Thanks all, hope to see you back out in the mountains and crags one day!

Ryan

 Jim Lancs 17 Feb 2021
In reply to RyanA:

The relayed advice from my eight fingered friend is: "don't underestimate how cold it can be".

Post edited at 12:23
 Mark123 17 Feb 2021
In reply to RyanA:

Maybe my summit day was colder than normal, but Aconcagua is the only mountain I've ever needed a thick down jacket on throughout the long summit day.  It really can be very cold, and I'd therefore suggest swopping your Ribelles for a much warmer higher altitude boot.   Also I personally would never try to shave a couple of days off acclimatisation, particularly for this peak.   I found it technically very easy, but an immensely tough summit day to slowly keep going, even following my relatively good acclimatisation period and a previous reasonable amount of experience of summiting other 6000m+ peaks.  Good luck - and  enjoy the hopefully celebratory steak and wines in Mendoza!

 Davvers 17 Feb 2021
In reply to RyanA:

Hi Ryan, I don't know your boots, so can't compare, I used Spantiks and they were great.

I was in a guided group and while I was there three people died on the mountain, two of them soloing and apparently very experienced.

The unusual thing about Aconcagua is that it behaves like a higher altitude mountain for speed of weather change, wind speed and temperature.

Unless you're really experienced at altitude and know you can acclimatise quickly then don't risk it.

It's an incredible mountain and region, spend some time in the region if you can it's an amazing place.

Stay safe and have a great trip. Lots of pictures please ! 

 JohnnyW 17 Feb 2021
In reply to RyanA:

I have climbed it as an expedition leader for one of the main UK providers, and we got all bar one of our 10 person team to the summit. (The one that didn't suffered from AMS, despite the below)

I believe this was due to an excellent acclimatisation regime that uses an extra day rather than tries to get up and down too quickly. We were also lucky with the weather, in that it wasn't too windy, and the snow cover was minimal.

We did the excellent Vacas valley route, then False Polish traverse, descending the Horcones. I would have hated to have just doen the up and down, as the Vacas approach is far more attractive, less busy,and gives a satisfying traverse with more variation. I would therefore recommend that. Plaza Argentina is waaayyy better than Plaza la Mulas.

We insisted on double boots, and they seemed superfluous due to the excellent conditions, but it could have swung the other way. It is only just under 7000m, and is often understimated as a 'walk', which of course it can be if all goes well.

But it is high. It was bloody cold. It was the hardest 'walk' I have ever done. It can be very stormy.

Porters/mules can be hired from Penitentes, but expect to pay handsomely. And check your rescue status if going unguided. You must get your permit, and check in with the camp doctors.

Just don't underestimate it.

Post edited at 15:38
 Dom Goodwin 17 Feb 2021
In reply to RyanA:

The normal route is a very easy walk, but the altitude is significant. Interestingly, I was much the fastest member of our group up until around 6300m, but one of the slowest above that. Suddenly it just felt like I'd hit my altitude ceiling and I couldn't comfortably breathe while moving. I don't know how high you have been before, but it's incorrect to assume that if you typically acclimatise better than others to 4000m or 5000m, it will also be true above 6000m. We'd also had more acclimatisation than others in our group, as well as visiting another range before going to Aconcagua.

Personally, I wouldn't shave from the acclimatisation time. Bear in mind that it is further from the equator than the Himalayas, so 6900m here probably has less oxygen than 7000m in the Himalayas. Also, the Canaleta is very tiring on unstable scree at high altitude - two steps up, one step down...

It can be exceptionally cold. Our initial summit attempt failed due to strong winds at around 6200m, and when we returned, our tent at Berlin was destroyed by the wind. So we ended up having to summit from Nido the following day (most people didn't make it to the top) as we couldn't risk another tent. 

The route is very straightforward, but logistics are tricky. So I'd say the benefit of the guides is much more to do with sorting all the logistics (mules, permits, other red tape etc) than to do with route finding or the easy hiking.

 koolkat 18 Feb 2021
In reply to RyanA:

i did it without a guide quite straight forward , plenty of people on the hill , logistics are easy just get a base camp provider who will mule in your equipment and provide a tent and food at base then above there your on your own , as others have said acclimatise allow extra time , take the best boots you can i used scarpa vegas and no problems , i know there old school now , also spend a lot of money on good gloves mitts it is cold .

 veteye 18 Feb 2021
In reply to RyanA:

Some useful information here. I too am appreciative of the advice. I've thought about doing it, but it is usually done at a time of year that is not easy from a business point of view. Yet I think that going at another time may be much more challenging from the weather/cold point of view (?), as I hear on here that it is already pretty cold in summer. Or does anyone have experience other than in summer?

In terms of acclimatisation, I think that enough allowance of time should be allowed, but physiology, circumstances and weather may change that a little bit. I know that when I went up Denali, that we allowed 3 weeks, but went up in ~11 days, and came down in 2. (We got to the top camp and were going to have a rest day, but the weather on the next day was extremely good, and the forecast for the following day was foul, so we went one day early resulting in everyone feeling it a bit over the last 150-200 metres.) Denali is also even further towards the poles than Aconcagua, and so has even less oxygen for the height.

 andrewm1000 18 Feb 2021
In reply to RyanA: been twice, both times in February. Might go again this year. Very cold. Came across others with frost bite. Many underestimate its challenge. You’ll need double boots/plastics and very warm gear. I wore Oly Mons triple boots the first time and Spantiks second and glad I did both times. Your boots wouldn’t be recommended for it. Would only do it unguided if you have very significant experience at altitude. If you go all that way I would just bear the extra costs of being guided as its much more than being guided for the route of course. If you don’t want a western operator then contact Inka directly. 15 or 16 days is fine by normal route ex Mendoza return but both times I had to wait for good weather before proceeding from base camp so plan 18 and can expect to take a few days less. Enjoy it! regards Andrew

In reply to RyanA:

It's cold. Very cold when the wind blows along the traverse to the Canaletta. Beware of getting lost on the way back to Camp 3 from the summit if you are late descending and it gets dark. Cerebral and pulmonary oedema (HACE/HAPE) is a risk, especially for fit people trying to go fast and skipping acclimatisation. People die. I aborted a solo attempt after a guide died of HAPE on the descent from Camp 3, a couple of hundred meters from my tent. 

 Kimberley 18 Feb 2021
In reply to RyanA:

I have been several times, as other have said its cold. Double boots are essential and in fact I seem to recall a National Park requirement. There are ranger stations at various altitudes who apply the rules.

 tehmarks 18 Feb 2021
In reply to RyanA:

I'm going to semi-hijack this thread, and it's pretty much entirely out of curiosity because I don't see myself making any use of the information in the foreseeable future, but...

Does anyone have any experience of the (accessible-to-mortals) lesser-travelled routes on the mountain — the Ibanez-Marmillod or similar? It's hard to come by many accounts, at least with a cursory Internet search. Just interested to hear about the more technical options that are open to the average competent mountaineer other than the Polish Glacier routes.

 RyanA 19 Feb 2021
In reply to Eveyone:

Many thanks for all of your seasoned advice and help. It's greatly appreciated. I will definitely get some new boots in that case, thanks for the recommendations on the various ones you have all used. I knew it would be cold, but didn't know how the Scarpas dealt in that zone (and I love them). 

Noted on the acclimatisation for the mountain as well. I had read many reports of people summiting earlier in their rotations and itineraries. Mostly due to bad weather coming in, which meant they went for an early push. I am partly constrained with time, but by 1 or two days. I will see if I can get more time off! Completely agree about HAPE and do not head upwards lightly in relation to the risks of this. 

Some really helpful advice on unguided as well. If there are any websites for some of these logistics companies, that would be greatly appreciated if any have used before. I think I saw Inka through some early reading as well. Looking forward to crapping in a bag and bringing it to the summit with me......

Thanks again everyone for your help again!

Looking forward to the steak and wine! 

 Gav Parker 19 Feb 2021
In reply to RyanA:

Hi Ryan

I attempted Aconcagua a few years back after doing Mera Peak and Kili and some peaks in the alps. I struggled more than ever with the altitude than I had done before and the loose scree slopes made the physical side of things worse because of this....also it was extremely cold even half way up, I had my down on walking during the day something I had not done before or since. As for boots I wore the same boots they wear on Everest....I was also fitter than I had been before any other trip!!
Mendoza is fabulous though.....enjoy!!

 Kimberley 19 Feb 2021
In reply to RyanA:

Grajales have always been excellent

https://grajales.net


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