We left the US on December 7
Court/Legal proceedings to get permit Dec 9 thru 13
Started climb Dec 15th
Reached Summit December 24th
Returned from Mountain Dec 26th
Returned to the US December 31, 2013
The first 3 days were dedicated to making the proper preparations which included:
Arrival in Mendoza, Argentina, where our climbing representative will meet us outside of the customs area to take us to the hotel. Depending on our arrival time, we may have time to relax before the evening orientation with our guides and fellow climbers. Climbing permits need to be acquired the next morning. There may be a small window of time to do a bit of sightseeing or relax by the pool. Later that day we travel 3-4 hours to Penitentes to stay at Hotel Ayelen (8200 feet). Final preparations for the climb occur this day, time is spent organizing and packing gear. Climbers are expected to carry 20-30 lbs. in their packs on the trek to base camp. Mules carry the additional group and personal gear.
Throughout both the trek and climb, accommodations are in 2-3 person tents. After a short ride to the trailhead, we trek alongside the Rio de Las Vacas. We ascend a mild grade to our fist camp known as Pampa de las Leñas at 9000 feet. To beat the heat we depart early for our trek along the Vacas River. Just before our camp, we may catch an incredible view of the “Stone Sentinel,” Aconcagua. Our second approach camp Casa Piedra resides at 10,500 feet. Then, we head for our base camp at Plaza Argentina at 13,800 feet. We travel up the Relinchos Valley to a glaciated moraine that overlooks the valley of our approach. Base camp is established, and we say “Adios” to the mules. The next day is used for acclimation, relaxation, and usually a solar shower. We will then prepared to organize and repack personal and group gear for the upcoming climbing days. We pare down to the bare necessities for the upper mountain.
Due to the nature of the climb the schedule is subject to change based on group strength and weather conditions. The lead guide makes these schedule decisions as the expedition progresses. This day we carry loads to Camp One located at 16,000 feet. The route to Camp One travels along a receding glacier in a valley between Ameghino and Aconcagua (Ameghino is a beautiful, 19,300 feet sister peak of Aconcagua). The most challenging part of this route can be a final steep scree or snow slope of approximately 600 vertical feet. Upon arrival, we set up camp then descend back to base camp to sleep. The next day, supplies and equipment are carried to Camp Two, which is located at 19,200 feet at the base of the Polish Glacier. It is from here that we depart for our summit bid in two days. After dropping off our loads, we descend to Camp One. The next day is a rest day at Camp One. This is an opportunity to acclimate, hydrate, and reorganize loads and personal gear. We pare down gear again for high camp. After an early start, the route to Camp Two climbs to a saddle on the ridge between Ameghino and Aconcagua. If the weather is cooperative, we have spectacular views of the Andes. We establish camp and prepare for an early morning summit attempt. The following day may be summit day. After an early alpine start, we begin our climb of the Traverso de los Polacos. This is a long, gradual traverse that eventually joins the Ruta Normal just below the Refuge Independencia at 20,500 feet. From here, the route wraps west around the mountain and we get a view of the Plaza de Mulas. Then, we face the Canaleta, a 1,000-foot-long couloir that leads to the summit ridge. The Canaleta is a steep chute of loose rock that can be difficult if it is not packed with snow. Once we reach the ridge, we have breathtaking views of the south face. From this point, there is one last traverse to the summit. After enjoying the incredible vistas, celebrating, and taking some photos, we descend and return to Camp Two for the night.
Tired but proud we take on the arduous task of breaking down camp and descending to base camp at Plaza Argentina.Our sights are set on the homeward journey. From here on out we have mule support once again. We load up our mule packs and begin the trek out to Pampa de las Leñas and spend the night there. Once we get back to Penitentes, we will have something to eat and head back to Mendoza for a shower! As a team, we will decide what we want to do for dinner.