At 6,960 m, Aconcagua, one of the Seven Summits, is the highest mountain outside Asia and the second-highest in the world after Everest. It is located in South America, in the Andes range, in the Mendoza province of Argentina.
Every year, mountaineers from all around the world are drawn to this towering Andean giant to tackle its flanks on the way up to its summit. However, although climbing Aconcagua is pretty straightforward from a technical perspective, due to its high altitude, proper acclimatization is key.
Many expeditions to the summit of Aconcagua take this into consideration and include acclimatization programs in their itineraries. These trips usually last around 18 days or more and consider other shorter climbs in Mendoza as part of the preparation for the final challenge. However, not all mountaineering tours to the Aconcagua summit feature an extensive acclimatization program. Furthermore, some people require more preparation than others. Therefore, for those planning to climb this mountaineering landmark, it is always good to consider additional acclimatization options.
We asked Luciano, an EPGAMT Mountain Guide from Mendoza, to share some of his knowledge regarding acclimatization for Aconcagua. Read on to find the best trips in the stunning mountains of Mendoza to prepare for your Aconcagua climb and look at some of the mountaineering options in the region offered by our guides to start planning your trip!
Acclimatization is the process through which living organisms adapt to change. In mountaineering, this term is used to express the adaptation of the human body to high altitudes. At approximately 2,100 m.a.s.l, oxygen levels begin to drop, and so, the body increases breathing depth and rate. This can in turn increase the blood PH and suppresses the digestive system. In concrete symptoms, this is usually felt as sluggishness and slow digestion.
At higher altitudes, however, the strain on the body is greater. Without proper acclimatization, the body may undergo Mountain Sickness with varying degrees of gravity, which become more dangerous the higher up you go. In fact, altitudes above 8,000 m.a.s.l are termed the “death zone” due to the fact that humans can’t adapt to these altitudes without supplementary oxygen.
Therefore, it is important to follow an adequate adaptation program to compensate for increases in altitude, especially when tackling very tall mountains such as Aconcagua. The full adaptation usually requires gradual increases in altitude and rest days to allow the body to adjust. A good option is to arrive a few days before the trip to try some additional excursions to lower mountains to begin the acclimatization process slowly. However, acclimatization is not only physical. Luciano‘s integral adaptation follows the following 3 steps:
Many of the climbing options to prepare for Aconcagua lie in the Aconcagua Provincial Park, others lie in the Cordón del Plata range, a little further south in the Tupungato and Luján de Cuyo departments. This range is approximately 80 km away from Mendoza and is considered to be the perfect mountaineering “school”. Other options outside Mendoza are also interesting alternatives to explore, for example, Catamarca has many options to climb mountains that are over 6000 m.a.s.l.
“In Mendoza, the Cordón del Plata range has always been our school, where we’ve gained most of our experience. It’s nearby and offers different possibilities with a variety of challenges to tackle depending on where you want to place your bets.
In terms of altitude, Catamarca is our fun park due to the enormous concentration of mountains over 6000 m.a.s.l. The logistics are more complex and you can set your own safety parameters. It’s a whole other ball game!”
In the Aconcagua vicinity, Cerro Tolosa is another great option to acclimatize and train. It lies at an altitude of 5,307 m.a.s.l and is famous for the beautiful glaciers at its summit. Climbing Tolosa is not without its challenge, but well worth the reward and a great way to prepare for Aconcagua. On this 8-day Cerro Tolosa mountaineering excursion, you will enjoy both a challenge and a nice slow pace for gentle acclimatization.
At 5469 m, Cerro Vallecitos is another great option in the Cordón del Plata range to train for Aconcagua. This 6-day Vallecitos program includes climbing up Mt. Arenales, which at 3.299 m.a.s.l is an easy-going ascent, and then tackling the summit of Mt. Vallecitos which makes it an ideal program for anyone who wants a gradual and slow acclimatization program.
“When I have one of these expeditions I like to go to Vallecitos in the Cordon del Plata range, and then the Aconcagua ascent is a lot faster and cheaper.”
Climbing Aconcagua is a mountaineering dream that can easily be achieved with the correct preparation. Technically it is not a complex mountain to climb, but proper acclimatization is a must. Pick your acclimatization program now and start planning for an unforgettable climb to the top of the world’s highest mountain after Everest!
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