Aconcagua (elev. 22,840 ft.) is the tallest mountain in the Americas and, outside of Asia, the tallest mountain in the world. Towering 4,000 feet above neighboring peaks in the Argentinian Andes, the “Stone Sentinel” draws climbers from all over the world who log the ascent as a training climb for the Himalayas, or climb it for its own sake, as one of the Seven Summits.
The three most popular routes are the Normal Route, the Polish Traverse Route, and the Polish Glacier Route. While the Polish Glacier Route is a very serious and technical, high-altitude climb, and the Polish Traverse is moderate difficulty, the Normal Route is non-technical and receives the most traffic. However, don’t assume that it’s a walk in the park. The ascent requires strong mountaineering skills, familiarity with an ice axe and crampons, and you must be in excellent physical condition. Conscientious training is essential to success. Long hours spent carrying 40- to 60-pound packs up and down stairs or trails is suggested as part of your training regimen. Ideally, you should have at least some experience climbing above 10,000 feet. The guide services offer a selection of prep mountaineering classes, and encourage clients to train hard for at least four months prior to the expedition.
Mountaineering Prep Class: $1,000 to $1,800
To participate in a training class, or to train adequately at high altitude on your own, you will need plenty of specialized gear. Guide services provide you with gear lists, and you can rent the big ticket items, if you choose not to buy. While Aconcagua isn’t as serious a climb as Everest or Denali, you’ll still need a down sleeping bag rated to at least -10°F; you’ll carry an ice axe and wear crampons, plastic mountaineering boots, expedition gaiters, an expedition-weight down parka, etc.
- $3,500 to $6,500 – high altitude mountaineering gear and clothing
While you train, you should be attending to your paperwork as well. It can take as long as three months to get your passport and finalize your travel plans. The best months to climb Aconcagua are December through February, when the weather is most stable. You will fly into Santiago, Chile and then catch a connecting flight to Mendoza, Argentina. Traveling from the U.S., the trip will take about two days, and you should be prepared for unexpected delays and occasional confusion. Trip cancellation insurance is always a good idea, as well as checking your health insurance travel policies.
- $1,000 to $1,720 – Round trip from New York City to Mendoza, Argentina
- $1,144 to $1,300 – Round trip from Los Angeles to Mendoza, Argentina
Guided Aconcagua Expedition: $2,750 to $5,000
Choosing a guide service means that you are responsible only for your travel to Argentina, your own personal gear, and your physical and mental preparation and training. The guide service will usually cover hotel rooms, restaurant meals, ground transportation, the climbing permit, all climbing gear, and food while on the mountain. The guide service also arranges for mules used to transport gear to and from base camp, and for human porters who carry most of the gear to the higher camps.