Overview for Aconcagua Summit Expedition: Normal Route
Aconcagua is the second-highest of the seven summits; it is the highest mountain in South America and in the western hemisphere, rising 1000m above its neighbours and visible from the Pacific coast 100 kilometres away. At 6,960 meters, Aconcagua is also the highest trekking peak in the world.
We are running this trip with one of the most reputable local companies based in Mendoza, operated for 30 years by its founders. Their mountaineering guides have led hundreds of expeditions to the summit of Aconcagua and all are certified by the Park Authorities. Their remarkable experience and unparalleled knowledge of the mountain will ensure your best chances of success without compromising safety. They are ISO-9001EN certified and have received recognition for Excellence in Animal Care and Welfare with regard to the treatment of their mules used for transporting the luggage.
Our itinerary allows time for acclimatisation and establishing higher camps before attempting the summit via the ‘normal route’. While Aconcagua is a ‘trekking peak’ and the climb itself is not technical, the combination of extreme altitude, volatile weather and the need to complete up to 6 hours of trekking each day and 12 hours of sustained climbing on summit day ensures a very challenging expedition. In good conditions, it is hard but not technically difficult. In bad conditions, it is virtually unclimbable. If you have managed to summit Kilimandjaro or one of the trekking peaks in Nepal, or have completed the Snowman Trek in Bhutan, this is the natural next step but you still need to be in your best shape.
The Normal Route starts with an acclimatization trek to Plaza Francia Viewpoint, and then we make the approach to Plaza de Mulas, a 40 km trek. It takes us three days to get to Plaza de Mulas. This guarantees very good acclimatization before starting the climb of Aconcagua. Our suggested programme includes two contingency days.
On Aconcagua, sometimes the presence of a white wind makes the ascent difficult, this is what we use the contingency days for, thus increasing the chances of reaching the summit. Note that not only is the success rate highest on the Normal Route (70%+), but it is also a very safe route. This is because there is a medical service in the Confluencia and Plaza de Mulas base camps, where the level of care is very high. Since it is the busiest route, it is monitored very closely by the Rescue Patrol, which has its operation centre in the Plaza de Mulas base camp. If anything should go wrong, help can be at hand very quickly.
Itinerary for Aconcagua Summit Expedition: Normal RouteGo to top of page
Day 1: Mendoza
Our expedition begins in Mendoza, Argentina. On your arrival at the international airport in Mendoza, our local representative will be waiting for you and will drive you to your hotel. After some rest, a group meeting will follow and you will be introduced to your guides and team members. This is a great time to ask any questions you might have of your expedition leader. Enjoy the rest of the day and the evening exploring the bustling city of Mendoza, the centre of wine-making in Argentina. Overnight in a comfortable city hotel in Mendoza.
Day 2: Mendoza (760m) – Penitentes (2700m)
After breakfast, we will go to pay the entrance fee at the Aconcagua Park Office. Then after organizing your luggage, we will be transported with the guides to our local rep’s office to meet the staff and finalize arrangements. From the office, we will be driven along a picturesque road to the mountain. After 3 hours of travel, we arrive at Villa Los Penitentes, where we stay at a mountain hotel. In the afternoon, we prepare the equipment for transportation to the basecamp by mules. This day is concluded with dinner and rest.
Driving time: 3 hours, accommodation in a mountain hotel
Day 3: Penitentes (2700m) – Horcones (2950m) – Confluencia (3390m)
Today we drive you to Horcones, Aconcagua Park Entrance (10 min), where we get our first view of the high mountain. After permits are checked at the Ranger Station, we start trekking and head off to Confluencia. Once there, you will organize your personal gear, drink some tea and enjoy dinner. We divide our gear into two loads: a high altitude one and one to remain with you up to Confluencia. The high altitude gear is transported by mules to base camp and will comprise of your crampons, ice axe, high altitude boots and other stuff.
Walking for the day: 4-5 hours, ↑440m
Day 4: Confluencia (3390m) – Plaza Francia (4000m) – Confluencia (3390m)
We’ve included this day in order for you to acclimatize better and increase your chances to summit. We’ll trek for about 5 hours until we arrive at Plaza Francia viewpoint where we can enjoy the impressive Aconcagua South Wall. This is one of the nicest points of the expedition and you will have a breathtaking first view of Aconcagua that you will never forget. Plaza Francia is also the base camp for expeditions undertaking climbs on the highly technical south face.
Walking for the day: 7-8 hours, ↑610m, ↓610m
Day 5: Confluencia (3390m) – Plaza de Mulas Base Camp (4300m)
Еаrly in the morning, we start our walk across Playa Ancha (meaning wide beach) it’s a deserted and always windy valley. We slowly gain altitude walking up to the Horcones Superior Valley. After 8-9 hours hiking across Playa Ancha and climbing up through a very steep path, Cuesta Brava, (meaning Rugged Slope), we reach Plaza de Mulas. By the end of the day, most of us will feel the altitude. At base camp you will meet your ascent team. A mess tent will be set up for all meals, briefings and general use.
Walking for the day: 8-9 hours, ↑910m
Day 6: Plaza de Mulas Base Camp (4300m) Acclimatisation Day
The first day in Base Camp is always a rest day. Make sure you take plenty of water аnd eat well. This is a good opportunity to familiarize yourself with the Camp, take a shower and explore the area. We get together with the guides, do a medical checkup, reorganize and review the equipment, prepare the loads and organize food for transportation for the next day. This is the time to get to know the climbers from other parts of the world and to meet the people that work in the camps. This is all part of acclimatisation and is essential for your well being.
Day 7: Plaza de Mulas Base Camp (4300m) – Camp 1 Plaza Canada (5050m) – Plaza de Mulas Base Camp (4300m)
Today we will carry some of our equipment and food to Camp 1, called Plaza Canada. We keep our backpacks light and carry as little as possible in order to be able to gradually adapt to the altitude. During the load transportation to Цamp 1, we reach a level of 5050 m. It is very important to maintain the adaptation of our body to altitude, to achieve good acclimatization. Then we return to Plaza de Mulas for overnight.
Walking for the day: 5-6 hours, ↑750m, ↓750m
Day 8: Plaza de Mulas Base Camp (4300m) Acclimatisation Day
Today is your second acclimatization day. Make sure you take plenty of water аnd eat well.
Day 9: Plaza de Mulas Base Camp (4300m) – Camp 1 Plaza Canada (5050m)
After having breakfast we start our ascent to Camp 1. After walking 5-6 hours on easy terrain we arrive at Camp 1. We meet with the supplies that we brought the day before, assemble the camp and then we divide load for the following days of carry. We then rest and have dinner.
Walking for the day: 5-6 hours, ↑750m
Day 10: Camp 1 Plaza Canada (5050m) – Camp 2 Nido de Condores (5560m)
Today, we move from Plaza Canada to Camp 2 named Nido de Cóndores (Condors’ Nest) at 5550m. Heading towards what looks like a saddle, we will quickly gain altitude until we reach Cambio de Pendiente (Change of Slope) from where the inclination of the trail decreases considerably. Then there is a gradual traverse towards Nido de Condores, offering some of the most incredible views in the Andes. It is very important to control the adaptation of our body to altitude, and continue to monitor our acclimatization.
Walking for the day: 3-4 hours, ↑510m
Day 11: Camp 2 Nido de Condores (5560m) Acclimatisation Day
Today is an acclimatization day. Make sure you take plenty of water аnd eat well.
Day 12: Camp 2 Nido de Condores (5560m) – Camp 3 Plaza Colera (5970m)
Early in the morning, after breakfast and after disassembling our tents, we start ascending to Camp 3, where we will establish our campsite prior to our summit attempt. From there, we have unforgettable views of the highest peaks of the Central Andes. Colera is strategically located and well protected from strong winds. It’s generally just a one night stay prior to going for the summit, but we may stay one or two additional days here if required (using the reserve days). The guide individually reviews each member of the group and gives his final recommendations. We also plan the final strategies for the last day of ascent to assure success in reaching the summit. We have dinner and rest.
Walking for the day: 3-4 hours, ↑410m
Day 13: Summit Day Camp 3 Plaza Colera (5970m) – North Summit (6962m) – Camp 3 Plaza Colera (5970m)
The day begins at 5:00 am. This is the most demanding day of our expedition. We continue on the Normal Route up to Independence Refuge (6380 m). This is normally where we see the first sun rays of the day. We ascend the Portezuelo del Viento where we can experience strong winds, even on calm days. We pass by the superior part of the Western Face and climb La Canaleta, a 300 m col that takes us to the edge of the summit. From here we go through the Filo del Guanaco, the ridge joining the South Summit (6930m) to the North Summit (6962m). There we can directly observe under our feet the Southern Wall of the Aconcagua, considered one of the largest faces in the world. An indescribable feeling of satisfaction takes over as we reach the summit at 6962 m. After sharing these moments of accomplishment and emotion with our expedition mates we then return to Camp 3.
Walking for the day: 10-12 hours, ↑992m, ↓992m
Days 14 & 15: Contingency Days
We consider these two days spare days in case of bad weather. There are many factors involved which include your own personal rate of acclimatisation, weather and snow conditions. Your guides will assess all these factors and make decisions regarding timing and route as best suits this particular expedition. Any attempt will be made under optimum conditions but it should be realised that the weather on Aconcagua is volatile and decisions are made accordingly and entirely at the discretion of the guides. If we do not use them, we can stay at Base Camp to rest and enjoy the mountain.
Day 16: Camp 3 Plaza Colera (5970m) – Plaza de Mulas Base Camp (4300m)
The trail today also follows the alpine grassland where yaks bound in plenty. The path follows the river through rhododendron shrubs before turning right up the hill. You will then climb to a high open valley through meadows to Tshomo La Pass (4915m). The views of the Mount Jomolhari and Tibetan borders are absolutely breathtaking. Next, you will be hiking on the barren plateau intersecting several yak trails and after some time you will be arriving at Narithang, which is your camp for tonight.
Walking for the day: 5-7 hours, ↓1670m
Day 17: Plaza de Mulas Base Camp (4300m) – Penitentes (2700m)/Mendoza (760m)
From the camp, you will climb for about an hour to Gangla Karchung La (5,120m). The view from the pass is breathtaking and the whole range of mountains including Jekangphu Gang (7,100m), Tsenda Kang and Teri Gang (7,300m) can be seen. The pass descends along a large moraine. Again one has great views: a massive glacier descends from Teri Kang to a deep turquoise lake at its foot. Up here a glacial lake burst through its dam in the early 1960s, causing widespread damage and partially destroying Punakha Dzong. Finally, it is a very long↓ through thick rhododendron to Tarina valley, where you will find several good campsites along the Tang Chhu.
Walking for the day: 7 hours, ↓1600m; driving time: 3 hours, accommodation in a city hotel
Day 18: Departure
Tour ends after breakfast. Mendoza International Airport is easily reachable by taxi from your hotel (10-15 min, $4-6, not included).
Hotels for Aconcagua Summit Expedition: Normal RouteGo to top of page
- Mendoza: Two nights of lodging in a 3-star hotel in the city of Mendoza, double or triple rooms, breakfast included.
- Penitentes: One night at a mountain hotel in Penitentes, double or triple rooms, half board, beverages not included. The welcome dinner, breakfast and tourist taxes are included.
- Mountain camps: All nights of the expedition in double tents or dormitory domes (4 or 8 persons), full board.
All meals are included in the mountain. At Base Camp meals are prepared daily by the cooks with fresh ingredients, thanks to having logistics for transporting merchandise in our own refrigerated vehicles and to its conservation facilities in the camp, such as freezers and refrigerators. Our diet includes, among other things, fresh fruit, meat, chicken, vegetables, fresh eggs, bread and much more. Our meals are well balanced and high in energy so you have your entire body requirements for the ascent. In the high camps, the guides prepare the food with different ingredients. We are also prepared to organise special meals, like vegetarian, celiac and other needs – please ask in advance.
Travel for Aconcagua Summit Expedition: Normal RouteGo to top of page
The recommended arrival and departure airport is Mendoza.
Up-to-date FCO travel advice on Argentina is available here. Due to Government restrictions, you will be able to get from Banks or ATMs the maximum of $100 – in local currency – per credit card, per day.
It is a condition of joining an Aconcagua climb that you have insurance that covers you up to 7000m and that cover extends to the full cost of evacuation if needed, including helicopter rescue. Policy providers we recommend are Global Rescue and World Nomads, both of whom sell specialist climbing insurance. This info is checked by the Park Authorities when applying for a climbing permit. When or after you book, please send us a copy of your insurance membership card (if it’s not Global Rescue, you must also send the full policy, so the authorities can make sure that evacuation by helicopter inside Aconcagua’s Park is included.
Trip Info for Aconcagua Summit Expedition: Normal RouteGo to top of page
Difficulty Grade: Strenuous+
You should be in an excellent physical condition and have solid experience of multi-day high-mountain trekking before undertaking this trek (we might ask you to prove your experience before confirming your booking). Mountaineering experience is preferred but not essential. Sometimes even if you are fit, the weather conditions will not allow us to complete the trek – as safety is our primary concern, the decision whether to continue or not is entirely at the discretion of our tour leader. The effect of altitude should not be underestimated (read more about difficulty grades)!
Acute Mountain Sickness
AMS is a significant concern when trekking above 3500m and although our itinerary is designed to minimise the chances of you suffering from AMS by providing enough acclimatisation days before the actual trek and ensuring a gradual increase in altitude, each individual is affected differently by height. If you have any pre-existing health conditions that you think may make you more susceptible to AMS, we recommend that you consult your doctor before booking this trip.
When to Go
The best time for climbing in the Aconcagua region is from December to March. The weather then is relatively stable but be warned the weather can still change quickly. The winds can be very strong on Aconcagua, especially higher on the mountain. High winds on summit day are a common feature of this mountain. It can also get extremely cold on the upper slopes of the mountain, temperatures can drop to ‐20C degrees or more with the wind chill factor. It is essential that you are suitably prepared for the climb. Mendoza, at 760m, enjoys a Mediterranean style climate in summer, as a result of a rainshadow effect from Aconcagua and other Andean peaks that separate it from the Pacific Ocean and prevailing weather.
We offer 40+ guaranteed small group departure dates for our Aconcagua climbs each year – you can check availability using the See Dates & Prices link above. You can also book a private departure with us.
In Penitentes and Plaza de Mulas you can leave your equipment in storage with peace of mind since a person in charge supervises your luggage while you ascend the mountain. Our scheduled expeditions include the carry of double tents, garbage and human waste and part of common equipment. This is to avoid extra unnecessary effort so that you can preserve your energy or the day you reach the summit.
We recommend bringing three types of bags for your Aconcagua expedition: a large duffle bag (80-90l), an expedition rucksack (70l-90l) and a light daypack (30-35l).
- For the hike into Base Camp, we use mules to carry most gear and supplies. As a climber, you will only carry your daypack (water, snacks, camera, jacket, sunscreen, etc.).
- From Base Camp to High Camps you can expect to carry all of your personal gear plus a share of the common gear (although we provide porters for group equipment). On average, a fully-loaded Aconcagua backpack weighs 18-24 kg.
We offer our own reliable team of porters to carry gear up and down the mountain. Each porter carries up to 20 kg from Base Camp to any given camp and down from high camp or other camps to Base Camp. On our trips we include one porter for every four climbers, to carry common gear only when the group moves from one camp to the next. Porters don’t assist in the cache and carry trips (i.e. not when the group carries gear to a cache and comes back to camp).
If you need a porter to help you with your personal gear, all you need to do is ask for one. We offer a personal porter service at a convenient price. The personal porter service includes transportation of personal gear to high camps of up to 20 kg. Note that the personal porter carries the equipment on the day the group is moving to the next camp. He does not go with you or set up tents or melt snow. He just takes your gear into his backpack and takes to the next camp, leaves it there and comes back to base camp.
Our groups are small (up to 12 persons) and our departures are always guaranteed for the dates provided. You can also book a private departure. We have one of the best guide/customer rations among the companies offering Aconcagua climbs:
- 1 to 3 clients: 1 guide for the entire expedition
- 4 to 5 clients: 1 guide for the entire expedition + 1 assistant guide from Base Camp – Summit – Base Camp
- 6 to 8 clients: 2 guides for the entire expedition
- 9-10 clients: 2 guides for the entire expedition + 1 assistant guide from Base Camp – Summit – Base Camp
- 11 to 12 clients: 3 guides for the entire expedition
- If we reach 13 climbers in a group, we split the group
What to Bring
Specialist gear is required for this expedition and a comprehensive gear list will be provided in the pre‐departure information pack.
Camping equipment and facilities provided by us:
- Tents: We provide our clients with the best mountain tents available at the base camps. We also have exclusive dormitory tents for 4 or 8 persons, with bunk beds, electric light and carpet. At high camps we provide double tents – The North Face Ve25 or similar.
- Dining tents: The dining domes are completely equipped with tables, chairs, dishes and electricity, to provide the highest comfort and quality service. You will be attended to by our Camp Team, in charge of preparing meals and offering an exceptional service with friendly treatment.
- Restroom: The use of our restrooms are included, since they are exclusive for our clients. We have toilets in Confluencia and in Plaza de Mulas.
- Showers: We include hot showers in base camp. We have an exclusive infrastructure for our showers, where we obtain hot water from solar water heaters unique in Aconcagua Park.
Included for Aconcagua Summit Expedition: Normal RouteGo to top of page
- Professional mountain guide. Experienced and qualified to operate in Aconcagua.
- Assistance with the procedures to obtain the permit to enter Park Aconcagua.
- Ground transportation in private vehicles. Arrival transfer Airport – Hotel in Mendoza / Return transfer Mendoza – Penitentes – Park Entrance
- Two nights of accommodation in a 3* hotel in Mendoza City(Sharing room, Double/Triple occupancy), Breakfast included.
- One night of accommodation in Penitentes (Sharing room, Double/Triple occupancy). Breakfast & dinner included.
- Transportation by freight mules of your personal equipment Penitentes-Base Camp-Penitentes
- Lodging at base camps in mountain tents or dormitory tents for 4 or 8 persons and in high camps in mountain tents.
- All meals included on the mountain.
- Drinking water (hot and cold) in all our camps (base camps and high camps)
- Fully equipped dining dome at base camps. Exclusive restrooms for our clients.
- Internet and charge of your device for free at base camps.
- Hot shower for free at base camps.
- Facility for the storage and care of equipment.
- Full porter service to carry double tents, garbage and human waste and part of common equipment
- Communications between high camps, base camp, Penitentes and Mendoza.
- Medical equipment is available at base camps and high camps.
- Dining domes at high camps equipped with benches and tables. Restroom tents are exclusive for our clients.
Options and Extras
- This holiday is available for solo travellers; surcharges may apply
- Single supplement is available for the hotel portions of the trip only. During the climbing portion of the expedition, all group members are required to share a tent. Depending on the makeup of the group, males and females may be required to share
- Private porters
- International or local flights
- Airport transfer on departure day
- Visa fees and park entry fee. Park entry fee is currently $800, subject to change. Prices for permits are released a few weeks before the climbing season and can be accessed here: www.aconcagua.mendoza.gov.ar
- Travel insurance
- Rescue costs or other costs due to the abandonment of the expedition (riding mule, pack mule, individual transfers, extra nights, meals, extra costs for changes in your flight ticket, personal porter service, etc.) – It is highly recommended to take travel insurance to cover these expenses.
- Extra nights in a hotel in case of early return to the city/ in case you don’t use the contingency days and decide to descend to Mendoza.
- Transfer Penitentes – Mendoza in case of early returning or abandoning the expedition.
- Meals and drinks not specified in the itinerary. E.g.: lunches and dinners in Mendoza. Lunch on Day 2 of the itinerary.
- Personal expenses such as drinks, snacks, phone calls, extra transfers, tips, etc.
- Tips for the guides and porters
- Any items not specifically mentioned as ‘included’ in the programme
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