A View Into Aconcagua-Vallecitos Combo
Aconcagua is the highest mountain in the western hemisphere and a major objective for individuals looking to tackle one of their first Seven Summit peaks. Traditionally the approach to climbing Aconcagua follows the philosophy of “climb high sleep low.” This is a very effective approach but often requires multiple carries to the high camps of the mountain. This approach forces you to repeat many of the hikes over and over. Mountain Madness launched a new program this winter where the concept of “climb high sleep low” is diversified to eliminate the multiple carries on the same hikes and adds several other spectacular Argentinian peaks up to 5475m / 17949ft.
Aconcagua at sunset
The Vallecito Valle, “Little Valley” is located on the Cordon del Palata, a dominant feature of the skyline outside of Mendoza and a popular local climbing area. It is not frequented by many foreigners and Mountain Madness currently may be the only U.S company to operate in this region. The area is used as a training ground for Argentina’s International Mountain Guide’s training.
The highlighted peaks of the area are Co Plata (5831m / 19130ft), Co Rincon (5364 m / 17598ft), and Pico Vallecitos (5475m / 17949ft).
Peaks from Left to right: Pico Franke, Plata, Vallecitos, Rincon
The trip into the Vallecito Valle begins at the Refugio San Bernardo, which offer deluxe yet rustic accommodation. There is free wifi available at the hut so you are able to do your last communication with the “real world” before you go completely go off the grid.
Our group settled in at the Refugio for the night and prepared for our first acclimatization hike up Lomas Blanca (12021 ft / 3664m) and Co Caucus (12611 ft / 3844 m).
Refugio San Bernardo
View from Lomas Blanca
After summiting Lomas Blanca and Col Caucus, the group celebrated with an authentic asado prepared by “Chef Love” Henry back at the Refugio. The Asado was a mix of Tirra (short ribs), Bife de Chorizo (sirloin), Chorizo de Cerdo (sausage), and Pollo con Chimmicurri (chicken with Chimmiccuri sauce.
The next morning we departed from the hut to our first camp in the valley at Vega Superior. This was a spectacular campsite below Cerrro San Bernardo and our next two objectives of Adolfo Calle and Stepanek.
Vega Superior camp
As we ascended our two objectives for the day the skies were overcast. However, the summits delivered with low clouds and blue bird summits above the clouds!
On the way to the summit of Adolfo Calle
Summit of Adolfo Calle
Summit of Stepanek
Our final basecamp was at El Salto which was about 3000 ft / 1000m of elevation gain. The approach allowed for great views of the Plata, Vallecitos, and Rincon throughout the hike.
Mark and Rebecca enjoying a break on the way to El Salto
Views of of Vallecito from basecamp
After a rest day we departed basecamp at 5:30 for the summit of Vallecitos! With a spectacular blue bird day the group easily made it to the summit!
Penitentes below the first ridgeline
Spectacular summit ridge of Vallecitos
Summit of Vallecitos
In some ways this was a trip on its own, but for us it was the only beginning! We were then off to Aconcagua.
~MM Guide Jaime Pollitte, text and all photos