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Mountain Madness Climber

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.

Asa­do (Grill)

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