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The summit of Aconcagua Seven Summit mountain with Mountain Madness

Aconcagua calling — are you ready for it?

Big moun­tains are chal­leng­ing, hum­bling, exhaust­ing, frus­trat­ing and at the same time exhil­a­rat­ing, reward­ing, and life chang­ing. Aconcagua is no excep­tion to this.

By any mea­sure Aconcagua is a huge moun­tain. At 22,841-feet it is the high­est peak in South Amer­i­ca and a wor­thy goal for climbers. The stan­dard route offers non-tech­ni­cal paths to the sum­mit, but there­in lies the conun­drum. Although non-tech­ni­cal, Aconcagua is a very chal­leng­ing moun­tain. High alti­tudes, cold and windy con­di­tions, a long approach and mul­ti­ple camps above base camp, cold weath­er equip­ment, and the rig­ors of expe­di­tion life all com­bine to make an attempt of Aconcagua a major undertaking. 

Humping Loads to Camp 3 RL
Aconcagua Base Camp with Mountain Madness
Aconcagua near base camp with Mountain Madness

Is Aconcagua a trek or a climb?

Many peo­ple view the Nor­mal Route on Aconcagua as a log­i­cal next-step” after Kil­i­man­jaro. Some believe that because it is a non-tech­ni­cal climb it is just a trek, as it is often described. They are, how­ev­er, very dif­fer­ent experiences.

A trek on Kil­i­man­jaro is sup­port­ed by a team of porters, kitchen staff, and guides. Trekkers have three meals a day cooked for them and are served in a com­fort­able din­ing tent. After a day of walk­ing, car­ry­ing just a light day-pack, you arrive at camp with snacks pre­pared, warm water to wash with, and tents are set up for you. In the morn­ing you are offered tea in your tent and after break­fast your tent is tak­en down and your gear is car­ried to the next camp. Kil­i­man­jaro is phys­i­cal­ly dif­fi­cult but the sup­port of a car­ing staff and the com­forts of the camps makes for a tir­ing but pleas­ant trek that requires no cram­pons or use of ice axe.

On the oth­er hand, although non-tech­ni­cal and non-glaciat­ed, con­di­tions on Aconcagua can vary between hard­packed dirt and scree to snow and ice requir­ing the use of cram­pons and ice axe. The phys­i­cal demands for Aconcagua, which stands about 3,500-feet high­er than Kil­i­man­jaro, can­not be under­stat­ed, along with the need for basic moun­taineer­ing skills. The sum­mit day is extreme­ly chal­leng­ing and can take 12 hours or more from camp and back. Many expe­ri­enced climbers have stat­ed that sum­mit day on Aconcagua is no eas­i­er than a Denali sum­mit day. Still, although Aconcagua is high, cold, windy, huge, exhaust­ing, it’s worth the effort to reach the high­est point in the West­ern Hemi­sphere and a Sev­en Summit!

Aconcagua High camp or Cholera Camp camp 3
Aconcagua carry to camp 1 above base camp

Expectations and how to lessen the load

Blog resource: The Road to the Summit

Aconcagua by con­trast to Kil­i­man­jaro is a full-blown climb­ing expe­di­tion. Where Kil­i­man­jaro has a large sup­port staff to help with all the dai­ly rig­ors of expe­di­tions, Aconcagua requires the climb­ing team to do all those things along with the hik­ing. Above base camp the team will move loads between camps and set up camps togeth­er, melt snow for water and cook meals.

Some of this work can be less­ened by hir­ing porters to car­ry loads between camps, which means you car­ry a pack in the 25 – 35 pound range — more than 80% or more of our team mem­bers do this. And while base camp life is good on the moun­tain, with a mess tent, piz­za, and oth­er lux­u­ries, things change as you move up the moun­tain. Your guides will work extreme­ly hard try­ing to min­i­mize the amount of work you do, but, at the end of the day, it’s best to view this expe­di­tion as more of a par­tic­i­pa­to­ry trip than a ful­ly-ser­viced expe­di­tion with your bed roll laid out for you with a choco­late on a fluffy pillow. 

Aconcagua expedition equipment
summit day on aconcagua with the last steps to seven summit with mountain madness
Aconcagua summit day above base camp with Mountain Madness

An expe­di­tion to Aconcagua, as well as any big moun­tain, requires com­mit­ment, ded­i­ca­tion to phys­i­cal train­ing and con­di­tion­ing, and an hon­est appraisal of your abilities. 

To help answer the ques­tion, Am I ready for Aconcagua”, below is a series of ques­tions to answer yourself: 

  • Do you under­stand the rig­ors of an Aconcagua expedition?
  • Do I train reg­u­lar­ly, and in a way that would pre­pare me for the climb?
  • Do I know what it is like to car­ry a 25 – 50 pound pack uphill, for hours and con­sec­u­tive days?
  • Do I have expe­ri­ence in camp­ing in the moun­tains in a poten­tial­ly harsh environment?
  • Am I will­ing to become part of a team and work with a group of diverse peo­ple to achieve our goals?
  • Do I expect to be pampered?
  • Is this a real­is­tic goal for me?

With these ques­tions more may sur­face as you explore what it means to climb the moun­tain. Anoth­er great resource and one that answers many ques­tion you may have and that adds lots of details about the Aconcagua expe­ri­ence is the FAQ page on our web site in the overview sec­tion.

Suggested pre-requisites

Step 1: Take a climb­ing course; even bet­ter, take a climb­ing course in Ecuador or Bolivia to gain skills and some high alti­tude experience.

Step 2: Get addi­tion­al expe­ri­ence with a high alti­tude climb; some­thing like Kil­i­man­jaro would work, but even bet­ter would be trips to the Mex­i­co Vol­ca­noes or our Cotopaxi Climb in Ecuador, both only nine day trips from the U.S. If these steps go well for you, start pack­ing! Or;

Step 3: Go on a trip that has some gen­uine expe­di­­tion-type climb­ing, which means mul­ti­ple camps at high­er ele­va­tions, the pos­si­bil­i­ty of storms, and some cold-weath­­er con­di­tions. Some exam­ples of such trips could include: the Ecuador Vol­ca­noes Expe­di­tion, Huay­na Poto­si and Illi­mani expe­di­tion in Bolivia or Island Peak in Nepal.

Aconcagua expedition team
Aconcagua break time moving between camps towards summit
equipment for Aconcagua

Training for Aconcagua

You’ve just put in more than a week mov­ing loads up Aconcagua, we’re talk­ing 40 – 50 pounds of gear up 2,000+ feet, up to ele­va­tions over 19,00-feet. These are days that you are work­ing hard at alti­tude for 5 – 8 hours. There are a cou­ple of rest days in the itin­er­ary to recov­er, but at alti­tude your body nev­er recov­ers ful­ly. Next up sum­mit day! Are you ready for the near­ly 4,000-foot climb, 10 – 15 hour day on the go at almost 23,000-feet? We can ensure you will be oxy­gen deprived, slight­ly dehy­drat­ed, super excit­ed, and tired. Are you ready for this? If you’ve been endurance train­ing, have your gear dialed and are men­tal­ly strong, you will be.

If you are unsure where to start your train­ing pro­gram, we rec­om­mend get­ting in touch with Alpine Ath­let­ics. Lisa, the own­er of the com­pa­ny, has reached the sum­mit of Ever­est and K2, among oth­er big moun­tains, has climbed the Sev­en Sum­mits and has exten­sive expe­ri­ence in the Cas­cades — she knows what it takes to get ready. If you decide to work with Lisa, she will con­tact you and gath­er infor­ma­tion and com­plete a fit­ness assess­ment to devel­op the best plan based on your objec­tive. Read an inter­view with Lisa here.

Moun­tain Mad­ness climbers receive 25 % off of Alpine Ath­let­ics services!

We look for­ward to shar­ing the expe­ri­ence with you. 

If you have ques­tions about Aconcagua, or want to dis­cuss the trip in greater detail, please call Steve or Mark at the Moun­tain Mad­ness office at 800−328−5925 or email Mark at markg@​mountainmadness.​com

See you on the top of South America!