Aconcagua (Argentina) Expedition – 20 Dec 11 – 08 Jan 12

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I am leaving for my Aconcagua expedition in Argentina. Here are some highlights of the upcoming trip:

Aconcagua Elevation:  22,841 feet/6962 meters

Aconcagua is one of the Seven Summits, located in South America.

Our expedition will try to summit Aconcagua via the Polish Traverse.

The Polish Traverse, which is often referred to as the False Polish Glacier Route, is a beautiful high altitude climb. Not to be confused with the Polish Glacier route on Aconcagua,  the Traverse travels below the glacier and involves climbing similar to the normal route. After our ascent we will have the option to descend into the Horcones Valley and return to our starting point at the small town of Puenta del Inca by a different route, thus completing a circumnavigation of the mountain.

With the opportunity to see all aspects of the mountain and reach the highest point in the Western Hemisphere, this surely ranks among one of the most rewarding expeditions. This trip offers participants the chance to test their endurance at high altitude without the complexities of glacier travel, but still in a full-blown expedition context.

Strategy: All of our equipment will be carried to base camp by mules. We will follow the philosophy of climb high and sleep low as we will establish a series of higher camps while ascending Aconcagua.

Itinerary:

December 20-21: Night flight to Santiago, arriving in Mendoza in the morning or evening of Day 2.

Dec 22: LOS PENITENTS ♦ 8,500 feet
Elevation gain-6,072 feet
Leave Mendoza early and arrive at Los Penitents mid afternoon — about four hours driving time.

Dec 23: PUNTA DE VACAS ♦ 7,628 feet / LAS LENAS ♦ 9,240 feet
Elevation gain-1,612 feet
After a short drive we reach Puenta de Vacas where we begin our approach to the mountain. We hike 5 miles up the west side of the Rio de las Vacas to the Las Lenas shelter (4 hours).
Dec 24: CASA DE PIEDRA ♦ 10,560 feet
Elevation gain- 1,320 feet
We continue hiking up the Rio de Las Vacas, 11 miles to the Casa de Piedra shelter at 10,560’. Here, we may receive your first view of Aconcagua perched at the head of the Relinchos Valley. We make our camp here at
Casa de Piedra. (5 to 6 hours)

Dec 25: PLAZA ARGENTINA ♦ 13,800 feet
Elevation gain-3,240 feet After crossing the Rio de Las Vacas, we hike 9 miles up the steep, narrow Relinchos Valley to the moraine that marks the Plaza Argentina, our base camp at 13,780’. This camp is located on the stable rock-covered glacier and has well protected campsites. (6-8 hours)

Dec 26: PLAZA ARGENTINA ♦ 13,800 feet
Today is a day for resting, continuing the acclimatization process, and taking in the sights of the Andes!

Dec 27: CAMP I ♦ 16,400 feet / PLAZA ARGENTINA ♦ 13,800 feet
Elevation gain-2,600 feet
Throughout the ascent we will adhere to the philosophy of climb high and sleep low in order to properly acclimatize. We leave basecamp and head northwest over the moraine of the Relinchos Glacier. After negotiating a traverse through a field of penitentes (ice and snow daggers formed by the sun), we cross a small stream and arrive at the site of Camp I (16,000’) beneath some large rocks. (4-6 hours) We cache food and gear, enjoy a leisurely lunch and begin the descent back to base camp.

Dec 28: PLAZA ARGENTINA ♦ 13,800 feet Rest day in base camp
.
Dec 29: CAMP I ♦ 16,400 feet /Elevation gain-2,600 feet
We move up to the Camp I and spend the night.

Dec 30: CAMP I ♦ 16,400 feet /Rest day at Camp I.

Dec 31: CAMP II ♦ 19,350 feet / CAMP I ♦ 16,400 feet
From Camp I, we climb past the Ameghino Col (17,650’) to Camp II at the base of the Polish Glacier at 19,350’, this takes approximately 6 hours from Camp I. Here we cache gear and return back down to Camp I.

Jan. 1: CAMP II ♦ 19,350 feet /Elevation gain-2,950 feet
We climb to Camp II and spend the night.

Jan. 2: CAMP II ♦ 19,350 feet / Rest day in Camp II.

Jan. 3: CAMP III ♦ Approximately 19,500-20,000 feet /Elevation gain- Approximately 1,000 feet Today we move completely to Camp III. The Polish Traverse crosses north and west on slopes up to 35 degrees and joins the Normal Route at Camp Independencia (20,300’). Rest and get ready for summit attempt! Various locations can be used for Camp III and will be determined by your trip leader.

Jan. 4-5: ACONCAGUA SUMMIT ♦ 22,841 feet / BERLIN CAMP ♦ 19,300 feet
Elevation gain-Approximately 2,500-3,500 feet/ loss-3,541 feet
There are 3 days scheduled into the itinerary for bad weather at any point along our climb. Additional day (four days total) can be used if the group descends to Los Penitentes and returns directly to Mendoza on day 21.

SUMMIT DAY: From our high camp the Traverse route joins the Northwest ridge just below the 21,476 foot Refugia Independencia. From these ruins we continue climbing to the Cresta del Viento (Windy Crest). Once here we join the Gran Acarreo and traverse to the Canaleta, a 30-degree scree gully that rises 1,300 feet. After topping out of the Canaleta, you will find yourself atop the Cresta del Guanaco, the ridge that joins the lower South Summit to the higher North Summit. We follow the ridge crest to the 22,841-foot true summit, where aluminum cross marks the highest point in the Western Hemisphere. Summitting and returning back down to our high camp usually takes between 9-12 hours.

Jan. 6: We begin the descent back down to the land of oxygen rich air! We now descend to our new basecamp at the Plaza de Mulas (13,780 feet) to relax.

Jan. 7: Hike down the Horcones valley to Puente del Inca.

Jan. 8-9: Afternoon of day 20 we travel to Mendoza for the night flight home.

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