If you are looking for some real mountain-climbing challenges, why not head to Western Argentina and Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the Western hemisphere. Unlike Alpine mountains, this mountain looks more like a very large piece of rock that is visibly magnificent because of its sheer enormity.
This imposing peak lies close to the Chile border and receives more than 3000 climbers ever year. Its proximity to Chile, allows it to dominate the skyline of the country’s capital Santiago. Aconcagua’s summit crest and ridges are usually free of snow, but some of its valleys populated by glaciers are typically covered with snow.
Although not as tall as Mount Everest, Aconcagua still poses a challenge to climbers mainly due to its altitude. Nevertheless this Argentinian mountain is considered to be a relatively easy climb, which is good news to all novice mountain-climbing travelers out there! One good thing about Aconcagua is it offers a couple of routes to the peak that vary in technical climbing difficulty. The most non-technical path is called the “Normal Route”. This route leads you to follow the Northwest Ridge. The other more difficult routes include the Polish Traverse, Police Glacier and Vacas routes.
Since it is a relatively straightforward climbing, some people, sadly underestimate the potential dramatic change of weather and the need for adjusting to Aconcagua’s high altitude. Just like climbing mountains of tremendous height, trekking to Aconcagua’s peak requires sufficient preparations when it comes to training and being in excellent physical condition. It is highly recommended that you should attempt reaching the summit only with a group for security and support. There are many outfitters in Mendoza to choose from when it comes to organizing a climbing expedition for you. Although some of the routes have no permanent snow fields, you are still expected to use tools like crampons and ice axe to conquer some sections.
You can reach Aconcagua by flying first into Mendoza or Buenos Aires Argentina or Santiago, Chile. However, take note that the climbing permit can only be obtained in Mendoza, at an office called Subsecretaria de Turismo (Secretary of Tourism). Aconcagua is located within the Provincial Park of the same name. You will need to make your way to Puente del Inca, the gateway to the park. You can do this by renting a vehicle or getting on the bus. If you intend to do the other more difficult mountain climbing routes, you may access the park through the Vacas Valley close to Penetentes.
The prescribed climbing permit fees depend on the time of the intended climb. The high season for climbing is usually from mid-December until the end of January. During this period, the permits are higher. Low season is from mid-November to the end of November and from late February to mid-March. During off-season, which is from March 16 to November 14, visitors also need to pay for the permit to access Aconcagua Park. The maximum time you can stay within the park’s grounds is 20 days.