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Explore Aconcagua and the Southern Andes with a Cicerone guidebook

Cover of Aconcagua and the Southern Andes
10 Nov 2009
17.2 x 11.6 x 1.4cm
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Aconcagua and the Southern Andes

by Jim Ryan
Book published by Cicerone Press

Guidebook to climbing Aconcagua, with route descriptions for trekkers to the Normal and Vacas Valley Routes. They take 12 and 14 days to complete respectively and cover a variety of difficult mountain terrain up to 6962m - suitable for experienced walkers and mountaineers. Also included are treks in the Vallecitos and Tupungata ranges.

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Cover: Paperback - PVC
Size: 17.2 x 11.6 x 1.4cm
Weight: 230g

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This guidebook contains detailed route descriptions for the two main ascent routes of Aconcagua - the Normal and the Vacas Valley (Polish) Routes. It also describes treks in the southern Andes, the Vallecitos, the Tupungata ranges and the Maipo Volcano. In addition, the ascent of El Plomo near Santiago, the most popular 5000m mountain in the Andes is also described.

At 6962m the mountain of Aconcagua in the southern Andes is the highest peak in the world outside of the Himalayas. It is the highest of the seven continental summits after Everest and offers climbers the best value in terms of altitude gained for effort expended. Aconcagua requires very little technical expertise and it provides valuable high altitude experience for non-climbers.

Over 70 per cent of all climbers take the Normal Route. This is also known as the Horcones Valley Route. The approach is from the south, 36km over a rough river valley to basecamp at Plaza de Mulas. From there the route swings around to the east, over steep ground, eventually turning directly south to the summit.

The second popular trekking route is the Vacas Valley Route, but it is also known as the Polish Glacier Route. It is 47km from the road head to basecamp at Plaza Argentina. Initially the direction is, like the Normal Route, due north for 31km, then making a left turn to the west and going a further 16km up the Relinchos River Valley.

Via the Normal Route the summit will be visible for much of the journey to basecamp, whereas on the Vacas Valley Route it only comes into view when you reach the left hand turn after 31km. The average time (subject to acclimatisation) to the summit and back to the road head is 12 days via the Normal Route and 14 days on the Vacas Valley Route.
The Vacas Valley Route is tougher and longer than the Normal Route. However, for those not acclimatised, this plays dividends leaving them better prepared for summit day. Acclimatisation on another mountain, such as at Vallecitos or El Plomo, then climbing via the Normal Route is an ideal option.

The mountain is bleak and harsh. The winds on Aconcagua can be unrelenting and the temperatures severe. The incidence of failure as a result of altitude sickness and weather is particularly high. Walkers must remember to prepare before setting out on this trek as many climbers have arrived unprepared for the cold and the altitude and have to make return visits for second attempts.

  • Seasons
    possible mid-November to mid-March; high season is December/January; weather is best mid-December to mid-February
  • Centres
    Santiago, Mendoza, Puente del Inca, Los Penitentes, Tupungato
  • Difficulty
    although the highest trek in the world, Aconcagua is relatively non-technical; climbers must acclimatise to the altitude and to the cold
  • Must See
    Aconcagua, highest mountain in the world outside the Himalayas, summit of the Americas; elsewhere in the Southern Andes Tupungato and El Plomo; Santiago City
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List of maps and illustrations    
Foreword by Sebastian Tetilla    

Two trekking routes    
Climbing history    
Trekker/climber profiles    
Getting there    
Guides and mules    

Mendoza to Puente del Inca
Changing money and paying for things    
Buying provisions    

The road to Puente del Inca    
Mendoza–Santiago disused railway    
Los Penitentes    
Puente del Inca    

Routes to the Summit
The Normal route    
The Vacas Valley route    
Summit day    
The long walk out    
Other routes    

Routes near Aconcagua
Puente del Inca and Los Penitentes    
A walk to the statue of Cristo Redentor    
Horcones Valley to Plaza Francia    

Routes from Vallecitos
Vallecitos Ski and Mountain Lodge    
Lomas Blancas 3850m    
Cerro Vallecitos 5770m    

The Maipo Volcano    

The Andes’ Great Mountain    
Tupungato routes    
The Route via Chile and Rio Colorado    

Tupungato Provincial Park
Wilderness trek to Friar’s Col    

Santiago City    
In and around Santiago    

Routes near Santiago
El Morado valley    
La Campana national park    
El Plomo 5430m    
Provincia and San Roman    

Appendix 1 Maps, guidebooks and further reading    
Appendix 2 Guides and mountain services    
Appendix 3 Accommodation and local facilities    
Appendix 4 South American cuisine    
Appendix 5 Spanish–English language notes    


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