Aconcagua Expedition Archives

We have just arrived in Plaza Argentina base camp (14,000′) after the three day trek from the trail head, and are happy to be here, after having said good bye to our team of Arrieros and mules.  It’s a very social environment, with some other climbers that we know from previous expeditions / climbs. Our base camp is appointed with a large dining tent for our group.  Lucky for us our outfitter is taking good care of us in base camp with three hearty meals a day, we might even decide to take showers tomorrow if it’s not too chilly.  We plan to rest tomorrow and organize our food and equipment for the carries to the high camps.  Nestled here on the edge of the glacial moraine, we have a view of the false summit, and can see much of our route ahead.

Trekking along the Rio Vacas to base camp

Trekking along the Rio Vacas to base camp

As we set off from the trail head at Punta de Vaca (8,000′), we are happy to report that the weather is very nice.  We are excited to finally get the expedition underway as the last few days we have been preparing our food and equipment.  Our trek will take us three days as we hike up the Vacas and Relinchos valleys to the Plaza Argentina (14,000′) base camp.  Along the way we will camp beside the river, and likely encounter wildlife such as Guanacos and Condors.  Our group is supported by a team of Arrieros (cowboys) who care for the mules that transport our kit along with us as we go.  This allows us to take a lot of food and equipment to the base camp, after that we must carry everything on our own to the high camps and the summit (22,834′).

Tonight we are in Penitents enjoying our last night in ‘civilization’ before beginning the trek to base camp. The Ayelen hotel does a fantastic job with the meals and services and its great to see my old friend Steve Allen who runs the place. Tomorrow we will start at Punta de Vaca and trek up about 6 hours to our camp, Pampa de Lenas. We have had a great time the last few days enjoying the friendly people, sunshine, and great food in Mendoza. Now we are ready to start exercising and get on with the work of ‘climbing’ Aconcagua!


At the summit of Aconcagua

A previous summit of Aconcagua

The Madison Mountaineering team is arriving in Mendoza, Argentina over the next few days and will soon begin our expedition and ascent of the highest mountain in the western and southern hemispheres. Aconcagua (the stone sentinel) stands at an impressive 6962m (22,834 ft.) above sea level and is great training for high altitude peaks in the Himalaya.  Please follow our dispatches as we journey from the lush wine region of Mendoza (known for grass fed beef and Malbec) to the arid slopes of the Vacas Valley and up to the base of the Polish Glacier, before making our way to the highest point in the Andes.  Aconcagua is known at times for high winds (100mph) and sub zero temps, as well as the high altitude extreme environment. This mountain is never an easy feat and over half the climbers who attempt are turned back.  We are sure to encounter challenges along the way and with those come potential rewards for hard work and a job well done in the end. On a clear day we might even see the surreal blue of the Pacific ocean from the summit.  This will be my 11th expedition on Aconcagua, and a great way to kick off the first Madison Mountaineering climb of 2015!!!

Mount Aconcagua

Aconcagua, the “Stone Sentinel”, is located in Argentina near the border of Chile, and is the highest mountain outside of Asia. We climb a less-traveled route that allows for more acclimatization, and while we may use our ice axe and crampons occasionally, this climb does not require ‘roping up.’ Climbers have the option to hire porters to assist with load carrying, as Aconcagua can be a very demanding high altitude climb.

Madison Mountaineering offers the highest standard in climbing Aconcagua by combining expert guides, a well thought out strategy, and excellent support throughout the expedition. Our guides are very experienced leading expeditions on Aconcagua and spend days beforehand organizing the food and equipment for the climb. Although we do not rope up, Aconcagua is a very serious undertaking. Our approach is to properly acclimatize and then attempt the summit with enough extra days built in for bad weather, whereas many climbers try to rush the ascent and are turned around by altitude illness or high winds that prevent reaching the summit when time is limited. We have a very close relationship and daily communication with our Argentine outfitter who provides services such as the mules that transport our gear to base camp, our own private dining tent in base camp, and the porters who are available to assist us transporting gear to our high camps. We keep our teams small and ensure that climbers have the best chance to reach the summit while remaining safe. Garrett Madison has reached the summit of Aconcagua on nearly each of his 11 expeditions and has perfected what he believes is the optimum strategy for leading a team to reach the summit.

Prerequisites: Climbers should have trekking or backpacking experience. Technical training in how to use ice axe and crampons is a plus, but not necessary as we will review these skills once on the mountain. Top physical conditioning is important as this is a strenuous climb at high altitude.