Aconcagua is the highest peak in South America, and also holds the distinction of being the highest peak outside of Asia. Located on the border of Chile and Argentina, the second highest of the famed Seven Summits is a challenge that is accessible to many mountaineers. The mountain has many routes and the route we climb is a variation of the “Falso de Polacos” (False Polish) that approaches via a valley from the southeast and climbs up the east side of the mountain, finally reaching the summit from a high camp on the north ridge. The route is called the Ameghino Valley route, as it traverses the high alpine valley or col that separates Aconcagua (22,814’/6194m) from it’s impressive neighbor, the 19,616 foot Cerro Ameghino (5978 m).
On the 28th of November, our first team of the 2015/16 climbing season assembled in the lovely town of Mendoza, capital of the world renowned Argentine wine country. Due to a couple of climbers cancelling due to injuries sustained before departing from home, our team has just two climbers, Jack Strickland from Texas and Dennis Fernald, who has traveled from Oregon. Our lead guide for this team is Fermin Avila, a long-time Mountain Trip guide who has climbed the mountain well over 30 times.
Yesterday, the team secured their climbing permits and drove several hours to a small ski resort, located just west of the trailhead for the hike into Base Camp.
Today, they are starting their hike up the deep and arid Vacas Valley. They will hike up valley for about eight miles before arriving at the first camp on the three day approach to Base Camp. The first camp is called Pampas de Lenas (Field of Logs) for the trees that once grew on a flat bit of ground adjacent to the Rio Vacas. The hike will take them close to six hours and they will camp at about 9,000′. Tomorrow, they will hike a similar distance and gain another 1,200′ as they follow the Vacas to the site of their second camp on the approach.