How hard is Aconcagua to climb? This is a loaded question and one I get asked weekly. I have climbed Aconcagua 10+ times over a 20 year period and happy to get on a call and answer any questions you may have. You can also check out our Aconcagua page.
All you Need to Know about Climbing Aconcagua
When you are finished here, check out our all you Need to Know page with our most important links on the trip. Aconcagua presents a high level of difficulty and intense weather makes this climb potentially dangerous adventure. Read a post from one of our recent trips.
Aconcagua is Much Tougher than Kilimanjaro
The physical demands for Aconcagua, which stands about 3,500-feet higher than Kilimanjaro, cannot be understated, along with the need for basic mountaineering skills. The summit day is extremely challenging and can take 12+ hours or more from camp and back. This all after some strenuous load carries of 16kg/ 35lbs and trying to sleep at recover at 4,950m/ 16,240 feet at Camp 1. At 5,500m/ 18,044 feet at Camp 2 and try and rest and recover at Camp 3, 5,992m/ 19,660 feet.
Aconcagua is the highest mountain outside of Asia, it is also the tallest mountain in both the Western and Southern hemispheres. It’s also one of the ‘Seven Summits’. Not only that, but it’s one of the most beautiful, awe-inspiring settings in the world. Aconcagua is one of the most incredible adventures you can imagine.
You Need Previous Experience
Yes, it is possible to climb Aconcagua without any prior experience, but we don’t recommend it. With 6 deaths on Aconcagua this season more than on Mount Everest last year. You need to approach Aconcagua with the respect it is due.
We require all our team members have basic mountain skills and numerous high-altitude trips like Kilimanjaro, Cotopaxi, Elbrus, Island or Mera Peak on their climbing resume.
No Speed Ascents
You need to be willing to put in the hard graft in terms of training. Most days are 6 to 8 hours of hiking in a wide range of conditions all at 30 to 50 degree angled terrain. Learn more about what we require in terms of training, or just get in touch and learn more about the terrain, vo2 max testing, heart rate zone training and training for the downhill.
Too many people are underestimating the training along with pick quick ascents which maybe worth for professionals but not for amateur mountaineers. Give yourself access to the best itinerary with more acclimatization. This also offers you more summit attempts.
How we get to Nearly 23,000 Feet
The Vacas Valley or Polish Traverse Route is my favorite approach on Aconcagua, and the one we choose to guide most of our trips on. We start in Mendoza and drive up to Penitentes or Puente del Inca to stay and then start the trek into Plaza de Argentina Base Camp 4,200m/ 13,780 feet, from the roadside at 2,407m/ 7,900 feet.
After four nights at Base Camp we move on the southeast side of the mountain. We then traverse across the shoulder of Aconcagua at Camp Colera and descend the West Face. Our approach incorporates parts of four different routes—The Polish Glacier, Normal, Guanacos, and Ameghino—which allows climbers to experience more of the terrain and stay away from the busier normal route up the mountain.
So, How Hard is it to Climb Aconcagua?
I cannot stress enough the importance of training and preparation needed for an Aconcagua expedition. Aconcagua requires a strategic approach. Aconcagua has a 30% success rate, and you will not reach the summit without being in mountain shape.
This means targeted training for endurance, specific strength and targeted heart rates. We can help you understand this type of training so you can be safe and successful on Aconcagua.
Four Important Things to Remember
We only 21-day expeditions to Aconcagua. Our itinerary allows adequate acclimatization to allow you adapt to the low levels of oxygen. Alongside this, our schedule has 4 potential summit attempts.
It also means that we can be flexible about summit day, if faced with bad weather. All that means we have the best chance of a successful summit. Check out the four most important things to know about climbing Aconcagua.
How Fit do I Need to be to Climb Aconcagua?
Fitness is not the most important consideration. What I mean by this is your cardio system should never be massive pressure while climbing Aconcagua until summit night.
On our trips we pace the team to minimize high rates that aid in recovery. We aim to go from point A to point B expending as little energy as possible.
In saying this you will be hiking 6 to 8 hours per day with an extremely challenging summit day of 12 plus hours. Elevations gains will be anywhere from 500m/ 1,640 feet to 1,000m/3,280 feet. Also, some trekking days will be 8miles/ 13km to 16 miles/ 26km hiking out of Base Camp.
Remember you will be carrying a weighted expedition backpack up to 18kg/ 40lbs. It is extremely important that you are comfortable with these distances, weights and elevations gains on a back to back basis in your training. Again, we can help you understand the training needed to be safe and successful on Aconcagua.
Is Aconcagua a Technical Climb?
This season Aconcagua had technical elements with fixed rope on the traverse below the cave and sections of the Canaleta needing ropes. This will vary from year to year. Remember you always need to be prepared for any eventuality.
The more physically and technically prepared you are, the better. Aconcagua is a tough steep climb which should not be underestimated. It is best to have previous experience on ropes, fixed lines, crampons and understand basic mountaineering techniques.
What is Summit Day Like?
To get to the top of Mount Aconcagua 6,962m/ 22,841 feet from Colera Camp 5,992m/ 19,660 feet requires about 12 to 14 hours of strenuous ascent up and down. After climbing this route many times, I can tell you it is challenging from start to finish.
The terrain is steep zig zagging in sections and more direct in the Canaleta. The Canaleta is a steep section high on Aconcagua that leads to the summit and this steep terrain is above 6,700m/ 22,000 feet.
This terrain requires the use of French stepping and the use of the rest step and specific targeting breathing to maintain the correct heart rate to safely reach the summit and have enough energy to get back down safely. Get in touch and we can help you understand this challenging day.
Training for the Downhill
Not everyone will have access to hills, but this is the best way to train your body and legs for the steep down hill hiking on Aconcagua. On Aconcagua there are multiple days where you descend 600m/ 2,000 feet on back to back days.
After slowly moving up the mountain you have to descend from the summit 6,962m/ 22,841 feet back to the car park at 2,743m/ 9,000 feet over 3 days on scree and rock and this is very challenging on your legs and joints.
For sure, the downhill hike will take more wear and tear on your joints and muscles than the uphill. You do need to use effective training techniques to minimize the impact on your body. Descending using good technique means that you move faster and feel lighter. Remember, 80% of accidents happen on the way down. Read more.
Do you think you have what it takes?
You can read all about our expedition to climb Aconcagua here. Too many mountain movies and Netflix documentaries are painting the wrong picture of what it takes to climb big mountains. Make no mistake, Aconcagua is a big mountain.
This stone sentinel, is a beast of a mountain and I have seen it tame athletes and mountaineers. Aconcagua requires disciplined and targeting training for very specific terrain.
I encourage you to get a fitness test or vo2 max test and start building a training plan targeted to specific zone training increasing the weight you carry building overall strength and endurance. Read more.
Why 30% Success Rate?
Firstly, poor weather conditions dismantle expeditions and the biggest factor in terms of low summit success. Secondly, too many people not showing up with the correct training, and physical conditioning requires for such a lofty goal.
Thirdly, poor acclimatization schedules not allowing people enough time to adapt correctly to low levels of oxygen.
Pros and Cons of Climbing Aconcagua
Aconcagua is one of the world’s Seven Summits, the highest mountain on each continent. The summit is a massive feat for any mountaineer. Reaching the summit can be a Life-changing experience for intermediate mountaineers and give confidence to move forward in mountaineering careers.
Aconcagua has proved to be a training ground and benchmark for higher peaks like Manaslu, Cho You and Mount Everest.
The dry desert air makes for a dusty, and challenging experience. Staying well hydrated is one of the biggest challenges and needs to be monitored and measured on a daily basis. On my last trip I was doing a load carry to camp 3 and by camelback froze during the day.
After reaching Camp 3 I started to drink from my Nalgene bottle, returned to camp 2 drank more but not enough. I woke the following morning after expelling more moisture and was dehydrated, tired and knew it. It was time to focus hard to get hydrated with nuun tablets, liquid IV and rehydration salts. Read more about why hydration is critical at high altitude.
What Time of Year is Aconcagua Climbed?
Aconcagua is climbed in the summer months in South America between November and March, the hottest season in the southern hemisphere. In my 20-year experience on Aconcagua January and February have the most favorable weather.
In saying that, the weather changes year to year and day to day. The most important thing is to have more acclimatization and potential summit days available.
When should I book my trip?
Trips should be booked at least six months in advance and preparation and training can build up over a longer period of time. Check out our upcoming trips. Permits are required from the Argentine government to gain entrance to the Aconcagua Provincial Park and are not included in the trip cost.
The fee must be paid in cash in US dollars, and at the time of this writing is $970 per person.
Professional Tips for Aconcagua
We have years of experience leading trips to Aconcagua, why not email us today and learn from our experience. Here are some reasons to pick our service and itinerary. We are available 5 days a week in support of your preparation for this unique mountain adventure in Argentina.