We know what it takes to climb Aconcagua because we have run over 40 trips to climb this mighty mountain. We also know that the two most important things for a safe and successful journey is the acclimatization schedule, along with excellent physical preparation.
Our Top 20 Tips for climbing Aconcagua are designed to help you plan and prepare when taking on an expedition like this. To get more information, CONTACT US, and we can help you fully prepare and get up to speed on how you should be thinking about your training. If you sign up to one of our trips, then we will send you our Aconcagua Dossier, with all relevant information on the trip. This information is based off the Vacas Valley Traverse Route on Aconcagua, which is our preferred route up the mountain.
1). Have Previous Altitude Experience
Having previous altitude experience is imperative when planning an attempt on Aconcagua. We believe that everyone should have 6,000m/ 19,685 feet experience, before attempting a peak like Aconcagua. There are a number of high altitude peaks you need to consider before even thinking about climbing Aconcagua. You need to be as self-sufficient as possible and be used to carrying your own gear, on long, multiday hikes. If you are not hiring a porter to carry some or all of your gear, we recommend that you have experience with hiking at altitude with weight before taking on this challenge. We are available to talk with you directly to make sure that Aconcagua is the right choice for you.
2). Do Not Underestimate Your Training
Can you carry a 25kg/ 55lbs pack for 4 to 6 hours at sea level? Do not underestimate the training needed to be safe and successful climbing Aconcagua. Follow a regular training regime. If you are not using porters high on the mountain, then you should be comfortable carrying a 25kg/ 55Lb pack for 1,000m/ 3,000 feet in 5 hours, several days in a row. We highly recommend finding a Hypoxic training facility and using a machine 3 weeks before the trip. Creating red blood cells is key for success on Aconcagua.
However, if you want to carry less weight every day be sure to book porters in advance. We can not emphasize how important your physical preparation is for this challenging trip at high and extreme altitude. We have climbed Aconcagua many times and always happy to help you develop the training plan you need.
3). Acclimatization is Very Important
Make sure you have adequate acclimatization built into your trip. We have additional days available on the mountain, to give you the best chance at safely reaching the summit. Make sure that you choose an itinerary that gives your body the necessary time to acclimatize lower down on the mountain, at the critical acclimatization points. Check out our itinerary on the Vacas valley route, which in our opinion, is the best route to climb Aconcagua. Acclimatization is a critical component for safety and success on any high and extreme altitude expedition.
4). Bring Lightweight Equipment
On any Aconcagua expedition, you have to make numerous ascents up and down the mountain. One reason for this is to help the body adjust to the lower levels of oxygen. You also have to carry team equipment, along with your own personal gear. Make sure you have all items on the gear list and know how to use them. Having lightweight clothing and equipment will make a difference in how much weight you are carrying. Also, practice using your gear and equipment and make sure it fits comfortably. Having lightweight equipment and clothing means you will have to carry less weight up and down the mountain. Having prepared your gear and using each piece before the trip, helps you become mentally prepared.
5). Get a VO2 Max Test
Schedule a physical with your doctor to make sure you are in good health before you start training. You should then consider getting a VO2 MAX test or fitness test. The results should indicate your current level of fitness and provide a road map for the way ahead. Use the results to develop a proper training plan, so you are not guessing how your fitness is developing. You need to know at what heart rate your body produces lactic acid in your muscles. Knowing your lactic threshold helps you develop a training plan best suited to your needs. Training in the right heart rate zone and building the right training is important for your safety and success.
6). Understand Altitude Sickness
If you have been on a number of altitude expeditions with us you will know all about altitude related issues and problems. You should be up to date with statistics. Did you know around 30% of people make it to the summit of Aconcagua. Read and understand the principles of acclimatization and altitude illness. We have personally developed our itinerary on the Vacas Valley Traverse to give you the best chance at success. By picking the best itinerary with more acclimatization, you give yourself a safer journey into extreme altitude. You also need an itinerary with built in contingency days for bad weather. Aconcagua is notorious for harsh weather conditions, so you want to make sure that you have extra days to summit if the weather is not suitable.
7). You Should Consider Taking Diamox
If you are taking prescription drugs, make sure you bring a sufficient supply to last more than the length of your trip. We highly recommend taking Diamox for the duration of the trip. Our high altitude specialist doctor recommends 125mg in the morning and 125mg in the afternoon. Make sure your Diamox is in tablet form. You will also need to bring a number of antibiotics. There are alternatives to taking Diamox and you most certainly should bring ibuprofen on this trip.
8). Be Upfront With Your Medical History
Make sure your guides and trekking staff are informed of any previous conditions or medical situation you may have. Don’t keep any issues to yourself, altitude sickness can kill. We implement a slow pace for all trekking and acclimatization days on the trip, however, you can still have altitude related issues. Make sure that your guide knows your medical history.
9). Take Your Time in the Early Stage of the Trip
The pace of your trip is critical to recovery each day. Moving too quickly at altitude often leads to altitude illness and does not aid in your recovery. Fatigue is not your friend on a multi day trekking expedition. Good recovery is critical for a safe and successful trip. Don’t let your climb on Aconcagua be miss-managed by the guides who have no understanding of pacing or hydration in low oxygen environments. A slow pace and slow movement to high and extreme altitude is very important.
10). Hydration, Hydration, Hydration
One of the most important tips we will give you is to make hydration a priority. Hydration in the dry desert of Aconcagua is extremely important. When you wake up you need to drink 1 liter of water before breakfast. You need to drink 2 liters before lunch and another 1 to 2 liters in the early afternoon. Using a water bladder system is ideal because you can then drip feed water into your body on a regular basis. This will be used on the trek in and lower on the mountain, however during the summit attempt it can not be used as it will freeze. Forcing water in, is not a good idea as you will just pee it out. You will need hyper hydration sachets, multi-vitamins and electrolytes while on the trip.
11). Separate all Your Gear into Dry Packs
Manage your gear well and keep all items separated in dry packs. Alternatively, you can keep your clothes in plastic bags. While you are on the mountain you will need to manage your gear in the tent correctly. Having a good tent routine is very important, keeping separate bags for gear is very useful. The dry bags are useful to keep your gear organized when you do gear drops up the mountain.
12). Make Sure you Eat as Much as Possible
We always have quality food on our trips and this is critical to your expedition. Sometimes at altitude, your appetite can dwindle, but you need to try and finish every meal. It will give you the strength and energy for each day on the trip. You do not want to over pack snacks as you have to carry everything up and down the mountain. You should have some recovery and protein bars in your duffel bag, which is carried by mules up to Base Camp. After that you will want to limit the amounts you carry on the mountain. Lightweight is best and snacks can be heavy.
13). Bring a Lightweight Air Mattress and Sleeping Bag
Remember above Aconcagua Base Camp, you will have to carry all your gear up the mountain. Make sure all your gear is as light as possible. You need to have a lightweight air mattress and warm sleeping bag. We recommend a Marmot Col -20F sleeping bag or similar on Aconcagua. You spend a lot of time in the your tent on the mountain, so you need to be comfortable throughout the whole trip. Sleep is a key ingredient to acclimatization and essential for success. Also, make sure that you have tested out your sleeping pad and bag out in the elements, so that you are comfortable with the set-up.
14). Work With your Teammates
Working as a unit and team is important in achieving the groups goals. Communicate with the guides if you are having problems. They can only help if they know that you are struggling. Aconcagua requires you to be a team player and maintaining a positive mental attitude at all times throughout the expedition. Encourage others and others will encourage you. We are much stronger as a group, not as individuals.
15). Bring Multi-Vitamins
We recommend taking multi-vitamins on a daily basis before and during the trip. These can either be the type that we dissolve in our water or as a tablet to take daily. You need to consider a range of supplements to maintain a strong immune system. Aconcagua is a dry high desert, so bring hydration tablets for your water to take daily. If you sign up with Ian Taylor Trekking for your Aconcagua expedition, we will send you a trip Dossier, that includes a complete kit-list for the trip.
16). Only Bring Essentials
Have a small medical kit that is easy accessible while climbing. This medical kit should have Ibuprofen, blisters plasters, tape, sunscreen, lip protection, medication, plasters and personal items. Also, make sure you have your personal medication you take with you at all times. You need to streamline your medical kit, in the same way you would on any trekking and mountaineering trips. Bring lightweight clothing and lightweight camping utensils.
17). Come With the Correct Mental Training
Having the experience of sleeping in a tent, in harsh weather conditions, will be essential in your preparations. Also carry a weighted backpack in your training, in order to be physically ready for the summit. Mentally prepared for your Aconcagua experience, for example, pushing the limit in your training sessions helps. Additionally, the more comfortable you are in a mountain environment, the more mentally prepared you will be. Staying positive with a good mental attitude on the mountain, is important for you and the people around you. Aconcagua is a mental and physical challenge. Staying positive in the face of harsh, challenging conditions is needed to be successful. Mental preparation starts at home in the hard training you do before the climb.
18). Expect Harsh Weather Conditions
Be ready to cope with diverse weather conditions. You may experience drastic changes in the weather from warm/dry conditions to freezing and windy weather. Some days you may have temperatures lower down on the trek that are 18C (65F) and sunny to -18C (0F) in the tent at camp 3 at 6,000m/ 19,685 feet. Likewise, on the summit night, you may experience temperatures as cold as -30C (-22F). High winds are usually the biggest challenge on Aconcagua, similarly freezing temperatures can cause you pain and discomfort. Understanding that some factors are beyond your control, and weather being a big one of these. Focus on the elements of the trip you can control, for instance you can come with the right attitude, gear and physical preparation.
19). Hit the Wall in Your Training
Know your limit on any mountain. One of the ways to achieve this is to hit the wall in your training at home. Remember your safety and the safety of others should be your number one concern on the mountain. Make sure that you have pushed yourself hard in your training and have prepared correctly before stepping foot onto the mountain. While you are on Aconcagua, don’t push yourself to the point of putting your life or the life of others in danger.
20). Respect Your Team and the Mountain
Respect your team and other climbers. You are climbing as a part of a team and therefore, you have to be aware that timelines have to be kept and differences have to be accepted. An expedition can be a multicultural experience with people joining our trips from all over the world. That means different cultural backgrounds with different religious ideals or philosophies. Everyone in your expedition is struggling to reach the same goal, so respect the team. If you see your team member struggling on any given day, be there to help them. It could be you the next day that needs the extra support! Team work and relaxed attitude will be valuable assets on a trip like this, finally respect the mountain and extreme altitude.
Contact the Experts
We only run quality trips on Aconcagua. After years of experience managing teams on the mountain, we highly recommend choosing the Vacas Valley Traverse Route for your Aconcagua adventure. CONTACT US and learn more about our quality run trips to climb Mount Aconcagua in Argentina.