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 keys to safety are in the acclimatization and your physical ability to perform under pressure for long periods of time.
Our Top 20 Tips for climbing Aconcagua are designed to help you think more about the most important parts of your preparation. 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 we send you our 24 page dossier.
1). Have Previous Altitude Experience
Having previous altitude experience is important when deciding if you would attempt Aconcagua. I really think everyone should have 6,000m/ 19,685 feet experience before attempt to try and sleep at this elevation. 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 carry your own gear on long hikes. If you are not hiring a porter to carry some or all of your gear, it is wise hike at altitude with weight first. It might be easier to chat through this first before making any decision.
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 you should be comfortable carrying a 25kg/ 55Lb pack for 1,000m/ 3,000 feet in 5 hours several days in a row. I 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 challenge trip at high and extreme altitude. We have climbed Aconcagua many times and always happy to work through this with you.
3). Acclimatization is 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 safety reaching the summit. I remember my first trip unsupported when we had less rest days and went for the summit on day 10. On my last summit attempt we went a day early on day 13. We had to move up by one day as there was bad weather forecast for the following 5 days. Check out our itinerary on the Vacas valley route. In my opinion 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. 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 used each piece, helps being mentally prepared. Your goal should be to enjoy every day and not be under too much stress. A lot of mental strength should also come from your physical training and preparation.
5). Get a VO2 Max Test
Get a good physical from you doctor. Make sure you are in good health before you travel and build up your immune system before the trip. You should also 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 do 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 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. I 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 3 contingency days for bad weather. Aconcagua is notorious for harsh weather conditions, meaning you do not want to get caught out with altitude sickness when there is no rescue.
7). You Should Consider Taking Diamox
If you are taking prescription drugs make sure you bring sufficient supply to last more than the length of your trip. We highly recommend taking diamox for the duration of the trip. Our doctor reccommends 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. We will provide you would further information in our dossier.
8). Be Upfront With Your Medical History
Make your your guides and trekking staff are informed of any previous conditions or medical situation they should be aware of. 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 but you can still have altitude related problems.
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 with your recovery. Fatigue is not your friend on a multi day trekking expedition. Good recovery is really important for a safe and successfully trip. The first time I climbed Aconcagua our pace was missed managed by the guides who had no understanding of pacing, hydration In low oxygen environment. A slow pace and slow movement to high and extreme altitude is extremely important.
10). Hydration, Hydration, Hydration
One of the most important tips I can give you is, make hydration a priority. Hydration in the dry desert of Aconcagua is really 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. You need to drip feed water into your body on a regular basis. I am a big fan of the 2 liter camel bak bladder pack. Forcing water in, is not a good idea. 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. Keep all items in dry packs. You can also keep your cloths in plastic bags in your like. While you are on the mountain you will need to manage your gear in the tent correctly. Having a good tent routine is really important, keeping separate bags for gear is very useful. Keep your gear well organised and easily accessible.
12). Make Sure you Eat as Much as Possible
Eat well, sometimes at altitude, your appetite can dwindle. Try to 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.
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. I use a Marmot Col -20F sleeping bag on Aconcagua. You spend a lot of time in the your tent on Aconcagua, so you need to be comfortable throughout the whole trip. Sleep is a key ingredient to acclimatization and essential for success.
14). Work With your Team Mates
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 having problems. Aconcagua requires you to be a team player and keeping 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
I always bring multi-vitamins. I bring the dissolvable kind so I can place in my Nalgene bottle each day. 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 daily water. We are happy to help you in this process, furthermore we can can provide with a list you that may be useful.
16). Only Bring Essentials
Have a small medical kit that is easy accessible while climbing. This medical kit should have Ibuprofen, compeeds for blisters, tape, sunscreen, lip protection, medication, plasters and personal items, equally important is personal medication you are taking. You need to streamline your medical kit, in the same way you would on any trekking and mountaineering trips. Bring light weight clothing and lightweight camping utensils.
17). Come With the Correct Mental Training
Having slept in a tent in harsh winds and weather conditions is a good idea before the trip. Also training carrying a heavy backpack, again this is essential to being physically ready for the Summit. Mentally prepared for your Aconcagua experience, for example pushing the limit in your training helps. Additionally, the more experience you have training and mountain knowledge these are all important elements of mental preparation. 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 need to be doing.
18). Expect Harsh Weather Conditions
Be ready to cope with adverse circumstances, Like warm temperature, along side freezing temperature. On my last trip we had temperature of 65 F/ 18C on the way into Aconcagua Base Camp. We also had temperatures of 2 F/ -17C in the tent at camp 3 at 6,000m/ 19,685 feet. 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, for example weather is one of them. Focus on the elements of the trip you can control, for instance you can come with the right attitude and physical preparation.
19). Hit the Wall in Your Training
Know your limit on any mountain, one way is to Hit the wall in your training at home. Remember your safety and safety of others should be your number one concern on the mountain. Why would you push the limit on the mountain, push your training at home to the limit. While you are on Aconcagua, don’t push yourself to the point of putting your life or the life of others in danger . Develop a training plan that helps you push the limits in your training before stepping foot on Aconcagua.
20). Respect Your Team and the Mountain
Respect your team and other climbers, in the same way you would like your own time and space. 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. Team work and relaxed attitude will be valuable assets on a trip like this, finally respect the mountain and extreme altitude.
Some Additional Information
Make sure your passport is in date, furthermore make sure your passport is valid for a least six months after the trip. Make sure you carry your permit fee in cash, equally important is the permit must be in USD. CONTACT US and learn more about our quality run trips to climb Mount Aconcagua in Argentina.