Climb Aconcagua Solo
A first hand account of a successful unguided, solo climb of Aconcongua.
There are several things regarding logistics which are best accomplished and / or researched prior to your arrival in Argentina. The climbing window for Aconcagua is typically mid to late November to February. Weather is an important factor in climbing Aconcagua solo and seems to begin to stabilize towards the end of December. There are several websites with weather information which I tracked weeks before my arrival in Argentina. One such site is www.aconcaguanow.com.
You can research permit fees and can download applications and other information at the official site of http://www.aconcagua.mendoza.gov.ar/. Although the site is in Spanish, it is not too difficult to navigate and find the necessary information. I will touch on the permit process later in this page.
It is most convenient to book your flight into Mendoza, Argentina. Although some climbers fly to Santiago, Chile or other cities in Argentina, Mendoza is the best choice to avoid a long bus ride. Be sure to check the weight limitations with your airline and balance and weigh your bags accordingly to avoid excess luggage fees. Once you arrive in Mendoza, it is easy to navigate from the airport by taxi. If your hotel is located in the downtown area, most of what you need is accessible by foot.
There are a number of hotels and hostels in Mendoza. I used www.booking.com to book my hotel. There are a number of hotels around the $40 USD range. These hotels are considered three star but I would probably place them in the 2.5 star category by typical US standards. That being said, I received good service and a clean room at the Hotel Cordon del Plata and at the Dakar Suites.
You will need to arrange for a mule to transport your gear from the park entrance to Plaza de Mulas (Basecamp). The distance to Basecamp is simply too far to attempt to carry all of your gear for the average person and backpack capacity. I utilized Fernando Grajales Expeditions to provide for my mule. Although they provided excellent service, I primarily booked with them because they had a toll free phone number to the US and Grajales answered the phone. Prices appear to be about the same from company to company. The other large operator for logistics is Inka Expeditions. I got to know a number of Inka employees after my climb and had a couple of meals with them after arriving at Basecamp follow my summit. There are number of other smaller companies providing logistics. Although I like supporting smaller businesses, the larger firms seem to have greater resources and services available to them.
Gas and Gear: I purchased my white gas and a closed cell mattress pad from Casa Orviz at 532 Juan B. Justo. You will find several other gear shops within walking distance of downtown. As a last resort, you can acquire gas and gear at Basecamp, but at an above market price.
Permit Process: My permit was issued at the Sec de Turismo (1143 Av. San Martin). I went to this office with my filled out application which I had downloaded from the internet. They gave me a form to take to "Paga Facil" (Easy Pay in English) which was located a few blocks away. As I needed to exchange currency, I stopped by a Casa de Cambio to get pesos. Lines are long and exchanging currency can be a time consuming process. After obtaining pesos, I had to endure another long and slow line at Paga Facil. You pay and take the receipt back to permit office where they then provide you with your climbing permit.
Depending from who you hire your mule, you will travel from Mendoza to either Los Penitentes or Puenta del Inca. The bus company I utilized was called Uspallata (Not all bus companies travel this route). The bus is inexpensive and I took the one that left Mendoza at 10:15 am. The bus to Los Penitentes takes around four hours with a handful of stops along the way.
After arriving in Los Penitentes, I checked into the Refugio Aconcagua. I had a private room and bath and paid around $50 USD which included dinner and breakfast the next morning. I had Grajales make this reservation as it is difficult finding hotel information for Los Penitentes on the web.
After checking into the hotel, it was time to sort and organize gear. Much of your gear will travel by mule to Basecamp. You will need to separate the gear you will need for your first night(s) at Camp Confluencia. I carried about 15 pounds of gear on my back to Confluencia with my tent, stove, fuel, and some food arriving by mule. I did not want to send all of my Confluencia gear via mule in order to assist with acclimatization. Your mule will take whatever gear you desire from Confluencia to Basecamp on the morning you decide to move up.
For the return trip from Basecamp to the park entrance, try to find another solo climber to share a mule to split the cost. The outfitters charge the same fee whether you have one kilogram or sixty. Your load should be light enough on the way out to share one mule. Carry any excess on your back in your pack.
Your mule company will normally drive you from Los Penitentes or Puenta del Inca to the park entrance. They will also provide for the return drive when leaving the park. There is a building that you check in and check out. Going out, ask them to call your mule company to come pick you up.
The bus leaving Los Penitentes back to Mendoza departed around noon with another bus departing in the evening. Be sure to check bus schedules or have your hotel or mule company get this information for you.