Climb Aconcagua Solo

A first hand account of a successful unguided, solo climb of Aconcongua.

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Training to climb Aconcagua solo requires time, effort, and commitment. The amount of time for training will vary from individual to individual, but is usually dependent on age, overall health, and current level of fitness.

Let us first discuss fitness versus acclimatization. Short of living or training at higher elevations, or having access to altitude generation systems or chambers, there is no way to train for acclimatization. Being extremely fit is no indicator on the body's ability to adjust to high elevations. If fact, it is usually the over confident competitive marathon runner or bicyclist that rushes up the mountain that fails to summit due to illness. Individual physiology, and the ascent profile and schedule play the largest role in acclimatization. Some individuals have an altitude ceiling that they are simply unable to exceed. Study books such as Altitude Illness: Prevention & Treatment and Hypothermia Frostbite And Other Cold Injuries prior to your decision to climb Aconcagua. More on medical issues click here.

There are three areas of training that I recommend for a successful climb: Pack Strength, Core Body Strength, and Cardio Strength. I estimate the time to train for climbing Aconcagua to average around six to twelve months, depending on existing conditioning. If you are continually training and climbing, this time frame of course would be less.

Pack Strength: You will need to train for carrying pack loads up the mountain. I live and train at sea level, but have easy access to peaks with about 1,500 to 1,800 feet of vertical gain with a round trip of about five miles. I would hike and hill train three or four times per week. At the beginning of my training I was carrying no pack, and eventually building up to a maximum weight of sixty pounds. My typical weight would be approximately forty five pounds. I recommend using mainly water for the weight, and would release the water at the top to help reduce the impact on the knees going back down.

About two months before the trip, I would perform occasional "doubles" which consisted of going up and down the hill twice in one training session. In the final two weeks before the trip, I dropped the pack weight down to twenty pounds to help avoid injury right before my departure. On Aconcagua, the high camps are around 2,000 vertical feet apart or less. Camp Berlin to the summit is slightly over 3,000 vertical feet.

Core Body Strength: I would go to the gym three times per week for around forty five minutes for general strength training. I separated my workout days by body parts: Chest and Triceps, Back and Biceps, and Legs. Abdominals would get a light workout at each session. The intent is overall strength training and not to "max out" or bulk up. I recommend lower weight and higher reps.

Cardio Strength: When doing my pack training, my heart rate would be quite elevated, but I would not really consider it an aerobic cardio workout. At the high elevations you will encounter on Aconcagua, you will find your heart racing in an effort to try to provide oxygen to muscles and vital organs. My resting heart rate at higher elevations was twenty to twenty five beats per minute higher than that at sea level. When moving up the mountain even at a slow pace, my heart rate was easily eighty percent and higher of maximum. Summit day is long and high. Your heart is going to be working hard and fast at those elevations. Train for this by running and by other extended aerobic activities. I trained three times per week using methods such as a treadmill, rowing machine, and trail running hills to achieve cardio strength.

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