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Aconcagua (6.962 m.) is the highest mountain on the American continent. The highest mountain outside Asia and one of the Seven Summits (the highest mountain on each continent). Together with my two sons, I did my first trek to a Seven Summits in 2001- Kilimanjaro ( 5.895) in Tanzania. Since then, I had a dream of reaching one or two more. Aconcagua was one of them. My youngest son still has a dream of reaching the top of Aconcagua. But when we were in Argentina last year, we agreed we had to see the mountain. So when staying in Mendoza, we drowe to the starting point of the trail to the summit. He and I walked to the point where only trekkers with a climbing permit are allowed to continue.
With a rental car we drove along Ruta 7 from Mendoza to the national park. The road continues all the way to Santiago de Chile. Only a few kilometers before the entrance to the park we made a stop in a village named Puente del Inca. Many climbers stay a night or two here to acclimatize. To some climbers it's also the starting point for ascenting the top. The altitude is 2.700 m.
The village has got it’s name (Bridge of the Inca) because of it’s colorful rockformation which forms a natural bridge, formed long time ago from sulphurous warm springs. This little town has everything a climber might need, in addition to the souvenir sellers. In one of the streets there is a painting of Charles Darwin. I did wonder why. It was first some time after I had returned home, I read somewhere that he was in Puente del Inca in 1835.
At the entrance to the national park we bought our day ticket and drove to the carpark. Many visitors were here at the same time as us. Most people seemed to walk the paths to the viewpoints and the Horcones lagoon. Only a few continued along the trail that leads up the mountain. The distance to the first cabin to overnight is only a 4-5 hours walk.
From the viewpoint you have the south face of the mountain and the Horcones valley in front of you. An amazing view! When we continued we had this view in front of us all the way. To be able to enjoy the view for a couple of hours, following the trail of the climbers, was almost like a dream come true.
The top of Aconcagua was reached for the first time in 1897 by Matthias Zurbriggen from Switcherland. There are more than one route to the top, but most people choose what is called the «normal» route. This route requires no technical equipment. That makes Aconcagua the highest non technical mountain in the world. Many years ago when I started to prepare for the top I thought it might be possible because of that. But it does not mean it's an easy mountain to climb. Even it's not technical, the extreme cold and the altitude is still a challenge to be taken serious. It will affect most climbers to some extent, which makes acclimatizing important. Near the top everyone has to carry all equipment like tents, sleepingbag, food etc. That has to be taken in account when planning the climb.
We had decided to walk untill we reached a bridge. From there it was nescessary to have a climbing permit. At the entrance of the national park the altitude is 2.800 . The distance to the Confluencia which is where climbers spend their first night, is about 10 kilometers. To the bridge it was about 3 kilometers. That meant we had a hike that took us some hours giving us time to enjoy the hike and almost imagine we were going to go all the way...
Most equipment and supplies are brought to the cabins by horses and mules. We met some of them on our way back to the car park. We were here in January which is the season for climbing.
Back at where we started (my son took this photo of me)
We also took time to make a stop at the Horcones lagoon and the view point to enjoy a last sight of this mighty mountain.
On the road back to Mendoza after a day of dreaming.
and information boards in the park.
A previous post: Tanzania – to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro (5.895m) with my sons
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