Aconcagua Expedition

Los Penitentes

Final preparations before leaving Mendoza and driving to Los Penitentes (2000m), to start walking the Vallee de los Vacas route (valley of the cows). A 3 day 50km walk to basecamp at Plaza Argentina, camping at Pampa de Lenas (for a mostly sober New Year's Eve) and Casa de Piedra, where hired a ride on mules to cross the icy cold river.

Casa de Piedra

The 1000m height gain from Casa de Piedra to basecamp was tough, but spurred on by fantastic views of the summit and the Polish glacier (the technical way up). Glad to see the dome tents of basecamp our home for the next 4 days at 4200m.

Campo Uno

Climb high- sleep low: To acclimatise we trekked to Campo Uno (5033m, higher than Mt Blanc) and back, an exhausting very steep section under huge cliffs and across a moraine-strewn glacier with ultra clear pools.

Back at Basecamp we said goodbye to Robin who had developed pulmonary oedema in response to the altitude. The camp doctor had him helicoptered down, in a short evening break in the strengthening winds, to Los Penitentes, where he recovered quickly.

The wind continued to strengthen (which the lenticular cloud on Aconcagua signifies) and the temperature dropped which meant another day hiking around at Basecamp looking up at the summit.

Los Penitentes

Eventually we struck out for Camp 1 leaving behind the creature comforts of basecamp. The weather continued to worsen and we sat out a couple of blizzards in high winds and temps of -30 Celsius.


At last the sun came out and we hiked to the incredible Campo Guanacos 5480m (our camp 2). This was a brilliant walk, my favourite and a stunning camping site.


Spent two days hiking around Guanacos getting used to the altitude. More doctor tests decided I should spend an extra day there to aid acclimatisation. Messed around with crampons on the glacier and sunbathed.

Couldn't put it off any longer. Time to move to final camp 3, the attractively named Colera at 5970m (I'm calling it 6000m). This was a hard walk but I enjoyed it apart from the last half an hour, which was a big struggle.

Summit morning came with a clear sky and a strong wind, too strong to stand up as it happens, so I stayed in the tent. 4 of our party set off with 2 guides, 3 hours later 3 of them returned citing falling over and freezing hands as the reason for not continuing.


6 of us and Sam the guide then packed up in the wind, at least 3 sleeping mats from other campers flew past us over the edge. We set off for the long walk and 2000m drop back to the other Basecamp at Plaza de Mulas. Pleased because we all reached our own summit for the trip, and relieved to be going down.

Plaza de Mulas was a civilization shock, with a pub and the highest art gallery in the world. We all slept in the dome tent , and we're thrilled that Carlo and João made the summit in a heroic push.

The day we left the sky earily misted over with smoke from the Australian bush fires. The dusty 30km walk out to the road took all day.

Return Journey