Climb Cerro Aconcagua via the Normal Route

Rate this Adventure 31.1 miles 13123.4 ft gain  - Out-and-Back Trail

Added by Rachel Davidson

Reach the highest point in the Western Hemisphere at 22,841 ft. and check one of the Seven Summits off of your list in this alpine desert Andes climb.

Cerro Aconcagua is the tallest mountain outside of the Himalayas, the highest point in the Western Hemisphere, and the second-highest of the Seven Summits behind Mt. Everest. It is a high-altitude endeavor not for the faint of heart, or legs.

Since the normal route on Aconcagua is largely non-technical, this climb is considered to be more of a grueling slug up an incredibly high-altitude mountain. Climbers from around the world test their physiology at higher elevations here before taking on taller Himalayan peaks.

To begin, you’ll fly into Mendoza and take a bus or private car to the ski town of Los Penitentes (8,465 feet). It’s generally recommended to spend a night or two here to acclimatize. The trailhead is just a 15-minute ride from town on Puente Del Inca, at the entrance of the Horcones Valley (9,678 feet). You’ll register your permit here at the Control Integrades Horcones, where your hike in will officially start.

Here’s a sample itinerary, and the one that we followed, from Fernando Grajales:

  • Day 1: Hike from Horcones Valley trailhead (9,678 ft.) to Confluencia Camp (11,300 ft.)
  • Day 2: Acclimatization hike. Opportunity to visit Plaza Francia (13,290 ft.)
  • Day 3: Hike from Confluencia to Plaza de Mulas (14,500 ft.)   
  • Day 4: Rest day
  • Day 5: Acclimatization hike. Opportunity to summit neighboring Cerro Bonete (16,410 ft.)
  • Day 6: Load carry to high-altitude camp 1, Plaza Canada (16,570 ft.)
  • Day 7: Rest day
  • Day 8: Move camp to Plaza Canada (16,570 ft.)
  • Day 9: Move to second high-altitude camp, Nido de Condores (18,240 ft.)
  • Day 10: Move to third high-altitude camp, Colera (19,590 ft.)   
  • Day 11: Summit day (22,841 ft.)
  • Day 12: Extra weather day
  • Day 13: Extra weather day
  • Day 14: Return from Colera to Plaza de Mulas (14,500 ft.)
  • Day 15: Plaza de Mulas to Los Penitentes and onto Mendoza

You’ll need to dedicate at least a full day in Mendoza to acquiring your park permit. Whether you go with a guided group or on your own, your permit issued by the national park will allow you 20 days for a summit attempt. You’ll also need to perform medical checks with park rangers at Confluencia and Plaza de Mulas to ensure you are acclimatizing properly and in good enough health to continue on towards the top.

Don’t underestimate Aconcagua. Its straightforward route and lack of technical hazards leads many people to misjudge this mountain, and unfortunately, there are deaths every year on its slopes.

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