The group flights depart London today, arriving in Mendoza the following day.
Those on the group flights will be met on arrival at Mendoza airport and be transferred to the start hotel. Those on land only arrangements or non-group flights should make their way to the hotel this afternoon. The remainder of the day will be spent in Mendoza buying mountaineering permits, exploring the city and relaxing.
To Penitentes After lunch we will take a private bus to Penitentes at 2580m. This journey takes approximately three hours. This is a ski resort in winter, and there should be time for a warm-up walk on the grassy slopes.
After loading equipment onto mules, our vehicle will take us 15 minutes along the Horcones jeep road to the trail-head at 2950m. We then trek three hours up the Horcones Valley to the green campsite at Confluencia (3390m). This will be our base for three nights.
From Confluencia we will enjoy a trek to the Plaza Francia lookout at 4000m. This elevation provides dramatic views of the South Face of Aconcagua and will help us to acclimatise to the higer altitudes ahead.
This is a rest day which will prove to be of huge value in our acclimatisation programme.
From Confluencia we will follow the broad, stone-covered valley bottom to a steep trail that leads to a terminal moraine. The base campsite at Plaza de Mulas (4350m) is situated on top of the lateral moraine just off the Horcones glacier, beneath the vast west face of Aconcagua. Base Camp is relatively comfortable with a huge mess tent and a full staff of cooks and porters. We provide good mountain cuisine that includes vegetarian meals, local steak, soups, fresh fruits and vegetables.
Acclimatisation day at Base Camp as most people feel the altitude at this point. Here we will rest and enjoy the stunning views and base camp culture.
Today we have a training ascent of Bonete Peak (5000m), our first summit of the trek. From the summit we should have incredible views of Aconcagua towering on the opposite side of the valley, and it is possible to make out practically the whole trail we will be following for the next few days. As well as offering spectacular scenery, the hike offers an excellent chance to acclimatise to higher altitudes and maximises our chances of success on Aconcagua herself.
Before returning to Plaza Canada, we will take another rest day at Base Camp. This dramatically improves acclimatisation and the chances of a successful summit. We may enjoy a hot shower at camp or walk 20 minutes across the valley to the Base Camp Hotel.
We ascend to Plaza Canada (4910m) today as we start our trek up Aconcagua. All extra gear is stored at Base Camp and we now carry all our high mountain equipment to the higher camp. We will not return to Base Camp unless forced to by bad weather. Local guides who serve as seasonal porters will carry our tents. We should expect to carry about 15-20kg today.
Today we carry equipment up to Nido de Condores (5500m), and then return to Canada to sleep. We will take about 4kg of food and some personal gear to Nido de Condores. This trip is optional, as you might want to rest and acclimatise in camp
We now move up to Nido de Condores, carrying the rest of our gear. Porters will come up to Plaza Canada from Base Camp to carry our tents to Nido de Condores. We will carry about 15-20kg today, make our camp and look forward to a rest day.
We spend the day at Nido de Condores. This will provide us with more rest, and time to acclimatise. At this point we will focus on sleeping, hydration and eating well. On a clear day the views from Nido are unforgettable. Weather permitting we will enjoy a gentle walk with dramatic ridge views close to the camp. However, winds and cold weather may confine us to our tents for most of the day. It is useful to pack a book and cards.
Today we move approximately three hours to camp above Berlin at White Rocks ('Piedras Blancas'), 5980m. We will carry three days of food, fuel and personal equipment. Porters will carry our tents and our load could weigh over 20kg.
The summit day is 11-13 hours. Normally beginning with a wake-up at first light, departing between 6 and 8 am depending on the wind, and ending early evening. The summit day involves nothing more than mountain walking, albeit at high altitude. In good conditions the ruins at Independencia, 6400m, are reached in 3 hours, and the base of the Canaleta at 6700m is another 2.5 hours away. The Canaleta gully to the final summit ridge takes 2.5-3 hours, and may involve a little scrambling if there is no snow cover. On reaching the final ridge there are outstanding views down the South Face. A metal cross and summit register mark the top. The views from the summit on a clear day are superb, and can stretch as far as the Pacific Ocean. The return to camp takes about 3 hours.
An additional summit day is included to accommodate any itinerary and weather changes
Return to Base Camp We descend with all our equipment back down to Base Camp which takes 3-4 hours, and enjoy sleeping at lower elevations. Porters will carry the tents and our load could weigh 15-20kg.
We walk out from Base Camp to the trailhead at Horcones Valley. This long walk takes about 7-8 hours. Time permitting we should return to Mendoza in the evening in time for a hot shower and a late dinner.
A free day in Mendoza today. There are opportunities to go white-water rafting, tandem paragliding or to visit some of the vineyards nearby and taste some of the best wines in South America. (This day may be needed in the mountain if our summit day has been delayed by bad weather).
The trip ends after breakfast today. Those on group flights will be taken to the airport for the overnight return flight to the UK.
The group flights arrive in London this afternoon.