A new mountaineering season has begun in Mt. Aconcagua. The mules have been brought to the mountain from their winter fields; the tents and the domes have been set up in the camps. The “campamenteros” (Aconcagua jargon meaning BC managers and staff) have moved to the “cloth cities” that they call home for three months a year.
Climbers from all over the World will try to set foot in the highest summit of the Americas, and -like every single summer since 1976- we are going to be there to support them.
There wasn´t much snow in the mountains during the winter, and the scientists say it´s going to be a dry summer too. (Our guides recommendation: don´t forget your climbing helmet. Less snow means more scree, with the potential for rock fall). Other than that, the Horcones valley and the Vacas valley routes are in perfect conditions. And so are our camps in Confluencia, Plaza de Mulas and Plaza Argentina, thanks to the hard work of guides, porters and BC staff.
Park Rangers, the medical service doctors and the Rescue Patrol are already working in the Park. The helicopter service is finally there too.
The cost of the climbing permit remains the same than last year. For climbers using the Horcones valley (Normal route), the permits costs U$D 590 until December 15, and then from February 1 again. In the second half of December and during January, the high season price is U$D 800. The Vacas Valley routes (Polish Glacier and Polish Traverse or False Polish) are a bit more expensive: U$D 730 (low season) and U$D 950 (high season, from December 15 to January 31).
These prices apply to international climbers using at least one service from any local outfitter (by hiring a local company you obtain a discount).
As in previous seasons, Argentinean climbers and Latin American climbers have significative discounts in the permit cost. (the list is in the official website, www.aconcagua.mendoza.gov.ar. or: http://ambiente.wp1.mendoza.gov.ar/wp-content/uploads/sites/15/2017/11/TarifasPPA2017-2018.pdf).
The process to obtain the climbing permit, unfortunately, remains the same too. You need to go to the said official website; register with a username and a password; fill in your personal information; then log out, log in again and fill in your expedition and insurance information (insurance is required this year); then print and sign the following papers: expedition form, payment ticket, risk assumption form.
Then you have to pay, in cash, in Argentinean pesos, at the paying places called “Pago Fácil”. The last step is to have the papers signed and stamped by your local outfitter (us!)
You can get your permit now, at the office located in the (beautiful) San Martín Park, in Mendoza City.
Since you are here, and now that you’re done with the bureaucracy, you might as well try our famous wines. Malbec is Mendoza’s flagship variety, but Cabernet Sauvignon ir worth a try too. Or three. There are many bars and sidewalk cafes in Ave. Arístides Villanueva. In Sarmiento avenue there are restaurants as well. Both are within walking distance in downtown Mendoza. If coffee is your beverage of choice, the walking strip by the Tourism Bureau is a fine option. (There are a couple of mountain shops close by, for last minute items or to rent gear).
But the best part of it, of course, is to leave everything behind and head for the mountains. Keep in mind that summiting is great, but what matters is the whole experience. And look for the Grajales signs if you need anything!