Long considered as a the closest and most easily reachable “5000m” from Vallecitos ski resort, Cerro Franke (also named Pico Franke or even Cerro Pico Franke) is actually lower than 5000m in terms of altitude, according to latest data. Yet it’s a good acclimatizing choice for “climb high, sleep low” adepts : its normal route leads to the summit in just 4km, but also +1700m, from Las Vegitas campsite.
An interesting trekking option, for those already at an acceptable level of acclimatization, is to complete the ascent of Cerro Franke by doing the traverse route that follows the ridge linking Franke to Lomas Amarillas.
Getting ThereAt an elevation of 2980m, Vallecitos ski resort is the gateway to Cordon del Plata range.
From The nearest big city, the provincial capital of Mendoza (altitude of 760m), take Route 7 toward Chile until the village of Potrerillos next to an artificial lake. Potrerillos is the last village where you can find basic supply: There is a pharmacy and a commodity store. Expreso Uspallata (EUSA) has several daily buses for about 1 US$ the journey lasting 1h15 to 1h45.
From Potrerillos to Vallecitos, there is no public transportation. If you don't want to hitch-hike, contact Refugio San Bernardo at 00-54-9-2614-183857 (from Europe), 011-54-9-2614-183857 (from North America) or 154-183857 (from Mendoza) and they will pick you up at Potrerillos bus stop with their car (3/4 persons max) for 35 Ar$ (= 11.5 US$ - Jan 2006 prices), even if you don't plan to spend a night there.
Red TapeNo permit required (so far). Yet you have to register for safety reasons at Ski & Montana Hostal in Vallecitos ski resort.
Las Vegitas at 3180m is is the most convenient camp to climb this mountain by the Normal Route. It's a nice meadow with lots of water available in the surroundings situated at about a km & + 200m west of Vallecitos ski resort (30' - 1h).
An alternative camp site is Piedra Grande (3495m) but this is not the safest place to camp... situated on the south side of the moraine, at about 1/3 of the way on the trail from Las Vallecitos resort to El Salto de Agua (2.5 km & +515m; 1h30 - 3h from Vallecitos), it's a basically a boulder field. Obviously the boulders have run down the next-by slope to end-up at this place. Doesn't mater if it was few years or hundred years ago. Just knowing that everything is loose up that ridge should be enough to avoid camping here. However if that's the choice, there are area less exposed 100 meters from the boulder field. There is a water stream about 5 minutes walk following a trail. If going for the glacier stream, have to filter the dark water.
First ascent on September 13th, 1942 by Pablo Franke, Miguel Caffaro and Miguel Pacheco through Northeast Ridge, now Normal Route (walk-up).
First women to summit: Margarita Hughes and Maria Canals Frau, through Normal Route, on December 17th, 1944 (with Jose Colli and Roberto Testoni).
First winter ascent (Normal Route) by Alfredo Magnani, Alberto Bonte, Richard Gallop, Antonio Sarrode, Ruben Valls and Alberto Vendrell in 1953.
First ascent of the South Face though "Via Alma de Diamente" route (F+) by Miguel Lito Sanchez, Jorge Giaquinta and Fernando Santamaria in October 1985.
External LinksRefugio San Bernardo site about Trekking and mountaineering in Cordon del Plata
Claudio Fuentes reporting an ascent of Cerro Franke (Spanish)