Cerro Plata is the highest mountain of the Cordón del Plata Range, which is a small subdivision of The High Andes or Cordillera Central.
Cordón del Plata is located 80 km from Mendoza and is a popular place to climb for local mountaineers who want to have some days off in the mountains and also for those who want to acclimatize for Aconcagua. Cerro Plata is one of the highest peaks in central Argentina and was long considered to be over 6000m. My GPS read 5966m on the summit and the official altitude is 5955m.
Cerro Plata´s little sister, which isn´t more than two high points on the other side of the main peak´s summit plateau, is called Pico Plata and is slightly lower.
Another peak which can be climbed from the same camp is Pico Vallecitos. See note below.
The views from the summit of Cerro Plata is stunning!
In the south Los Andes 14'th highest peak Tupungato is visible, together with the majestic Cerro Polleras (5993m) and the black Cerro Negro/Cerro Pabellon (6070m).
Aconcagua, Ameghino and La Mano are located quite close by in the NW and futher away in the north the snowy peaks of the Mercedario Group can be seen on clear days.
Note: The mountain is called Cerro Vallecitos on Summitpost. This is the highest point of the peak, but very few actually climb to the main summit as it's a very technical climb. The point most mountaineers reach is called Pico Vallecitos, which is an easy walk-up with a ten meter scramble the last part. Cerro Vallecitos has no route easier than D+/TD.
Getting ThereTo Vallecitos Ski Center
Mendoza is the main city in the area and there are plenty of companies which offer you a tour or expedition to Cordon del Plata. Some only to the vantage points around the ski station, other all the way to the summits of the highest peaks in the area. The tour companies, the climbing shops or even most youth hostels can help you arrange a journey to Cordon del Plata.
If you want to arrange it all by yourself, the easiest and cheapest way is to take a normal bus to the little settlement Potrerillos which is an hour away from Mendoza. This is a town where last minute provisions can be bought. It’s fairly easy to hitchhike to Vallecitos Ski Center, which is at 2980m and 28 steep km from Potrerillos. There are several settlements before the ski centre, most of them only a few houses. There is an excellent restaurant and hostel 6km before hitting the ski station and it’s a very popular stop for starved climbers on the way down from the mountain adventures. You can leave excess gear in the ski station for a small fee. The little café at the ski center serve food, has (very overpriced) snacks and drinks and some hotel rooms.
To the foot of the peak
Cross the river on your left and follow the foot-paths until you arrive at some wide, green fields, crossed by small rivers. This is Las "Vegas"/Veguitas camp and it’s a good place for the first night’s camp in the area. If you feel like going further, continue in the main (left) valley with a rock-wall peak in the end. The Peak is Vallecitos. Follow the path up some steep grassy slopes along the river. When you’re at roughly 3600m at a huge rock and can see the grass and the greenery is about to finish you’re at Piedras Grandes, a good camp spot. There is not so much water further on, so you better fill up here before heading for Camp Salto (4200m), which is a couple of hours walk from here. On your left you see Cerro Franke and on the right hand side there’s a colourful wall leading all the way to Cerro Rincon.
The last part of the walk to Camp Salto is quite steep on loose scree.
In the climbing season you can buy provisions, snacks and even eat pizza and drink beer here! Tents to the right in the valley, toilets on the left hand side of the river. Walk over the little ridge if you don’t want to be seen when doing your business. The water is safe to drink if you fill up your bottles very close to the pipe at the rocks. Further down it may be contaminated or at least not so nice to drink as people brush their teeth etc.
If you don’t like to camp where there are too many people; walk on for another five minutes and camp on top of Camp Salto. Good platforms and shelters. Some water close by.
Most people attack Cerro Plata from here, even though I would say it’s better to walk further up the valley to the next camping place; Camp Hoyada at 4650m. From this place you have excellent views of the rocky faces of Vallecitos and Rincon and also the forepeak of Cerro Plata - Pico Plata. The latter is actually the peak you see from La Hoyada, not Cerro Plata, which isn´t visible until later on the climb. You’ll get water from either melting some snow, or walk down into the valley for 200-300m where you’ll find a melt-off river with clear water.
The map shows you the relevant parts of Mendoza Province. Blue boxes for the most important places. Cerro Plata is located very close to "C del Plata". Cordon del Plata is on the way to the Aconcagua Massif and therefore perfect for acclimatization. In the lower left hand corner, the cover of the map is shown. The best road map for the area.
There is no red tape.
You are encouraged to write your name, passport number and other details in a log in the ski station. Further you´re requested to give specifics about how long you expect to be in the area, which routes and mountains you intend to climb etc. All for your safety.
When To Climb
The best season is from December to March - the South American summer. It´s then warm and the weather is usually more stable.
In the winter it´s popular to attempt the ice routes of the massif. Cerro Plata have some long and airy snow and ice routes on the southern and western sides.
In spring and fall there are also quite a lot of hikers in the area, but expect high winds and cold conditions.
CampingCamping is allowed everywhere in the area. In Camp Salto you sometimes have to ask where to pitch the tent when the camp-area is crowded. No huts in the main valley, where Cerro Plata is located.
Accommodation is to be found in Vallecitos ski resort. It’s a basic guest house with small restaurant and mini-shop connected to it.
The weather sites for Mendoza are OK sources of information to get the general idea about what you can expect the next couple of days, but Cordon del Plata is plagued with local and fast changing weather patterns. The people living in the ski station are by far the best source for fresh broadcasts and their knowledge about the weather patterns is extensive. When walking to Camp Salto, the guides and the caretaker who lives there are the persons to ask.
In most ways Cordon del Plata is a perfect place for acclimatization, hiking and/or easy climbing. The main catch, which the area is infamous for are the Katabatic winds. I have seen top of the line high altitude tents be ripped to shreds there and the warnings about the wind conditions are to be taken seriously. Usually these cold, downhill winds appears at night. Be careful when you pitch the tent and make sure you have set it up in the strongest possible way.
A short story about a stormy night in Camp Hoyada.
Tutiempo gives you daily updates about the weather.
There is a helicopter wreck close to Cerro Plata´s summit. The two men crew died in the accident. It was the first fatal incident on the mountain. Sometimes the wreck is snowed over or a bit hidden, but look around about 30 vertical meters below the summit. From what I´ve heard it´s a popular souvenir to bring a piece from the wreck back down.
More about the helicopter.
Info by Ialewis.
According to Fernando Grajales Jr., who runs one of the big guiding outfits in Mendoza, the Helicopter did not result from a fatal accident. His explanation is as follows:
Two military helicopter pilots were messing around on the mountain, likely in an attempt to set the craft down and then take off. Fernado’s impression was that this was the result of two guys in a game of one-upmanship, not an official military operation (obviously this is conjecture). One pilot set down and was unable to get the craft back off the ground. The helicopter subsequently developed mechanical problems and was temporarily abandoned. A that stage, the helicopter was in perfect condition, upright, had the rotors tied down and all of the widescreens covered. The military then flew a crew of mechanics up to the bird to try and fix it. All of the mechanics were wearing oxygen. Evidentially, the repairs did not go well and the helicopter was left over winter. Eventually, the helicopter slid downhill, turned over and was abandoned.
The only book about the area is; “Mountains of light/Cord of the Silver” written by Alejandro Geras. It gives you all the information about the area and there are also sections about Aconcagua, high altitude medicine, nutrition and other alpinism-related topics. The maps and route-descriptions are good and there are plenty of photos of peaks which help you out a lot locating specific mountains without any prior local knowledge. There is one problem though; the translation. If you know Spanish, this version is for sure a better choice. The English version is sometimes ok and easy enough to understand, but some sections I didn’t understand at all. The below section is not to make fun of the author’s translation, just to let you know what I mean with bad translation. Then you can judge if the book is worth buying or not. This is one of the worst parts.
From the gear list:
• Stock market of Vivac: A covers stock market it improves the heat insulation of stock-market to sleep and improves the conditions of a vivac.
A shop that sells the book is Aconcagua6962.com (many know this shop as El Refugio). See below.
Budget accomodation in MendozaIf you're on a tight budget or want basic accomodation in Mendoza, Hostel Independencia is a good alternative. It's conveniently located at the main park in the center of the city. Avenida Mitre. The permit office for Aconcagua is a five minute walk away and so are the gear shops, restaurants etc.
The hostel is also a good source of info and there's a mountaineering agency operating in the hostel's premises.
This company can also provide rides to Cordon del Plata, clean white gas and other useful things and services for a mountaineer.
In late 2010 the price for a dorm was 45 Argentinian Pesos and a double went for a 100. Many other hotels can be found in the same area and the range is from cheap hostels and hospedajes, simple one star hotels all the way up to Hyatt Hotel.
1USD = 3.5 ARP
Shops and outfitters in MedozaThere's are some really good mountaineering shops in Mendoza.
Orviz is located on Juan B Justo, a little bit away from the main center.
The shop has all you can possibly need for any type of mountaineering.
Lots of gear for rent and sale.
Another one, equally good, is El Refugio close to Plaza Independencia. Av. Espejo 285. Tel: 423-5615. NOTE: THis shop has changed names many times and the name now appears to be Aconcagua6962.com.
There are a few more shops on Sarmiento, Las Heras and Suipacha in central Mendoza.
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