If you go the direct Polish glacier route you need three days at least to reach Base Camp. Here is how it can go. You are not obliged to get mules but it’s very hard without (we have tried …).
Here is what we have done :
Day one- Stop the bus at Rio Vacas and reach Pampa de laina (5 hours ; 2400m-2800m). A lot of wind and very hot in january. Here you can find water point and a ranger place where you can collect a lot of information concerning the different routes (good information concerning weather and polish glacier state).
Day two- Pampa de laina - Casa Piedra (6 hours ; 2800m – 3200 m). Easy day but few elevation and long route.
Day three- Casa de Piedra – B.C. Plaza Argentina (6 hours; 3200m – 4200 m). High elevation, good track and beautiful landscape. Watch out ! you have to cross the river at least 4 times. It’s better to cross the river in mules steps. Do not try to find another place it’s always harder. The water is very cold, often strong but it works without mules in january. It’s better to use sticks to cross the river.
We have done our aclimatization before (Lascar 5100m and parinacota 6300m). I think it s a good idea to make his aclimatation to altitude before in an other place. So we were ready to climb aconcagua in a few days in an alpine style depending of the weather
Day four- Rest days in plaza de Argentina
Day five- Move up to camp 1
Day six- Move up to camp 2
Day seven- Move up to summit and descend to camp2
Day eight- Plaza de Argentina
Day nine- Casa de Piedra (very long day …….)
Day ten- Rio Vacas and Santiago by mini-bus (you can pick up in Plaza de argentina scheduled in advance for a mini bus waitting for you in rio Vacas).
BC to Camp 1 (4-5 hours, 4200m 5000m):
The approach is from Penitentes. To camp 1 you will be following a trail over a glacier to the base of a scree slope. Few minutes after the departure of base camp you arrive the penitentes (no need of crampons). Two solutions : cross the penitentes (not always easy to move along a direct line …) or find the little track 20 m higher in your right (this track bypass the penitents) not very easy to find (look at footsteps). In camp1 there is a lot of place and you can often find water at the end of the day.
Camp 1 to higher Camp2 (4 hours; 5000m – 5900 m) :
Not difficult day. Route is very intuitive with high elevation. No penitents. In camp2 you have a great view of polish glacier (pierra bandera in your left and the two ridges and the summit in the right). Not a lot of place (15-20 tents). And very often a lot of wind. Do not hesitate to visit other tents in order to collect information.
Camp2 to Summit (11 hours; 5900m –6954m and 4 hours to reach camp2 by the falso de polacos ):
Fisrt we have planned to climb normal route of polish glacier (Camp2 – Piedra bandera – the long snow ridge till summit). But the glacier was in very bad state and dangerous around the piedra bandera. So we have decided to do the direct polish glacier route. This route is harder than normal polish (40-50° whereas 20-30° for normal) but more secure for us. The way is very easy to find : stay at the right part of the glacier very close to the rock.
There is two difficulties : the crossing of two ridge (6400m and 6700m). The rock is rotten in the first ridge so it’s better to bypass it by the left and the second ridge rock is very good so you can cross the ridge but very impressive (short track of 80° during 20 meters).
After the second ridge you arrive in the summital ridge of snow with a lot of false summit and hidden small crevasses. You need to crampon up just after the departure and to use rope with all security tools (ice screw, …)
This route is really beautiful . It’s better to leave Camp2 at 4am, not before because it’s not a good idea to arrive at first ridge by night.
It’s William Marler information’s with few additional gears for direct polish .
For the walk-in (3-4 days) you will need good sun protection.
In December it can be chilly but the suns rays will still burn you in as little as 10 minutes. It is the same for January and February but add the heat. Water can be an issue so bring lots (at least 3 liters) for the first day. There is water at various places along the way but the last source is a stream just 10 minutes outside of Pampa Lenia. If you head uphill above where the mules cross it is clearer but must be filtered. The nmext day which can take 5-8 hours has a few streams but most of then are in the first 2 hours after you have crossed the Rio Vacas. There is water at the end at Casa Piedra. The following day to base camp has water the first half of the 6-8 hour day. But there is water at basecamp over across the glacial stream to the right as you look at the mountain. The rangers can be of help if this pipe is not working for any reason. Filter this as you would any water on the mountain.
Equipment list info:
Here is a brief list for you. This is approximately what I take.
1-pair of shorts for the walk in
2-pair t-shirts for the walk in
2-bandanas or a sun hat too keep off the sun
Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen plus zinc
Good sturdy Hiking shoes
1-sleeping bag (as warm as you can get, Valandre are the best ones…)
1-sleeping pad (your choice the more confortable you are the better you sleep the more energy you will have) you can get a Crazy Creek chair that goes with your pad this is a good investment.
2-expedition weight Patagonia long underwear tops (or 1 depends on how dirty you like to be)
1-expedition weight Patagonia long underwear bottom 1 lightweight fleese bottom 1-heavy weight Patagonia or similar fleese
1-Gortex shell jacket
1-Gortex shell pants (full length zippers)
1-Down filled jacket liner from Feathered Friends of Seattle, (optional but I always end up using it)
1-Downfilled Gortex guides Parka 1-Warm hat with ear flaps
2-pair of heavy dury mittens (inc ase you lose one up high)
1-pair fleese gloves 1-pair ski gloves
1-pair of Koflach double plastic boots, One Sport ($$$) or Asolo (I think Koflach are better … i’m agree !!)
1-pair of gaitors
1-pair ski poles
1-ice axe (mostly for digging tent platforms)
1- 50 m rope of 7 mm (for 4 persons)
1-pair of sharp crampons (test them on your boots before you leave and make sure they fit perfectly)
1-headlamp with extra batteries
1-cup with spoon attached
1- stove of your choice (I use Markhill stormy hanging stone with Blueway cartridges, you can get fuel in Chile or Argentina as it is difficult to fly down) allow 10 canisters per 2-man tent. You can also get white gaz easily.
1-tent (you can bring two if you wish and leave one set up at base camp in case one of you has to stay down for any reason. food for 12-15 days. If in doubt go with less rather than more as your appetite will decrease at the higher camps. You can fo a price purchase food at basecamp after January 1st. 3-1-litre waterbottles each (drink at least 5 litres a day to help acclimitise)
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