I have a few questions about logistics and have contacted a few of the local outfitters, but so far haven't received a response. Perhaps someone here with experience in this area can fill in a few of the blanks.
1. Travel from Mendoza to the trailhead (Laguna Blanca). We will be arriving in Mendoza around 1pm and are hoping to go to Laguna Blanca straightaway. I think our options are: a. Spend $700+ (2 people) with an outfitter for a round-trip direct transport to Laguna Blanca b. Take a bus from Mendoza to Barreal, then hire outfitter transport to Laguna Blanca. This would be much cheaper. Is it possible to take a bus directly from Mendoza to Barreal or do all available buses go through San Juan? c. Hitchhike from Mendoza to Barreal, then hire outfitter transport to Laguna Blanca. This could be faster than taking the bus. How feasible might it be to catch a ride to Barreal within a reasonable timeframe?
2. Stoves/fuel. I have an MSR Whisperlite. I'm thinking I can empty/clean my canister and check it. Is it possible to buy fuel in Mendoza or Barreal?
3. Road status/permission. Is it still "show passport at Las Juntas" or are additional registrations/permissions required?
4. Water. Any thoughts on water availability on approach to the East Face (Caballito) route? We were thinking a filter will be sufficient to reach the glacier.
Anibal replied and confirmed we can get fuel, the road is driveable (no mention of permits), and water on the eastern approach is safe and plentiful.
So we're mainly concerned now with #1 above. Anibal's transport service Mendoza-Laguna Blanca costs $400 each way and needs to be arranged a week in advance. It's a bit pricey for us anyway, so any advice on alternatives would help!
A friend went into the south side a few years ago and said, in the end, it worked out best to pay Anibal's quote (which back then was $300 pp). It was very efficient and he knows the place well. If you're in such a hurry as to leave the day you arrive(!) then a) you want the most efficient access possible, and b) you are saving money by not enjoying the beautiful city of Mendoza for a couple of days.
There is a bus from Mendoza to Barreal via Uspallata, but it is infrequent compared to the San Juan route. I've been told hitching along this route is no good, but I have not tried it.
Thanks! I think you are right about paying for efficiency. Anibal was very helpful with info, but we didn't make contact in time to arrange his services so we will probably go with Orviz in Mendoza. They quoted $700 total round-trip transport (up to 5 people) between the Mendoza airport and Laguna Blanca. We may be robbing ourselves of an authentic experience but we'll make up for it on the mountain.