Aconcagua: Evaluation of service options & budgeting

Aconcagua: Evaluation of service options & budgeting

Page Type: Article
Activities: Mountaineering
Sunset on Aconcagua
Sunset on Aconcagua

Climbing Aconcagua on your budget, in your timeframe and according to your capabilities 

How much does it cost to climb Aconcagua? How much time do you need to climb? It depends on a whole bunch of factors. 

Although I'm very happy with how I climbed, while on the mountain I learned a lot that that didn't explicitely appear, or maybe wasn't simply stated, in all the research that I did beforehand. Therefore, I'm going to share information about different services that you have available to you, so that you can customize your Aconcagua climb to your budget, time constraints, and physical capabilities. 

In this article I'll highlight the 3 ways you can climb 1) with a guide 2) all by yourself and 3) combination, without a guide but with other services (mules, food, porters). 

Be realistic with what services you need 

About 3000 people a year attempt the summit, with only a 30-35% success rate. Why? Underestimating Aconcagua's challenges, since it is a non-technical climb. The best way to get to the summit is by being realistic on your own personal style and limitations. 

Some significant challenges of Aconcagua are: 

  • Length of time / Body fatigue
    Typically ranging from 7-15 days in the park itself, although you have up to 21 days with your summit permit. This could be necessary if you're hit with bad weather and/or don't summit and want to give it another attempt. A good estimate is you'll be carring 25/30kgs between high camps. As the days go on, carrying the weight, sleeping in the tent, with extremely cold temperatures, in high altitudes, it's natural for bodies to fatigue. 

  • Altitude  
    Doing prior acclimatization routes is very important beforehand, although it can be difficult to get to higher altitudes depending on where you're coming from. If you can't do many routes above 5000m / 16000ft to help you prepare, it's important to consider proper acclimatization in your Aconcagua trip. This could be from taking it a little slower and stopping at Confluencia to see Plaza Francia before Base Camp, doing Cerro Bonete from Base Camp, taking a rest day in Base Camp and/or climbing to Camp 1 and back to BC, etc. 

  • Temperatures / Winds / Unpredictable, Extreme Climate Changes 
    Not that it needs to be said, but this will change everything. In January 2018 we had 6 days of white out storms while we were moving up from Base Camp, which made the climb much harder, for snow quantities, opening routes, temps, etc. We also pushed back summit day by a few days to do 45/50kph winds on our originally planned summit day.

All these factors combined, this non tecnical route provides an important physical and mental challenge! That said, here's some information on services, some of which you can plan ahead of time, and others you can keep as "handy info" if you're route takes an unexpected turn and more help is needed.

Cerro Bonete - En route to Aconcagua
A view of Aconcagua from the summit of Cerro Bonete - a 5000m/16400ft acclimatization route done from Base Camp


Climbing Options - Service & Assistance Choices 

1. Full service - Going with a guide 

Obviously the safest bet and best scenario for getting to the summit. Here's some of my Aconcagua Guide Recommendations

2. Mixed service - Picking & choosing the assitance you need  


Mules to Base Camp 

Sending your equipment straight to Base Camp, round trip, costs around

$500/$600USD total (2018 prices). You can send 60kgs per mule. This is a great service to consider because the route into Base Camp is around 33km / 20miles and it's not worth tiring your body on the way in. Additionally, using this service adds in many other benefits such as paying a lower ascent permit fee, as well as being able to store your equipment in Base Camp while you're in high camps and using the portapotty bathrooms of your respective mule company agency. 

Mules in Base Camp Plaza de Mulas, Aconcagua
Using mule services adds other benefits with the respective agency

If you choose this option, you still can stop at Confluencia the first night, and therefore head to Plaza Francia to see Aconcagua's beautiful southern face on your second day. If you do this, then you need to

  • have the mules stop at Confluencia mid-trip (adds another $250 to your costs) or
  • have a backpack with just the equipment you need for one night in a smaller bag, which you carry to Base Camp. (If you do this option, you could be lucky that a mule has a couple kgs to spare and when you head from Confluencia to Base Camp, you could but "per kilo" and send the tent/sleeping bags, etc.)
Plaza Francia, Aconcagua
Trekking to Plaza Francia, and sitting at her lookout for awhile, is totally worth adding the extra two days to your timeline


Culinary / Food Services 

In Confluencia and Base Camp (Plaza de Mulas) you can have full meal plans or buy one off meals as long as you advise ahead of time. This could save signifiant backpack weight in terms of food, as well as give you more variety/quality in food options. You can buy food at any of the agency tents, as well as a "restaurant" or two that are in Base Camp. I didn't use food services during, but on my last night I gave myself a "summit gift" and had a pizza at Geo-Trek which was literally, kind of like heaven on earth. Also, surprisingly affordable, around $25USD for 2 pizzas. 

Here's some ideas of 2018 prices, although it's important to always check for updates.  

  • Full meal plan in Base Camp Plaza de Mulas $150USD ($100USD in Confluencia)
  • Breakfast $50USD
  • Lunch $30USD
  • Dinner $50USD
  • Snack / En Route Food  $20USD
Plaza de Mulas, Base Camp Aconcagua
Base Camp in Aconcagua has pretty much all of the services you could need, including a hot (solar powered) shower

Portering Services

If there's heavy snowfall or you're just plain tired and don't want to carry your backpack/equipment, you can hire porters to carry it. This also includes setting up your tent, so you can just arrive and worry about resting/eating. Typically, you can hire the porter from Base Camp to straight to C2 or C3, and then just carry what you need between. There is a tent which is an association of porters, who work there all season. You can go to that tent in Base Camp and ask directly for info. Porters carry 20kgs and prices vary but an average from Base Camp is 

  • $150USD to Camp 1 Canada
  • $200 to Camp 2 Nido de Condores and 
  • $250 to Camp 3 Colera

3. Without service - Going alone

    If you go totally alone with no service at all, just be aware that you will be a higher ascent permit price. In 2018, prices during were $400 vs $570USD for people residing in Latin America and $800 vs $950USD for those outside Latin America (during high season).

    Sunset - C2, Nido de Condores, Aconcagua
    6 days of white out storms during our journey up Aconcagua, but a few gorgeous sunsets in between


    In Summary 

    As you can see, you can adjust your climb to your budget, needs, style and capabilities... in order to help you increase your odds of summiting this beautiful mountain. On the mountain, I met people using all the options, the one that worked best for them. And, I saw many, many people who didn't summit and commented they would have used some of the "pick and choose" assistance. I hope this article can help you choose the best way for you to climb Aconcagua, the Roof of the Americas!!

    I went up using option 2 - Mixed service with just mule assistance to Base Camp - and it was perfect. However, I feel that it is relevant that I had certain benefits. 

    I arrived from Chile, which made things easier because I was able to do acclimatization routes over 18000ft, have a shorter arrival which helped with rest, and I have easier access to infomation which helped me prepare. If interested, here's a recap of my experience via the Normal Route.

    Aconcagua Summit
    Aconcagua's summit - the top of the Americas

    More Aconcagua Tips and Photos from my 2018 route 

    Don't hesitate to comment with any questions!! 







    Comments

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    Viewing: 1-4 of 4
    MikeLJ

    MikeLJ - Sep 14, 2018 1:02 am - Voted 10/10

    Good article

    Good and informative article, I enjoyed reading your summit account too.

    Chelsey Berg

    Chelsey Berg - Sep 25, 2018 4:45 pm - Hasn't voted

    Re: Good article

    Thank you so much!!! I'm happy to share it and help others climb Aconcagua. It really was a beautiful experience for me. Cheers!!

    T. White

    T. White - Oct 16, 2018 10:44 am - Voted 10/10

    Helpful read

    Thanks for taking the time to compile and write this info, Chelsey! It's good to have a realistic (but optimistic!) assessment as opposed to the anemic and/or overly rosy information published elsewhere.

    nixoriugis - Nov 7, 2018 10:50 pm - Hasn't voted

    Some more 2018 prices

    https://www.summitpost.org/aconcagua-walk-in-prices-february-2018/1025672
    This may be interesting for budgeting. Also in 2018, but there are quite some differences. Details in the image captions.

    Viewing: 1-4 of 4