I'd recommend going with local guides, as skilled as other guides are. Not only will you save money, but really have a chance to connect with the culture and the people. Not to mention supporting the local economy. Here is a link to my story. (And I'll mention my Outdoor writing is labor of love. Not my "day job." I don't get paid for hits.)
Normal route, summitted from Camp Colera. Canaleta was still covered with snow :). Had the summit to ourselves on a beautiful but chilly day.
I booked a private trip with Inka to climb the Polish Direct route, but it snowed a lot while we were moving up the mountain. My guide (Horacio Cunietti) and I carried all the necessary equipment to Camp 2, but on move to camp 2 day decided to traverse over to Camp Colera instead due to concern about too much snow on the glacier. Summitted on Feb 12 at about 2:30. Silver lining was that with all the snow, the Canaletta was a packed trail of snow, so not a scree slog.
Started up the Polish Direct at about 5am. Not long after being on the route we decided the snow was too deep and the risk of avalanche was way too high. We saw people attempting the route a couple days before and it was taking them forever and one man got severe frostbite from having to camp out over night on the route. After the decision we returned to camp two and dropped off our technical gear and started up the traverse to the normal route at 6am. It took me five hours to reach the summit from camp two. I would have to wait a couple hours before I could share the summit with anyone else. The clouds started rolling in around 1pm so I was the only one that got any clear summit photos that day. I stayed on the summit with perfect weather for just over three hours. Many people had to retreat from their summit attempts that day in fear of frostbite. The temperature was -13 with wind chill. I also saw people retreating because they didn't have crampons. I ended up breaking trail for everyone that day in about six inches of new snow. You definitely wouldn't have wanted to do the Canaleta without crampons. The return from the summit took two and half hours. We would then traverse the mountain and descend via the Horcones Valley to experience the whole mountain.
Summited on the 12th day after starting the walk up the Vacas Valley. Perfect weather all way long and acclimatized better than ever. It took only 75 minutes to dash up to the summit via Canaleta. Too easy.
Traversed the mountain from Plaza Argentina via the "upper Relinchos" route. Summit day from Colera was windy. About 12 inches of fresh snow called for crampons from high camp to the summit.
My first summitpush ended after EXTREMELY COLD winds in the traverse, but 4 days later I finally summited. I did everything myself (unsupported and no mules or service provider), and because I was in S-America anyway my total costs for Aconcagua was only 500 USD. I know most people pay 10-20 times more than that to reach the summit.
Read the entire trip report here:
Summited via the normal route on a cold and windy day with sun interspersed with clouds and snow showers. Everyone is pretty much at a crawl above 21,000 feet with the lack of oxygen- it's quite amazing to see great mountain athletes taking small baby steps and rest steps. My partner came back with a black frostbitten thumb, and myself with lasting numb fingers despite OR expedition mitts (a good testament as to the conditions). It was full cramp-ons from Indepencia hut upwards, and all paths were windblown / ice blown over, making the decent slow going. The only good thing was the Canaleta was snow/ice covered. Because of the particular conditions, higher altitude, and bigger gain, I would rate this particular summit day slightly harder than my Denali West Buttress summit day. We slept at White Rocks/Colera near Berlin- 3 nights, Nido- 2 nights. The heavy pack haul down from 19,300 to 14,100 the day after summit day in 4 hours was as difficult as anything on the whole trip.
My partner Eric dropped out during our acclimatization attempt due to snow blindness.
I continued on to the summit via the Normal Route- summited in 8 hrs from Berlin Camp (7.00 - 14.57).
The mountain isn´t the most aesthetic I´ve ever seen or experienced, but it is absolutely ENORMOUS, and definitely regal. I couldn´t believe how difficult it was to move above 21,000´!
While disappointed I didn´t get to do the Ibanez-Marmillod route like I´d really desired, I appreciate having attained the summit, and the experience that the affair ended up being anyway. Good summit to start off 2008! :)
Peace, and to all Cerro Aconcagua aspirants- bear in mind that even if you want to do the ´walk-up,´the altitude, weather, and temp´s of a mountain of this size should be major considerations.
My friend Chris Umphres and I failed to summit via the normal route. Because we nelgeted to bring crampons and ice axes, we had no hope against an iced-choked caneleta. Our overall experience on the mountain was generally unpleasant. Every camp site was crowded and the scree was a nightmare. The views, particularly the sunsets and colorful mountains were quite nice, however. The water at Confluencia, as well as the snow at Nido, have unusually high amounts of magnesium. This is a natural laxative. We didn't use Mules on the approach or take much time to acclimate. Hence we were exhausted before we even really started. It was a total suffer-fest. When somebody mentioned surfing in Uruguay- we packed up and got the hell out of there...
expedition climb with german organization adventure train. We had very good conditions with possible use of crampons on the upper 1000m. Because we feared stormy weather on the following days we startet the summit climb at Nido de Condores Camp. It took me 8h to the summit where I stayed more than 3 hours with almost no winds. Great experience!
I invite you to take a look at my picture trip report
Climbed to the summit via the Vacas valley route. We went up to regular camp1, then camp 3 of the Guanacos route, and finally to camp Colera. From there we did our summit. We left Base camp on January 5... So no days for acclimatazation, but it still worked fine!
My partner and I had excellent snow conditions on our trip. We found mellow kick-stepping up the low angle glacier which leads to a mellow rock step and a little flat walking to the summit. We spent seven hours round trip from camp 2. The Polish Direct is a lot of walking for an anticlimactic summit day, but still worth the trip.
I had very clear weather on summit day, but it was extremely cold. A very memorable experience.
Summitted with timfoltz. Almost no wind on top. We used an extra acclimation day at Nido. We did use an axe at Nido for chopping ice to melt! 11 days TH to TH.
Successful summit! We went up the false Polish and down the normal route. Circumnavigating the mountain was way worth it.
Summited from Nido and dropped back to Mulas that afternoon
Climbed the False Polish route instead of the Polish Direct after one of our climbing partners got HAPE. Make shure you take your time it is a easy mountain to run up and get hammered by the altitude!!!
me and my climbing parnter had a completly succesful summit on pretty perfect day. We summited in 7 days as we were already acclimatized from travelling in Bolivia. I very highly recomend a few weeks travelling in Bolivia to acclimatize and adjust to teh local bacterias of South America. I saw to many people sruggle with the altitude and getting sick. We climbed unsupported by guides nor mules and paid teh low season permit. Total cost of food, transport, permit = less than $200. It seems that people like to pay a lot of money for guides that wont neccesarily help them much. BUT if you get sick, GO DOWN. be conservative with the altitude
Went with Aymara. Found it quite cold compared to Nepal the month before.