Alma Negra belongs to the Cordón de la Ramada in the province San Juan, Argentina; it concerns a rather inconspicuous 6000m summit in the group around the Cerro Mercedario, the highest elevation of this mountain range. Its isolation makes Alma Negra rarely a goal for mountain climbers.
Climbing makes the unique mountain world at the end of the Valle Superior particularly interesting. The valley with enormous glaciers equals an oversized amphitheatre. The bizarre rock formations above the high camp are worth seeing and impressively.
Who defies the sometimes violent west wind has from the summit a fantastic view to La Mesa, Cerro Mercedario and La Ramada.
From the two largest, international airports Santiago de Chile and Buenos Aires recommends selecting the first. From Santiago there are several times daily bus connections to Mendoza, (approx. 7 hours), which can be fully booked in the high season in December or January days in advance.
That approx. 150 kilometres distant San Juan can be attained likewise very well with buses. At the latest here one should supply oneself with food supply. Numerous supermarkets have a rich offer; actually one will miss nothing. One does not have to carry water forward, since one always discovers in the water-rich Valle Río Colorado and also in the Valle Superior clean drinking water.
From San Juan one arrives with the bus to the 80 kilometres remote Barreal, or one can be fetched from an agency in San Juan (see below). From Barreal one drives with a jeep to Santa Ana, the starting point for hiking to the Base Camp Pirqua de Polacos in the Valle Río Colorado.
In order to come from Barreal to Santa Ana, one needs the support of a local resident agency. Santa Ana one reaches only over a mine road, for which a Permit is necessary. Allegedly it is not simply to receive a Permit without the support from an agancy - if at all possible. Only some tour operators are entitled to use this road. The truck drivers of the mine company are besides stopped to carry no Hiker forward - and make it also not. Over this agency one can also transport the equipment and food supply to the Base Camp.
From Santa Ana one always goes along the Río Colorado and reaches after 1 ½ to 2 days the Base Camp.
An agency can organize also the complete climb starting from Santa Ana, but it is not necessary. Experienced mountain climbers get along however also without a tour operator.
The Base Camp is nearly at the end of the Valle Río Colorado at its southern edge with wonderful view of the Cerro Mercedario South Face. Numerous acclimatisation tours as well as 5000m and 6000m summits can be climbed from here. Directly opposite raises the Cerro Negro, which one can climb either via the normal way or by numerous snow gullies.
The pleasant at the South American countries is that one does not need visas as a European. But the liberty seems to be not unlimited in America - at least in South America. If one could hike years ago still unhindered in the Andes, the mountain climber in ever more regions a Permit must request, in order to control the uncontrolled crush ever more mountain climber. If one entrusted oneself an agency, the Permit is already in the price included.
Since some occurrences in the last years loners in the region around the Mercedario are not any longer accepted. Only groups of at least 2 persons keep permission for climbing around Barreal.
When To Climb
The best time for climbing is the southern summer, i.e. from December to February.
In Barreal there are some hotels.
Camping is unrestricted possible in the Valle Río Colorado as well as in the Valle Superior. Clean drinking water is to be found in this area everywhere.
From the Base Camp one first still adheres to the southern edge of the Valle Río Colorado, until a path up-leads the slope into the high valley Superior. One crosses a small plateau with wonderful view of the Glaciar Italo, which down-flows with wild glacier breaks from La Mesa.
By means of partly steep debris slopes at the northwest side of La Ramada one reaches finally the nearly completely covered glacier with crushed stone. Here one finds melt waters again and again, where one can establish if necessary also a camp.
One continues to ascend on the glacier and wins only slowly at height. Approximately on half one should keep its eyes open, since one can find here partly beautiful fossils - witnesses for the fact that this was millions of years ago the soil of a sea.
At the end of the Valle Superior the valley will get ever more closely and enormous glaciers flow from La Mesa and Alma Negra down. One goes now at the eastern edge of the glacier as far as only possible to the end of the valley, since here the rubble is not completely so slippery and steep. First one goes toward a salient rock (high camp possible). From here one continues further toward that red-brown rock. Underneath this rock it gives on a height of approx. 5,200 meters the possibility for a further high camp.
Something above the last high camp, below the red-brown rock, one climbs in a steep snow gutter approx. 100 meters in altitude up and leaves the gutter to the right. By bizarre rock towers one continues to ascend, until one has the pyramid of the summit before itself. Somewhat right of the ridge one reaches problem-free the summit.
The same route makes the descent. If one reached early the summit, one, if one has a glacier equipment thereby, can climb the neighbouring summit of La Mesa.
With Alma Negra a mountain tour with few difficulties is concerned. Glaciers are not to be mastered, if one refrain from the glacier in the Valle Superior, which one cannot recognize however because of the enormous amount by covering rubble nearly no more than such. Crampons are however nevertheless recommended, since above the high camp a steep, but relatively unproblematic snow gutter is to be overcome.
Even if no large, technical requirements against the mountain climber are placed, one should not underestimate this mountain. Because of its isolation in case of emergency assistance can arrive only after days. Also fast weather reversals as well as violent west hoist can defeat a climbing.