The East Ridge/Normal Route on Rincon is a long taxing slog on loose scree. In two places you can choose to go a bit more direct and avoid some of the worst parts. This is only a consideration if there's snow around. If not, the below described route is not recommended.
ApproachMendoza to Vallecitos Ski Station
Mendoza is the main city in the area and there are plenty of companies which offer you a tour or expedition to Cordon del Plata. Some only to the vantage points around the ski station, some all the way to the summits of the highest peaks in the area. The tour companies, the climbing shops or even most youth hostels can help you arrange a journey to Cordon del Plata. If you want to arrange it all by yourself, the easiest and cheapest way is to take a normal bus to the little settlement Potrerillos which is an hour away from Mendoza. This is a town where the last minute provisions can be bought. It’s fairly easy to hitchhike to Vallecitos Ski Centre, which is at 2980m and 28 steep km from Potrerillos. There are several settlements before the ski centre, most of them only a few houses. There is an excellent restaurant and hostel (Casa Antonio) 6km before hitting the ski station and it’s a very popular stop for starved climbers on the way down from the mountain adventures. You can leave excess gear in the ski station for a small fee. There is a shop where you can buy some gear and clothing and a little restaurant is the last house you pass when you start your walk towards the mountains.
Vallecitos Ski Station to Camp Salto
Cross the river on your left and follow the foot-paths until you arrive at some wide, green fields, crossed by small rivers. This is Las Vegas camp and it’s a good place for the first night’s camp in the area. If you feel like going further, continue in the main (left) valley with a rock-wall peak in the end. The peak is Vallecitos. Follow the path up some steep grassy slopes along the river. When you’re at roughly 3500m at a huge rock and can see the grass and the greenery is about to finish you’re at Piedras Grandes, a good camp spot. There is not so much water further on, so you better fill up here before heading for Camp Salto, which is a couple of hours walk from here. On your left you see Cerro Franke and on the right hand side there’s a colourful wall leading all the way to Cerro Rincon. The last part of the walk to Camp Salto is quite steep on loose scree.
In the climbing season you can buy provisions, snacks and even eat pizza and drink beer in Salto Camp! Tents to the right in the valley, toilets on the left hand side of the river. Walk over the little ridge if you don’t want to be seen when doing your business. The water is safe to drink if you fill up your bottles very close to the pipe at the rocks. Further down it may be contaminated or at least not so nice to drink as people brush their teeth etc.
If you don’t like to camp where it's too crowded; walk on for another five minutes to Camp Alto Salto. Good platforms and shelters. Some water close by.
When there's still snow on Rincon's slopes, Direct-Direct may be an interesting alternative to the quite miserable scree walk and scramble along the east ridge.
Instead of heading to the right from Salto
, you head straight ahead towards a little gap in the ridge. There are some very small crevasses low down and also some danger of falling into shallow rivers underneath the snow/ice in the bottom of the valley.
The slope has some sections of 45 degrees, but they are not long. Most of the time it's a 30-40 degree climb. The last part is the steepest.
When you have gained access to the ridge, take a left as on the normal route. Follow the path of least resistance, but be careful not to walk too close to the S brink as it is steep and in parts the rocks are very rotten. It's a long fall down to the glacier.
When you arrive at a place where the ridge breaks up into a wider bump, walk down to your right and have a look at the face on the other side of the little plateau. The normal route is on the right hand side and is in parts a steep scramble on loose scree and rocks.
Here is where you have the choice of going direct for the second time, if there's snow.
Aim for the steep couloir on the right of the sheer rock face, but on the left of the normal route's quite visible path. You better check the snow conditions closely before attempting the couloir as it's a perfect avalanche alley. I climbed on the left hand side in the couloir and at its steepest it's about 55 degrees. The altitude gain from the bottom to where it flattens out is about 300m from the plateau, but it's only steep for about 200. 4800m to 5100m is where the couloir is located. When you've reached the top, head a bit to your right to avoid a really bad scree section.
You're now at the summit slopes and have about 200 more meters to gain. The best views from the flattish part are on the far side, from where you can see Aconcagua
and the Mercedario
massifs in the north, the rocky range of Jaula in the west and Vallecitos
in the south. Further away in the same direction, you have excellent views of Tupungato.
Most of the route is shown on the photo on the left:
The ridge the photo is shot from is the east ridge/the normal route.
"Direct-direct", you go up the snowy couloir leading to the ridge instead. The second difference is the steep section further on. The normal route is scrambling on the rocks, Direct-direct follows the snowy couloir to the summit plateau.
Warm clothing, walking poles and crampons. Good sun glasses and an ice axe if you prefer to play it safe on the steeper sections.
Some photos will be added when I'm back home. It's high season in Argentina now, so I thought it was better to add the route.