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San Juan, Argentina, South America
21982 ft / 6700 m
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Created On: Apr 3, 2001
Last Edited On: May 9, 2018


This page is being reworked, so come back soon if you are planning a trip. - nixoriugis

Whether moving in over...

Mercedario is the 8th highest peak in South America. The surrounding area is a pristine place. Very special, very out of the way (and I mean out of the way). I saw only one other climber when I was there in 1993. And that was when we were leaving (WM). In 2018, I met 4 peoples in 7 days (NI). The normal or Inca route was a long scramble. Made more difficult at with heavy loads at altitude of course!

Information from Corax
Date: Apr 25, 2005 06:25 AM
John Biggar's peak list is probably the best around as it is regularly updated and cross referencing SRTM/GPS gives you an elevation that is very close to the real one.
In the latest edition of his list Mercedario is 6700m. I met some climbers who had summited the mountain and they were disappointed because their GPS-readings had shown "just below 6700m".

In order of difficulty here are some routes:
The West Wall:
Three camps within the wall, rock and ice climbing, a good approaching route is to cross the "Peine" through the "Valle del Colorado" Caballito Glacier: or East Face, marvellous glacier, two camps.

The South Face:
A constant 45 degrees ramp, one camp in the "Mesada", good as descending route to "Valle del Colorado". El Peine: or south ridge, rock climbing, three camps.

West Ridge:The fastest route, one camp, dip slope Polish route: never repeated since 1934. Is a variant of the normal one.

Normal route: or "Incas" route
Easy walking, but quite long, three camps.

Getting There

The west face of Mercedario,...

The west face of Mercedario

Fly to Mendoza Argentina.
There is an issue if you go through customs at Santiago airport there is a good chance that you will have all meat and dairy products from your expedition food confiscated upon entering Chile. Stay in transit and take a short (45 min) flight on Lan Chile or Aerolinas Argentina to Mendoza, Argentina. This will allow you to keep your food, get your permits, possibly see Aconcagua and Mercedario from the air as they fly close to it at times. Chile has made things difficult for climbers (particularly those on a budget) with the food issue.
It is recomended to fly to Mendoza as direct as possible.

For flights try.
Aerolineas Argentinas - USA - Home Page
United Airlines
American Airlines
Lan Chile
Air Canada

Mendoza to Barreal
Hire tranportation from Mendoza or Barreal to the mountain. You can take a bus to Barreal, but you have to go to San Juan first (2 hours). The bus from San Juan to Barreal should take about 5 hours and operates twice daily (El Triunfo). 

You can easily head directly to the trailhead from Mendoza in a day, or you can stop for a final night in civilization in the sleepy town of Barreal. Stay at the main hotel The Hotel Barreal or Posada San Migual (sorry for the spelling). Very old house with courtyard but very cosy pleasent but sometimes nonexistant owners. Arrange mules either with the help of the hotel staff. As of 2007, there is also a nice hostel called Don Lisandro in Barreal. The young guys that work there can also do tranportation to the mountain.

Information from Uwe Krause
Hotel Barreal
Contact: Ramón Gerónimo One double room were 30 US$, this means 15 US$ per person. It was not bad. But it was before the finance crisis. Uwe got his mules via Anibal Maturano Mercedario trips and mules
- but you can ask for Renzo Herrera in Barreal. He lives close to a small museum. But there should be also other people with mules. One mule to Valle del Colorado cost 160 US$.

Barreal to the trailheads

It is 2 hours from Barreal to the shelter at Laguna Blanca (for normal, north route) by truck on a road that is steep and dangerous. For the south face route, you only have to go about half this drive to get to drop off point at Santa Ana, which is at the base of the Valle del Colorado. Hire a good driver who has done this route before. Make sure that the truck has four wheel drive can handle the rough terrain to the drop off point at Laguna Blanca. Arrange for a pick up and make sure you are there on time. Otherwise they will not wait for you on your return. 

It is not uncommon for the road to be washed out. There was a massive flood in late 2005 that cut off access to the north route. As of December 2007, the road is open all the way to the Laguna Blanca shelter at 3100 meters, where the climb of the north, normal route start (the road continues further but is gated and locked by the mining company). This is a logical and reasonably comfortable place to spend the first night for normal (north) route climbers and can be driven to from Mendoza fairly easily in a day, assuming you leave Mendoza in the morning. Before the 2005 floor and the subsequent road upgrade, you would have to start climbing from a place called El Molle, which is almost 1000 meters further down the valley. The new, improved road access is a tremendous advantage for normal (north) route climbers, as this leaves only an easy two hour hike to the common base camp at Guanaquitos. Therefore, it may make sense to establish a higher base camp, such as at Los Colorados a few hundred meters above Guanaquitos, particularly if you are paying for mules and want to get your money's worth. 

Red Tape

The Japanese Route as seen...

The Japanese Route as seen from Cerro Ramada 6400m

It is good practice to sign in at the mining company office on your way up so that they can alert their trucks of an incoming car. You sign a form and tell them your plan, but they will not look after you if you do not sign out.

When To Climb

A view back down the valley...

A view back down the valley on the way to camp 2. William Marler

December to the Beginning of March. Getting in and out of the drop off point is hard during the season. Out of season aside from the military there is not much activity. There can be lots of snow and the rivers can be impossible outside this time. The road may be impassable for after a big storm, but this is rare in climbing season and should only last a day.

Mule providers and outfitters

A neighbouring peak called...

A neighbouring peak called Cerro Ramada 6384m. William Marler 1994

In February 2018, I found Hostal Barreal, Don Lisandro and Posada Don Ramon for the transport from Barreal to the trailheads (4500-5000 pesos each way). Orviz was doing it from Mendoza (1000 USD return). If you are flexible on your dates, car-pooling with other climbers may be possible. 

Casa Orviz can arrange everything for you from Mendoza (transport, equipment, mules...).

CASA ORVIZ; Juan B Justo 532; Tel. / Phone 0054 261 4251281; 5500 MENDOZA - ARGENTINA;;

Expediciones Ossa (Barreal) can arrange everything for Mercedario (Ramon Luis Ossa, TeleFax 0264-8441004;

Lodging in Barreal
Author: indiansummertakedown
Another contact in Barreal, with an amazing view of the Meredario, is the Dona Pipa Cabanas. These cabins are owned and operated by Ramón Ossa, an extraordinarily friendly fellow with an amazing knowledge of the Cordilleras. The Dona Pipa cabins are clean, comfortable, and very affordable. They also serve as the base of operations for Ramón's adventure tourism company, Fortuna Viajes. Because of this, you may also be able to coordinate transportation to El Mercedario through Ramón. I just stayed in the cabins for 10 days and was thoroughly impressed - there is no other place I would stay in the area! Contact information can be found at


Mercedario as seen from the...

Mercedario as seen from the south with Aconcagua in the foreground.

I had no problems camping anywhere. But bring out all you bring in. Keep this place clean. Lets not recreate the mess that occurs on Aconcagua just 75 miles south. The winds crushed our tents at the high camp. Ended up with the stove and water on my head at 3:00am. We spent the rest of the night with our feet in the air keeping the tent upright and trying to sleep. We did the summit the next day and returned all the way to the abandoned mining camp the following day.

Possible schedule

Mercedario s sheer Caballito...

Mercedario's sheer Caballito Glacier

Mercedario is almost as high as Aconcagua so you should plan for a similar amount of time for acclimatization and extra days for bad weather (high winds). The short approach for the northern route may allow you to save a day or two compared to the much longer hike in to the south face of Aconcagua, but you still have to take your time acclimating.

Gear list

View from the summit in...

View from the summit in January 1992. William Marler

Partial Equipment list info:
Here is a brief list for you.

  • 6-pairs socks
  • 6-underwear
  • 2-pairs of shorts for the walk in
  • 3-T-shirts for the walk in
  • 2-bandanas or a sun hat to keep off the sun
  • Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen plus zinc
  • Good sturdy hiking shoes
  • 1-sleeping bag (as warm as you can get)
  • 1-sleeping pad (your choice the more comfortable you are the better you sleep the more energy you will have) you can get a Crazy Creek chair that goes with your pad this is a good investment.
  • 2-expedition weight Patagonia long underwear tops (or 1 depends on how dirty you like to be)
  • 1-expedition weight Patagonia long underwear bottom
  • 1 lightweight fleece bottom
  • 1-heavy weight Patagonia or similar fleece jacket
  • 1-Gortex shell jacket
  • 1-Gortex shell pants (full length zippers)
  • 1-Down filled jacket liner from Feathered Friends of Seattle, (optional but I always end up using it)
  • 1-Downfilled Gortex guides Parka 1-Warm hat with ear flaps
  • 2-pairs of heavy duty mittens (in case you lose one pair up high)
  • 1-pair fleece gloves 1-pair ski gloves
  • 1-pair of Koflach double plastic boots, One Sport (warmer)($$$) or Asolo (I prefer Koflach, I find them more comfortable)
  • 1-pair of gaitors
  • 1-pair ski poles
  • 1-ice axe
  • 1-pair of sharp crampons (test them on your boots before you leave and make sure they fit perfectly)
  • 1-headlamp with extra batteries and bulbs
  • 1-cup with spoon attached
  • 1-Swissarmy knife
  • 1- stove of your choice (I use Markhill stormy hanging stone with butane/propane cartridges, you will have to get fuel in Mendoza or San Juan as it is difficult to fly over) Allow at least 1 canister per day for up high per 2-man tent.
  • 1-3 tents one set up at base camp. one at camp 1, perhaps another for higher up.
    3-1-litre waterbottles with insulators (drink at least 5 litres a day to help acclimatize)

    Edit : I did not have to use my ice axe and crampons on the normal route in February 2018, but there was a dry spell in the weeks leading to my climb and I believe it was more an exception than the rule. 

    Avoiding Altitude sickness

    Sunset over Pico Polaco 6000m...

    Sunset over Pico Polaco 6000m from Mercedario base camp (south face side)

    You should be prepared for the possible onset of altitude sickness. High altitudes are stressful on the body, and lack of oxygen up high can produce slightly debilitating effects, such as fatigue, headaches, shortness of breath, loss of appetite, nausea, and a drunken gait. Altitude sickness generally doesn’t occur below 10,000 feet, but people have suffered its symptoms lower than 8,000 feet.

    There’s not much you can do to prevent this problem, but there are ways of alleviating its effects. The key to doing this is simple: take it easy. Take a day or two before beginning the walk in to acclimatize yourself to the elevation. Go at your own pace, and don’t take chances. Even if you’re in excellent shape, don’t be fooled. The lack of oxygen at such high altitudes can definitely throw your lungs for a loop. Walk at a comfortable, slow pace and don’t carry too much weight. Make sure to hydrate yourself regularly, drinking 4 to 5 liters (nalgene bottles) of water per day; On some climbs camelbacks can be mountain companions because of their convenient water portability. The only problem being keeping the nozzle clean, I find they can get gross and need constant cleaning. Myself, I attach a 1 litre Nalgene bottle to each side of my backpack so that I can reach them easily without removing my pack. These solutions would have to be modified to suit the weather and conditions of climbing Ama Dablam. Bottles would have to be insulated and the tube from the camelback could tend to freeze up. Taking antioxidant vitamins (A, C, and E) also helps reduce the effects of high altitudes. Of course working out before you go is another great preventative measure. While this doesn’t guarantee an easier time when up high, it can enhance your lungs’ ability to cope with the challenges of high elevations.

    Try to spread out your ascent over a period of two or three days to give your body more time to adapt. Play by the “climb-high, sleep-low” theory of ascent: go on a short hike to a higher elevation, then return to the (lower) elevation at which you’ll sleep.

    Physical fitness, as mentioned above, is no guarantee against developing altitude sickness. Past excursions to high elevations without developing symptoms is similarly no guarantee against getting sick. There’s no way to predict who is more susceptible to altitude sickness, although climbers who overexert themselves, those who are panting or breathless, and those who stagger far behind the rest of the group are likely candidates.

    Surefire signs of impending illness include extreme fatigue, headache,
    loss of appetite, and shortness of breath. If you experience any of these symptoms, the best thing to do is take a break from climbing for a couple days to acclimatize. Once the symptoms disappear, it’s safe for you to continue. If the symptoms persist or get worse, you should descend to a lower elevation.

    More serious levels of the illness include increasing tiredness, severe headaches, vomiting, and loss of coordination, and are indicative of acute mountain sickness (AMS). If such symptoms appear, don’t hesitate to get immediate medical attention. If serious symptoms go ignored for more than 12 hours, they could have dire--even fatal--effects, such as accumulation of fluid in the lungs or brain. The most important symptom of AMS is loss of coordination. If someone staggers or walks in a drunken gait, check them out for further signs of AMS. A good test is, essentially, the police’s test for drunkenness--ask the person to walk in a straight line, placing one foot directly in front of the other without staggering or losing balance. If the person cannot perform, he or she should descend immediately--and never alone. Go slowly and without exertion, and ideally while it’s light outside. Descend should continue until symptoms begin to decrease; relief usually occurs within 1,000 to 1,500 feet.

    There are prescription drugs out there that you can take for severe symptoms. One of the most common is called Diamox; it works by stimulating your breathing. Diamox is a strong medication and has some slight side effects, such as an annoying tingling in the fingers and toes. You will urinate more frequently so getting out of the tent at night in a storm could be a problem (if you don’t use a pee bottle). This will also necessitate you dringing more fluids to compensate. If you take too much I have seen people get very ill. I avoid taking it if if I can.

    Food list

    Camp 1 south face base camp

    Camp 1 south face base camp

    What food to bring? Basically it boils down to what you can carry and prepare easily. Also what you feel your body will crave and digest when (as in most cases) your appetite diminishes as you gain altitude.

    Here are breakfast, lunch and dinner suggestions

    Bag of cereal
    Milk powder
    Box of raisins
    Small tinned fruit
    Piece of cheese
    Hot chocolate
    or Coffee or tea
    Breakfast bar granola

    Granola bar
    Chocolate bar
    Bag of mixed nuts
    Piece of cheese
    Tin of salmon or tuna or ham or sardines
    Juice crystals

    Cup of soup(s)
    Japanese noodles
    Freeze dried dinner
    or tin or foil pouch of beans
    Small tinned fruit
    Tea or Hot chocolate

    Granola bar
    Chocolate bar
    Peanut Butter tubes
    Bag of mixed nuts
    Piece of cheese
    Dried apricots or similar
    Pringles chips
    Honey tubes

    Optional Bars
    Power bars
    Cliff bars
    Squeeze gels (Energy)

    Local food for the walk to base camp
    Bread or rolls
    Summer sausage
    Hard boiled eggs
    Oranges and Apples

    The next chore then is organizing your food into lodgical packs for transporting to base camp and each of the higher camps. This will depend on how many days you have set aside to do the mountain. I tend to break things down to 3-day packs (3-breakfast, 3-lunches/snacks, three dinners). But single day packs combined into stuff sacks works well too.

    External Links


    Starting out on the Japanese...

    Starting up the South Face (Japanese Route)

    • Additions and CorrectionsPost an Addition or Correction

      Viewing: 1-5 of 5


      gimpilator - Feb 23, 2017 7:03 pm - Voted 10/10

      Broken Link

      The John Biggar link isn't working.

      I saw this peak from the summit of Aconcagua. I'd like to go back and climb it someday.

      William Marler

      William Marler - Feb 23, 2017 8:24 pm - Hasn't voted

      Re: Broken Link

      Thanks I'll take a look

      William Marler

      William Marler - Feb 23, 2017 8:28 pm - Hasn't voted

      Re: Broken Link

      Can't find that link. Is it the Dan Lowery trip report? That link is broken. I don't know him si I don,t know how to find this report. Regards William

      johnnydiscover - Jun 3, 2018 3:19 pm - Hasn't voted

      Lost the tent

      Hello, you said you lost the tent with the hard wind. Which tent was that? I'm thinking about going with a small Arpenaz 2 from Quechua. What do you think of it? Also, which campingground were you?

      Thank you

      nixoriugis - Jul 4, 2018 8:54 pm - Hasn't voted

      Re: Lost the tent

      I can't talk for William, but the only camp that is really exposed to wind on the normal route is the Hoyada at 5600m. I had to wait out 2 days before being able to attempt the summit because of wind there, so I have no trouble believing what he wrote. It is not only wind but also the lack of large stones to build high walls. Most people would have a 4-season tent and I doubt a budget tent would survive.

      Viewing: 1-5 of 5