Aconcagua (Spanish pronunciation: [akoŋˈkaɣwa]) is the highest
mountain outside Asia, at 6,960.8 metres (22,837 ft), and the
highest point in the Southern Hemisphere. It is located in the
Andes mountain range, in the Mendoza Province, Argentina, and lies 112
kilometres (70 mi) northwest of its capital, the city of Mendoza,
about five kilometres from San Juan Province and 15 kilometres from
the international border with Chile. The mountain itself lies entirely
within Argentina, immediately east of Argentina's border with
Chile. Its nearest higher neighbor is
Tirich Mir in the Hindu Kush,
16,520 kilometres (10,270 mi) away. It is one of the Seven
Aconcagua is bounded by the Valle de las Vacas to the north and east
and the Valle de los Horcones Inferior to the west and south. The
mountain and its surroundings are part of the
Park. The mountain has a number of glaciers. The largest glacier is
the Ventisquero Horcones Inferior at about 10 kilometres long,
which descends from the south face to about 3600 metres in
altitude near the Confluencia camp. Two other large glacier systems
are the Ventisquero de las Vacas Sur and Glaciar Este/Ventisquero
Relinchos system at about 5 kilometres long. The most well-known
is the north-eastern or Polish Glacier, as it is a common route of
1 Origin of the name
2 Geologic history
5 In popular culture
7 See also
10 External links
Origin of the name
The origin of the name is contested; it is either from the Mapudungun
Aconca-Hue, which refers to the
Aconcagua River and means "comes from
the other side", the Quechua Ackon Cahuak, meaning "'Sentinel of
Stone", the Quechua Anco Cahuac, meaning "White Sentinel", or
the Aymara Janq'u Q'awa, meaning "White Ravine".
See also: Andean Orogeny
The mountain was created by the subduction of the
Nazca Plate beneath
the South American Plate.
Aconcagua used to be an active stratovolcano
(from the Late Cretaceous or Early Paleocene through the Miocene) and
consisted of several volcanic complexes on the edge of a basin with a
shallow sea. However, sometime in the Miocene, about 8 to 10 million
years ago, the subduction angle started to decrease resulting in a
stop of the melting and more horizontal stresses between the oceanic
plate and the continent, causing the thrust faults that lifted
Aconcagua up off its volcanic root. The rocks found on Aconcagua’s
flanks are all volcanic and consist of lavas, breccias and
pyroclastics. The shallow marine basin had already formed earlier
(Triassic), even before
Aconcagua arose as a volcano. However,
volcanism has been present in this region for as long as this basin
was around and volcanic deposits interfinger with marine deposits
throughout the sequence. The colorful greenish, blueish and grey
deposits that can be seen in the Horcones Valley and south of Puente
Del Inca, are carbonates, limestones, turbidites and evaporates that
filled this basin. The red colored rocks are intrusions, cinder
deposits and conglomerates of volcanic origin.
From park entrance
In mountaineering terms,
Aconcagua is technically an easy mountain if
approached from the north, via the normal route.
Aconcagua is arguably
the highest non-technical mountain in the world, since the northern
route does not absolutely require ropes, axes, and pins. Although the
effects of altitude are severe (atmospheric pressure is 40% of
sea-level at the summit), the use of supplemental oxygen is not
Altitude sickness will affect most climbers to some extent,
depending on the degree of acclimatization. Even if the normal
climb is technically easy, multiple casualties occur every year on
this mountain (in January 2009 alone five climbers died).[citation
needed] This is due to the large numbers of climbers who make the
attempt and because many climbers underestimate the objective risks of
the elevation and of cold weather, which is the real challenge on this
mountain. Given the weather conditions close to the summit, cold
weather injuries are very common.
Glacier Traverse route, also known as the "Falso de los
Polacos" route, crosses through the Vacas valley, ascends to the base
of the Polish Glacier, then traverses across to the normal route for
the final ascent to the summit. The third most popular route is by the
Provincial Park rangers do not maintain records of successful summits
but estimates suggest a summit rate of 30-40%. About
75% of climbers are foreigners and 25% are Argentinean. Among
foreigners, the United States leads in number of climbers, followed by
Germany and the UK. About 54% of climbers ascend the Normal Route, 43%
up the Polish
Glacier Route, and the remaining 3% on other routes.
South summit and ridge
The routes to the peak from the south and south-west ridges are more
demanding and the south face climb is considered quite difficult.
The camp sites on the normal route are listed below (altitudes are
Puente del Inca, 2,740 metres (8,990 ft): A small village on the
main road, with facilities including a lodge.
Confluencia, 3,380 metres (11,090 ft): A camp site a few hours
into the national park.
Plaza de Mulas, 4,370 metres (14,340 ft): Base camp, claimed to
be the second largest in the world (after Everest). There are several
meal tents, showers and internet access. There is a lodge approx.
1 km from the main campsite across the glacier. At this camp,
climbers are screened by a medical team to check if they are fit
enough to continue the climb.
Camp Canadá, 5,050 metres (16,570 ft): A large ledge overlooking
Plaza de Mulas.
Camp Alaska, 5,200 metres (17,060 ft): Called 'change of slope'
in Spanish, a small site as the slope from Plaza de Mulas to Nido de
Cóndores lessens. Not commonly used.
Nido de Cóndores, 5,570 metres (18,270 ft): A large plateau with
beautiful views. There is usually a park ranger camped here.
Camp Berlín, 5,940 metres (19,490 ft): The classic high camp,
offering reasonable wind protection.
Camp Colera, 6,000 metres (19,690 ft): A larger, while slightly
more exposed, camp situated directly at the north ridge near Camp
Berlín, with growing popularity. In January 2011, a shelter was
opened in Camp Colera for exclusive use in cases of emergency. The
shelter is named Elena after Italian climber Elena Senin, who died in
January 2009 shortly after reaching the summit, and whose family
donated the shelter.
Several sites possible for camping or bivouac, including Piedras
Blancas (~6100 m) and Independencia (~6350 m), are located
above Colera; however, they are seldom used and offer little
Summit attempts are usually made from a high camp at either Berlín or
Colera, or from the lower camp at Nido de Cóndores. All camps are
used frequently, namely Plaza de Mulas and Nido de Cóndores.
Normal route to the summit
The first attempt to reach the summit of
Aconcagua by a European was
made in 1883 by a party led by the German geologist and explorer Paul
Güssfeldt. Bribing porters with the story of treasure on the
mountain, he approached the mountain via the Rio Volcan, making two
attempts on the peak by the north-west ridge and reaching an altitude
of 6,500 metres (21,300 ft). The route that he prospected is now
the normal route up the mountain.
Matthias Zurbriggen reached the summit in 1897.
The first recorded ascent was in 1897 by a European expedition led
by the British mountaineer Edward FitzGerald. FitzGerald failed to
reach the summit himself over eight attempts between December 1896 and
February 1897, but the (Swiss) guide of the expedition, Matthias
Zurbriggen reached the summit on January 14. On the final attempt a
month later, two other expedition members, Stuart Vines and Nicola
Lanti, reached the summit on February 13.
The east side of
Aconcagua was first scaled by a Polish expedition,
with Konstanty Narkiewicz-Jodko, Stefan Daszyński, Wiktor Ostrowski
and Stefan Osiecki summiting on March 9, 1934, over what is now known
as the Polish Glacier. A route over the Southwest Ridge was pioneered
over seven days in January 1953 by the Swiss-Argentine team of
Frederico and Dorly Marmillod, Francisco Ibanez and Fernando Grajales.
The famously difficult South Face was conquered by a French team led
by René Ferlet (fr). Pierre Lesueur, Adrien Dagory, Robert
Paragot, Edmond Denis, Lucien Berardini and Guy Poulet reached the
summit after a month of effort on 25 February 1954.
The youngest person to reach the summit of
Aconcagua was Tyler
Armstrong of California. He was nine years old when he reached the
summit on December 24, 2013. The oldest person to climb it was
Scott Lewis, who reached the summit on November 26, 2007, when he was
87 years old.
In the base camp Plaza de Mulas (at 4300 meters above sea level) there
is the highest contemporary art gallery tent called "Nautilus" of the
Argentine painter Miguel Doura.
Kilian Jornet set a record for climbing and descending
Aconcagua from Horcones in 12 hours and 49 minutes. The record was
broken less than two months later by Ecuadorian-Swiss Karl Egloff, in
a time of 11 hours 52 minutes, nearly an hour faster than Kilian
In popular culture
Pedro and Aconcagua
The mountain has a cameo in a 1942
Disney cartoon called Pedro.
The cartoon stars an anthropomorphic small airplane named Pedro who
makes an air mail run over the
Andes and has a near-disastrous
encounter with Aconcagua, which is depicted in the film as an
Aconcagua is the highest peak of Americas and is also considered an
‘easy’ high altitude peak, being nearly seven thousand metres.
And through that,
Aconcagua is believed to have the highest death rate
of any mountain in South America – around three a year – which has
earned it the nickname, “Mountain of Death”. More than a hundred
people have died on
Aconcagua since records began.
Due to the improper disposal of human waste in the mountain
environment there are significant health hazards that pose a
threat to both animals and human beings. Only boiled or chemically
treated water is accepted for drinking. Additionally, Ecofriendly
toilets are available only to members of an organised expedition,
meaning climbers have to ‘be contracted to a toilet service’ at
the base camp and similar camps along the route. Currently, from two
base camps (Plaza de Mulas and Plaza Argentina), over 120 barrels of
waste (approx. 22,500 kg) are flown out by helicopter each
season. In addition, individual mountaineers must make a payment
before using these toilets. Some large organisers will give a price up
to US$100, some smaller US$5/day or US$10 for the entire stay. Thus,
many independent mountaineers defecate on the mountainside.
Ojos del Salado
Las Heras, Mendoza
^ a b c "Informe científico que estudia el Aconcagua: el Coloso de
América mide 6.960,8 metros" [Scientific Report on Aconcagua,
the Colossus of America measures 6960,8 m] (in Spanish).
Universidad Nacional de Cuyo. 4 September 2012. Archived from the
original on 8 September 2012. Retrieved December 3, 2017.
^ a b c Secor, R.J. (1994). Aconcagua: A Climbing Guide. The
Mountaineers. p. 13. ISBN 0-89886-406-2. There is no
definitive proof that the ancient Incas actually climbed to the summit
of the White Sentinel [Aconcagua], but there is considerable evidence
that they did climb very high on the mountain. Signs of
have been found on summits throughout the Andes, thus far the highest
atop Llullaillaco, a 6,721-metre (22,051 ft) mountain astride the
Chilean-Argentine border in the
Atacama region. On Aconcagua, the
skeleton of a guanaco was found in 1947 along the ridge connecting the
Summit with the South Summit. It seems doubtful that a guanaco
would climb that high on the mountain on its own. Furthermore, an Inca
mummy has been found at 5400 m on the south west ridge of
Aconcagua, near Cerro Piramidal
^ a b Forbes, William (2014). McColl, R.W., ed. Encyclopedia of World
Geography, Volume 1 Facts on
File Library of World Geography. 1.
Infobase Publishing. p. 3. ISBN 0816072299. Retrieved 23
^ Servei General d'Informacio de Muntanya (2002).
map (Map). Cordee.
^ "South American Explorer". South American Explorers Club (4–19).
1979. Archived from the original on 22 September 2016. Retrieved
September 22, 2016 – via University of Texas.
^ "Guías Pedagógicas del Sector Lengua Indígena, Aymara" (PDF) (in
Spanish). Santiago de Chile: Ministerio de Educación, Fondo de las
Naciones Unidas para la Infancia, UNICEF. 2012. p. 62. Archived
from the original (PDF) on 27 September 2013.
^ "Geology of
Aconcagua - Volcano - Plate Tectonics". Scribd.
Retrieved 5 October 2017.
^ Muza, SR; Fulco, CS; Cymerman, A (2004). "Altitude Acclimatization
Guide". US Army Research Inst. of Environmental Medicine Thermal and
Mountain Medicine Division Technical Report (USARIEM–TN–04–05).
Retrieved 5 March 2009.
^ Stewart Green. "
Aconcagua — Highest Mountain in South
^ "TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF USE OF THE "ELENA" SHELTER – ACONCAGUA
^ "Inauguración del refugio Elena".
^ Fitzgerald, E. A. (1898). "On Top of
Aconcagua and Tupangato".
McClure's magazine. S. S. McClure, Limited. 12 (1): 71–78.
^ R.J. Secor, Aconcagua: A Climbing Guide, The Mountaineers Books,
1999, pp. 17–21
^ Mario Fantin, Some Notes on the History of Aconcagua, The Alpine
^ "Nine-year-old US boy climbs
Aconcagua peak in Argentina". BBC News.
28 December 2013.
^ "Récord: un niño de 10 años hizo cumbre en el cerro Aconcagua"
(in Spanish). Archived from the original on 6 July 2011. Retrieved 26
^ "Highest contemporary art gallery". Guinness World Records.
Kilian Jornet Smashes
Aconcagua Speed Record". Climbing Magazine.
23 December 2014.
Aconcagua Speed Record Smashed Again". Climbing Magazine. 19
^ "Pedro (1943)". IMDb. Retrieved 26 October 2010.
^ a b c Apollo, Michal (2016-09-27). "The good, the bad and the ugly
– three approaches to management of human waste in a high-mountain
environment". International Journal of Environmental Studies. Informa
UK Limited. 74 (1): 129–158. doi:10.1080/00207233.2016.1227225.
^ "Deaths on
Aconcagua - Facts and Figures". www.mountainiq.com.
^ Cilimburg, A.; Monz, C.; Kehoe, S. (2000). "Wildland recreation and
human waste: a review of problems, practices, and concerns".
Environmental Management. 25 (6): 587–598.
^ Barros, A. and Pickering, C.M., 2015, Managing human waste on
Aconcagua. In: J. Higham, A. Thompson-Carr and G. Musa (Eds.)
Mountaineering Tourism (London: Routledge), pp. 219–227.
Biggar, John (2005). The Andes: A Guide for Climbers (3 ed.).
Andes Publishing. ISBN 0-9536087-2-7.
Darack, Ed (2001). Wild Winds: Adventures in the Highest Andes. Cordee
/ DPP. ISBN 978-1884980817.
Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Aconcagua.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
Aconcagua in Andeshandbook
"Aconcagua". SummitPost.org. Retrieved 26 October 2010.
Centro de Investigación en Medicina de Altura (CIMA) de Aconcagua, a
consortium of researchers and mountaineers working to improve the
understanding of high altitude illness.
Blog with information from a successful
Live webcam from
Aconcagua base camp (December to March)
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