MOUNT ACONCAGUA NORTHWEST RIDGE
The Benegas Brothers Expeditions Aconcagua expedition enables you to develop a sound introduction to high-altitude mountaineering, culminating in climbing to the summit of Aconcagua, the highest peak outside of the Himalayas. Located in Western Argentina in the heart of the Central Andes, it is South America’s highest peak (6962m / 22,840 feet) and one of the much sought-after "Seven Summits.” An ascent of this eminent Andean Peak is ideal for those wishing to experience high-altitude expedition mountaineering. It is often undertaken as a preparation climb for the big mountains in the Himalayas.
Our expedition is designed to maximize your enjoyment of Aconcagua while fostering education and high-altitude climbing skills. We focus on bringing each climber to be a competent and active teammate and partner. You will benefit from our years of experience on this and other high mountains across the globe. Our highly qualified guides will offer you an experience that is not offered on Aconcagua.
Read the Ultimate Climbing Guide for Aconcagua here.
Climbing Aconcagua with Benegas Brothers Expeditions
We first climbed Aconcagua in 1987, and since then, we have explored nearly every valley and ridge on the mountain. BBE offers both non-technical and technical ascents on four routes: the Northwest Ridge (The Normal Route), The Polish Traverse, The Polish Direct; and in 2002, in search of new and unexplored ways to the summit, we pioneered a new route on the West Face, “The Flight of the Condor.” All the routes are physically demanding adventures and involve all the complexities of expedition climbing. We look forward to climbing with you to “The Roof of the Americas”!
The expedition begins and culminates in the charming Argentine city of Mendoza. Tree-lined avenues, beautifully tiled plazas, lively markets, and outdoor cafes with vibrant Latin rhythms offer a unique setting to sample the region’s fine cuisine and wine. We will have time in Mendoza to finalize organizing our equipment. On Day 2, after completing the permitting process, we travel to the Las Cuevas Valley at 3200m / 15,000 feet. We stay for three nights at the Refugio Portezuelo de Viento, enjoying the day hikes around the area to aid our acclimatization. Our Las Cuevas section allows us to climb to considerable altitudes before entering the Aconcagua Provincial Park. This format allows us to acclimatize dynamically while ascending peaks in a seldom-visited region near the Aconcagua Massif. From here, we move into the second phase of the expedition inside the Aconcagua Provincial Park. We drive to Horcones, where mule loads will be organized for the trek to Aconcagua Base Camp.
Upon arriving at Plaza de Mulas Base Camp, our sleeping tents will be established in rock windbreaks on the moraine of the Horcones Glacier. We utilize a large mess tent and have excellent catered meals while at Base Camp. A valuable acclimatization and preparation day will occur before we begin carrying and caching equipment to Camp 1 Plaza Don Fernando (16,200’ 4938m.). It is here that we feel the benefit of our prior acclimatization. We later retrace our steps back to Camp 1 to sleep there, continuing the ascent in a lightweight expedition style by progressively establishing three camps over seven to ten days. The exact climbing itinerary is not fixed to allow for the optimal acclimatization program and stormy wind and weather.
The Aconcagua Massif is often subject to frigid temperatures and storms that sweep in from the Pacific Ocean, 160km to the west; hence your guide will constantly work around any forecasted weather systems to plan for the best summit program. Climbing at altitude is more arduous than at lower elevations due to the thinner atmosphere. BBE’s vast experience at high altitudes has enabled us to develop a successful strategy for climbing high peaks with sensible acclimatization. Rest days will sometimes be interspersed between camp-move and load-shuttling days. During most of the ascent, the terrain entails unroped travel over moraine, scree, and permanent snowfields.
The route crosses the Cresta del Viento (Windy Crest). We traverse the upper part of the Gran Acarreo, which leads to the Canaleta - the most infamous and challenging part of the summit day. The Canaleta is an approximately 30-degree scree gully that climbs 1,300 feet. It requires great patience and stamina and is often done with crampons. Above Canaleta, you will find yourself on the Cresta del Guanaco, the ridge that joins the lower South Summit to the higher North Summit. We follow the ridge crest to the 22,841-foot true summit, where an aluminum cross marks the highest point in the entire Western Hemisphere. Summiting and returning down to high camp usually takes from 9-14 hours.
All expedition equipment is carried to base camp by mules. From there, we follow the climb-high-sleep-low philosophy and establish a series of higher camps. We have built numerous inclement weather days into the schedule to allow more time to attempt the summit climb. We’ve fine-tuned our mountain menu to provide tasty meals and easily digested food that provides the calories needed to maintain energy levels. Many years ago, we also recognized the advantage of using porters. Hence we make this service available for climbers joining our teams. More than 90% of our clients now utilize this service, which makes things a bit easier and increases success rates. Most importantly, your guides provide leadership that fosters team building and supports all working toward the group objective.
Day before Expedition: Departure
(✈︎ KEY DATE: DEPARTURE FROM HOME - Dec 16 / Jan 6)
Set off from your home country for Mendoza, Argentina.
Day 1: Arrivals in Mendoza
(✈︎ KEY DATE: ARRIVALS IN MENDOZA - Dec 17 / Jan 7)
Arrive in Mendoza, Argentina.
Mandatory orientation session covering group dynamics, leadership, Leave No Trace, and concluding with a thorough equipment check.
Overnight in a hotel. Altitude sleeping: 2,428ft / 740m. Max Elevation: 2,428ft / 740m.
Day 2: Mendoza to Penitentes
Meet at the hotel at 9:00 AM. During the morning, we will go and get our Aconcagua permits before heading to the hills. In the afternoon, we drive for 4 hours to las Cuevas. Our home-from-home for the next few nights, the Refugio Portezuelo de Viento. In the afternoon we will take a short hike in this new area to begin our acclimatization to the new altitude.
Overnight Refugio Portezuelo de Viento. Altitude sleeping: 10,500ft / 3,200m. Max Elevation:
10,500ft / 3,200m.
Day 3: Ascent of Cerro Mirador del Tolosa, 4,200m
Today we enjoy an ascent of Cerro Mirador del Tolosa, which will take us around 8 hours round trip. It’s our first big day, but we have had plenty of rest since arriving in Mendoza. Overnight Refugio Portezuelo de Viento.
Altitude sleeping: 10,500ft / 3,200m. Max Elevation: 13,780ft / 4,200m. Elevation Ascent/Descent hiking: 3,280ft / 1000m. -(2,280ft. 1000m.)
Day 4: High Camp Overnight, 3,900m
Today we hike in the direction of Cerro Peñas Colorados, to spend an overnight at 3,900m (2.82 miles hiking). We will divide the load of our tents and food. Our ascent of over 800m will not be so easy after our long day the day before. Overnight in shared tents.
Altitude sleeping: 12,788ft / 3,900m. Max Elevation: 12,788ft / 3,900m. Elevation Ascent/Descent hiking: 2,550ft / 800m.
Day 5: Ascend Higher Peaks, return to Refugio
Today we enjoy an ascent of further peaks, heading for almost the 4,500m mark (5.4 miles hiking). There are plenty of options for this day, for example, the Peñas Colorados Peak at 4,211m, or Santa Elena Ridge. Overnight at Portezuelo de Viento Refuge.
Altitude sleeping: 10,500 ft / 3,200m. Max Elevation: 14,583 ft / 4,444m. Elevation Ascent/Descent hiking: 1,795ft / 547m -(4,083ft / 1,245m).
Day 6: Transfer to Horcones and Hike to Confluencia Camp (Dec 22 / Jan 12)
Our pre-acclimatization program now completed, we are picked up by our vehicle to transfer to the entrance of the Aconcagua National Park. A pick up truck will drive us as far along the Horcones jeep road as possible. We then trek up the Horcones Valley following the Horcones River to our Camp at Confluencia (11,200ft/3,414m, 4,2 miles hiking). This is a short day, helping us recover from Las Cuevas.
Altitude sleeping: 11,257ft / 3,431m. Max Elevation: 11,257ft / 3,431m.
Day 7: Confluencia to Plaza de Mulas Base Camp
Continuing our trek today, we follow a broad, stone-covered valley floor from Confluencia to a steep trail that leads to a glacial moraine. Base Camp Plaza de Mulas (14,300ft / 4,350m) is situated on top of this moraine just off the Horcones Glacier and beneath the vast west face of Aconcagua. Base Camp Plaza de Mulas is very comfortable, with a huge mess tent and a full staff of cooks and porters. We provide world-class mountain cuisine that includes vegetarian meals, free-range Argentinian steak, delicious soups, and fresh fruits and vegetables daily.
Altitude sleeping: 14,300ft / 4,350m. Max Elevation: 14,300ft / 4,350m. Elevation Ascent/Descent hiking: 3,100ft / 936m.
Day 8: Rest Day Base Camp
Acclimatization at Base Camp. Most people begin to feel the altitude at this point. We will rest, hydrate, acclimatize, and enjoy the stunning views and Base Camp culture.
Altitude sleeping: 14,300ft / 4,350m. Max Elevation: 14,300ft / 4,350m.
Day 9: Load Carry to Camp I, Plaza Don Fernando
Camp I, or Plaza Don Fernando, rests at 16,200ft / 4,938m. Throughout our climb of Aconcagua, we follow the philosophy of climb-high-sleep-low as we ascend further up the mountain. We follow the trail from our Base Camp at Plaza de Mulas as it gradually switchbacks up steep scree slopes to the rock spires that mark Plaza Don Fernando. Here we cache food and gear before returning to base camp. This usually takes 4 - 6 hours round trip, 3 miles hiking.
Altitude sleeping: 14,300ft / 4,350m. Max Elevation: 16,518ft / 5,034m. Elevation Ascent/Descent hiking: 2,218ft / 676m up/down.
Day 10: Move to Camp I, Plaza Don Fernando
Today we return to Plaza Don Fernando to sleep. We must each carry all our equipment and will not return to Base Camp until after our summit push unless forced by bad weather. Local guides who serve as seasonal porters help us carry tents, stoves, cooking equipment, and fuel. Expect to be carrying about 17 to 22 kilos, 1,5 miles hiking.
Altitude sleeping: 16,200ft / 4,938m. Max Elevation: 16,200ft / 4,938m. Elevation Ascent/Descent hiking: 1,900ft / 588m.
Day 11: Load Carry to Camp II, Plaza Don Benegas
Today we make our next move up to stock Camp II at 18,400ft/5,608m, which takes about 3 to 5 hours, 3 miles hiking. We will set up our Camp II but return to Camp I for the night.
Altitude sleeping: 16,200ft / 4,938m. Max Elevation:18,400ft / 5,608m.Elevation Ascent/Descent hiking: 2,200ft / 670m.
Day 12: Move to Camp II, Plaza Don Benegas
Today we make our next move up to Camp II (18,400ft / 5,608m) in about 3 to 5 hours, 1.5 mileshiking. in about 3-5 hours. We will set up our camp and look forward to resting for the remainder of the day and a rest day tomorrow.
Altitude sleeping: 18,400ft / 5,608m. Max Elevation: 18,400ft / 5,608m. Elevation Ascent/ Descent hiking: 2,200ft / 670m.
Day 13: Move to Camp Plaza Caluba
Today we move on up for approximately 3.5 hours to reach our next Camp Plaza Caluba at 19,600ft / 5,974m (1 mile hike). This may be an altitude record for some, and we are now less than 1000m below the summit! We will be carrying three days of food, fuel, personal equipment, and tents and moving steadily up the mountain.
Altitude sleeping: 19,600ft / 5974m. Max Elevation: 19,600ft / 5974’. Elevation Ascent/ Descent hiking: 1,200ft / 366m.
Day 14: Summit Day
The Aconcagua Summit Day is very long yet satisfying. Our wake-up call is at first light, and we depart between 6 - 8 am, depending on the wind. We will be ending in the late afternoon. The summit day involves mountain walking, albeit at a high altitude. In good conditions from the base of the Central Canaleta, the summit is reached in just 4 to 5 hours. The Central Canaleta then involves about 300 meters in vertical elevation gain. Due to the gradient and altitude, we calculate approximately one hour per 100 meters of elevation gain. The Canaleta sometimes requires a little scrambling to the final summit ridge, which provides outstanding views down the South Face. Finally, a metal cross adorns the true summit and is accompanied by a summit register. The views from the summit on a clear day are superb and can stretch as far as the Pacific Ocean. From the summit, we return the same way to Camp Plaza Caluba.
Altitude sleeping: 19,600ft / 5974m. Max Elevation: 22,841ft / 6962m. Elevation Ascent/Descent hiking: 3,241ft / 988m up/down.
Days 15 - 16: Standby Days (High Camps)
We allow for flexibility in our itinerary for considerations such as weather, route conditions, acclimatization, and the strength and health of the climbing team. Our experienced guides closely monitor climbers’ performance and acclimatization throughout the team’s ascent and may make day-to-day variations to better your chances of reaching the summit. We have plenty of time!
Day 17: Descend to Base Camp
Today we descend from Plaza Caluba to the comforts of Base Camp, feeling oxygen return the lower we go. We will probably have some equipment and snacks to pick up at Camp I, which will be shared between team members.
Altitude sleeping: 14,300ft / 4,350m. Max Elevation: 19,600ft / 5974m. Elevation Ascent/Descent
hiking: -5,300ft / 1,674m.
Day 18: Descend to the Trailhead and transfer to Mendoza.
Trek from Base Camp to the Horcones Trailhead (15.3 miles), following the Horcones River, with several terrific vantage points from which to see the south face of Aconcagua. We’ll arrive at Confluencia Camp and enjoy refreshments, then finally finish the hike to the Horcones Trailhead Visitor Center. BBE's services end with transfer to Mendoza (3h), where we will drop you at the hotel of your choice (hotel not included). Our guides can provide suggestions if climbers have extra days and want to tour the many wineries surrounding Mendoza.
Max Elevation: 14,300ft / 4,350m. Elevation Descent hiking: 2,132ft / 650m.
Day 19: Depart Argentina
Departing flights can be booked for any time.
(✈︎ KEY DATE: DEPARTURES FROM MENDOZA - Jan 4 / Jan 25)
Next Day: Arrival in home country (Jan 5 / Jan 26)
Read the Ultimate Climbing Guide for Aconcagua here.
This climb is suited for beginning climbers who are in excellent physical condition with introductory mountaineering experience. However, the higher altitude, length of the climb, and additional extreme temperatures make this climb more difficult than Mount Kilimanjaro. The actual terrain on the Normal Route is similar, and it may demand the use of an ice axe and crampons. Climbers need to be in excellent physical condition for personal enjoyment and be integral members of the team.
Climbing Skill Level
For those with minimal mountaineering or high altitude experience, it is strongly recommended that climbers should have completed our Baker Mountaineering School or Ecuador High Altitude Mountaineering School.
Please note that this climb is far more demanding than Kilimanjaro. In addition to the physical demands, climbers should have spent multiple nights outdoors, winter camping, completed multi-day trips with a 40 lb. pack, and be able to assist guides with setting up camp and tents.“A reasonable goal would be to ascend 3,200 ft. carrying an average pack of 40 lbs. in a two to three-hour period, or roughly 1,200 vertical ft. per hour.”
Aconcagua is a highly challenging climb, far more physically demanding than Kilimanjaro and most climbs in the continental US. In our continuing efforts to match the best climbers and mountains,
We thank you in advance for reviewing this “self-test”. Document your athletic experience, and analyze your readiness for this climb.
- Have you completed multiple overnight camping trips, including carrying a heavy pack (40–55lbs) and setting up a tent camp each evening?
- Do you have a good understanding of the physical difficulty of climbing Aconcagua?
- Do you train/exercise regularly?
- Have you previously trained 3–5 months before an upcoming climb or event?
We thank you for your time and encourage you to call with any questions.
Best in Class and Logistics
Benegas Brothers AMGA/IFMGA-certified lead guides manage our Aconcagua expeditions. This certification is the most prestigious in the world, attained only by the most experienced and dedicated guides. Our lead guides have traveled and climbed extensively throughout South America and possess intimate knowledge of the Andes. A thorough understanding of Andean culture combined with a passion for developing climbers into competent mountaineers guarantees an experience you won't forget. We combine our guides' experience with the local expertise of one of Aconcagua's best logistics operators.
"In my experience, few provide a more complete, safe and rewarding expedition experience than the Benegas Brothers. When it comes to expedition judgement, safety and climbing ethics, Willie and Damian set the bar as high as the mountains they climb.
There’s a lot more to high altitude climbing expeditions than just getting to the top. Team dynamics, the opportunities to learn skills, making life long friends, enjoying new cultures and cuisine are some of the important elements of an expedition. In my experience, few provide a more complete, safe and rewarding expedition experience than the Benegas Brothers. When it comes to expedition judgement, safety and climbing ethics, Willie and Damian set the bar as high as the mountains they climb. My son Matt and I have 100% trust and confidence in Willie and Damian and when I’m not climbing with Matt, it’s reassuring to know he’s with Benegas Brothers."
Mike Moniz, 2014
How to Choose Your Trusted Mountain Guide Outfitter for Aconcagua Expeditions
When embarking on a thrilling Aconcagua expedition, selecting the right mountain guides is paramount to ensure a safe and successful climb. The Benegas Brothers have been at the forefront of high-altitude mountaineering for decades, making them the top choice for adventurers seeking an unforgettable and secure journey to the summit. Here's why you should choose the Benegas Brothers as your trusted mountain guides for Aconcagua:
1. Unmatched Expertise: With over 30 years of combined guiding experience, the Benegas Brothers are renowned for their unparalleled expertise in leading successful Aconcagua expeditions. Their intimate knowledge of the mountain's terrain, weather patterns, and logistics guarantees a smooth and well-organized climb.
2. Risk Management as Priority: Risk management is the cornerstone of every expedition with the Benegas Brothers. They are highly trained in mountain safety protocols and first aid, ensuring that each climber is well taken care of throughout the journey.
3. Personalized Approach: Unlike large commercial guiding companies, the Benegas Brothers offer a personalized approach. They keep expedition groups small, fostering a tight-knit and supportive atmosphere that enhances the overall experience.
4. Cultural Immersion: As native Argentinians, the Benegas Brothers provide a unique opportunity for cultural immersion. They share their local knowledge, introduce you to Argentine customs, and make your expedition not just a climb but also a cultural adventure.
5. Sustainable Practices: The Benegas Brothers are committed to responsible and sustainable mountaineering. They practice Leave No Trace principles and work closely with local communities to preserve the pristine environment of Aconcagua.
6. Success Record: With an impressive success rate, the Benegas Brothers have guided countless climbers to the summit of Aconcagua. Their wealth of experience ensures you have the best chance of reaching the peak safely and triumphantly.
7. Mentorship and Support: The Benegas Brothers are not only expert guides but also mentors, providing guidance and support throughout the climb. They encourage and empower climbers to push their limits and achieve their goals.
In conclusion, the Benegas Brothers stand out as the ideal mountain guides for Aconcagua expeditions. Their wealth of experience, unwavering commitment to safety, personalized approach, and cultural insights make them the perfect choice for climbers seeking an unforgettable and successful journey to the summit. Put your trust in the Benegas Brothers, and they will lead you to conquer the majestic heights of Aconcagua while creating cherished memories that last a lifetime.