Hike to Camp Confluencia
Just about everyone who climbs Aconcagua will first make a stop here in the city of Mendoza. If you read my Argentina page then you’ll know it’s a pretty big city and you can find anything here including all the gear you would need to climb a high peak in the Andes. Mendoza is only located at 2,700 feet (800 meters) above seal level. While it’s not high enough to get any real acclimatizing done, you’ll find yourself arriving here by flight or bus and then registering for your climbing permits. On the left is a photo of all the climbing gear I took on the mountain which totaled about 45lbs. Below is a photo of Mendoza’s shopping districts. This was my last day of comfort and city life before I committed to up to three weeks on a mountain.
After a few days in Mendoza we loaded up a cargo van and a trailer with all our supplies. Then we were off to a roughly three hours drive to the ski resort of Penitentes. When you’re in Mendoza it’s difficult to see snow covered peaks, but on the drive to Penitentes we passed by several such as the one below.
During the summer Penitentes is mostly empty except for climbers, hikers and travelers making a pit stop between Chile and Argentina. Penitentes is small but does have a few accommodations, restaurants, internet and places to stock up on supplies. The summer brings in some hot weather with some nice scenery and plenty of good trails to explore which helps begin your acclimatization. Mendoza had been my last day in city life and Penitentes was my last day in civilization until the end of my expedition.
During a hike I did with my climbing partner, we went hiked up to the top of some ski lifts and got a good view of Penitentes. We also found pack of dogs who joined us on our acclimatization hike!
After a night in Penitentes, we began the next morning with a short drive and arrived to Aconcagua National Park. The photos above and below were located right at the entrance. The sign shows the starting altitude here is 9,350 feet (2,850 meters) above sea level. From this point onward, you’re on foot until you reach the summit at 22,841 feet (6,942 meters)!
At the park entrance I saw this helicopter land which is used to ferry supplies back and forth from base camp as well as rescue injured and sick climbers. The great thing about climbing Aconcagua is your climbing permit also includes any rescue insurance, including a helicopter ride if you need it.
And finally before our hike began, I met this man who was riding his bike all the way from Sao Paulo Brazil. The dog you see here was found in Buenos Aires and has traveled with him as he heads west to the coast. Riding from the Pacific ocean to the Atlantic must be an amazing adventure!
At the ranger station you’ll also find some drinking water to fill your containers up and some information on what’s to come. Our first goal of the expedition was to reach Camp Confluencia which was only four hours away. We began at the ranger station at 9,300 feet (2,850 meters) and headed to Camp Confluencia at an altitude of just below 11,000 feet (3,300 meters). The sign below shows the distances and time it takes to reach some of the popular camps.
After checking in with the rangers and squaring away our permits we finally started on foot to base camp. Above is a sign warning you to have your permit before crossing the bridge. Below is a my climbing partner and friend trekking through one of the trails in the Horncones Valley on the way to Camp Confluencia. This day took about four hours of easy hiking over nice terrain with beautiful weather. Mules carried all of our gear to base camp so we only had to carry small day packs. The first day of physical activity was very enjoyable.
I did see some birds flying about the trail, but otherwise the only wildlife I saw was this duck in a pond just beyond the entrance.
As per the gear list, I had brought sandals to help cross rivers and creeks, but most of the streams we came to were relatively low. Without any wildlife or raging rivers, the most interesting thing I saw today were the remains of some Inca settlements seen below.
Warm weather and flat terrain at low altitude meant we could focus on our surroundings and not hate every step of the journey. I arrived to Camp Confluenica after four hours with lots of energy and excitement.
We were able to top off our easy hike with luxury conditions of Camp Confluencia. The weather was still warm, food great, and they even had a real toilet!
Not everyone in Camp Confluencia or Aconcagua national park is here to climb the mountain of course. These guys we met up with camp just to go camping and enjoy the views. They were also into bouldering, and since my climbing partner is a serious rock climber as well he quickly joined them to try to tackle some problems. It wasn’t until years later that I finally got into rock climbing myself.
We went on some hikes on our around around camp, and the scenery was seriously some of the best I’ve ever seen. It would be worth it to just hike to Camp Confluencia alone! We didn’t even have to go far to get this amazing view of our camp. I never found out the name of this mountain behind Camp Confluencia, but it was absolutely stunning with all its different colors and massive size.