We’re on our way back from a three day trek to the base of Aconcagua. Our bus has a flat tire so I’m writing this while we’re inching along the highway into Mendoza, listing dangerously to one side, and actually wishing we were on bikes right now.
Anyways, despite not having walked more than a mile in the past three weeks, we couldn’t pass up the chance to see the highest mountain in the western hemisphere up close. We rented some backpacks in town of very questionable quality so we packed only one of the two bottles of Malbec that we intended to bring. Because when in Argentina, there is no such thing as too much wine.
We camped at the first base camp for climbing the mountain. This place was like a mini Everest base camp village with a snack shop, medical tent, showers, and even a volleyball court. Large, brightly colored dome tents with kitchens, dining rooms, and other luxuries, filled the area, all belonging to the climbing expedition outfitters. We didn’t want to look like total amateurs around all the hardcore climbers, so we spent more time than usual setting up our tent with guy lines and rocks to secure it against the intense wind. The Half Dome never looked better.
Next day we hiked about 12km and 3000 feet up to Plaza Francia, right at the base of Aconcagua’s south face. We looked up to the summit, 6962 meters high (over 22,000 ft). Massive glaciers hung over rock walls covered the entire south face so we weren’t surprised to learn that only six people have successfully summited from this side. Most people climb the mountain from the less imposing north face, a much less technical climb, but still requiring weeks of acclimatization.
After watching two huge avalanches cascade off the mountain’s upper slopes (well out of range thousands of feet above us), we decided to stick with biking. So, one more day in Mendoza to
learn about the local wineries sample more wine and then we’re back on the bikes to Chile.