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Climbing Aconcagua's West/Southwest Face

Aconcagua's West/Southwest Face offers climbers more challenge on the Western Hemisphere's highest peak.

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This route traverses across the lower west and southwest faces of Aconcagua before climbing a huge couloir that leads onto the crest of the southwest ridge. It is technically more difficult than the Polish Glacier, it features intricate route finding and it should appeal to more experienced climbers.

Take the bus from Mendoza to Puente del Inca and hike up the Horcones Valley, the approach for the Normal Route as well as the Ibáñez-Marmillod Route. One arrives at Plaza de Mulas, the base camp, after hiking 14 miles. Head south from Plaza de Mulas before climbing up and to the right across the lower and middle west face, much easier in November, the early part of the austral summer, when snow covers these tedious scree fields. These slopes eventually lead to some small rock cliffs on the lower southwest slope of the mountain. Traverse to the southeast almost to the crest of the lower southwest ridge to a narrow chute. Ascend this chute and then turn left and descend about 700 feet down a rocky slope to a ledge that leads to the Grajales Couloir. Climb the snow and ice in the couloir to a cliff, bypassed by traversing up and left to meet the crest of the southwest ridge. Follow the crest of the Southwest Ridge to the lower South Summit of Aconcagua (22,736 ft). Descend the Cresta del Guanaco to the upper part of the Canaleta on the Normal Route. Ascend the Canaleta to the higher, true summit of Aconcagua.

Permits: Each individual climber must obtain his or her climbing permit in person at the Subsecretaria de Turismo in downtown Mendoza at San Martin 1143. Fees range from US$5.00 in the austal winter (March to November), to US$200 in the high season, December 15 to January 1. The permit is valid for twenty days after entering the park.

Special Considerations: Almost all parties attempting Aconcagua use the services of muleteers to facilitate the approach to the mountain.

Guidebook:Aconcagua: A Climbing Guide, Second Edition, by R.J. Secor. The Mountaineers, Seattle, 1999, $16.95.

Contacts: Aconcagua Provincial Park, (in English, Spanish, German, French, and Portuguese); Mount Aconcagua–Unofficial Home Page, (in Spanish only); Aconcagua: The Professional Site, (in English, Spanish, and Italian).

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