Aconcagua is the highest mountain in the Americas at 6,962 m (22,841 ft). It is located in the Andes mountain range, in the Argentine province of Mendoza and it lies 112 kilometres (70 mi) west by north of its capital, the city of Mendoza. The summit is also located about 5 kilometres from San Juan Province and 15 kilometres from the international border with Chile. Aconcagua is the highest peak in both the Western and Southern Hemispheres. It is one of the Seven Summits.
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 Aconcagua Provincial Park. The mountain has a number of glaciers. The largest glacier is the Ventisquero Horcones Inferior at about 10 km long which descends from the south face to about 3600m 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 km long. However the most well-known is the north-eastern or Polish Glacier, a common route of ascent.
The mountain was created by the subduction of the Nazca Plate beneath the South American plate during the geologically recent Andean orogeny; however, it is not a volcano.[dead link] The origin of the name is contested; it is either from the Arauca Aconca-Hue, which refers to the Aconcagua River and means 'comes from the other side', the Quechua Ackon Cahuak, meaning 'Sentinel of Stone', or Quechua Anco Cahuac, 'White Sentinel'.
ClimbingIn mountaineering terms, Aconcagua is technically an easy mountain if approached from the north, via the normal route. Aconcagua is arguably the tallest 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 required. Altitude sickness will affect most climbers to some extent, depending on the degree of acclimatization.
The second most frequented route is the Polish Glacier Traverse route, also known as the "Falso de los Polacos" route. This approaches the mountain 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 the Polish Glacier itself.
The routes to the peak from the south and south-west ridges are more demanding and the south face climb is considered very difficult.
The camp sites on the normal route are listed below (altitudes are approximate).
- Puente del Inca, 2,740m (8,990 ft): A small village on the main road, with facilities including a lodge.
- Confluencia, 3,380m (11,090 ft): A camp site a few hours into the national park.
- Plaza de Mulas, 4,370m (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.
- 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, 5,980 metres (19,620 ft): A larger while slightly more exposed camp situated directly at the north ridge near Camp Berlín, with growing popularity.
- Several sites possible for camping or bivouac, including Piedras Blancas (~6100m) and Independencia (~6350m), exist above Colera, however they are seldom used and offer little protection.
HistoryThe first attempt on 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 that there was 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.
The first recorded ascent was in 1897 on a British expedition led by Edward FitzGerald. The summit was reached by the Swiss guide Matthias Zurbriggen on January 14  and by two other expedition members a few days later.
The youngest person to reach the summit of Aconcagua was Matthew Moniz of Boulder, Colorado. He was 11 years old when he reached the summit on December 16, 2008. The oldest person to climb it was Scott Lewis who reached the summit on November 26, 2007 when he was 87 years old.