7 summits and other mountain stuff > Questions

Treks to Plaza de Mulas or Plaza Francia | Feb/March 2010

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christopher78:
To the much esteemed 7 summits forum community:

As of now, I'm definitely going down to Mendoza at the beginning of March (Feb 29-March 1st) with my girlfriend to Mendoza. At some point it is a goal of mine to attempt to summit the Acconcagua. Obviously, it's out of question that I would even attempt to summit the Aconcagua in March when I head down there.  But ... I was wondering if it's possible to go trekking at least to base camp/plaza de mulaz.  I like the idea of going at least to roughly 14,000ft (4.370m) to get a taste of an elevation close to altitude and to at least get near the Aconcagua. It's also ideal if this trek is somewhere around 4-6 days, as the primary reason for me going to Mendoza in March is to visit my girlfriend's family and celebrate her father's 60th birthday. Given that, I will probably set my sights on attempting to summit the Aconcagua around late December 2010 or early January 2011. Seems like a long way, but hey ... it'll just make me hungrier to accomplish that goal as well as prepare a little bit more and in all aspects. One major reason why I want to climb the Aconcagua is in memory of my grandmother whom I lost to cancer as well as my girlfriend's grand uncle whom passed away (also due to cancer) on this very day.  It's the one year anniversary of his death.  He was actually the one that inspired me to summit the Aconcagua through his own personal experiences and stories. He had summitted several times ... as a young man and even as recently as a several years ago and the ripe age of 50!  Anyways, didn't mean to share meaningless drivel about my motivations.

What do you think? First, I'm not a regular mountaineer. I occasionally rock climb but for recreation. I consider myself fit, being a runner and ice hockey player but I understand that everyone's body reacts to altitude differently. With that said, is it even possible to make a trekk to plaza de mulas in March or does the weather make it brutally hostile, that even this is a dangerous undertaking?  By the looks of it, it seems you can still acquire an Aconcagua park permit until March 14th/15th. http://www.aconcaguaadventures.com/ingles/tips.htm  The trekking expedition is about 6 days if I choose to go for a long trek.  http://www.aconcaguaadventures.com/ingles/climbing.htm However, so far I have not been able to find any outfitters that provide guided treks to either base camp beyond February 18th-20th. Is there a reason for this that I have overlooked?

I'm sure anyone here would strongly recommend going with a professionally guided expedition and I see the common sense with that. However, I wonder if it's possible to cut back on some of the costs offered such as getting my permit on my own, having my girlfriend's family or our friends in the area take me to Puenta de Inca where I can meet up with the group.  Also, the return trip from Puenta de Inca can be provided by my girlfriend's family or our friends.  Do you think they would be flexible with that?

Still so many questions and apologies for picking your brains apart more and more. Its exciting and awe-inspiring.  I just need to set the goal and go for it. It would be great if I can get a trek in this March to altitude so I can guage whether it's feasible for me to even attempt a summit of the Aconcagua later down the road. Thanks in advance for your time, wisdom, encouragement and advice.  Grateful for it.

All the best,
Christopher

Charlie:
Hi Chris-
I hope others will chime in because I have only been at Aconcagua once, in January climbed from the Guanacos route and only descended on the normal route, so I am no expert on the topic.
With that, and with the mandatory "everybody reacts differently to altitude", I would think that you are not unreasonably ambitious.  I don't know about the conditions in March, but hiking in to Pl. de Mulas in Jan does not seem like a big deal.  I don't think I would pay a commercial company to do so, if not for having others around to share the experience.
Also, based on that single experience I would climb normal route in high season unsupported.  There are so many other climbers around that even without too much experience you should not be lost in any sense of the word. Again, it is nicer to have a climbing partner, though.  Perhaps your GF?  Make sure that you read up on the logistics and talk to people (perhaps here) who have do it.  The one thing I might recommend it is to hire mules to carry much of your stuff in to base camp, but that's about it.
Best of luck and have a good hike, then a fun climb!
Charlie

christopher78:
Thanks Charlie. Appreciate you sharing your experience. I will be leaving for Mendoza next Wednesday and am in the midst of planning a trek (ideally to altitude to see what that's like) with some friends/colleagues. At this point, it's out of question to make a trek to Plaza Francia or Plaza Mulas given the season. I think the Aconcagua Park is closed as well. With that said, I suppose you could call this trekking excursion alternative somewhat of a scouting and litmus test to see how I'm doing physically.

Here's the potential treks we're looking at:

http://www.cordondelplata.com/mendoza/english/san-antonio/refugio-san-antonio

Tres Cumbres Franke
http://www.cordondelplata.com/mendoza/sp/ascensiones/tres-cumbres-franke

Hiking Veguitas - Arenales - Lomas Blancas
http://www.cordondelplata.com/mendoza/en/hiking/hikking-veguitas-arenales-lomas-blancas-3-days

Cerro Plata (not sure if this is possible, weather-wise during this time of the year, logistically, technical difficulty, etc.)
http://www.cordondelplata.com/mendoza/sp/ascensiones/cerro-plata

Is anyone familiar with any of these places? Would appreciate any advice, info, suggestions or any insights on these ambitions. Unrealistic? Ridiculous? Wasting time? Hope to hear from someone soon if not sometime!

Christopher

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