Climbing in the Andes Mountains

One of the world's great mountain ranges, the Andes form the spine of the south American continent running 7000 kilometres with peaks in Ecuador, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Argentina, Bolivia & Venezuela. The highest peak of all the climbs in the Andes and the highest in South America,and indeed the highest mountain in the world outside the Himalayas is Mount Aconcagua in Argentina. We offer guided climbs on both major routes of this peak, and the main season is from December to the end of February. We run one trip per year normally, taking it in turns to tackle either the Horcones or the Vacas Valley side. Group sizes are normally about ten, and our trips use base camp services and mules as far as base camp, after which the teams are self-sufficient.  

Guided Climb of Mount Aconcagua

Mount Aconcagua, located in Argentina, is one of the Seven Summits and the highest peak in the Americas. Located in the Mendoza province of Argentina. The mountain itself has several glaciers, with the northern route providing the easiest way to the summit. Another option for climbing Aconcagua is via the Vacas Valley. This route traverses the Polish Glacier and joins the standard route towards the top. Many consider this peak to be non-technical because ropes and pins are not always required. However, don’t be fooled, climbing mount Aconcagua is tough business and it should not be taken lightly.

For more information about climbing the magnificent peaks in the Andes, read below.

Experience Guided Treks and Climbs in Bolivia

Meanwhile the Cordillera Real in Bolivia are a great destination for the less experienced climber at high altitude looking for other peaks in the Andes. There are no peak fees or permits as in Nepal and the spectacular peaks are easily accessed from La Paz. We offer guided trips to Huayna Potosi and Pequeno Alpamayo in Bolivia. These fantastic mountains are located in the Southern Cordillera Real, near La Paz, making them some of the more accessible peaks in the range.

Guided trekking in Bolivia is a delight and it does feel like the convenience of the European Alps has met the grandeur of the more remote and higher Greater Ranges. The mountain range lies between the Altiplano plateau and the Amazon rainforest, the climate is generally stable and very pleasant and you can combine your trip with a visit to Lake Tititcaca.

Pequeno Alpamayo and Huayna Potosi are two of the popular peaks in this range, the standard routes are not highly technical but they are mountains of real character and quality. The season is from May to September when there is typically stable snow and minimal precipitation. We run trips to these peaks every year, providing qualified guided support and training for teams of up to twelve.  

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Guided Climbing in Chile

Chile seems to stretch on endlessly with mountains. A great way to experience the Chilliean Andes is by a guided trek to Nevado Ojos del Salado. Nevado Ojas del Salado is the highest mountain in Chile standing 6,893m. Like other guided trips to the Andes, this peak offers a look into climbing without too much technical difficulty. However, this climb certainly isn’t boring. The crux of the climb lies at the summit rock tower, where fixed ropes are used. 

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Penitentes, or strange ice formations along an ice sheet near Ojos del Salado.

The unique location of Nevado Ojas del Salado makes this climb one not to forget. The mountain itself is a volcano surrounded by desert. However, there are several deep green lagoons near the mountain. During the climb, you might be able to spot flamingos, guanacos, foxes, and horny coots to name a few. Due to the surrounding desert environment, temperatures swing dramatically. It’s important to be prepared for all kinds of conditions along the trekking route to Nevado Ojas del Salado, as well as the climb itself.

The weather on this peak can vary greatly. Heavy winds are a problem, as they are on most mountains. The climbing season is from December to Late March, as this is the warmest period. However, the winds still present a problem.

Experience Required to Go on a Guided Climb in the Andes

What these peaks lack in technical climbing knowledge, they make up for in elevation. You must be physically fit to embark on a climb in the Andes. This means that you should be able to carry heavy loads, endure rapidly changing weather, and be mentally and physically prepared. A good kit is essential. Preferably one you have extensive experience using. The key to a good kit starts with ensuring you have comfortable footwear. Be sure to spend many miles in your footwear, both mountaineering and trekking, prior to trekking in the Andes.

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The summit ridge of Pequeno Alpamayo.

Each climb has a list of gear required for your expedition. Understanding how to use this gear and field testing it prior to bringing it on a climb in the Andes is extremely important. Understand how to fit your different parts of kit, such as your pack, sleeping bag, crampons, and shoes. Many gear shops have good return policies and most gear companies stand behind their products. Try these types of shops for peace of mind.

Prior to any climb in the Andes, it is important to know how both your body and mind react at altitude. Understanding if you have a tendency towards a cough, stomach ache, or head ache is very helpful in terms of your ability to recognize signs of altitude sickness. Our guided treks and climbs in the Andes focus on going slow and taking the proper time to acclimatize. If at any point you are not well or something does not feel right, don’t be ashamed, talk to your guide about your problem.

Preparation for an Andes Climbing Expedition

As mentioned before, Adventure Alternative aims to keep everyone in a climbing team properly acclimatized. We recommend staying properly hydrated. Drink significantly more than you need, especially in dry or cold conditions. A good rule of thumb is to drink double what you think you need, especially above 3,000m. Altitude tends to cause appetite suppression, so be sure to eat at every meal in order to replenish your energy level. Bring a tasty treat from home for a day when nothing looks good. This is not only a great way to give yourself some much-needed calories, but it’s a fun way to share something from your home country with other climbers on the mountain.

Lastly, climbing mountains is more than just a feat of physical strength, it requires mental endurance as well. The entire climb can seem insurmountable at first, so instead try to focus on one small part of the climb. You can choose to focus on the day's task, or even an interesting landmark a few minutes walk in front of you. Everything you climb up, you must also climb down, so be sure to understand your limits and abilities. Communicate your concerns with the team, they are there to support you just as much as you are there to support them. Maintain a positive attitude.

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Cordillera Central Bolivia. Views to the peaks beyond. 

Sleep can be hard to come by at altitude. To battle this and other altitude symptoms, we recommend you walk higher than you sleep that day. Once you have set up your camp go for a short walk to a point higher than the camp so you can acclimatize faster.

The Joys of Trekking and Climbing in the Andes

The Andes are a diverse place, stretching the length of the entire continent of South America. Each region has its own distinct climbing experience. Mount Aconcagua offers the opportunity to stand on the tallest point in the Americas. Pequeno Alpamayo and Huayna Potosi boast fantastic views and some of the best trekking in the Andes. Nevado Ojas del Salado in Chile provides an excellent opportunity to climb in a one-of-a-kind high alpine environment.