Vacas Valley route on Aconcagua

This route ascends the mountain by the second most popular way, called the Vacas valley route (also called the Polish glacier route, although it does not go on the glacier but skirts around the base of it). This route is quieter; only 35% of all climbers on the mountain take this route, and it has superior countryside, vistas, greenery, flora and fauna. It also has a longer walk-in which is good for acclimatisation, although the base camp is the same altitude as Plaza del Mulas on the other side.

The downside of this side is that the summit day can begin from Camp 2, which is at 5600 metres, slightly lower than the Berlin Hut on the other side, which means a longer round trip to the trip (around 12 hours is normal). It's possible to put in a further camp at Colera which is 6000 metres but this is a significantly difficult day to get the gear this high from camp 2. Some people do a traverse -  carry gear all the way to Camp Colera at 5980m for the final push to the top, and then descend all the way to Plaza del Mulas. This is a great journey but physically demanding. We generally go up and down the same way, unless there is a specific desire in the team to do the traverse.

The route is camping all the way and gear is carried on mules for the walk in, which accompany you on the approach to the base camp of Plaza Argentina from the main road at Punta de Vacas (2600m). Note that this walk in requires crossing several rivers and therefore appropriate shoes are required for this (sandals or old trainers). The walk-in is 60 kilometres and 2190 metres of ascent to the Plaza Argentina at 4100m.

From Plaza Argentina the route follows quite a rocky path to Camp 1 which is at 4650m and a huge area spread over much of the hillside; there are many rock platforms to choose from for your tent. We will make several forays to this point, depositing gear and acclimatising by climbing high and sleeping low.

Camp 1 to Camp 2 at 5600m is a straight walk uphill carrying the gear again and making camp right below the famous Polish Glacier. It can get very windy and cold here with potentially lots of snow drifting round the tents. The route is easy to follow but at this altitude it is definitely more than just a hike, especially with full packs.

The summit route from this point crosses beneath the huge Polish Glacier and joins the normal route which is used by climbers coming from the other side near to White Rocks and then continues to the summit via the Independencia Hut and the Canaleta. The descent back to Camp 2 is the same way and generally people spend one night before going all the way back down to base camp in one day.

 

                                                                  
Elevations

Place                           Altitude                       No of nights                 High point reached
Mendoza                          760m                           2
Puente del Inca             2740m                          1
Pampa de Lenas           2700m                           1
Casa Piedra                    3200m                          1
Plaza Argentina             4200m                          4                                  4850m
Camp 1                            4850m                         3                                  5600m
Camp 2                            5600m                         2                                  6962m