After fine tuning our lightweight techniques for big mountains on two ascents of Denali (6,194 meters) in the Alaska Range, we thought it time to take our show on the road. Cerro Aconcagua has been on our 'to do' list for many years. At 6,962 meters, Aconcagua is the highest peak in the Andes, and thus South America. It is also a great mountain to test yourself camping at 6,000 meters. The mountain is an enormous stratovolcano at 32 degrees below the equator. We expected much milder conditions high in the central Andes than we are used to in our home sub-arctic ranges. During the peak climbing season of January/February, normal low temperatures are slightly below freezing and permanent snow on the route is rare. The mountain has a trail system that allows climbers to quickly move between camps solo, unroped and often in trail running shoes. Aconcagua seemed like the perfect test for going light on our first 7,000-meter peak.

The only similarity between an ascent of Denali's West Buttress and one of the standard routes on Aconcagua is that you are moving a camp up mountain. Going big in the Andes was a completely different experience. First off, Aconcagua lacks the deep, glacial snow pack of the Alaska Range. This drastically affects the way you move and camp on route. Without the need to use floatation and with an extensive trail network, we wore old trail runners for most of the route. The shoes were originally just for the approach hike into the mountain and then for around camp. But warm temps and dry trail conditions allowed us to hike in shoes all the way to our high camp at 5,980 meters. Plastic mountain boots were worn on days we moved camp so as to keep them out of our packs.

ARTICLE OUTLINE

  • Lightweight at 7,000 Meters
  • Taking Shelter
  • Cache and Carry
  • Porters, Porters Everywhere

# WORDS: 2380
# PHOTOS: 20

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