Aconcagua (Spanish pronunciation: [akoŋˈkaɣwa]) is a mountain in the Principal Cordillera[4] of the Andes mountain range, in Mendoza Province, Argentina. It is the highest mountain in the Americas, the highest outside Asia,[5] and the highest in both the Western Hemisphere and the Southern Hemisphere[1] with a summit elevation of 6,961 metres (22,838 ft). It lies 112 kilometres (70 miles) northwest of the provincial capital, the city of Mendoza, about five kilometres (three miles) from San Juan Province, and 15 km (9 mi) from Argentina's border with neighbouring Chile.[6] The mountain is one of the Seven Summits of the seven continents.

Aconcagua from the south
Highest point
Elevation6,960.8 m (22,837 ft)[1][2]
Prominence6,960.8 m (22,837 ft)[1]
Ranked 2nd
Parent peakTerich Mir Edit this on Wikidata
Isolation16,533.4 km (10,273.4 mi) Edit this on Wikidata
Coordinates32°39′11″S 70°00′42″W / 32.65306°S 70.01167°W / -32.65306; -70.01167
PronunciationSpanish: [akoŋˈkaɣwa]
/ˌækənˈkɑːɡwə/ or /ˌɑːkənˈkɑːɡwə/
Aconcagua is located in Argentina
Parent rangePrincipal Cordillera, Andes
First ascent1897 by
Matthias Zurbriggen (first recorded ascent)[3]
Easiest routeScramble (Northwest)

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 (6 mi) long, which descends from the south face to about 3,600 m (11,800 ft) in elevation near the Confluencia camp.[7] Two other large glacier systems are the Ventisquero de las Vacas Sur and Glaciar Este/Ventisquero Relinchos system at about 5 km (3 mi) long. The best known is the northeastern or Polish Glacier, as it is a common route of ascent.

Etymology edit

The origin of the name is uncertain. It may be from the Mapudungun Aconca-Hue, which refers to the Aconcagua River and means "comes from the other side";[6] the Quechua Ackon Cahuak, meaning "Sentinel of Stone";[8] the Quechua Anco Cahuac, meaning "White Sentinel";[3] or the Aymara Janq'u Q'awa, meaning "White Ravine".[9]

Geologic history edit

The mountain was created by the subduction of the Nazca Plate beneath the South American Plate. Aconcagua used to be an active stratovolcano (from the Late Cretaceous or Early Paleocene through the Miocene) and consisted of several volcanic complexes on the edge of a basin with a shallow sea. However, sometime in the Miocene, about 8 to 10 million years ago, the subduction angle started to decrease, resulting in a stop of the melting and more horizontal stresses between the oceanic plate and the continent, causing the thrust faults that lifted Aconcagua up off its volcanic root. The rocks found on Aconcagua's flanks are all volcanic and consist of lavas, breccias and pyroclastics. The shallow marine basin had already formed earlier (Triassic), even before Aconcagua arose as a volcano. However, volcanism has been present in this region for as long as this basin was around and volcanic deposits interfinger with marine deposits throughout the sequence. The colorful greenish, bluish and grey deposits that can be seen in the Horcones Valley and south of Puente Del Inca, are carbonates, limestones, turbidites and evaporates that filled this basin. The red-colored rocks are intrusions, cinder deposits and conglomerates of volcanic origin.[10]

Climbing edit

From park entrance

In mountaineering terms, Aconcagua is technically an easy mountain if approached from the north, via the normal route. Aconcagua is arguably the highest non-technical mountain in the world since the northern route does not absolutely require ropes, axes, and pins.[11] Although the effects of altitude are severe (atmospheric pressure is 40% of sea level at the summit), the use of supplemental oxygen is not common. Altitude sickness will affect most climbers to some extent, depending on the degree of acclimatization.[12] Although the normal climb is technically easy, multiple casualties occur every year on this mountain (in January 2009 alone, five climbers died).[13] This is due to the large numbers of climbers who make the attempt and because many climbers underestimate the objective risks of the elevation and of cold weather, which is the real challenge on this mountain. Given the weather conditions close to the summit, cold weather injuries are very common.

Aconcagua Summit Route
interactive map
South summit and ridge

The routes to the peak from the south and south-west ridges are more demanding and the south face climb is considered quite difficult. The Polish Glacier Traverse route, also known as the "Falso de los Polacos" route, crosses 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 by the Polish Glacier itself.

Provincial Park rangers do not maintain records of successful summits but estimates suggest a summit rate of 30–40%.[citation needed] About 75% of climbers are foreigners and 25% are Argentinean. Among foreigners, the United States leads in the number of climbers, followed by Germany and the UK. About 54% of climbers ascend the Normal Route, 43% up the Polish Glacier Traverse Route, and the remaining 3% on other routes.[14]

Camps edit

The campsites on the normal route are listed below (elevations are approximate).

  • Puente del Inca, 2,740 metres (8,990 ft): A small village on the main road, with facilities including a lodge.
  • Confluencia, 3,380 metres (11,090 ft): A camp site a few hours into the national park.
  • Plaza de Mulas, 4,370 metres (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 approximately 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) from the main campsite across the glacier. At this camp, climbers are screened by a medical team to check if they are fit enough to continue the climb.
  • 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 extensive 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, 6,000 metres (19,690 ft): A larger, while slightly more exposed, camp situated directly at the north ridge near Camp Berlín, with growing popularity. In January 2011, a shelter was opened in Camp Colera for exclusive use in cases of emergency.[15] The shelter is named Elena after Italian climber Elena Senin, who died in January 2009 shortly after reaching the summit, and whose family donated the shelter.[16]
  • Several sites possible for camping or bivouac, including Piedras Blancas (~6100 m) and Independencia (~6350 m), are located above Colera; however, they are seldom used and offer little protection.

Summit attempts are usually made from a high camp at either Berlín or Colera, or from the lower camp at Nido de Cóndores.

Normal route to the summit

History edit

Matthias Zurbriggen reached the summit in 1897.

The first attempt to summit Aconcagua by Europeans was made in 1883 by a party led by the German geologist and explorer Paul Güssfeldt. Bribing porters with the story of treasure on the mountain, he approached the mountain via the Rio Volcan, making two attempts on the peak by the northwest ridge and reaching an elevation of 6,500 metres (21,300 ft). The route that he prospected is now the standard route up the mountain.

The first recorded[3] ascent was in 1897 by a European expedition led by the British mountaineer Edward FitzGerald. FitzGerald failed to reach the summit himself over eight attempts between December 1896 and February 1897, but the (Swiss) guide of the expedition, Matthias Zurbriggen reached the summit on 14 January. On the final attempt a month later, two other expedition members, Stuart Vines and Nicola Lanti, reached the summit on 13 February.[17]

The east side of Aconcagua was first scaled by a Polish expedition, with Konstanty Narkiewicz-Jodko, Stefan Daszyński [pl], Wiktor Ostrowski [pl] and Stefan Osiecki summiting on 8 March 1934, over what is now known as the Polish Glacier.[18][19] A route over the Southwest Ridge was pioneered over seven days in January 1953 by the Swiss-Argentine team of Frederico and Dorly Marmillod, Francisco Ibanez and Fernando Grajales. The famously difficult South Face was conquered by a French team led by René Ferlet [fr]. Pierre Lesueur, Adrien Dagory, Robert Paragot, Edmond Denis, Lucien Berardini and Guy Poulet reached the summit after a month of effort on 25 February 1954.[20][21]

As of 2020 the youngest person to reach the summit of Aconcagua is Tyler Armstrong of California. He was nine years old when he reached the summit on 24 December 2013.[22] Kaamya Karthikeyan of India at an age of 12 became the youngest girl to reach the summit on 1 February 2020.[23] The oldest person to climb it was Scott Lewis, who reached the summit on 26 November 2007, when he was 87 years old.[24]

In the base camp Plaza de Mulas (at 4,300 m (14,100 ft) above sea level) there is the highest contemporary art gallery tent called "Nautilus" of the Argentine painter Miguel Doura.[25]

In 2014 Kilian Jornet set a record for climbing and descending Aconcagua from Horcones in 12 hours and 49 minutes.[26] The record was broken less than two months later by Ecuadorian-Swiss Karl Egloff, in a time of 11 hours 52 minutes, nearly an hour faster than Kilian Jornet.[27] The women's record is held by Ecuadorean Daniela Sandoval at 20 hours, 17 minutes.[28]

On 25 September 2019, an Airbus Helicopters H145 landed on the very peak of Mount Aconcagua. This is the first time in history a twin-engine helicopter has landed at this altitude. It took a total of 45 minutes for the entire trip, 30 minutes from Mendoza and another 15 from the base camp up to the peak. Temperatures were reported as low as −22 °C (−8 °F), with wind gusts up to 30 kn (56 km/h; 35 mph). This is not the highest a helicopter has landed before, as a single-engine Airbus Helicopters H125 landed on Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world.[29]

Dangers edit

At nearly 7,000 m (23,000 ft),[30] Aconcagua is the highest peak outside of Asia.[31] It is believed to have the highest death rate of any mountain in South Americaaround three a yearwhich has earned it the nickname "Mountain of Death". More than 100 people have died on Aconcagua since records began.[32]

Due to the improper disposal of human waste in the mountain environment there are significant health hazards[30] that pose a threat to both animals and human beings.[33] Only boiled or chemically treated water is accepted for drinking. Additionally, ecofriendly toilets are available only to members of an organised expedition, meaning climbers have to "be contracted to a toilet service" at the base camp and similar camps along the route. As of 2015, from two base camps (Plaza de Mulas and Plaza Argentina), over 120 barrels of waste (approx. 22,500 kg (49,600 lb)) are flown out by helicopter each season.[34] In addition, individual mountaineers must make a payment before using these toilets. Some large organisers will charge up to US$ 100, while smaller ones may charge US$5 per day or US$ 10 for the entire stay; thus, many independent mountaineers choose to defecate on the mountainside.[30]

Mythological meaning edit

For the Incas, Aconcagua was a sacred mountain. As on other mountains (e.g. Ampato), places of worship were built here and sacrifices, including human sacrifices, were made. The sites discovered in 1985 at an elevation of 5167 m are among the highest in the world and are the most difficult of all Inca sites to reach. Here, the remains of a child bedded on grass, cloth and feathers were found inside stone walls (Aconcagua mummy). The clothing indicates that the child was a member of the highest social class. Other offerings found included figures and coca leaves.[citation needed]

See also edit

Notes edit

  1. ^ a b c "Informe científico que estudia el Aconcagua: el Coloso de América mide 6.960,8 metros" [Scientific Report on Aconcagua, the Colossus of America measures 6960,8 m] (in Spanish). Universidad Nacional de Cuyo. 4 September 2012. Archived from the original on 8 September 2012. Retrieved 3 December 2017.
  2. ^ "Topographic map of Cerro Aconcagua". Retrieved 10 June 2023.
  3. ^ a b c Secor, R.J. (1994). Aconcagua: A Climbing Guide. The Mountaineers. p. 13. ISBN 978-0-89886-406-9. There is no definitive proof that the ancient Incas actually climbed to the summit of the White Sentinel [Aconcagua], but there is considerable evidence that they did climb very high on the mountain. Signs of Inca ascents have been found on summits throughout the Andes, thus far the highest atop Llullaillaco, a 6,739-metre (22,110 ft) mountain astride the Chilean-Argentine border in the Atacama region. On Aconcagua, the skeleton of a guanaco was found in 1947 along the ridge connecting the North Summit with the South Summit. It seems doubtful that a guanaco would climb that high on the mountain on its own. Furthermore, an Inca mummy has been found at 5,400 m (17,700 ft) on the south west ridge of Aconcagua, near Cerro Piramidal
  4. ^ "Orografía de Mendoza". El Portal de Mendoza (in Spanish). Cámara de Turismo de Mendoza and Cooperativa El Portal de Mendoza. 13 March 2014. Archived from the original on 29 May 2021. Retrieved 29 June 2019.
  5. ^ Newcomb, Tim (24 July 2017). "The 7 Highest Points Across All 7 Continents". Popular Mechanics. Archived from the original on 29 May 2021. Retrieved 27 June 2019.
  6. ^ a b Forbes, William (2014). McColl, R. W. (ed.). Encyclopedia of World Geography, Volume 1 Facts on File Library of World Geography. Vol. 1. InfoBase Publishing. p. 3. ISBN 978-0816072293. Archived from the original on 23 September 2023. Retrieved 23 September 2016.
  7. ^ Servei General d'Informacio de Muntanya (2002). Aconcagua 1:50,000 map (Map). Cordee.
  8. ^ "South American Explorer". South American Explorers Club (4–19). 1979. Retrieved 22 September 2016 – via University of Texas.
  9. ^ "Guías Pedagógicas del Sector Lengua Indígena, Aymara" (PDF) (in Spanish). Santiago de Chile: Ministerio de Educación, Fondo de las Naciones Unidas para la Infancia, UNICEF. 2012. p. 62. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 September 2013.
  10. ^ "Geology of Aconcagua - Volcano - Plate Tectonics". Scribd. Archived from the original on 6 November 2021. Retrieved 5 October 2017.
  11. ^ ""Seven Summits" - Mount Everest, Mont Blanc, Mount Kosciuszko & Co". Archived from the original on 24 November 2021. Retrieved 24 November 2021.
  12. ^ Muza, SR; Fulco, CS; Cymerman, A (2004). "Altitude Acclimatization Guide". US Army Research Inst. Of Environmental Medicine Thermal and Mountain Medicine Division Technical Report (USARIEM–TN–04–05). Archived from the original on 23 April 2009. Retrieved 5 March 2009.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  13. ^ "Rescataron el cuerpo del guía mendocino". 30 January 2009. Archived from the original on 29 May 2021. Retrieved 5 August 2020.
  14. ^ Stewart Green. "Aconcagua — Highest Mountain in South America". Archived from the original on 18 November 2012. Retrieved 23 November 2012.
  15. ^ "TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF USE OF THE "ELENA" SHELTER – ACONCAGUA PROVINCIAL PARK". Archived from the original on 29 May 2021. Retrieved 26 September 2012.
  16. ^ "Inauguración del refugio Elena". 2011. Archived from the original on 15 May 2013. Retrieved 26 September 2012.
  17. ^ Fitzgerald, E. A. (1898). "On Top of Aconcagua and Tupangato". McClure's Magazine. 12 (1): 71–78.
  18. ^ Marek, Aneta (2016). "Andy jako rejon eksploracji górskiej Polaków do 1989 r." (PDF). Słupskie Prace Geograficzne (in Polish). 13: 83–104. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 June 2023.
  19. ^ "Centro Cultural Argentino de Montaña". Centro Cultural Argentino de Montaña. Archived from the original on 8 February 2013. Retrieved 23 August 2023.
  20. ^ R.J. Secor, Aconcagua: A Climbing Guide, The Mountaineers Books, 1999, pp. 17–21
  21. ^ Mario Fantin, Some Notes on the History of Aconcagua Archived 29 May 2021 at the Wayback Machine, The Alpine Journal 1966
  22. ^ "Nine-year-old US boy climbs Aconcagua peak in Argentina". BBC News. 28 December 2013. Archived from the original on 28 November 2021. Retrieved 21 July 2018.
  23. ^ Santagati, Adriana (1 February 2020). "La nena india de 12 años logró hacer cumbre en el Aconcagua". Archived from the original on 29 May 2021. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  24. ^ "Récord: un niño de 10 años hizo cumbre en el cerro Aconcagua" (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 6 July 2011. Retrieved 26 October 2010.
  25. ^ "Highest contemporary art gallery". Guinness World Records. 2 November 2010. Archived from the original on 15 December 2018. Retrieved 30 July 2014.
  26. ^ "Kilian Jornet Smashes Aconcagua Speed Record". Climbing Magazine. 23 December 2014. Archived from the original on 29 November 2020. Retrieved 29 December 2014.
  27. ^ "Aconcagua Speed Record Smashed Again". Climbing Magazine. 19 February 2014. Archived from the original on 2 December 2021. Retrieved 13 March 2015.
  28. ^ "La ecuatoriana Daniela Sandoval bate el record femenino en el Aconcagua" (in Spanish). 31 January 2018. Archived from the original on 2 February 2022. Retrieved 2 February 2022.
  29. ^ "The new Airbus H145 lands on top of the Andes". Airbus. 25 September 2019. Archived from the original on 26 June 2021. Retrieved 27 September 2019.
  30. ^ a b c Apollo, Michal (27 September 2016). "The good, the bad and the ugly – three approaches to management of human waste in a high-mountain environment". International Journal of Environmental Studies. 74 (1): 129–158. doi:10.1080/00207233.2016.1227225. ISSN 0020-7233. S2CID 113843846.
  31. ^ "Early Season Death on Aconcagua". Outside. 8 December 2009. Archived from the original on 29 May 2021. Retrieved 6 January 2020.
  32. ^ "Deaths on Aconcagua - Facts and Figures". 7 July 2015. Archived from the original on 29 May 2021. Retrieved 25 May 2017.
  33. ^ Cilimburg, A.; Monz, C.; Kehoe, S. (2000). "Wildland recreation and human waste: a review of problems, practices, and concerns". Environmental Management. 25 (6): 587–598. doi:10.1007%2Fs002670010046.
  34. ^ Barros, A. and Pickering, C. M., 2015, "Managing human waste on Aconcagua". In: J. Higham, A. Thompson-Carr and G. Musa (eds.) Mountaineering Tourism (London: Routledge), pp. 219–227.

Bibliography edit

External links edit