Climbing Mount Aconcagua, the second-highest of the much-sought-after Seven Summits, is the goal of many a mountaineer, being much cheaper than Everest and less technical than most high mountains if you take the Normal Route.
Here is a breakdown of the cost.
Climb Aconcagua Cost
Reaching Mendoza will consume a fair chunk of the total cost of the undertaking. It is possible to fly to Santiago or Buenos Aires from most big airport hubs. Flights circle prior to descending at Santiago, which provides a fantastic views. There is no such view from Buenos Aires. An additional recommendation for Santiago is that it has only one airport, while Buenos Aires has an international and a domestic one which are at least 45 minutes apart. It will be cheaper to use a South American airline rather than a European one, with the costs ranging from US$700-$US1300 return (including internal flights) if booked four months in advance – the time it would take a reasonably fit person to train.
Visas and Permits
Argentina requires no visa, while Chile requires them of only a few countries, for instance former Warsaw Pact states. Both countries require that a passport must be valid for at least another six months. A permit obtained in Mendoza is required for entry to the Aconcagua National Park, with the cost varying by season and giving you one more reason to prefer Aconcagua to Everest – the cost for Everest is, shall we say, otherworldly. For Aconcagua, take US$800-US$1000 as the average. The permit absolves the Argentinian government of responsibility for your adventure and its cost covers the possibility of helicopter evacuation. Evacuation is a response to life-threatening conditions such as serious oedemas, second and third degree frostbite and cardiac problems. Otherwise, you go by mule.
You will need equipment: layered clothing, an extreme weather sleeping bag, high quality hiking boots and more. It will not be possible to get by with just three pairs of shorts, two Hawai’ian shirts, a Patagonia rain coat and a cheap pair of hiking boots. The materials required can cost well over US$1000 upwards, however this should already be almost entirely a sunk cost, as you will not wish to tackle Aconcagua with key items of gear to which you are unused.
Then you must pay the tour operator. Most packages cost something approaching US$3,500-US$5,000. Cheap operators are such because their gear is old, the food is poor, they have few radios and no access to weather services – so research if you wish to save, with references invaluable.
Justice demands that you pay gratuities to service staff such as guides and muleteers. How much is a very personal matter, although companies can make suggestions or you could enquire. If you feel that staff performed admirably, with you receiving much personal interaction, you should tip accordingly. The money will be deeply appreciated by the staff who spend weeks from their families and are paid precious little if their employer is a cheapskate.
Basic Mountaineering Training
It may be worthwhile to take a mountaineering course beforehand. This will certainly be required if you take a technical path such as one of the Polish Glacier Routes. You will at the very least need to be familiar with an ice axe and crampons. Courses are offered by many of the leading climbing companies around the world and range from a few hundred pounds to thousands of pounds, depending on where you decide to do your training and who you go with.
There are fines for misbehaviour on the mountain that range from $300 to $3,000. These can be avoided if you are Nice. Sins range from gathering native wood to defecating in the open.
So, let us assume there are two people in your party, you already own the more critical pieces of equipment you will need and you do not defecate in the wild, even though the prospect is so very tempting. You can look forward to shelling out more than US$6,000 per person plus the tips that are a matter for your conscience.
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