Visiting Aconcagua, the Tallest Mountain in the Western Hemisphere

After two days of wine tasting and eating, getting outside and looking at nature was a refreshing change. We took a day trip to Aconcagua, a mountain in the Andes Range outside of Mendoza. What a spectacular sight.

About Aconcagua

Before this day trip, I had only seen some pictures of people hiking around with a huge mountain in the background. A visit to the Andes seemed like a must-do activity while we were in Mendoza so I requested a day trip from the tour company. I didn’t know anything about Aconcagua at the time.

Aconcagua is 6961 meters (22,837 feet) above sea level. It is the highest mountain outside of Asia. The mountain itself is only 9 miles from the border between Argentina and Chile, but our views were pretty far from the peak anyway. Aconcagua has several glaciers, but you can only see one from the Aconcagua Provincial Park, where it is located.

The Journey to Aconcagua

I was a little surprised when our guide and driver from the previous two days picked us up to go to the mountain. I thought we were taking a group tour, but the car was super comfortable so I have no complaints. Our destination was about an hour away from the town of Mendoza and we passed through some other towns and interesting sites along the way, including a ski resort.

Sites Along the Way

Our first view of the Andes up close was through a tunnel. That was pretty cool. Just after, we stopped at a “Mirador”, i.e. vista point, that had a lovely view of a reservoir. We could also see a little bit of Aconcagua in the distance. The road follows the path used by the original Transandine Railway train between Santa Rosa de Los Andes, Chile, and Mendoza, Argentina. This railway, traversed the highest mountains in the world, the Andes.

Our next stop was a small town called Uspallata, also the name of the pass the train crossed. That is probably the reason the town is here. I’m not actually sure why we stopped but we got a chance to walk around a bit. The most interesting thing in my book was the abundance of ski rental shops. Naturally, in the next stretch of road, we were able to see the ski resort with a few hotels and lifts.

Puente del Inca was our next stop. It means ‘Bridge of the Inca’. Here there is a roadside stop and a spectacular limestone arch built by a nearby hot spring. The arch was formed by both glaciers and hot springs. Early in the 20th century, a resort was created here so people could take advantage of the thermal hot springs. The springs have been closed to the public for quite some time.

Our Hike in the Aconcagua Provincial Park

Finally, we reached the Provincial Park to start our hike. By this time, I was certainly ready to get moving and have a chance to take in the view. As you can see in the pictures, the trail wasn’t really a trail, so I got to exercise my hiking shoes. The first view of the mountain as you walk around a corner of the trail is spectacular. In fact, it really reminded me of the time in Alaska when we actually got to see Denali. We were lucky to have a beautiful clear day. The view will take your breath away.

The Provincial Park is also a condor sanctuary and we saw a few from a distance. After a short walk, we reached Laguna de Horcones at an altitude of 2,950 meters above sea level, or about 9700 feet. It didn’t seem that high when we were there. After more time at the viewpoints, we headed back to the car with the promise of lunch.

Lunch turned out to be pretty mediocre but eating and having a beer made us sleepy for the ride back to Mendoza, more than 150 Km away. I am so glad that I added our day in the Andes, it was really special and will fill the great mountains section of my memory.

Since we have seen Denali, Everest, and Aconcagua, I guess maybe we should make a point of seeing Kilimanjaro when we visit Africa again next year. Don’t worry, not climbing, just looking.

What great peaks do you think we should make a point to see?

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