Provider: INKA Expediciones
Length: 16 days
Price: from $2,985
Ever fantasize about being the next Edmund Hillary or Ed Viesturs, or at least making it to the top of one of the world's tallest mountains? While climbing a peak like Everest or K2 is physically and financially out of reach for most adventure travelers, summiting the highest mountain outside of Asia and the second-most prominent peak on Earth is not a pipe dream.
Argentina's 22,840-foot Aconcagua, which translates as "Stone Sentinel" in the local language, can be conquered by fit, healthy climbers with some familiarity with mountaineering skills and the mental toughness to overcome high altitudes and potentially cold, windy weather.
A few U.S.-based adventure companies run Aconcagua treks, but INKA Expediciones, a local Aconcagua specialist with 15 years of experience, runs dozens of summit climbs each year and has a high rate of successful summit attempts. "The last climbing season, 92 of 102 guided expeditions reached the summit with our guides," says Head Guide Sebastian Tetilla. "The average success rate for the season was less than 35 percent of the general climbing population attempting Aconcagua. However, more than 68 percent of our clients reached the top during the same period." The company also owns and operates its entire ground operation and uses local guides and staff, so it charges several thousands less than most foreign-based companies.
Most trips climb via the Normal Route, a moderate trek that's mostly a walk-up not requiring much use of crampons or ice axes. While the actual climb takes about six days from the base camp to the summit and back, the trip requires about two weeks time because of the need for acclimatization and rest days and also in the case of bad weather delaying a summit attempt.
"INKA's physical support is tremendous," says full-time mountaineer and climber Kenneth Honig, who climbed Aconcagua twice with INKA this past winter. "By far the number one highlight was the personal relationships established with the guides. I do not think you could find a better organized, prepared, and client-oriented guide service."
Fourteen Normal Route expeditions are scheduled between late November 2008 and late February 2009. Rates cover guides, ground transportation, hotel stays and camping, all meals, and porters and mules. Personal equipment such as clothing and boots, ice axes and crampons, packs, and sleeping bags and pads is not included but can be rented from the outfitter. Airfare is also extra. Round-trip late-January flights from Miami to the trip's departure point in Mendoza, Argentina, start at $1,233 including taxes and fees on LAN.