An irresistible magnet for climbers (and aspiring climbers) from around the world, Aconcagua also draws casual visitors in private motor vehicles and tour buses, as well as day-hikers and long-distance trekkers, to enjoy the big-sky views of the Andean high country.
Of the world’s highest summits, Aconcagua probably draws the most climbers because the main route requires no technical expertise—simply good conditioning (and willingness to acknowledge physical limitations), suitable equipment, and the readiness to recognize when conditions become dangerous. The extreme and changeable weather, in particular, has claimed the lives of even experienced mountaineers: over 100 have died on the mountain, and there are fatalities almost every year, including five in the 2008–2009 season.
In 1897, Swiss climber Matthias Zurbriggen made Aconcagua’s first confirmed ascent, but the 1985 discovery of an Inka mummy on the southwest face, at an altitude of 5,300 meters, demonstrated that pre-Columbian civilizations explored the wild high country of the central Andes. There is disagreement over the etymology of aconcagua—some claim the word comes from the Quechua language, and others from the Mapuche—but everyone recognizes its indigenous genesis. Geologically, the mountain consists of uplifted marine sediments covered by volcanic andesite.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Argentina, 3rd edition