Aconcagua Climbing – Interesting Facts About Aconcagua

The Aconcagua hill is located at the southern end of the chain called Los Penitentes and with its 6,959 meters above sea level. It carries the attribute of being the highest elevation in the American continent and its great height, like that of other nearby hills. It does not correspond to active volcanic structures such as Tupungato, but instead, its current altitude results from the tectonic uplift of the mountain range. It is guarded by high-rise colossi such as Cerro Catedral to the northwest with 5,200 meters above sea level, El Cuerno (5,450), Bonete (5,100), and others located in the Valle de Los Horcones Superior. In the so-called Valle de los Horcones Inferior are the Ibáñez hills (5,200), the Mirador hill (5,800) among the highest. Between 27º and 33º 30 ‘, no quaternary volcanism is observed, and seismic activity is concentrated in a thin strip along the western edge, which coincides with the most active geotectonic zone where significant earthquakes occur.

A remarkable characteristic is that only the very high peaks are covered by glaciers, which occurred during a series of advances during the Quaternary since the lower limit of eternal snow is very high due to aridity and intense insolation. This gives rise to the erection of the penitents, a very characteristic formation of this area of ​​the Andes, consisting of mounds of snow about 3 meters high with the appearance of monks. Caused by the melting of the superficial layers of the snow due to the intense insolation that by forming furrows that deepen over time, the area is covered with those sharply aligned mounds. These formations, due to their appearance, give their name to the Los Penitentes chain of elevations. Drainage occurs in high peaks such as Aconcagua by a vast network to which the melting of ice and snow is added, which forms a very dense material that favors rubble slopes frequently.

The “stone sentinel,” meaning the origin of the word Aconcagua Argentina in the Quichua language, is about 12 kilometers from the border with the sister Republic of Chile. Its coordinates are 32º 39′ Lat.S and 70º 01′ Long. O. (Atlas I.G.M., 1998). They are 71,000 hectares of mountainous terrain’s dry, arid environment with little vegetation on the slopes. The foothills are from extensive ranges separated by huge valleys whose height sometimes drops to 2,000 meters above sea level. On the south wall and also on the one that faces east, Mount Aconcagua has impressive glaciers such as the so-called Polaco that runs along this slope between approximately 6,900 and 5,900 meters above sea level, with an area close to 700 hectares and the Güssfeld, with much more extension than above. One of the largest in the area is the La Vacas glacier, with  ​​almost 2,000 hectares.