(To be updated along the way)
My climbing portion (as it is now being planned) comprises 2 segments: (1) an acclimatization climb to Mt Plata (~6,000m), and (2) the actual Aconcagua climb (6,900m).
Many climbers do an acclimatization climb prior to attempting Aconcagua. If you have some days ahead to spare, consider signing up for one. There are many easy trekking peaks in the valley near Aconcagua ranging from 4,000+m to 6,000m. Popular acclimatization climbs include Cerro (Mt) Vallecitos (5,538m) and Cerro Plata (6,000m).
I chose to do my acclimatization climb on Cerro Plata with a company called Andes Vertical.
They gave me a low quote of USD800 (+ USD100 for transport) for a private climb, whereas Patagonicas and 7Summits quoted me around USD1500 - 2000+ for a single pax. I am not sure why there is a such a huge discrepancy, and I will find out after my trip. *gasp*
The company I am going with for my main Aconcagua is Patagonicas, and we are climbing via the ameghino-valley-upper-guanacos-traverse route. Patagonicas is a Colorado-based climbing company and also operates out of Chile.
I paid USD3,700. They usually have offers for the next season from Feb/ Mar onwards - I signed up very early this year. The non-early-bird rate is currently USD3,900 but I expect this to increase next year because the climbing permit fees for foreigners have just increased substantially. The peak season permits used to be USD500, but was just upped to USD700.
Patagonicas seemed very experienced & professional over the emails, logistics, admin instructions etc. I have also spoken to them over the phone. The lady, Bonnie, manning the office in Colorado was very experienced and organized, and could recognize my name just from the email exchanges when I called her! She was very friendly and helpful. They were not hard-selling. I was indecisive of my trip, so they told me not to rush, and that the mountain would always be there. Then I wanted to switch my dates, and Bonnie highlighted that I would be the only female in my new choice, and advised me to reconsider. I felt like they were thinking of issues from the client's angle, rather than just wanting me to haphazardly commit and pay up. Do email them to ask for quotations.
I know some friends who went with a local company called Grajales a few years ago. It was much cheaper, below USD3,000. But I had problems getting email replies from them, typically a few days after my email. That made it very difficult for me to seek clarifications and advice.
See a world map. To get to Aconcagua and the Andes region, you will need to get to Mendoza in Argentina. Mendoza is closer to Santiago, Chile than to Buenos Aires, Argentina.
From SGP to Buenos Aires: Qatar Airways, Malaysia Airways, British Airways/ Qantas - these are on OneWorld. Some people chose to fly in via Santiago instead of Buenos Aires.
For Star Alliance routes - the shortest is to go thru South Africa, next is to route thru Auckland/ Australia. A long way is to route thru Europe and, even longer via USA (East Coast).
I deliberately did want to fly through USA because it would be (1) much longer, and (2) usu via East Coast, and those airports are known to close in heavy snow storms (Dallas, Chicago, NYC) in Dec/ Jan periods, and (3) SGP to east coast requires an extra transit stop in between.
From Mar 2011, SQ flies direct to Sao Paolo (Brazil). If they had it this year, I would have taken it! I do not want to risk lost bags, delayed & cancelled flights etc. Now I have one sector on South Africa Airways, whose reviews are only 1-star. :(
I am taking a 13h overnight coach from Buenos - Mendoza and saving on one night's lodging. An one-way ticket on a first-class coach costs about SGD180, with a fully-inclined seat and served meals. An one-way domestic flight ticket would cost USD180.
But if you're flying all the way, do not break up your international ticket. An international ticket gets a higher baggage allowance than a separate domestic ticket. And travelling with big duffels & backpack & expensive gear, I would not want to keep transferring my luggage multiple times. So I prefer flying from Changi instead of going to KLIA for a cheaper ticket on Malaysia Airlines. It will be very tiring to move those bags & risk them getting lost in airport transits.
Hostels in Argentina are very cheap, so do not worry abt where to stay. Will be able to give you more feedback after my trip.
There are several decent hotels and hostels in Mendoza. For the couple of days that I was alone, I stayed at the Monkey Hostel, half a block from the Hyatt Mendoza (5-star) (where my expedition would be staying). These are next to the Plaza Independencia (the main square). Nearby, there is Hotel Internacional (4-star), Hotel Mendoza and various others. My guide stays at the Hotel Windsor (1-2 star) for a month when he is in Mendoza. Another decent hostel is the Mendoza Hostel. All within walking distance to Carrefour and tourist services.
1. If arriving from Buenos Aires airport, change your USD to Argentinian peso at the bank outlet right outside the Arrival hall (after clearing immigration). The money changers' rates on the inside are much worse.
2. Carrefour in Mendoza is very very well-stocked, and cheap. There is no to bring all the toiletries and munchies for the climb from Singapore. J&J baby wet wipes come in more variety than in Watsons! Not to mention a whole variety of other toiletries & personal hygiene items.
3. Tang orange powder mix comes in satchets for Ar 0.95 each (S$0.30). Very handy for the climb.
4. The weather in Mendoza is very very hot and dry. Drink lots and lots of water to adjust.
5. Summer days are very long, still bright at 8pm. Shops close from 2-5pm for siesta, and re-open at 5-8pm. Dinner starts after 8pm and lasts til 1am.