Mercedario - 14 days

About

Mercedario - December until March

At 6770 metres high, Mercedario is the 8th highest mountain in the Andes and is located in the San Juan Province, Argentina. This is a great option for those who want to try a very high mountain but want to avoid the crowds of busy mountains like Aconcagua. Furthermore, Mercedario does not require a permit like Aconcagua, making it significantly cheaper. The normal route is extremely accessible and requires no technical climbing.

During the peak season at Mercedario (December to February) we won’t find more than 5 expeditions at once trying the summit. Meanwhile, in Aconcagua there might be at least 80 expeditions trying the summit at once.

The requirements for joining this expedition are:

  • International Travel Insurance
  • Multi-day altitude trekking experience
  • Good health and physical prepared
  • Fill the booking and medical form
  • Read all the information available on this website

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Itinerary

Mercedario - 14 days

Day 1 – Arrival to Mendoza – 900m

One member of our staff will welcome you at the airport and bring you to the hotel. In the evening all expedition members will meet for dinner. Depending upon your arrival time, we will assist you to buy or rent all equipment you need. Included: Transport and hotel.

Day 2 – Logistics and drive to Barreal – 1650m

The morning will be spent checking, renting and buying equipment. After lunch, we’ll start the 3-hour drive to Barreal (190 km), a small town we use as a local base for Mercedario. We will spend the night in a very welcoming guesthouse. Included: hotel in Mendoza, breakfast, transport, night in guesthouse and dinner.

Day 3 – Drive to the Laguna Blanca Hut – 3100m

The 4WD transports will drive us for 92km to a basic hut at the side of a lake. It is named Refugio Laguna Blanca and we use it as kitchen and to gather for dinner. We’ll camp outside the hut. Included: breakfast, lunch, and dinner

Day 4 – Walk to Guanaquitos – 3600m

Just 500-metre altitude gain today. Our 2-hour walk to Guanaquitos will be by a river and old mining roads. The mules will take all the loads to camp before we get there. Included: breakfast, lunch, and dinner

Day 5 – Walk to Cuesta Blanca BC – 4400m

Today we will walk for about 4.5km to Cuesta Blanca (4350m), our base camp. Might take us  4 to 6 hours. Included: breakfast, lunch, and dinner

Day 6 – Acclimatisation / Rest day – 4400m

Only light walks around camp today as we’re already at 4400 and need to acclimatise properly. Included: breakfast, lunch, and dinner

Day 7 – Carry to Pirca de Indio – 4400m

With the help of the guides, your equipment will be split in two and half of it goes to Pirca de Indio today. This walk will really help with acclimatisation. Summit can be seen today for the first time. Included: breakfast, lunch, and dinner

Day 8 – Walk to Pirca de Indio – 5200m

4-hour walk to Pirca de Indio carrying the rest of the equipment. Included: breakfast, lunch, and dinner

Day 9 – Acclimatisation / Rest day – 5200m

Resting at 5200 metres will really help acclimatisation. We might go for short walks around the valley today. Included: breakfast, lunch, and dinner

Day 10 – Walk to Hoyada – 5600m

We’ll gain 400 metres today and will walk for 3 to 5 hours. Included: breakfast, lunch, and dinner

Day 11 – Summit of Mercedario – 6770m

After a 3am start, we normally reach the summit in 7 hours from Hoyada and descent back to camp in 2 to 3 hours. Included: breakfast and dinner

Day 12 – Walk out to Laguna Blanca / Drive to Barreal – 1650m

We’ll break camp early morning and walk to BC where the mules will be waiting for us. After 1 or 2 hours of packing and a quick lunch, we’ll start the 3-hour walk to Laguna Blanca where the 4WD vehicles will wait for us and drive us to Barreal. Included: Breakfast, lunch, dinner, transport and night in a guesthouse.

Day 13 – Barreal – Mendoza Airport – 900m

A 4-hour drive to Mendoza. Included: Breakfast, dinner, and hotel

Day 14 – Spare day in case of bad weather / Extra acclimatisation day

** The above itinerary is subject to change due weather conditions, performance of the group, political/administrative problems and any other events not described.

Equipment

Having good mountaineering equipment is one of the key points to have a successful expedition to Cerro Plata. Please note all your personal equipment will be checked by one of our guides in the hotel. You can easily rent or purchase all necessary mountaineering equipment in Mendoza. Find out rental prices in our FAQ.

Head
  • equipamento buff

    Bandana

    Buff or similar

    Quantity: 1 or 2
  • equipamento balaclava

    Balaclava

    To protect your face on summit push

    Quantity: 1
  • gorro neblina cinza copia

    Hat

    Woollen hat or similar for cold days

    Quantity: 1
  • xNxgoggles

    Ski goggles

    UV protection goggles to be used during storms or very cold conditions

    Quantity: 1 (rental for U$30)
  • xNxExplorer noir vert J

    Sunglasses (cat 3 or 4)

    With side protection to fit your face

    Quantity: 1 (rental for U$30)
  • GG

    Sunscreen and lip balm

    30 FPS or more

    Quantity: 1
  • batteries

    Batteries

    AA or AAA batteries depending on your headtorch. Can be purchased in local store.

    Quantity: 1 set
  • xNxlanterna

    Headtorch

    Working headtorch and spare batteries

    Quantity: 1
Torso
  • Light down jacket

    Quantity: OPTIONAL
  • pluma

    Summit Down Jacket

    Heavy hooded down jacket for cold conditions

    Quantity: 1 (rental for U$97)
  • jaqueta

    Snowproof jacket

    A good snow, rain and windproof jacket

    Quantity: 1 (rental for U$67)
  • camiseta dry

    T-shirt

    Synthetic fibre long or short sleeve t-shirt

    Quantity: 3 or more
  • fleece

    Fleece jacket

    Used alone or as part of a layer system for better performance

    Quantity: 1 (rental for U$30)
Legs
  • Caláa de Trekking

    Trekking pants

    Light trekking pants

    Quantity: 2 or 3
  • Polainas

    Gaiters

    For snow, sand or scree terrain

    Quantity: 1 pair (U$24 for rental)
  • caláa segunda pele

    Base layer pants

    For very cold days and summit push

    Quantity: 1
  • Caláa anorak

    Snowproof pants

    Goretex or similar pants will be used for high wind or during snow conditions

    Quantity: 1 (rental for U$55)
  • pants

    Fleece Pants

    Fleece, polartec or similar. To be used with other layers for very cold conditions

    Quantity: 1 (rental for U$30)
Hands
  • Screen Shot    at

    Hand warmers

    Chemical hand warmers for the summit push.

    Quantity: 1 or 2
  • Miton

    Mittens

    Thick down mittens for summit push

    Quantity: 1 pair (rental for U$42)
  • Luvas segunda camada

    Gloves

    Fleece or polartec gloves for every day use

    Quantity: 1 pair (rental for U$15)
Feet
  • crocs

    Sandals or crocs

    Sandals or crocs for river crossing or hanging around camp

    Quantity: OPTIONAL
  • bota

    Trekking boots

    Waterproof trekking boots, try wearing them before the expedition

    Quantity: 1 pair (rental for U$55)
  • Meias de trekking

    Trekking socks

    Good thick trekking socks

    Quantity: 4 or 5 pairs
  • thicksocks

    Thick expedition socks

    For summit day

    Quantity: 1 pair
  • boots

    Double boots

    A pair of double or double plastic boots such as Koflach Exped, Koflach Vertical, Asolo Ottomilla, Asolo AFS, Trezetta, Scarpa Vega, Scarpa Inferno, La Sportiva Baruntse, Olympus Mons, La Sportiva Spantik, Scarpa Phantom.

    Single layer boots such as La Sportiva Nepal XT, EVO, Batura or Boreal Latok, ARE NOT SUITABLE.

    Quantity: 1 (rental for U$115)
Technical equipment
  • crampon

    Crampons

    Crampons with antibott system

    Quantity: 1 pair (rental for U$49)
Other Equipment
  • tabs

    Water purifying tables/drops

    A reliable way to treat water

    Quantity: 1 pack
  • gel

    Carbo gels

    These gels help out on recovery

    Quantity: 3
  • food

    Snacks

    Salty snacks, sweets, etc. Any sort of tasty ready food as complement. On high altitude mountains we don’t normally worry about vitamins and proteins as these kinds of food are too hard to digest. You can buy all these in a local market.

    Quantity: 2kg
  • estanque

    Stuff sacks or bin bags

    Helps to keep your stuff dry and organised

    Quantity: 2 or 3
  • Saco de dormir

    Sleeping Bag

    A good down sleeping

    Quantity: -20C (Comfort temperature) - rental costs U$127
  • Rucksack

    A decent rucksack with hip belt and rain cover

    Quantity: 60 litres or more (rental for U$55)
  • meds

    Altitude medicine

    Our guides already have pretty much any drugs you might need during any trip. However, it would be great if you could have a spare tab of the most used drugs:

    Ibuprofen (Advil)– This is an anti-inflammatory and works great for high altitude head aches
    Loperamide (Imodium) – controls diarrea (not to be used in case of digestive infections. Ask our guides)

    Quantity: kit
  • kit

    Personal Hygiene kit

    Soap, tooth brus, come, etc

    Quantity: 1
  • Isolante tÇrmico

    Sleeping mattress

    We prefer taking 2 foam sleeping mattress because of sharp rocks. If you have an inflatable mattress you should also bring a foam mattress to protect the inflatable one against sharp rocks. Don’t forget bringing a repair kit if you have an inflatable mattress.

    Quantity: 2 (rental for U$24)
  • flask

    1 litre thermos

    Metallic good quality 1 litre thermos for the summit push. You must have one. Please do not bring smaller ones.

    Quantity: 1
  • nalgene

    Water bottle

    Nalgene 1 litre bottles or similar are great for expeditions! We prefer to not use camelbacks as its hose pipe might freeze

    Quantity: 2 x 1 litre or 3 x 600ml
  • duffel

    Duffel Bag

    Used to transport or store your equipment. In many cases, we transport your personal gear on animals and we don’t want your equipment to get wet or have mule smell…

    Quantity: 1 - Rental for U$30
  • LioFoods

    Freeze dried food

    Freeze dried or dry food for high camp

    Quantity: 2 or 3
  • cadeado

    Padlock

    To lock your duffel during transportation

    Quantity: 1
  • Bast∆o de caminhada

    Trekking poles

    Gives you more stability during walk and summit push.

    Quantity: 1 or pair (U$ 30 for rental)

FAQ

How much equipment will I have to carry? Can I make it?

Your backpack will never weigh more than 12-15 kg. We prepared our itinerary in a way so your equipment is split into 2 loads to be taken up in 2 different days. This way you don’t have to carry so much weight.

Do I have to carry tents and stoves?

All group equipment is purchased, carried, cleaned and assembled by our guides, you don’t have to worry about it.

I still think 12kg is too much. Can I hire a porter to carry my equipment?

Unfortunately, Mercedario is not very developed and we have to take our own porters, therefore, it becomes fairly expensive. We only recommend you to do this if you have a back problem or for some other health reasons, are not able to carry any weight. We need plenty of time to organize this.

Is there communication on the mountain?

Yes! our guides carry sat phones at all times and you can easily make emergencies phone calls for U$3/minute. Our guides carry VHF radios and can communicate between camps at any time.

Would you guys call my family and tell them I’m alright?

Of course! Even better! We have a blog that is updated every day! We normally post messages or photos about the expedition progress. Please visit our Facebook page and check the latest posts.

Do I have to share tents with anyone?

Yes. All tents are shared by every 2 persons and this is previously agreed.

I heard Mercedario is an easy trek, is that true?

In fact, anyone can get to the summit of Mercedario without climbing anything technical. There are no technical steps on the normal route of Mercedario. We are however talking about a nearly 7000-metre peak and anything can happen. Several unprepared climbers lost their lives due to relatively simple mistakes. Please read all information before attempting any high altitude mountain.

Can I charge my iPhone battery or my camera?

Yes! At the base, we have solar panels to charge batteries, iPods, etc. Of course, this changes when there’s no enough sunlight.

What if I abandon or quit the expedition?

If you quit the expedition 1 week before departure, it is possible to recover part of your investment. Contact us and find out more.

If you quit the expedition in Mendoza or Barreal, you can continue enjoying the services we provide you such as transportation and hotel. However, we can not pay back the money you invested because logistics will already be hired.

If you quit the expedition after we left Barreal, you will have to cover individual transportation and accommodation costs. Everyone who leaves the expedition for personal or health reasons should pay these costs.

If you give up during the summit attempt, you will never have to go down alone. Usually, we coordinate your descent with more expedition members. One of the guides will always be with you.

For example, if you decide to abandon the expedition at Hoyada at 5650m high, you might have a U$250 ~ U$450 expense to get to Mendoza.

What’s your philosophy?

We accept women and men of any age, experience or ambition. We ask our members to be patient, respect the leader’s decisions and never go up or down alone.

Remember that you don’t pay us to take you to the summit, you pay mountaineering professionals with several years experience to help you up and down a steep mountain in the safest possible way.

Our itinerary may seem slower than other companies, this is due to a longer acclimatisation plan based on safety. More days will actually improve the chance of reaching the summit!

How much money should I take?

There is nothing to buy at Mercedario, but you might want to purchase something on the road or in Barreal. Once we leave Barreal, all expenses are on us. You need money to rent equipment and pay for food in Mendoza. We recommend you to have about U$600 in US currency. This is a rough estimate:

Dinner and lunch in Mendoza (average of 2 of each): U$80
Equipment rentals (average): U$270
Cost of abandoning trip: U$250

Can I use credit cards in Argentina?

We do not recommend you using credit cards in Argentina. In addition to the up to 25% tax, it is quite possible that your credit card might not work due to the poor communication system. Only major hotels and supermarkets might accept foreign credit cards. The financial situation in Argentina is very unstable so we highly recommend you to bring US dollars.

How much is the permit to climb Mercedario?

Zero! No permission is needed to climb Mercedario.

What sort of training do I need for big mountains like this one?

To 6000m mountains, we recommend you start training at least three months before, depending on your physical condition. Aerobic exercises like running and cycling are very useful. Ideally, ask a professional to recommend you a good aerobic training program. A very effective exercise is to go hiking with a rucksack on lower mountains. BEWARE of injuries! We have had some cases of clients who have trained too much and ended up hurting themselves.

What experience do I need for Mercedario?

Ideally, anyone attempting Mercedario should have climbed a 6000-metre peak before, in order to become familiarized with acclimatisation and snow walking. We, however, understand how hard it can be to have enough holidays in a year to climb these. So alternatively you can get away with just a multi-day altitude trek such as Everest Basecamp, Annapurna Basecamp or machu picchu. If you don’t have high altitude experience and you do have have to acquire experience before Mercedario, please let us know and we can organise an expedition for you.

How is the weather in Mercedario?

Even though we normally climb Mercedario in summer, remember this is one of the largest mountains in the continent and we can easily get freezing temperatures even during the day. The atmosphere between Mercedario and the end of the stratosphere is so thin that climate is not regulated as sea level. Temperature variability becomes extreme. We can have very warm days and freezing cold soon after that. To make it worst, strong high altitude wind is added so everything changes even more. In another word, expect anything but prepare for the worst! An average day is normally 10ºC temperatures drop below zero overnight. Occasionally we have storms. It is common to have at least one snowstorm during the expedition.

What if I have a special diet?

Please tell us in advance about any food issues you might have and also please remind our guides about it too. Unless you bring your own food, we cannot help you if you are macrobiotic, vegan or celiac due to extreme logistical difficulties. Contact us and let us know about your food restriction.

Who cooks at altitude camps?

We have very skillful guide/cooks. We guarantee you will e impressed about the meals!

Why do I have to bring freeze dried food?

We recommend our customers to bring 2 or 3 packs of freeze dried meals to be eaten at high camp. We have tried to serve a standard menu at high camp for several years but it never worked. One of the symptoms high altitude produces on the human body is the lack of appetite. Therefore people become very ‘picky’ on extreme altitudes so we prefer everyone brings their own meal.

Is there water during the approach?

Yes, there are plenty clean water streams during the approach. The presence of big mammals by the trail, however, requires you to treat the water with chlorine or similar.

What if I have a health problem?

All our guides have extensive experience in mountain medicine and can solve most of the problems you might encounter.

What if I need a rescue?

Helicopter rescues can be made by helicopters at a few specific points in the mountain. They are a VERY complex but can be done by our friends who normally perform helicopter rescues at the neighbour Aconcagua. These however are extremely expensive and it is vital that you have a rescue insurance.

Do you recommend the use of Diamox?

NOT for the Central Andes. In extreme altitudes like the Himalayas or Karakorum we do recommend using Acetazolamide or Diamox. This drug seems to actually work during the acclimatisation period by increasing the breathing rate at night (reduces CO2 levels), and also is a diuretic which eliminates sodium out of your system. In the Andes mountains, however, mountains are too dry and taking diuretics such as Diamox actually decrease your acclimatisation capacity.

I was climbing in Peru before and I had a hard time communicating to my guide. Do your guides speak any English?

Yes, our leader Maximo Kausch has lived in the UK for 10 years and speaks fluent English. Please check our team’s information and find out about our guides’ communication skills.

What percentage of your clients actually make it to the summit?

It depends upon weather, experiences, fitness and their nationality. But usually, about 90% of our clients get to the top of Mercedario. We believe such a success rate is due to the experience of our clients. People who want to climb Mercedario are usually more experienced than Aconcagua clients.

Where do we go to the toilet on the mountain?

There are no toilets at Mercedario. In each camp we set a toilet tent and do our ‘business’ in bin bags. All these bags are later brought down. Everything will be transported to Mendoza on the way down. We leave no trash on the mountains.

What if I want to rent equipment?

It is very easy to rent equipment in Mendoza. Check out the list of equipment needed before buying anything. However, if this is the case, we recommend you to arrive at least a day before the arrival date so you have enough time to rent whatever you need. Rentals can be paid in dollars or pesos. Prices vary, but they should around (price for a 20-day trip):

Goretex jacket U$67.00
Trekking poles (pair) U$30.00
Double plastic boots U$115.00
Hiking boots U$55.00
Duffel bag U$30.00
Fleece Jacket U$30.00
Down Jacket U$97.00
Mattress U$24.00
Crampons U$49.00
Gloves Polartec U$15.00
Mountain Sunglasses U$30.00
Mittens U$42.00
Rucksack U$55.00
Pants Polartec U$30.00
Pants Goretex U$55.00
Piolet/Ice axe U$49.00
Gaiters U$24.00
Down Sleeping bag -30C U$127.00

What’s the temperature my sleeping bag should stand?

We recommend you to bring good down sleeping bags with comfort temperature of -15 up to -22. Please note there are 2 types of temperatures shown in most of the sleeping bags. We’re focusing on the “comfort temperature”.

Do I need an entry visa to go to Argentina?

Depending on which country you come from. Canadian and Australian citizens, for example, have to pay a U$160 visa to enter Argentina as per reciprocity fee. This should be paid at the airport in cash.

View our photos of Pedro Hauck:
Related links about Pedro Hauck:

Pedro Hauck

Expedition leader and rock climbing instructor

Pedro is sponsored by the following brands:

thulehard

Language skills:

Portuguese - native speaker
English - excellent command
Spanish -  near native speaker

Pedro Hauck is a geographer, has masters in Physical Geography, Ph.D. in geology and is a very experienced mountaineer for the last 17 years. He has taught several rock climbing courses as well as climbing customized courses, teaching hundreds of people on how to climb.

Pedro is now one of the most experienced climbers in South America. At the Andes alone, Pedro has climbed 39 x 6000 metre peaks! As expedition leader, Pedro has led several expeditions bringing safety and a lot of useful information to our clients. Pedro is extremely easy going and loves to teach! He is the kind of guy who is very happy on teaching anyone about geology and geography. So during our expeditions, make sure you DON’T ask him about geology, otherwise, you might have to listen to a 2-day class.

On his spare time, Pedro Hauck runs the largest news website in Brazil (http://AltaMontanha.com) and wrote many useful articles about dozens of mountaineering topics.

Voluntarily participated in the organization of Brazilian mountaineering and has served as director of the Brazilian Mountaineering Confederation. For 6 years, he fought against access prohibitions in several Brazilian climbing areas.

In September 2014 Pedro has climbed all the 14 Bolivian 6000 metre peaks in 4 weeks! Pedro completed the project without any support or assistance. Currently, Pedro has reached the top of 36 x 6000 metre summits as well as other 55 high altitude climbs.

A very experienced rock climber, Pedro has extensive knowledge in bouldering, sports climbing, trad and aid climbing. He has been to at least 80 rock climbing areas in South America.

Awards

Golden Carabiner 2015 - Brazil: For his '6000+ Bolivian Andes' project, Maximo Kausch and Pedro Hauck were chosen to receive the mountaineering Golden Carabiner of 2015. This prize is given to the most accomplished climbs or projects of the year.

Mount Everest Foundation 2015: Mount Everest Foundation UK, has chosen Max's exploring project and decided to finance part of it in May 2015. The prize is given to the more significant exploring projects worldwide.

More about Pedro Hauck

Facebook athlete page

Instagram Page

Personal Website

Mountaineering CV

Map

Cost

Expedition cost is U$ 2500, contact us to know payment methods:

What’s included:

  • English speaking guide with at least 3 years experience guiding Mercedario;
  • 1 or 2 assistant mountain guides (EPGAMT/AAGM certification) depending upon number or clients (client per guide ratio = 2/3);
  • Support on purchase and equipment rental in Mendoza;
  • Transport from/to airport;
  • 2 nights in a 3-star hotel with breakfast included in Mendoza – rooms are shared by every 2 clients;
  • 2 nights is a guesthouse in Barreal;
  • Transport from/to Barreal;
  • Lunch during the drive from Mendoza to Barreal;
  • 4WD transport from/to Laguna Blanca;
  • Mule transport of a 20kg load to/from base camp and stopping at Guanaquitos;
  • Transport/assembly of tents, pots, gas, food, water in all camps;
  • Use of toilets tents, mountain tents, medical oxygen and medical kit in all camps;
  • Breakfast, lunch, dinner, packed lunch, treated water in the whole mountain;
  • Gas stoves and pots and cups in all camps;

What is NOT included:

  • Flights from/to Mendoza;
  • Personal climbing equipment (check equipment tab);
  • Money return in case you abandon the expedition;
  • International travel insurance;
  • Any costs caused by excess luggage (over 20kg);
  • Lunch and dinner in Mendoza;
  • Reimbursement for loss or damage of your personal equipment.