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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:
Day 1 – Arrival to Mendoza, Argentina – 900m
We recommend you to arrive earlier to Mendoza today. We’ll pick you up at the airport and take you the hotel. If you need to rent equipment or intend to get to know Mendoza better, we recommend either arriving early on this day or arriving a day earlier. Tonight We’ll have dinner where you’ll meet the guides, leader and the rest of the team. We’ll have briefing during dinner today. Included: Transport from the airport to the hotel and hotel night.
Day 2 – Logistics and departure to Laguna Blanca – 3100m
We’ll leave Mendoza on a 4WD private transport, drive pass the city of Barreal (San Juan, Argentina), and proceed to the old hut Laguna Blanca, at 3100m. This will take a total of 8 hours driving. There We’ll camp near an old hut, on the edge of a lake named Laguna Blanca. There we’ll meet mule drivers who will take all equipment to Mercedario. This will be a 92 km drive on dirt road, from Barreal. Included: breakfast at the hotel, 4WD transport, packed lunch and dinner. Night in tents
Day 3 – Laguna Blanca to Guanaquitos – 3600m
We’ll wake up early and make a 500m ascent to a pleasant camp at 3600m. There are approximately 5km of trails that follow an old abandoned road. We usually complete this trek in 3 to 4 hours. Included: breakfast, packed lunch, dinner, mules for equipment and overnight in tents.
Day 4 – Guanaquitos to Cuesta Blanca – 4400m
Today we are going to walk for approximately 4.5km to a camp named Cuesta Blanca (4350m). This will take 4 to 5 hours of slow walking to acclimatise well. The mules will leave beforehand with the equipment and the guides will prepare a delicious dinner. Included: breakfast, packed lunch, dinner, mules for equipment and overnight in tents.
Day 5 – Acclimatisation walk – 5000m
We are already over 4000 meters above sea level, we have to acclimatise. This will take place at the Cuesta Blanca region. We’ll get to know part of the path to Mercedario. The idea today is to take light walks to acclimatise. Here we have already begun to see a little more of the climbing route. The night will be again at Cuesta Blanca 4400m. Included: breakfast, packed lunch, dinner, mules for equipment and overnight in tents.
Day 6 – Cuesta Blanca to Pirca de Indio – 5200m
Today we have 5 to 7 hours of very slow pace to Pirca de Indio at 5200m. The mules will carry the rest of the equipment to this great camp at the edge of a glacier. There are approximately 5km of trails and 800m altitude gain. Included: breakfast, packed lunch, dinner, mules for equipment and overnight in tents.
Day 7 – Pirca de Indio to Hoyada and back – 5600m
In order to acclimatise and carry part of the equipment, we’ll climb 400m to the base of a small glacier. This camp is called Hoyada. This ascent and descent will be very important for our acclimatisation. As the mules cannot get past Pirca de Indio, we’ll take part of our equipment that will be used to reach the top of the Mercedario. Included: breakfast, packed lunch, dinner and overnight in tents.
Day 8 – Pirca del Indio – Hoyada – 5600m
Today we’ll establish our high camp. It will be a 4 to 6 hours walk. Included: breakfast, packed lunch, dinner and overnight in tents.
Day 9 – Summit attempt to Mercedario – 6770m
We’ll wake up at 2am, hydrate well and leave at 3am depending on weather. Normally it takes 8 to 11 hours to the summit and back. We’ll return to the same camp. Included: breakfast and dinner (take your summit snacks)
Day 10 – Hoyada – Guanaquitos – 3200
We’ll break camp and descend to Pirca de Indio at 5200m. Our mules will be waiting there to take equipment down. We’ll walk for approximately 5 hours in total and spend our last night on the mountain. Included: breakfast, packed lunch, dinner, mules for equipment and overnight in tents.
Day 12 – Guanaquitos – Mendoza – 800m
In just 2 hours we’ll get to Laguna Blanca and drive to Mendoza from there. We’ll wait for the mules to arrive, put all the equipment in 4WDs and proceed to Mendoza. On the way, we’ll stop at Uspallata for dinner. Included: breakfast, lunch, dinner in a restaurant, mules for equipment, 4WD private transport and hotel night in Mendoza.
Day 13 – Spare day in case of bad weather / Extra acclimatisation day
Day 14 – Spare day in case of bad weather / Extra acclimatisation day
Day 15 – 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.
Having good mountaineering equipment is one of the key points to have a successful expedition to Mercedario. 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. These are equipment rental costs for the whole expedition length. It already includes 20% discount given to all our customers:
Buff or similarQuantity: 1 or 2
To protect your face on summit pushQuantity: 1
Woollen hat or similar for cold daysQuantity: 1
UV protection goggles to be used during storms or very cold conditionsQuantity: 1 (rental for U$30)
Sunglasses (cat 3 or 4)
With side protection to fit your faceQuantity: 1 (rental for U$30)
Sunscreen and lip balm
30 FPS or moreQuantity: 1
AA or AAA batteries depending on your headtorch. Can be purchased in local store.Quantity: 1 set
Working headtorch and spare batteriesQuantity: 1
Light down jacket
Summit Down Jacket
Heavy hooded down jacket for cold conditionsQuantity: 1 (rental for U$97)
A good snow, rain and windproof jacketQuantity: 1 (rental for U$67)
Synthetic fibre long or short sleeve t-shirtQuantity: 3 or more
Used alone or as part of a layer system for better performanceQuantity: 1 (rental for U$30)
Light trekking pantsQuantity: 2 or 3
For snow, sand or scree terrainQuantity: 1 pair (U$24 for rental)
Base layer pants
For very cold days and summit pushQuantity: 1
Goretex or similar pants will be used for high wind or during snow conditionsQuantity: 1 (rental for U$55)
Fleece, polartec or similar. To be used with other layers for very cold conditionsQuantity: 1 (rental for U$30)
Chemical hand warmers for the summit push.Quantity: 1 or 2
Thick down mittens for summit pushQuantity: 1 pair (rental for U$42)
Fleece or polartec gloves for every day useQuantity: 1 pair (rental for U$15)
Sandals or crocs
Sandals or crocs for river crossing or hanging around campQuantity: OPTIONAL
Waterproof trekking boots, try wearing them before the expeditionQuantity: 1 pair (rental for U$55)
Good thick trekking socksQuantity: 4 or 5 pairs
Thick expedition socks
For summit dayQuantity: 1 pair
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, La Sportiva G2.
Single layer boots such as La Sportiva Nepal XT, EVO, Batura or Boreal Latok, ARE NOT SUITABLE.Quantity: 1 (rental for U$115)
Crampons with antibott systemQuantity: 1 pair (rental for U$49)
Water purifying tables/drops
A reliable way to treat waterQuantity: 1 pack
These gels help out on recoveryQuantity: 3
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
Stuff sacks or bin bags
Helps to keep your stuff dry and organisedQuantity: 2 or 3
A good down sleepingQuantity: -20C (Comfort temperature) - rental costs U$127
A decent rucksack with hip belt and rain coverQuantity: 60 litres or more (rental for U$55)
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)
Personal Hygiene kit
Soap, tooth brus, come, etcQuantity: 1
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)
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 1 litre bottles or similar are great for expeditions! We prefer to not use camelbacks as its hose pipe might freezeQuantity: 2 x 1 litre or 3 x 600ml
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$30
Freeze dried food
Freeze dried or dry food for high campQuantity: 2 or 3
To lock your duffel during transportationQuantity: 1
Gives you more stability during walk and summit push.Quantity: 1 or pair (U$ 30 for rental)
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?
No, the guides will take care of carrying and assembling all equipment, camps and cookware.
Are there any mules to carry my equipment?
Yes. Up to 5200m (Pirca de Indio camp), we will take mules. Until then you’ll only carry a small rucksack with water and basic trekking equipment. If there is an excess of snow, the mules might not get all the way to Pirca de Indio and they might get up to Cuesta Blanca at 4400m. In that case, we’ll use one of the extra days to take half of our equipment and break the total of weight in half.
Is there 4G at Mercedario? Do you have a sat phone?
No, there isn’t 4G connection of WiFi on Mercedario. We will however take a satphone for logistics and emergency call. If you wish to make personal calls, there is a cost of USD 3/minute.
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 of the mountain, 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, 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. Everyone who leaves the expedition for personal or health reasons should pay these costs.
If you quit 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 250~450 cost to get to Mendoza.
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$900 in US currency. This is a rough estimate:
Dinner and lunch in Mendoza (average of general expenditure): U$150
Equipment rental: U$450 (average)
Cost of abandoning trip: U$300 (average. You should take this just in case)
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 skilful guide/cooks. We guarantee you will e impressed about the meals!
Is there water during the approach?
Yes, there are plenty clean water streams during the approach. The presence of cows however, requires you to treat the water with chlorine tablets or anything 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 this mountain. They are a VERY complex but can be done by a company who normally performs 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.
Do your guides speak any English?
Yes ALL our guides speak 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 up 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 (under the equipment tab) needed before buying anything. Rentals can be paid in dollars or pesos but NOT with credit cards.
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$160 visa to enter Argentina as per reciprocity fee. This should be paid at the airport in cash.
Maximo is sponsored by the following brands:
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Maximo Kausch is one of the most accomplished climbers in the world. He is the current world record holder on number of 6000 metre peaks having reached the summit of 89 x 6000 metre peaks and climbed over 100 more extreme altitude worldwide. As expedition leader, Maximo has led several expeditions all over the world. He has climbed many 8000 metre peaks, including Mount K2 in Pakistan.
He was born in Argentina, raised in Brazil and lived over 10 years in the UK. Max is a full-time climber and guide. He literally spends most of his time in the mountains, mainly at the Andes and Himalaya. During his expeditions, Maximo has climbed some of the most remote mountains in the planet and visited at least 30 countries.
Max is a very calm person and focuses on safety and good acclimatisation plans during his expeditions. He is a trained rescuer and has extensive knowledge in high altitude medicine and medical emergencies. On his spare time, Maximo likes rock and mixed climbing in remote mountains.
In 2012 he started an unprecedented project alone and climbed 30 mountains over 6000 meters all alone. His project in now recognised as one of the main exploring projects in the Andes. Max wants to climb all 6000 metres peaks in the Andes by 2019, a total of 104. He has been to at least 11 x 8000-metre expedition at the Himalayas and has plenty extreme logistic experience. Over the years he has helped hundreds of clients to reach the summit of various mountains.
World Record: Maximo has recently become the record holder of the most number of 6000 metre peaks. He has been to at least 170 high altitude mountains over his 19 years of climbing experience.
More about Maximo Kausch
Expedition cost is U$ 3250, contact us to know payment methods:
What is NOT included: