The 360 Route detailed in this guidebook is the most rewarding way to summit Mount Aconcagua, South America’s highest peak.
Rising to a sky-scraping height of 6,960.8 meters (22,837 feet) above sea level, Mount Aconcagua is not only the highest mountain in South America, but also the highest mountain in both the Southern and Western Hemispheres. To put it in perspective, the famed Denali in Alaska only rises to a mere 6,190 meters (20,310 feet) above sea level, and Mont Blanc in Europe only reaches 4,808.7 meters (15,777 feet). Even if you consider Russia’s Caucasus mountains to be in the Western Hemisphere, Mount Elbrus only rises to a height of 5,642 meters (18,510 feet).
While reaching Aconcagua in the heart of the Andes mountains takes commitment, this summit is attractive partially because it isn’t very technical to climb. According to Wikipedia, "Aconcagua is arguably the highest non-technical mountain in the world, since the northern route does not absolutely require ropes, axes, and pins." Rather, the vast majority of the approach and ascent consists of loose, rocky hiking, with the extreme elevation being the primary challenge.
According to writer Håkon Andreas Hyttedalen, ultimately only the final push to the summit requires technical mountaineering gear. The final section of the hike, however, is snowy, exposed, and steep, and “crampons, a helmet, and hiking poles/ice axe are essential equipment,” according to Hyttedalen. Despite these requirements, Hyttedalen only gives the summit push a “Severe” hiking rating. Your mileage may vary, depending on the weather conditions and specific route you choose.
The route detailed in this guidebook is known as the 360 Route, since it loops around the entire mountain. This means that the trail you climb up and the trail you descend—aside from the actual summit day—are different, providing new views and experiences both up and down. According to Hyttedalen, the 360 Route "provides an unforgettable trip!”