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Aconcagua
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Aconcagua, Argentina

Author: Atis Plakans

The most colorful mountains in the world! Nowhere else you'll see such a palette of colors, and it's not speaking of blue rivers and green grass alone. The highest mountain in the western and southern hemispheres cannot boast rich vegetation - just wizened bushes here and there, thorns and artificially planted poplars up to the point reachable by car (2700m). Colorful are the cliffs themselves! Green, yellow, red, grey and black, stripy and spotty - just amazing! The fabulous variety of colors extends almost up to the mark of 7 km. Day after day walk and watch exchanging tints and tinges, up to the base camp at the altitude of 4300 m and higher.
In spite of its remarkable height, almost anyone can climb Aconcagua. A special gear is needed just in bad weather conditions. For example, you cannot do without climbing-irons if there is hard, wind-packed snow at the very summit. Still the impressive mountain of volcanic origin is among the highest ones on the earth and should be treated with great respect. Coming closer to the summit, the air becomes dryer. Try not to hurry, or else you'll face the high altitude health problems, like weakness, headache and nausea. These might be the first signs of cerebral and pulmonary edema. Ignoring these symptoms and going on, you may not reach the foot of the mountain any more. Just a day or two like that, and you'll meet your maker. Therefore be very careful. A combination of dry air, harsh wind gusts and a temperature of -20oC doesn't seem the most pleasant climate either. Of course, there might be even stronger winds on Asian 8-thousanders, yet 25-30 m/s for such altitude is pretty tough as well. The best time to go there is warm summer months from December throughout February. Nice chance to leave behind a dreary Latvian winter and land in Buenos Aires with temperatures reaching +30.
The Aconcagua National Park surrounds the mountain and permission is required to trek there and strict regulations are to be observed. A plastic bag for garbage with your permit number on it is provided at the entrance and you are supposed to bring it back to the base camp. Those who are unlucky to lose it, have to pay 200 USD fine. It may seem uncomfortable, yet their efforts to keep the mountains clean are understandable and praiseworthy.
Although volcanic by origin, Aconcagua doesn't resemble a traditional fire-spitter. Instead of a hundreds of meters deep crater, a large flat plateau stretches on top of it, somewhat resembling a football field. An impressive view of the Pacific Ocean opens up deep below. Three weeks are required to experience all that, 2 of them spent directly on the mountain. After arriving at the base camp, a few days of acclimatization follows, making short climbs up and down reaching altitude of 5.5 - 6 km. Then, few more days of rest and finally you are ready for ascent to the next camp. Further camps are sited within a day's walk one after another. The last section upward may take about 7, 8 or even 10 hours, and then follows a descent. Sleeping is mostly in tents.
Take a chance to spend a little more time in Argentina, say, one week to savor what the motherland of Malbec has to offer and to taste a real steak. Meat is in great demand there and all parts of an animal are being used. Perhaps you will come upon meat products that you have never even heard of. An average steak weights 500 grams, while king-size - up to 900! Almost a kilo of meat for one meal - isn't it a feast!?
Iguassu, the world's largest waterfall, surrounded by lush rain forests, is sited not that far off - on the border between Argentina and Brazil. A tremendous 50 m high and 3.5 km long water body makes it hard to believe that anything bigger can ever exist. You can come up to it by car or even take a boat and go under and feel the splashes of falling water.
There are routes in Argentina that require mountaineering gear and decent skills as well.

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Keywords: mountain, mountains, trekking

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