Hiker during the Aconcagua ascent

Aconcagua Training Guide

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Climbing Aconcagua presents a substantial physical challenge, and the more fit you are before you start, the more you will enjoy your climb. However, the number one most important thing to cultivate is mental toughness. Most of the people who climb Aconcagua aren’t professional athletes. They are average people with an unusual degree of determination, who have undertaken a solid, training plan. You will be walking anywhere between 3-9hours each day, every day of your climb, with a big 12 hour summit day. The best way to prepare is to hike, trek or climb any mountains or hills near where you live, and get used to really putting the hours in. With the right attitude, some training and experience at altitude you will be ready to go.
Trekking on Aconcagua's upper slopes
Trekking on Aconcagua's upper slopes


Aconcagua is big. That is the simple truth. And unfortunately, unless you have spent time at altitude, you won't quite know how your body is going to respond. Even the fittest of us can be brought to our knees by the effects of Altitude Sickness. It is therefore important that prior to your ascent of Aconcagua you have had some experience of trekking at altitude. Our trips to KilimanjaroNepalMorocco and Ladakh offer great opportunities to complete slightly lower peaks and get your first tastes of altitude before embarking on this more extreme adventure.  


The best training by far for Aconcagua is to get your walking boots on and get lots of miles under your belt. Whether this is two to three hours walking locally or full days away on your nearest hills, you just need to clock up lots of hours on your feet as more than anything else, it is just walking every day that people find tiring. And the best cure for this is to have spent lots of hours just walking. Hiking practice allows you to understand the stress your joints will be put under and how well you can deal with this. It also allows you to wear in your boots as this takes some time and can often be uncomfortable. Start with a comfortable distance that suits you and slowly try to work your way up to a 7-8 hour trek. If you can do this multiple times over a few months then you'll be in good stead for your ascent of Aconcagua.


Unlike on most of our Kandoo treks, on Aconcagua you will be required to carry your own and some of the group equipment from Base Camp to the higher camps. This will not be easy as an average Aconcagua pack can
Preparing to leave Base Camp on a gear carry
Preparing to leave Base Camp on a gear carry
weigh between 18-20kg! Take into account that the oxygen saturation at this altitude will be less than 50% and you can see why this climb is not for the inexperienced. To be able to achieve your summit goal we would recommend spending lots of time trekking with a weighted pack in your local mountainous areas. Getting used to carrying up to 20kg in weight on a regular basis will allow the muscles in your body to respond and build so that once you are at altitude, and your body is dealing with low oxygen levels, the muscle memory can take over. 


Aerobic (or cardio) training will be a key factor in your enjoyment of trekking at high altitude. Aerobic literally means 'requiring free oxygen' and refers to the use of oxygen to adequately meet energy demands during exercise via aerobic metabolism.

Aerobic exercise builds up your cardiovascular system allowing you to process limited oxygen in a more effective way. This is key for climbing Aconcagua because it is long distance exercise at altitude which will give the body less oxygen per breath.

Aerobic exercise, unlike anaerobic exercise, requires oxygen for elongated periods of time. Examples of aerobic exercise would be lane swimming, long distance jogging, walking and cycling.

One crucial thing we tell our customers is don't rush up the trail! Trying to ascend too quickly is a huge mistake. Because of the altitude your body needs time to adjust - no matter your fitness levels! However, having a good cardiovascular system will help with this, but it wont prevent it. Trekking at high altitude is not a sprint, it's a marathon! We recommend putting the slowest hiker to the front of the group.

Depending on fitness, we recommend a 3-6 month training plan. Your hiking practice will help, but we also suggest running 6-12km three times a week. If you're using a treadmill remember to set a slight incline.


Any Aconcagua training plan should also include strength training. Although not as important as your aerobic training, strengthening your upper body, core and, in particular, your legs, will greatly increase your chances of success. You'll be on your legs for long hours every day, you therefore need them to be strong enough to take the punishment.

To strengthen your legs we recommend doing the following exercises:

  • Squats
  • Front and reverse leg curls
  • Lunges
  • Step aerobics

Remember when doing these exercises to keep watch of your technique. Exercises done with poor technique will more often than not harm you instead of help you.

Building upper body and core strength is also crucial as you'll not only be standing for hours, but you'll also be carrying gear.

We recommend the following exercises to strengthen your upper body and core:

  • Shoulder presses
  • Back and shoulder flyes
  • Sit-ups
  • Kettle-bell rows / swings

Remember to stretch after all exercise sessions! Increasing flexibility will allow your body to recover more quickly overnight after trekking all day. No one wants to trek for 9 hours after waking up with stiff joints aching all over!


Most sports injuries occur due to poor stretching. This is particularly true in the mountains where repetitive movements over tough terrain put a lot of stress on joints and muscle. To loosen your muscles and increase suppleness we recommend adopting a regular stretching regime. Spend 10 minutes every morning stretching your main muscle groups.


Just as important as physical stamina is mental stamina and attitude. There always comes a point that you will want to quit and just head back down the valley. Keeping a positive attitude and digging deep to push through is incredibly important and a valuable skill. Training your mental stamina is no easy thing, but there are ways to accomplish it. You essentially need to construct an activity that pushes your body to what it thinks is its limit, then you need to push past that to reach your goal.

A great way to achieve this is long distance running such as half marathons and full marathons. A marathon will push you to your limit whilst having an achievable goal in sight - the finish line. If you can do this with a friend or training partner then all the better as you will both push each other to achieve more.

Looking for training advice or a training plan in preparation for this trip? We'd recommend checking out Kate Sielmann and her coaching programs that are specific to mountaineering and trekking training. Find more details here.