Aconcagua is the highest mountain in the Western and Southern Hemispheres. It is the second highest of the Seven Summits after Everest and the highest mountain in the world outside the Himalayas. It is 22,841 feet or 6,950 meters high.
Aconcagua is located in the Mendoza province of Argentina, near the Chilean border. It is situated approximately 32° south of the Equator, which puts it on a latitude equal to the Himalayas in the Northern Hemisphere. It is a gigantic mass of rock, magnificent by its size alone. Dominating the skyline west of Santiago, Chile's capital, it is visible from the Pacific ocean, over 100 miles away. Acongacua has drawn climbers to its airy summit since its first ascent in 1896 by the English climber Edward Fitzgerald. Its name in the Quechua tongue, "Ackon Cahuak" means "The Sentinel of Stone." It has one of the highest mountain death tolls in the world. Every year, approximately 2000 summit attempts are made on Aconcagua by climbers from all over the world. Typically, 40% succeed and 0.5% - 1% die in the attempt.
The effort of climbing Aconcagua is generally considered to equal an altitude of several hundred meters more, compared to Himalayan conditions. This observation has been reported by climbers familiar with Andean and Himalayan climbing conditions, however, the reason for this is not known. One plausible explanation may be the irregularity of the Earth's crust. The surface of the Earth features a swelling protuberance in this region, which puts the summit of Aconcagua about 2 kilometers outside the perfect sphere of the globe. Vegetation in the area around Aconcagua reaches around 3,500 meters, corresponding to around 5,000 meters in the Nepal Himalayas. These conditions may, at least in part, be explainable by a harsher, colder and more oxygen deprived climate, due to the Earth's irregularities and a resulting lower atmospheric pressure in this area.
Because of the relative accessibility of the mountain and the non-technical nature of the Normal Route, Aconcagua is probably the most frequently attempted high-altitude climb of any mountain. The mountain attracts a large number of experienced mountaineers as well as climbers with no previous experience, which clearly shows in the statistics of accidents and fatalities on the mountain and in its nickname, "The Mountain of Death," perhaps not because of its extreme climbing difficulties, but more because of the great number of unprepared climbers that become its victims each year.
Expecting the summit to be an easy target, many attemptees on the mountain lack experience of climbing, of exposure to high altitude, or any (winter) trekking or camping experience. Due to the extreme altitude, sudden changes in weather conditions, the extreme cold, the oxygen deprived air, and long time spent at altitudes above the sustainable recovery limit of the human body, reaching the summit is no trivial task.
Altitude is easily gained, too often resulting in high altitude sickness and pulmonary and/or cerebral edema, which may lead to serious life-threatening conditions if immediate descent is not undertaken. Exposure, hypothermia, and exhaustion are common denominators among the deaths claimed by the mountain, as are rock falls, avalanches and falls on exposed sections of routes and into crevasses.