Mount Aconcagua History

First person to climb Aconcagua

Matthias Zurbriggen
Matthias Zurbriggen

The first attempts to reach the summit of mount Aconcagua, Argentina, were made by Paul Güssfeldt, a German explorer who discovered the mountain and traced for the first time the route up to 6560 meters but had to descend in the middle of a hurricane.

Fourteen years later, the englishman Edward Fitz Gerald leds a European team of nine men, together with the Swiss Matthias Zurbriggen as chief guide. Zurbriggen himself on January 14, 1897 reached the summit of mount Aconcagua (6962 meters above sea level).

Paul Güssfeldt
Paul Güssfeldt

At that time there were no shelters, maps or traced routes, just the immensity of the mountain, the cold, the wind and altitude sickness.

On December 23, 1896 the tireless expedition marked its beginnings in the middle of a hustle, going up and down, but finally reaching the summit. After several tries, on the 14th, after a hypothetical rest Fitz Gerald and Zurbriggen reached what would become the first of all summits. At 6700 meters above sea level Fitz Gerald had to give up the ascent and Matthias Zurbriggen continued and completed the epic adventure that had begun a few days before. The rest of the team went back to Puente del Inca to get ready for a new try. On February 13 only three left and that is where Fitz Gerald had to give up again, and on that same day, Lanti and Vines, members of the initial expedition, continued at their own pace and were the second to reach the summit of the Colossus.

Origin of the Name

The name mount Aconcagua, as most Indian names, has generated controversy regarding its Spanish meaning. The best known is Stone Sentinel, of Quechua origin. In this language the words Akon and Kahuak gave birth to the name. In the Aymara language there are two terms, Kon and Kawa which mean snowed and mount respectively. Therefore, in this language the name Aconcagua would translate as (snow-capped mountain).

Other translations are other feared peaks or it comes from the other side, and even though there is no evidence of which would be the correct translation, Stone Sentinel is the most widely used.

Almost 7000 meters, subject of debate

The different measurements performed in mount Aconcagua have become the center of many discussions. In 1898 the Chilean Border Committee decided on an altitude of 6960 meters above sea level and the Argentine Committee set a higher altitude: 7130 meters above sea level, the highest measurement in history. After some time, in 1957, OACI established 6959 meters above sea level, taking into account the IGMA cartography since 1962. The most widely used measurement, at least in our country, was performed by satellite in 1989 and resulted in 6962 meters above sea level with a possible error of ± 5 meters.


The Colossus of America has an altitude of 6962 meters above sea level due to its volcanic structure. It is said to be a Paleo-volcano for its net content. It is a volcanic separated from its magma chamber. Its incredible height can only be explained by the fact that it was active up to at least 9,5 million years ago, according to the dating of the vulcanites of its summit.