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Aconcagua: a Climbing Guide

Aconcagua: a Climbing Guide. R.J. Secor. The Mountaineers, Seattle, 1994. 144 pages, 48 black-and-white photographs, 12 line drawings and sketch maps. Paper. $15.95.

Although several Aconcagua guidebooks have been published in Spain and Argentina, no English equivalent has heretofore existed. This one by Secor is opportune since Aconcagua, located less than twenty miles in a straight line from the nearest bus stop, is being visited yearly by some 2000 mountaineers from all over the world.

The main characteristic of this new guidebook is its usefulness. A short but practical Introduction is followed by History and by fifteen short sections providing useful hints. Special attention is drawn here to the characteristics of Aconcagua itself: high, barren, windswept and unpredictable. Three chapters cover routes, always approached through the Horcones, Horcones Inferior and Vacas valleys. A total of ten basic routes and seventeen variants are surveyed. The accompanying sketches and photos are clear and useful. The South Face pictures (pages 87-89) in particular give at a glance information seldom put together in other publications on Aconcagua. The book concludes with several appendices, one of which contains an English-Spanish mountaineering vocabulary.

Perhaps a few misspelled words is all that I’d criticize. The use of this book is to be combined with the good folding map published in AAJ 1987. And finally, a note on nomenclature: the name of Aconcagua is universally, but wrongly, accepted to be a translation from the Quechua-Aimara Acon (stone) and cagua (sentinel). But no Quechua or Aimara term acon, or anything faintly similar, has been found to mean “stone.” The original name was Ancocagua, the “White Sentinel.” Explorer Jerónimo de Vivar found and correctly entered the proper name already in 1558, but the Aimara adjective anco (white) had its letter order transposed during colonial times. And the aptness of the original name will be clear to all who view the White Sentinel from the neighborhood of that former Indian place at its base, Puente del Inca.

Evelio Echevarria