Gear For Adventure: Aconcagua
Ilan Zeimer, who works as a mountain guide for Grajales Expeditions, lays out all the gear you’ll need—whether guided or unguided—to reach South America’s highest summit. Grajales Expeditions has been providing services to climb Aconcagua since 1976.
While Aconcagua, at 22,968ft (6,960m) is the highest mountain in the western hemisphere, the difficulty of climbing it is often underestimated due to its non-technical normal route. Many climbers come to Aconcagua after climbing Kilimanjaro expecting a similar experience. However, they are quickly surprised to find that they have embarked on a serious mountain adventure, complete with unstable weather conditions, tent shredding winds and an exhausting summit day.
With the proper logistical, physical and mental preparation, Aconcagua is a perfect first big-mountain challenge. The following are some words of advice and a comprehensive gear list so that you arrive in Mendoza, Argentina ready for an exhilarating expedition.
The climb has three distinct stages: the approach, high camps and summit day. For the approach you must be ready for hot days with searing sun; for the high camps expect a mix of wind, sun, snow and cold nights; and expect extreme cold on the summit push during the first frigid hours of early morning.
A versatile layering system is critical for the climb, so that you can mix and match according to meet the demands of the ever-changing forecast. For summit day a hooded down jacket, insulated pants, down mittens and double boots are essential. As expensive and specific as these items are, don’t skimp here. It is important to remember that above 20,000 feet (6,000 meters) our bodies are oxygen-deprived, and therefore incapable of keeping us as warm as they do at lower altitudes. So dressing for a -10 degree Fahrenheit (-23C) summit day on Aconcagua is not the same as it would be for a winter outing in Norway or New England.
Every season we here at Grajales Expeditions have clients that arrive with La Sportiva G5 type boots that have a boot shell and an incorporated gaiter. These are insufficient and should not be confused for double boots. Climbing boots for Aconcagua must have a removable insulated inner boot and a separate outer shell. If they include gaiters, too, all the better, but the insulation of an inner boot is absolutely necessary.
High altitude expeditions require rest days and down time for acclimatization and often include weather days when you are hunkered down in your tent. Entertainment of one form or another is helpful for calming nerves and anxieties. E-readers, podcasts, movies on your cellphone, and card games are all helpful ways to relax on the off days. Base camps now all offer WiFi and at Plaza de Mulas you even have 4G. But don’t forget to enjoy the scenery and take advantage of the international mix of climbers to strike interesting conversations.
One last word of advice: bring cash in US dollars or Euros. Renting gear, paying for the climbing permits and any other extra services on the mountain (such as porters, helicopters and internet) are best paid for in dollars.
The following is a suggested gear list for climbers who will be climbing as part of a guided expedition. At the bottom is suggested additional gear for independent, unguided parties.
|Mountaineering Double Boots||La Sportiva G2 SM|
|Hiking Boots or Trail Running Shoes||La Sportiva Ultra Raptor / Vasque Breeze III Mid GTX|
|Sandals or Crocs (For camp, and possible river crossings)||Chaco Mega Z/Cloud / Crocs Classic Clog|
|Socks (2)||2 pair Smartwool Phd Outdoor Light Crew Sock; 2 pair Smartwool Mountaineering Extra Heavy Crew|
|Underwear||Smartwool Merino 150|
|T-Shirt Baselayer||Patagonia Capilene Cool|
|Long Sleeve Baselayer||Patagonia Capilene Air Crew|
|Lower Baselayer||Icebreaker Merino|
|Thin Fleece Jacket||Mammut Elwha Half-Zip|
|Upper Insulation Layer||Marmot Avant Insulated Hoody|
|Soft Shell||Patagonia Adze Jacket|
|Hardshell/Gore-Tex Jacket||Arc’teryz Zeta LT|
|Expedition Down Parka (800 Fill)||Patagonia Fitz Roy|
|Hiking Pants||Arc’teryx Palisade|
|Softshell Pants||Patagonia Simul Alpine|
|Insulated Pants||Mountain Hardwear Compressor Pants|
|Hardshell/Gore-Tex Pants||Black Diamond Stance Insulated Pants|
|Head + Neck + Face|
|Helmet||Black Diamond Half Dome|
|Sun Hat||Outdoor Research Sun Runner Cap|
|Warm Beanie||Smartwool Merino 250|
|Buff||Buff Original Tubular|
|Balaclava||Seirus Ultra Clava|
|Glacier Glasses||Julbo Explorer|
|Goggles||Smith Cascade Classic|
|Lip Balm||SPF 30+|
|Liner Gloves (thin, to go in mittens)||Arc’teryx Rho Glove|
|Windproof Fleece Gloves||Outdoor Research Gripper Sensor Gloves|
|Insulated Gloves||Black Diamond Enforcer Glove|
|Insulated Mittens||Outdoor Research Alti-Mitt|
|Sleeping Bag||Feathered Friends Ptarmigan EX – 25F Sleeping Bag|
|Sleeping Bag Compression Bag||Sea to Summit eVent Compression Dry Sack|
|Full-Length Sleeping Pad||Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite|
|Closed-Cell Foam Sleeping Pad||Therm-a-Rest Ridge Rest|
|Backpacks and Duffle Bags|
|Approach Backpack 20-40 L||Osprey Talon 22|
|High Camps Backpack 85+L||Gregory Denali 100|
|Duffle Bags (2)||The North Face Base Camp Duffle (1 Large, 1 X-Large)|
|Ice Axe||Black Diamond Raven|
|Hiking Poles||Black Diamond Trail Trekking Poles|
|Water Bottles (2L)||Nalgene Wide Mouth (2L)|
|Pee Bottle (1L) (Very important!)||Nalgene Wide Mouth (1L)|
|Mug||GSI Outdoors Infinity Mug|
|Bowl||Sea to Summit|
|Dry Sacks for Packing Gear||Osprey Ultralight Dry Sacks: (2) 3-Liter bags; (1) 6-Liter Bag|
|Electronics and Navigation|
|Mobile/iPhone||Any mobile phone with good camera and connectivity|
|Satellite Communication and GPS||Garmin InReach Mini|
|Power Bank||Goal Zero Venture 70 Power Bank|
|Solar Charger||Goal Zero Nomad 7 Plus|
|eReader||Barnes and Noble Nook 7|
|Video Camera||GoPro Hero 5|
|Additional Gear for Non-Guided Climbers|
|4-Season Tent||The North Face VE25|
|Stove||MSR Whisterlite International|
|Stove Repair Kit||MSR Service Kit|
|Lighters (3)||Bic Lighters|
|Complete High Altitude Medical Kit||Must include dexamethasone-injectable and pills, acetazolamide (diamox) and nifedapine or sildenafile for treating HAPE and HACE.|
|Pulse Oximeter||Innovo Deluxe Fingertip Pulse Oximeter|
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