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. 

A cluster of tents at Aconcagua Base Camp.
A cluster of tents at Aconcagua Base Camp. Photo: Grajales Expeditions

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.

For more information, check out Grajales Expeditions (@grajales.expeditions).

 

Gear Item Details
Footwear
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
Outerwear
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+
Sunscreen SPF 50+
Hands
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 System
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)
Other Gear
Crampons Petzl Irvis
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)
Headlamp Petzl Actik
Mug GSI Outdoors Infinity Mug
Bowl Sea to Summit
Utensils GSI Outdoors
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
Fuel White Gas
Pots MSR Pots
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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