Saturday, November 8, 2014

November 8th, 2014: Part 2 of my gear sort (climbing gear)

Greetings.  I am sitting down in my kitchen this morning typing away on this blog post with a horrible sinus headache (update:  I began this post on the 6th and finished it on the 8th and my headache is gone!!!).  The darn sinus infection returned with a vengeance!  

As promised, I continue with my gear sorting and accounting.  Today's post focuses on my climbing gear for Aconcagua.  I mentioned previously that the climb is fairly non-technical but I intend to solo up the Polish glacier so I include a few other climbing essentials for that effort.  Here goes....

1.  Footwear:  Broken down by elevation

Mendoza (2,450 ft or 750m) and Trek to BC (14,300 feet or 4,360m):  Flip-flops (OluKai Ohana - 8 oz./pair - are my current favorites) tend to treat me the best for approach shoes.  
My feet hate closed-toed shoes.  I have odd shaped feet that were designed for a bare footin' life but mountaineering requires foot covering to protect them from the elements.  Many of you may recall that I used my trusty flip-flops as my sole approach shoes on the trek to Everest base camp.  Unfortunately, I had an incident at the latest Annapolis Boat Show where I took my Everest approach flip-flops off, placed them by the rest of the footwear people ditched before boarding the boat, and then returned to a nicer looking pair (see photo above).  Apparently some clueless soul took my nasty flip-flops that I intended to retire that week and left me with his (assuming it was a guy with size US 11 mens feet) almost new and barely broken in flops.  Needless to say, I was a bit bummed to lose my trusted friends but accepted the gift without much fuss.

BC to Camp 2 (18,400 feet / 5608 meters):  I intend to use my new GoLite XT90 (30 oz. per pair) approach shoes.  These puppies are really comfortable and allow my feet to swell enough so they don't become too cramped.  Additionally, I love the wide size and roomy toe box that gives me just that extra bit of movement just in case my feet get cold - a very rare occasion.  Here is a picture of these from Amazon because the GoLite website no longer lists shoes for some reason:

Summit Day or from snow-line (possibly above 16,200 feet to summit and back down to scree or where my feet start screaming at me):  I intend to use my trusty La Sportiva Baruntse (83 oz. per pair) boots and pack my crampons just in case the snow/ice require greater traction than the boots afford.  The Baruntse boots are awesome; they fit my feet, allow me to move quickly in them, and offer foot swell room.  In short, I love these boots.  In fact, I intended to climb Everest in them with 40 Below overboots.  They are a bit heavy and I might replace them with lighter full-gaiter boots for this spring's climb but for now, these boots will suffice for Aconcagua (and most other climbs).  Here is a nice new picture of my beaten up boots (not pictured):

3.  Harness (not required for the Normal route but necessary for the Polish Glacier Direct):  I typically climb with the classic Black Diamond Alpine Bod (14 oz.)
BD Alpine Bod
but this time around, I decided to switch to the Black Diamond Couloir (8 oz.) for weight savings and a more convenient belay loop.  The Couloir offers a substantial weight savings at some marginal costs.  First, the Alpine bod has 4 reinforced gear loops that makes it easy to access gear from any of the four locations.  These gear loops also have some tubing around the gear loop webbing that keeps them rigid and non-collapsible.   In contrast, the Couloir
BD Couloir
only has two non-reinforced gear loops BUT it has a belay loop (the greyish/whitish web loop on the front) that makes for tying into the rope team much easier.  My replacement is much lighter (by 6 oz.) but the weight savings comes at the costs of fewer gear loops and a little less comfort in the leg loops.  These weight savings and slight costs in functionality easily offset one another.  

4.  Protection (generally not required for normal route but required for Polish Glacier):  I intend to bring two pickets (2 x 24" with runners and non-locking 'biners - 20 oz. total for each setup for 40 oz. total), five ice screws (3 x 13 cm - 4.7 oz. each - and 2 x 22 cm - 5.9 oz. each), and one 30m x 8mm double-dry climbing rope (45 oz.).  These forms of protection allow me to climb the glacier with some protection, however, I do not intend to climb with a running belay; instead, I just want to have the protection necessary to complete some of the tough parts of the climb.  These pieces give me more than enough and probably too much protection.  I do intend to whittle the gear down on the mountain but the extra gear should not weigh me down too much on the approach.  Rather, it should not weigh down the mules.  Once in BC, I will sort my gear and only take the required gear higher.

5.  Standard mountaineering gear:  There are two things most mountaineers take on any climb - an ice axe
BD Raven as an example
and crampons.  I intend to take both as usual because the ice axe allows me a form of protection to self-arrest should I fall.  Crampons provide better traction than the typical Vibram sole of a mountaineering boot.  Thus, I will bring these two things.  The actual model and style matter little to me.  I have many ice axes - some standard straight handle mountaineering models and other ice axes.  The latter might be overkill but I do intend to bring my Vipers (i.e., ice axes; 45 oz. for both) for the Polish glacier just in case it is an ice climb rather than a steep snow ascent.  I will probably bring my BD Raven Pro (11 oz.) because it is light and shorter than my Raven (16 oz.).  The crampons I use are the Black Diamond Sabretooth Pro (34 oz. per pair) step ins; they work and stay relatively sharp even after climbing mixed terrain.
BD Sabretooth Pro
 One problem I encountered while doing some day climbs in Nepal is that my approach shoes are not really well-suited for icy areas.  I was thinking about throwing in a pair of the hiking studs or trail crampons that fit all shoes.  Below is a picture of one kind of stretch on trail crampon from REI.  Many varieties are pretty cheap and they tend to fall apart easily.  I do not intend to spend more than about $30 on a pair so if you have any suggestions, I am all ears (or eyes).  

These stretch-on spikes (shown to the right; 15.7 oz. from REI) are light and can easily be packed away for quick retrieval and saves me from changing footwear constantly.  Doubt they would work well with my flip-flops.  Perhaps I should give it a go at home before trying them out.  Lastly, I intend to bring my helmet (BD Half Dome; 12 oz.).  
BD Half Dome
There are many instances where a helmet is overkill but the potential for rock slides on Aconcagua and my long-term investment in my brain gets me to live a bit on the cautious side.  On the plus side, my helmet weighs practically nothing and fits into the top of my pack to protect anything directly beneath it (like my brain).  Thus, there is little downside to packing it for most trips.  

So nothing fancy for this equipment list.  I use what I trust and what fits my weird body.  Everything I take on a climb has been used by me many times and I can take on/off without looking - a good plan for any gear used on adventures.

Total weight

How much does all this gear weigh?  Good question.  I never really accounted for it until now so here is the grand total for all the gear listed above: 357.6 oz. or 22.35 lbs (10.1 kg)!!!!!  Perhaps time to shed some weight here.  The normal route only requires 193.7 oz. or 12.1 lbs. (5.5 kg).  Adding in the Polish direct to my climbing objectives increases my load by 10 lbs (4.6 kg).  Sheesh!  I might need to rethink my objectives if weight is a concern.

Thanks for following along.  My next post details a bit more of the mundane but essential gear to keep me warm.  Stay tuned for Part 3 in the gear sort series.  I intend to post Part 3 sometime either on Sunday or Monday.  Now, I head toward the simulated mountain for an 8-hour climb to 21,000 feet (6,400 m).  See you soon....

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