Friday, March 18, 2011

Cleo's Equipment list for Kangchenjunga

Equipment is highly important to the success of your climb. I keep my equipment list as simple as possible, but never skimp on quality. Weight is a serious consideration on the higher slopes, so look for the lightest material available, such as titanium and carbon fiber composites. High mountain equipment should be practical and functional. Don't buy anything with unnecessary zippers and buckles. It just adds weight. Protect your head with a good wool cap when sleeping at night as most of your body heat is lost in the head region. For your hands, it depends whether you're a warm type or cold one. I'm very warm so I use light weight capilene liners on the lower slopes and heavier ones on the upper. Windstopper is a must on any 8000ers since the wind can be your worst enemy. Of course, it's important to keep your feet happy so buy good cushioned socks, and always save a fresh new pair for the summit. I wear either Thorlo's or Smartwool mountaineers' socks and Patagonia's liners. Remember, when buying your high altitude boots to try them on with your liner and mountaineering socks, then add half size. Your feet will be swollen at high altitude (above 7300m) and you need that bit of room to keep moving your toes to maintain the circulation going (keep moving them from time to time during your climb, even if they feel fine). Remember to remove the inner boot and place them in your sleeping bag at night when at high camps so they're warm before you go out of your tent in the morning. In the past I have used Millet and Scarpa one system type of boots, but have settled for La Sportiva lately. For me La Sportiva Olympus Mons Evo fits better,  is more stable,  and has a better ergonomic design. Scarpa's TiZip is very annoying to manage and it can get stuck easily. As to your clothing, the quality of your high altitude suit is extremely important,  it needs to be comfortable, roomy, and efficient with heat. My pick is Feathered Friends. I have tried different suits but Feathered Friends is second to none. I had people on Gasherbrum I turn around because they were too cold in their high altitude suits/jackets. I felt bad for them, my FF suit kept me warm and comfy all the time. It's like taking your warm duvet from your bed with you, it just felt really good in all extreme weather situations of seven 8000ers I've climbed. I even bought the Ice Fall jacket and pants for those really cold nights at BC and lower camps.  Here's a list of some of  the equipment I'm taking to Kangch:

Expedition Boots -  La Sportiva's Olympus Mons Evo

Socks - Tholo's and Smartwool Mountaineering socks

Sock liners - Patagonia

Crampons - Petzl's Sarken, this is the 4X4 of the crampons, with "T" shaped front points.

Harness - Black Diamond Xenos, lasts longer than the Arc'Teryx X350a

Helmet - Grivel Salamander, total protection, have tested most of the brands out there

Headlamp - Petzl's Tikka XP, amazing technology if you have your laptop at BC

Balaclava - Sonic OR, Windstopper Technical fleece, Polartec wind Pro ear panels allows easy hearing

Face mask - Outdoor Research, good ventilation is important

Neck Gaiter - The North Face Denali Thermal scarf (it's a gaiter, not a scarf)

High altitude mittens - Black Diamond "Absolute" mittens, Black Diamond Guide gloves for rappel

Glove liners - Windstopper light/medium, lower slopes and upper

Underwear - Patagonia's II/III Capilene

Patagonia Sports Bra

Climbing Pants - The North Face Apex Summit Series

Soft Shell (pants/jacket) - The North Face DriFit  Summit Series

Hard Shell (top/bottom) - The North Face

Basecamp Jacket - The North Face DriFit Summit Series

Basecamp Sleeping bag - Feathere Friends -60

Higher camps Sleeping bag - The North Face "Nova"

Sleeping mat - Thermarest Luxury Mat

Trekking Poles -  Komperdell C3 Carbon, duolock, super light and easy to lock/unlock

Ice Tools - Grivel's Quantum, Carbon composite (super light and ergonomic, the best for any type of ice)

Ice screws - Black Diamond Express

Carabiners - Black Diamond vapor lock

Ropes - Petzl and PMI

Radios - RCA,  BR250

Tents - The North Face Mountain35 Summit Series, best tent in the market for high altitude winds. When all other tents were destroyed at Nanga Parbat during a mega avalanche last July, TNF M35 were the only ones that stood intact, even though it took a direct hit. I was in one of them for the incredible ride... 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Aconcagua Training

Just completed my training at Aconcagua. This climbing season in the Andes has been quite erratic. Too much snow and wind was the main complaint from climbers trying to acclimatize before the Himalaya season. Romanians, Russians, Slovenians, and myself were the last to arrive for a late season training. AMS also had their ice climbing clinic going on. The harsh weather was perfect for training for the  high mountains. The viento blanco is an Andean phenomenon that many have blamed for the huge loss of lives at Aconcagua this last season. I was coming down from the summit last week when it start to snow and the wind started to pick up slowly. By the time I reached Colera, to clear camp, the storm had reached full force and the visibility as I continued to Nidos was zero. It was all guess work and familiarity with rocks that kept me going on the right direction as I used these rocks as reference point to reach the lower camps and later in the afternoon Plaza de Mulas. In all my summits of Acon, I had never seen the Canaleta covered in snow and the Passaje del Viento traverse with knee deep snow. There were three of us going for the summit and we took turns breaking trail. Most of my training took place near Piedras  and Nidos.  Had a lot of time to acclimatize and the 11 min. on Acon's summit was clear as crystal but we had to run down the Canaleta, literally.  Many thanks to  Grajales Expediciones for the best logistics service available in the Andes! Where else can someone train on a mountain just shy of 7000m and enjoy fillet Mignon and malbec at the end of a hard days work mountaineering? Also, thanks to the Grajales staff for the great barbecue celebration.
I have just gotten home and will focus now on preparing for Kangch. Our M17 will depart to Ramche on the 6th and our porters will leave Kathmandu on the 26th of March. We are very excited about this climb and can't wait to reach Kangchenjunga's BC and face our challenges in this incredible opportunity. Many thanks to my favorite VP at The North Face for going above and beyond the call of duty for me (you know who you are!).