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Above: summit day with recent snow fall.
Weather by meteoexploration
The fitter you have been over the past several years, the better your chances so do train hard. Fitness at sea level only sometimes translates into altitude fitness, be aware of this. You don't need to put on extra weight for this expedition, in fact since we are carrying all our own expedition gear you should not be overweight.
Although there are many precautions recommended by the American Center for Diseases Control (CDC), for Mendoza and the climb, there are no required vaccinations.
Taking acclimatizing to altitude seriously is very important for success on Aconcagua; we take a day or two extra over almost all other expeditions. We discuss in details and Jamie has all the acclimatization drugs available.
Please check if you need a visa for Argentina (and Chile, if transiting Santiago). Americans, most Europeans, Australians and Kiwis don't need a visa.
Aconcagua gear discussion
We have to carry all our gear on the mountain so careful gear selection is critical. Do also read the Everest gear page and the 8000m peaks gear page so that you buy gear that can also work for your 8000m expedition. While there is some gear available in Mendoza, it is best to bring everything (except perhaps plastic boots) from home.
What you are planning for
Basically you should plan with 4 specific climates/functions in mind:
+ warm weather trekking
+ mild mountaineering conditions
+ windy and cold mountaineering conditions
+ nights from 10C to -15C
Obviously much of your gear will fulfill multiple roles.
Conditions on summit day vary tremendously from day to day and year to year. You have to be prepared for the worst, which is an icy cold wind, and the altitude makes it seem significantly colder. It is essential to have a down jacket and some insulated pants and to be fully wind-protected.
You need insulated boots with a removable inner boot. The summit climb could be almost snow-free; alternatively you could be walking in snow for several days. These could be the old style plastic boots (available for rent in Mendoza), or some almost newer hybrid designs, eg La Sportiva Spantik or Nuptse, Boreal G1 or Scarpa Phantom 6000. The last alternative is to try the boots you plan to use on Everest etc. I have used my Millet Everest boots and they work well but they are overkill. Consider when you will use them again and please do feel free to discuss with me.
Leather boots such as La Sportiva Nepal Top are NOT warm enough.
You normally only use a down jacket at the highest camp and for the summit climb. Lower on the mountain is much warmer and you are less likely to use it anywhere else. There are two strategies; you could have a medium to thick down jacket as your outer layer and then it must have a hood (eg Mountain Hardwear Sub Zero Hooded Jacket); or you could have a lighter down jacket (eg Mountain Hardwear Phantom) that will go under a Gore-Tex jacket (without crushing the insulation). Consider what will work for other expeditions you are planning.
The best are the top of the range mitts from OR (Outdoor Research), their Alti Mitts or Black Diamond, eg Mercury Mitts or Absolute Mitts, and all are suitable for Everest/8000m peaks as well. Ensure they have a system for looping around your wrist. You could get away with almost any type of Primaloft mittens on Aconcagua though, as long as they have insulation on the palm and the back of the hand.
e.g. Mountain Hardwear Compressor Pant. It is debatable whether to use insulated pants, or use fleece pants/thick longjohns with a windproof layer over the top (covered in the mountaineering section). If you already have primaloft pants, they are preferable and are also perfect for Nepal base camps and trekking evenings.
These are optional but useful in extreme conditions - they tend to fog up except in windy conditions.
1x brand new thick socks for the summit attempt, these should be mainly wool. I don't recommend liner socks but if you do prefer them then merino wool seems best, even if not as silky-smooth as others. You also need a range of other socks.
+ Summit day pack
Most people use their normal pack but if you bring a separate one is should be very light, eg Mountain Hardwear Scrambler, and be large enough.
General all weather mountaineering gear
4300m-6000m: you are climbing at the beginning or end of summer and mostly it is not particularly cold during the day. Layering is the way to go, and to have several windproof options. When there's no wind a thermal top is enough, backed up by a soft shell or fleece for when the wind picks up. There may or may not be snow on the mountain and while it can snow, it doesn't usually snow heavily.
+ collapsible trekking poles, eg the Black Diamond range (some people prefer to use only one; that is OK)
+ light ice axe - optional; trekking poles are enough if you have reasonable balance! It is better to go light than technical, and better with a longer rather than shorter shaft.
+ (light) crampons with anti-balling plates (essential!).
For the head
high quality glacier glasses and cheapie spare glasses, good sun hat (eg the OR range), warm hat that fully covers your ears, a buff (the lightest, best option) or neck gaiter or balaclava.
For the hands
New fleece gloves/windstopper gloves, eg Black Diamond Windweight. Alternatively, lightly insulated leather palm gloves will also work.
Best is a reasonably new 4 season sleeping bag with at least 800gm/2lb of down. I feel that second-to-top or third-to-top of the range, around -20C/-0F to -29C/-20F, eg Mountain Hardwear Wraith, is about right although you could even go lighter than that. I use a Mountain Hardwear Banshee -18C/0F. Plan your sleeping bag with other expeditions in mind...
You can survive with a good, virtually new still very fluffy three season bag as a compromise, with a silk or fleece liner, and be prepared to sleep with your down jacket over the top, or an extra layer of thermals inside. We are sharing tents, which is warmer.
A thin silk sleeping bag liner is good for a little extra warmth and comfort and will lessen the rate of grime accumulation.
Thermarest (or similar) and foam pad. This could be a 3 or 4 series Prolite Thermarest, and any sort of closed cell foam pad as backup, even something very thin (possible to rent in Mendoza, and certainly saves on flying this bulk). If you go with only a closed cell foam mattress then the RidgeRest series is good.
+ expedition-weight or mid-weight thermal top.
+ plenty of nearly new socks of various thicknesses, including light or mid-weight.
+ soft shell or fleece jacket.
+ alpine climbing jacket - windproof and breathable, eg Mountain Hardwear Argon Jacket which is light and tight, or something with more room under it like the Beryllium Jacket. Gore-Tex is generally better than other waterproof, breathable shells despite the fact none of them are truly waterproof after time.
+ soft shell or windproof pants to go over the fleece pants/longjohns (or instead have Primaloft insulated pants).
+ leggings/light trekking pants for warm trekking and climbing conditions.
+ Trekking boots
You need a set of hiking boots for walking to base camp, and probably up to Camp 1 or even Camp 2. Most people have two sets of boots although insulated leather boots could perhaps do both jobs. The terrain is rough, light snow is possible so cross-trainers etc are not suitable. Gaiters are not necessary; most softshell pants etc have velcro or elastic and can be cinched snuggly.
+ big volume but light backpack, eg Mountain Hardwear South Col or Osprey Aether 70/85 or if going light, the Black Diamond Quantum 65 etc. We load carry between camps, around 16-20kgs so you should have a large and comfortable but relatively light big pack.
+ water bottles/system for carrying 2-4 litres
+ small, light LED headlamp with one new set of batteries, note the sun sets late and so you don't use much.
+ roll-on deodorant. You will be amazed at how approachable you still are after a week without a shower IF you have deo!
+ good factor 20+ lip balm (Banana boat or Dermatone)
+ good sunscreen
optional cup, bowl spoon - we provide but bring your favourite, if you have
optional cooking pots - if and only if you already have a nice twin set suitable for 2 people, size 1.5-3 litres
- helmet; your choice, however there is limited rock fall danger so virtually everyone does without.
You will use this gear from touchdown in Mendoza to base camp and higher. Mendoza might be a dry 30+C/86+F during the day and evening.
+ city hot weather pants, shorts and top (x2?)
+ light trekking pants, trekking shorts and hot weather top
+ mid-weight thermal top
+ soft shell or fleece jacket
+ windproof, breathable jacket
+ light river crossing shoes/sandals that can double as camp shoes
You can store city clothing in Mendoza while we climb.
We provide all meals but you will still want plenty of snacks for in between times, especially while climbing in between camps. Protein bars, as well as energy bars can be very useful. The supermarkets in Mendoza have plenty of chocolate, nuts and other bars but not Power Bars, Clif Bars etc.