I’m starting a new job on Thursday after a long hiatus. As I expect my brain power to be fully absorbed, I am trying to do some memory dumps before it is too late.
This particular post is all about what I brought to Patagonia during this last climbing season. I am going to try to provide some really specific details about how my pack job would change given what I know now, and what I might leave behind in the future. Here it goes….
Context: when was I there and what did I intend to climb
All the advice Jimmy and I had received indicated that we should be prepared to climb anything (rock or ice) based on the weather and conditions. It wasn’t the first time I had heard that wisdom, but always easy said then done. We wanted to be prepared for:
- Long ice and alpine routes with very technical climbing (this would dictate the ice tools we brought)
- Long rock routes the size of El Capitan at the end of some moderate glacial travel (i.e. could be done in LW tennis shoes and gators). Having come off a season in Yosemite, and being only moderately strong rock climbers, we would bring jugging equipment (jumars, daisy chains, etc) unlike some other folks.
- Stashing gear in the Torre Valley or otherwise. We planned to get the beta for this quickly after arriving and used a shitty weather window to walk in an extra set of cams and such.
- Running, bouldering and sport climbing in/near town
We would be there for a month and a half, from mid-December through January
We brought the following technical gear between the two of us.
- Rack: Triple rack from tips to BD #3 and 2x$4
- Ropes: 60M single, 70M, and a set of doubles, a 40ft of tagline we could use for short-fixing (tagging up the rack) if necessary
- Two sets of DMM offets, 2 sets of regular BD nuts, and 1 set of RPs, and 1 set of small offsets, a few larger tri-cams
- 12 ice screws, with a single 19cm for V-threads in glacier ice
- Pitons: a small collection of knife blades, lost arrows, and angles
- 15 60cm slings (half just with a single biner), 5 double lengths, a few coordelettes, 12 quickdraws
- A bunch of lockers
- Aid: two jumars, daisy chains
- 1 snow shovel
- 2-person route tent (I have similar to the BD first light with a burlier fabric)
- 1 large tarp
- 3 packs: 1 large 60L for base camp approaches, 1 45 L (Arcteryx FL), and a summit pack that rolls up to carry into base camp)
With all this gear, we were able to leave a full single rack and most of our ice screws, some lockers, slings, the tent, and one of the half ropes. We hiked it in earlier on, and aimed to do most of out climbing out of here. It was a huge energy saver.
We also had the right gear for cragging, and ropes for a number of different types of objectives. The half ropes were particularly handy on both the ice climbs we did, but then would have also come with us as a second rope for some rock missions on the Fitz Massif.
While it seems we brought a lot of hardware (slings, nuts, cord, pitons), I am not sure I would travel down with much less if we were aiming for the same objectives. We left just a little bit of gear on Exocet and the Supercan, and we burned through a bunch of rap cord, slings, nuts, and pins on our new Cerro Solo line given all the rappels. If you were just headed down to repeat well-established routes, you could certainly get by with less.
We never carried our tent with us on route, but we did take the tarp with us several times as we felt like this was the minimal amount of non-negotiable emergency shelter we should have with us. It was quit handy as a bit of warmth and protection several times.
Finally the astute reader will notice “tri-cams” on this list. Though they seem to have fallen out of favor, these were perfect for supplementing our single rack with light gear that would work in iced up cracks. We used them to back up rappels very often.
In addition to the group hard goods above, here is the personal stuff I brought and some recommendations for next time (the things I wished I had…).
- Harness +ice clippers
- Helmet (brought a BD Vapor, which now looks like it was run over by a car, have now moved over to the Petzl Sirocco for weight AND durability)
- LW Glacier kit
- Pair of Nomic Ice tools (best for the steep, technical terrain you will encounter)
- LW axe (while there, I borrowed a short version of the Petzl Sum’tec, and have since picked up one of these)
- Homemade V-thread pullers (cheap, light, easy to make)
- OR Crack gloves (an absolute must have)
- Nut tool
- Bivvy sack
- Closed cell pad (too cheap to buy those fancy inflatable ones)
- Ice tool leashes (I have a home made pair, see photo)
- Chalk bag + extra chalk
- Aluminum crampons
- Technical vertical-point crampons (Petzl Darts)
As noted above, I wanted gear for long technical ice/mixed routes AND for the rock days approached via a short-glacial approach. In Patagonia, because most of the climbs can be completed in a near push if you are fast enough, weight really is everything. The only place I didn’t skimp on weight was with the Petzl Nomics. They are not the lightest technical axes you can buy, but they are cheater sticks on ice, and I’ll take all the help I can get.
Petzl also has the Sum’tec axe, which is ideal for approaching rock climbs. As it comes with a hammer, its also perfect for pinging in pitons when necessary. Better climbers than I will use two of these for climbs like the Supercaneleta when it is dry conditions, where you just need some LW tools to bring you to the rock climbing above.
Personal Clothing and Layers
I already did a write up about some of the layers I like for climbing in moderate climates (from a temperature perspective) like Patagonia. See that here.
Basically, on this trip I wanted an alpine climbing kit (cold weather climbing on ice tools) and a rock climbing kit. Those outfits looked like this:
Alpine climbing kit (all OR): Axiom hard shell, Cirque soft-shell pants (Prusic Pants or IceLine pants would fit better with mountain boots), Ferosi hoody, Transcendent down hoody (mid-weight) or Incandescent (heavy weight), depending on whether I was bringing a sleeping bag on route), and a mid-weight synthetic jacket.
I had also brought a soft-shell outer layer, but because I didn’t need the warmth but moisture protection was critical, I never brought it with me on route. I would leave it at home next time.
Rock climbing kit (all OR): Hellium II jacket, Ferosi Pants (Voodoo pants would be better, a little thicker), Ferosi hoody, Transcendent down hoody (mid-weight) and/or Incandescent (depending on whether I was bringing a sleeping bag on route), and a mid-weight synthetic jacket.
Around town: In addition to garments to cover the two sets of layering systems above, I retrospectively wish that I brought a set of warm layers for around town in December that were independent from my climbing layers. This wouldn’t consist of anything fancy, just cotton pants and a hoody so I don’t have to throw on the same stinky jackets that I had just sweat in for three days when headed to the grocery store.
Ice boots: As the temperatures are quite mild there in Patagonia, the Sportiva Ice Cube GTX was the perfect boot, given that it sheds a bit of insulation for weight, but is aimed at highly technical applications. Other than some durability issues I had with my boots that Sportiva was more than happy to work through with me, these things hit the ticket. Some of the other parties we ran into were wearing double boots, and always seemed to be hiking around with them fully unzipped because they were too hot.
Approach shoes: If you are headed for a mission on the Torres, you will want a technical boot that attaches crampons well. If you are going rock climbing on Fitz, AND you are pretty comfortable in the snow, you can probably get away with a pair of approach shoes and a pair of aluminum crampons (see next section). I would recommend a mid-top approach shoe despite the extra weight as many of the approaches require a significant amount of talus hopping. There is nothing like scraping up your ankles on sharp talus on your way to base camp.
Climbing shoes: Bring your favorite granite kicks and some shoes for the steep stuff (e.g. bouldering near town or the steep climbing at Calamar).
Around town: Flip flops or crocs will do you well. Definitely also worth bringing a set of dedicated running shoes, as there are many days for this.
Here are some other random must haves down south:
- Trekking poles are great. Either those that fold in half or in thirds will work just fine as you can often leave them at camp or at a stash of gear near the base of a climb
- Collecting water: Some people bring a straw or other implement to grab water out of small pools or drips when rock climbing. Though I never saw this, I did carry one of those foldable bowls which double well to funnel water, and as a splint in a pinch.
- Repair kit: the terrain in Patagonia is really rough on your gear. I would advise bringing extra bungeee cord, a Speedy Sticher, extra fabric, duck tape and Tenacious Tape, sharp scissors, seam sealer, and other patch kit items.
- Movies and books: Like any good climbing trip, there is a lot of down time.
- If you are going to be doing a lot of cooking, consider bringing measuring cups and a sharp knife. These things do not seem to exist in Chalten.
I made a longer list of non-climbing gear here, including the types or foods you should bring down. See it for further detail!