I know these next few weeks are going to fly by with a busy schedule of working, traveling to the east coast and getting my gear ready for the upcoming trip to Antarctica and Aconcagua. It’s a little tough to pack for this trip, because really, one almost wants two completely different setups to deal with the wet, coastal climate of Antarctica, and the dry, warm and cold climate high on Aconcagua. Add in the trekking, camping and skiing gear, and a gear geek could loose their mind trying to get their kit dialed. Here are a few of the things I know I’m bringing so far.
The POC Synapsis is light and certified strong, check it out…here.
I most likely won’t need a helmet for Aconcagua, and I’m opting to bring a ski helmet to Antarctica in place of a climbing helmet since they tend to merge with goggles better. And at only 375 grams, lighter when you take out all the ear-flaps and insulation, the POC Synapsis doesn’t really penalize you for wanting some extra features either.
The Synapsis was my first choice of the POC helmet line, because a visor is really nice on a helmet, especially when it’s snowing and blowing out…never mind sunny. The POC’s however, also flips up (it’s held down with Velcro) so if you want to pop your goggles on your head real quick…it’s not a problem. Add in two forward facing vents that you can block with pieces of fabric on the inside, and you can modify the airflow depending on conditions. I’m sure mine will be set in the open position…forever. POC nails the chin strap as well, which adjusts to anyone’s jaw-shape with ease, and is very comfortable with it’s soft fleecy padding.
A headlamp is really only for safety in Antarctica, because of the long days, but will be but more of a necessity for Aconcagua. I’m bringing two, a Black Diamond Spot and Icon. The Spot has to be one of the best batteries in front headlamps out there. Its’ combo of proximity and distance lighting are great and in a relatively light package, and will be good for around camp.
The Icon is more of a workhorse/powerhouse headlamp and since it’s batteries are located in the back, they will stay warm under a hood during the cold morning hours at over 6000m. Add in the NRG kit, a battery recharger, and you’re always rocking full-power when you need it. The NRG also comes with global wall outlet adapters, so you should be able to juice it up wherever. I’ll probably just recharge it here in the states, and bring back up batteries when on Aconcagua.
Glovewise, I will pretty much need at least four pairs of gloves for Antarctica. Two pairs of approach gloves and two pairs descent gloves. This way, since it is so wet out, I can swap them out each day and let the other pairs dry while we’re out skiing. And depending on just how wet it really is…maybe even have them for backup on each tour. Black Diamond has no less than 53 options for gloves and mittens, so it’s pretty easy to find a model that you like.
Light is right when it comes to approach gloves and this
ultra-waterproof, Seam-Grip method is bomber.
I don’t know about you, but my hands stay pretty warm when skinning. For this reason (as well as the fact that you’ve always got warmer gloves to put on if your hands get cold), I like very light weight approach gloves. Made with a thin stretch woven material, the Black Diamond Pilot glove is stretchy and breathable, and a neoprene cuff fits snug and comfortably around your wrist. I also like the Transition glove from BD. Its goat leather, is soft and the stretchy section on the back of the hand allow for good mobility and fit. Both of these gloves have spots for clipping on to you pack waist belt or harness, which is nice when you want to snap a picture of your ski partner getting mauled by some killer emperor penguins.
Removable liners, for drying, are key in warmer/heavyweight gloves.
With heavier gloves, I often don’t like the warmest options, because they tend to be too big and bulky for my size medium hands. I’ve been using a pair of BD Prodigy gloves for the past three or four years now and they are still going strong. A Gore-Tex insert in the removable lining, assures dry hands and a combination of Primaloft and fleece add warmth and comfort. Add in a reinforced palm and trigger finger and thumb and the Prodigy is durable and offers good dexterity. The Tour glove is not quite as warm as the Prodigy, and since it uses BDry, it’s less expense than gloves that use GORE products, but still waterproof. Both of these gloves have removable inserts, which is imperative in a warm glove when you are skiing everyday.
Go ahead hands…just try to get cold…come on!
For Aconcagua I will probably bring only one approach and one descent glove with me when into basecamp, most likely the Pilot and Prodigy. But I will also have an ultra-warm mitten set up, in case things really get cold near the top. The Mercury Mitts from BD are warm and affordable. They are sized large so you can fit a thin liner glove underneath and still have room for a chemical heat pack. The trigger finger on the insert is nice for futzing around camp or putting on crampons and the wrist strap keeps them front moving up and down your hands. Add in some wrist leashes and you won’t loose them when you take them off to wipe snot off your nose or adjust your sunglasses.
Light, easy to use and effective avalanche tools from Ortovox.
For both Antarctica and Aconcagua I will most likely be skiing with 3-4 other skiers, so I’m opting for lighter weight avalanche gear. I like my Ortovox Grizzly 1 because its handle is quick and easily to deploy since it folds down instead of being removable. It’s also light since it is aluminum and its handle can be locked at a 90 degree angle to rack snow away from a victim. I usually poo-poo carbon probes due to their strength limits, but the Ortovox Carbon Pro is one of the few that I feel confident in using for self rescue. Its’ 13mm diameter is stronger than most other carbon probes which tend to be skinnier. It should be no surprise that the S1 is my avalanche transceiver of choice. Skiing with a larger group, it is important to be able to search for multiple victims with ease, which with Ortovox’s signal differentiation and flagging technology…makes very simple and logical. The one caveat is that since the S1 uses information it gets from it’s integrated compass (as well as other information) to determine the direction to a buried transceiver, I have to remember to recalibrate it when I get to the southern hemisphere. Sure hope I remember!