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Advice needed: Layering for 6000m peaks in the Cordillera Blanca


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Nick Sweeney · · Spokane, WA · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 653

I'm heading to the Ishinca Valley of the Cordillera Blanca in late June 2018 for some mountain climbing.  Specifically, we are planning on climbing Urus Este and Ishinca to acclimatize before attempting the NW Ridge of Tocllaraju.  I'm hoping to get some ideas/advice on layering - what systems have you used at similar elevations in Peru or elsewhere? Additionally, what do you recommend for gloves? My heaviest gloves are Rab Baltoro gloves, I think that I should pick up some mitts.  Recommendations are appreciated!

I've done some cold weather climbing before and already have a good system for the Cascades and Rockies in Winter.  Here's a list of what I currently own and wear on really cold days:

Upper body:

Wool/blend tee shirt

Arcteryx Fortrez (Fleece Hoody, equivalent to a Patagonia R1)

Arcteryx Squamish Hoody (wind shell)

Arcteryx Atom LT (insulated soft shell, mine is pretty packed out and due for replacement)

Arcteryx Beta LT Hybrid (Hard shell, Goretex Paclite 2 layer body with 3-layer reinforcements on hood and shoulders)

Black Diamond Stance Belay Parka (Equivalent to Patagonia DAS)

Lower Body:

Random North Face base layers - medium weight?

Outdoor Research Cirque (soft shell pant)

I feel like I may be a little light on insulation with what I have here.  I know that I need to pick up some Goretex pants in case conditions really get bad.  I'm considering getting some insulated pants(Patagonia Nano Puff Pants?), or at least some heavier fleece to wear under my soft shells.  In regard to the upper body, I am thinking about adding an expedition-weight base layer and replacing my Atom Jacket.

Greg Shea · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2015 · Points: 10

I'd say another thin puffy that is more breathable to layer under the atom when cold and use with the fleece while moving up high, also deffinetly puff pants 

Michael Fleming · · Knoxville, TN · Joined Dec 2011 · Points: 120

Is this with siet? I did it a few years back. Your layering system is basically the same thing I had and it worked just fine. Puff pants aren't a must but if you want to be a little warmer at camp go ahead.

Nick Sweeney · · Spokane, WA · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 653

Thanks for the input guys!  Michael, this not with SIET.  I'm debating on the puff pants, seems like most people do not use them.  

Brian Richards · · Bozeman · Joined Nov 2015 · Points: 0

Last year on Alpamayo and Chopicalqui I used a fleece base layer, R1, nano puff, goretex shell, and a down puffy for the summit. I used a pair of base layer pants with hardshells over, but my partner used softshells with no problem. Even with being at high camp on Alpamayo for a few days, I never felt puffy pants were necessary.

climber pat · · Las Cruces, NM · Joined Feb 2006 · Points: 215

I was in Ishinca valley on the same peaks in 2011 and was way overdressed for the climbs.  I only used my big puffy one evening for laying around at basecamp.  I regretted bringing the double boots. The local guides were climbing in single boots capable of taking crampons. The clothing I actually used was similar to Brian Richard's in the above comment.  I also added a cloth sunshield to my helmet to prevent my neck from getting sunburned (way too much skin cancer to take risks with). The sunshield turned out to be great at keeping warmer.  I took some velcro tape and put a strip of velcro around the back of the helmet and sewed a strip of velcro to a piece of cloth and sewed some pennies to weigh down the loose edge of the cloth.  It looked dorky but worked great.  

 I think the guidebook recommendations are really for the higher peaks.

Will s · · Huntington Beach, CA · Joined May 2017 · Points: 0

Nick, I think you have more than enough to chose from, but conditions will vary obviously and will depend on your tolerance for cold.  I was there this summer and wore the following and was fine at about 5400m (yanapaccha).  Climbed Urus too and it was way warmer 

underarmour leggings, synthetic berghaus trekking pants (not insulated), berghaus waterproof over pants (non gortex)

Light baselayer top, synthetic mid layer (condor, not  a real performance brand), marmot gortex shell 

rab medium weight down puffy for the summit and base camp 

Agree about the neck coverage above, wear a buff for sure, good for also covering your chin/mout/ears for sure 

Gloves are tricky.. I'd recommend bringing multiple pair you can swap out when they get wet or soaked with sweat.  Liners are nice so you can keep something on your hand if you need to take the glove off.  Save the warmest for the higher altitudes obviously.  I didn't have a need for mitts at 5400m but higher you may. 

I have since climbed in colder/ higher with the arcteryx atom lt as a mid layer and the goretex shell.  That's a great mid layer and was fine below freezing as long as I was moving. 

Insulated pants are probably overkill at tocclaraju but might be nice if you spend the night at the high camp.  Definitely bring a down jacket for camp and the summit 

Karl Henize · · June Lake, CA · Joined Aug 2013 · Points: 570

When I was there a few years ago, it was very difficult to buy any specialized climbing gear in Peru.  So, don't expect to buy any specialized climbing gear or clothing while there.  It was also relatively easy to stash extra gear at hostels in Huaraz, while out climbing.  The weather during the dry season was quite stable, so you can probably leave the goretex at home.  

I would also recommend puffy pants with side zips. I would also recommend approach shoes + double boots.  I did not need mittens.

Nick Sweeney · · Spokane, WA · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 653

Mike, Pat, Will and Karl: Thank you for the advice! This is all really valuable information.  I already have double boots (G2SMs) that I will be using. I recently was given a pair of CAMP Geko Hot gloves which seem very warm and a good climbing glove. 

Karl, did you end up using puffy pants at all on your trip? It seems like they might be a good item to have in the pack for an emergency, but I doubt I'll be using them at camp.  We won't be using an high camps and will be doing each peak as a day climb from base camp near the Refugio (4350m).

Karl Henize · · June Lake, CA · Joined Aug 2013 · Points: 570
Nick Sweeney wrote: 

Karl, did you end up using puffy pants at all on your trip? It seems like they might be a good item to have in the pack for an emergency, but I doubt I'll be using them at camp.  We won't be using an high camps and will be doing each peak as a day climb from base camp near the Refugio (4350m).

I did not use the puffy pants on climbs because I was constantly moving (soloing or simulclimbing), from tent to tent.  If you are standing still for any length of time (long belays, injury, whiteout, unplanned bivvy, etc), the puffy pants will be useful.  Same philosophy as the double boots.  If you are constantly moving, you don't need them, but if you don't generate much body heat for an extended period, you will likely need them.

Nick Sweeney · · Spokane, WA · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 653
Karl Henize wrote:

I did not use the puffy pants on climbs because I was constantly moving (soloing or simulclimbing), from tent to tent.  If you are standing still for any length of time (long belays, injury, whiteout, unplanned bivvy, etc), the puffy pants will be useful.  Same philosophy as the double boots.  If you are constantly moving, you don't need them, but if you don't generate much body heat for an extended period, you will likely need them.

Thank you for the valuable advice!

Will s · · Huntington Beach, CA · Joined May 2017 · Points: 0

I respectfully disagree about Karl's gortex comment and recommend you wear a gortex jacket and pants the entire time you're on the glacier/climbing in snow.  2016-2017 also saw more snowfall than the previous several years (im told) which May be why Karl had a different experience than I did.  Definitely agree with the other comments though!

Even if the weather is stable you can still get very wet if you fall, or the snow is deep, or if it warms up enough to melt the snow.  I was there in May-June and September this year; in my experience the weather wasn'tstable at the beginning and end of the season.  

 

Will s · · Huntington Beach, CA · Joined May 2017 · Points: 0

Don't forget glacier glasses either 

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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