Gear: Ecuador the Hard Way

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With 5000-6000m peaks just degrees from the equator, climbers on these peaks should expect bad weather.  I was taught this the hard way when I first came to Ecuador to climb the normal routes of Cayame, Antisana, and Cayambe.  Once I got home from that climb, I bought quite a few new layers to prepare me for those sorts of conditions.  Coming back this time, aiming for harder routes, I knew I would need to come prepared.

Read the full story here.


Gear Rating Legend


Best in class!  This is a non-climb/expedition specific choice. Regardless of the climb/expedition at hand, this piece of gear is a favorite.

😀
Terrific! It’s almost as if this piece of gear was made for this climb/expedition.  There is no better piece of gear than this to get the job done right here.

🙂
Good!  This piece of gear performed well, as expected.  There may be something slightly more optimal out there for this specific climb/expedition, but this still worked very well.

😐
Okay.  This piece of gear performance was average during this climb/expedition.  It may not have been the ideal piece of gear, but it got the job done for the most part.

😦
Less than ideal.  This piece of gear may have some great aspects, but none of those aspects particularly outweighed their negative aspects during this climb/expedition.

😡
Terrible!  This piece of gear posed as a real challenge in itself and made the climb/expedition considerably worse and possibly introduced unnecessary dangers to the situation.

(Keep in mind that some pieces of gear may function as “Terrific!” on one climb/expedition, and “Terrible!” on another.  The more specific a piece of gear, the better it may perform during some conditions while the worse it may perform in others.  All items here are high quality and have their merits in some regards.)


Top Layers

  • ⭐ Icebreaker Sphere LS Hood
  • 😀 Arc’teryx Gamma MX Hoody
  • 🙂 Arc’teryx Atom LT Hoody
  • 😦 Mountain Hardwear Ghostwhisperer Hoody (rec: Arc’teryx Atom LT)
  • 🙂 Arc’teryx Theta SVX
  • 😡 Outdoor Research Floodlight (rec: Arc’teryx Alpha IS)

The good:  The Icebreaker baselayer was perfect, Ecuadorian peaks can get very hot and this is the perfect layer to strip down to.  The hood is perfect for throwing over a helmet when the UVs get high.  The Gamma MX came because I knew that the weather on this mountain gets nasty, and high up it is always quite cold.  Having the extra bit of insulation there was indeed appreciated.  The Atom LT is a great piece of insulation for activity.  I wore the Gamma MX and Atom LT for the majority of the climb.

The bad:  Although it is a great jacket, the Ghostwhisperer is not an ideal jacket for these sort of technical routes.  A few brushes against rocks and it is game over.  In retrospect, I would have preferred to bring something a bit more hefty.  The Outdoor Research Floodlight does not really feel like a proper alpine jacket.  It is quite heavy and the hood makes for difficult head movement.  The Floodlight seems better suited to backpacking.


Bottom Layers

  • 🙂 Mammut Nordwand Pro HS Pants
  • 🙂 Mountain Hardwear Dragon Pants
  • 🙂 Mountain Hardwear Ozonic Pants

The good:  I bring the Dragon pants when I am fairly certain the majority of the climb will be cold, and that it will be unlikely to rain.  The Ozonic pants are great when rain is very unlikely but you want some lightweight security.  All in all, I was happy with this combo.  This was my first time using Mammut Nordwand Pro HS Pants.  They functioned as expected, but they are complicated to put on in the morning and a little hard to pee in. Those are minor complains for an otherwise really good pant.

The bad:  None.


Feet

  • 😀 La Sportiva G2 SM
  • ⭐ Smartwool PhD Mountaineering Socks

The good:  The G2 SM boots are my go to 6000m footwear, and I would be hard pressed to change.  The new Smartwool PhD Mountaineering Socks were something new for me on this expedition, and to be honest, I was very skeptical.  They are essentially compression socks, which seems like potentially a bad idea at high altitude.  They ended up working great, and they are my sock of choice now.

The bad:  For Illiniza Norte, a lighter boot would have been more ideal.  I would have preferred to have climbed in my La Sportiva Nepal Cube GTX boots.


Hands

  • ⭐ Outdoor Research Arete Gloves
  • 😦 Outdoor Research Luminary Sensor Gloves (rec: Arete Gloves)
  • ⭐ Outdoor Research Extravert Gloves
  • ⭐ Outdoor Research Baker Mitts (w/ Alti Mitts liners)

The good:  Aside from the Luminary gloves, this is my standard 5-6000m peak glove arsenal.  I have tried many, and these are my choices.

The bad:  I brought out the Luminary gloves to give them a shot against the Arete gloves.  The Luminary gloves are a little more “user friendly”, but maybe not in the best way for heavy duty climbing.  I would save these for the ski slopes.


Technical Climbing Gear

  • 😀 Grivel North Machine Ice Tools
  • 😡 Black Diamond Venom 57″ (rec: 2x Grivel North Machine Ice Tools)
  • 🙂 Grivel Spring Leash
  • 😀 Black Diamond Snaggletooth Crampons
  • 🙂 Petzl Sarken Crampons
  • 🙂 CAMP Alp Mountain Harness
  • 🙂 Black Diamond Vector Helmet
  • ⭐ Petzl Reverso
  • ⭐ Petzl Attache Locking Carabiners
  • 🙂 Petzl Ange S Carabiners
  • 🙂 Mammut Contact Slings
  • ⭐ Petzl Laser Speed Light Ice Screws
  • 🙂 Black Diamond Ice Clippers

The good:  This was my first time taking out the Grivel North Machine ice tools and Black Diamond Snaggletooth Crampons.  I was wildly impressed by both of these.  Compared to the Sarkens, the Snaggletooth crampons seem to excel in technical ice and mixed terrain.

The bad:  The Venom is my go to axe for very-low-technical climbs, but it was beyond useless for all these climbs.  I originally brought it for Illiniza Sur, but found that using it was actually more dangerous that only using the single North Machine that I brought.  In the video, you can see that I am only using a single North Machine because of this.  Two North Machines would have been much more fitting.  I would have also been satisfied with one North Machine and one aggressive hybrid like the Cassin X-Light.


Personal Gear

  • 🙂 Mammut Trion Light 38 Backpack
  • 🙂 Mammut Trip Pro 50+8 Backpack
  • 🙂 Mountain Hardwear Expedition Duffel
  • ⭐ Julbo Explorer 2.0 Zebra
  • ⭐ Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Z Poles
  • 😀 Feathered Friends Lark UL 10
  • ⭐ Thermarest NeoAir Xtherm

The good:  Mostly everything!

The bad:  One of the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Z Poles broke from a fall in the mud on the trek into El Altar.  These poles are awesome in how compact and light they are, but something more robust would have been better specifically for the trek into El Altar.  Otherwise, while on the routes, these poles are absolutely fantastic.  Black Diamond and Backcountry.com were also fantastic for sending me a new pair as soon as I got home.  I still rate the poles with an “Terrific!” because I feel that it was user error for me to use carbon fiber poles for that sort of trek.


Electronics

  • 🙂 Black Diamond Storm Headlamp
  • 😦 Petzl Reactik+ Headlamp (w/ extra AAA battery pack) (rec: Petzl Nao)
  • ⭐ Garmin Fenix 5s
  • ⭐ DeLorme InReach Explorer
  • ⭐ Iridium Extreme

The good:  Mostly everything!

The bad:  The Petzl Reactik+ Headlamp is a little finicky to use.  For a high output lamp, I much prefer the functionality of the Nao.