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Kili/Aconcagua Down Jacket

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Kili/Aconcagua Down Jacket

Postby jcooper1459 » Mon Apr 08, 2013 1:41 pm

Hi Gents and Ladies,

Need some advice please if possible. I'm climbing Kilimanjaro in June and planning to go up Aconcagua and perhaps a couple of other South American volcanoes in a year or so. I have most of my gear but cannot seem to decide on which Down Jacket to buy. I've narrowed it down to the following (fairly large) list, can anyone please recommend/not recommend what to take.

- Mountain Equipment / Lightline - £170
- Mountain Equipment / Xero Hooded Jacket - RRP £220
- Mountain Equipment / Himal - RRP £240
- Mountain Equipment / Vega - RRP £240
- Rab / Neutrino Endurance - RRP £225
- Montane / Polestar - £150
- Alpkit / Filo - £120

I've also looked at the Mountain Equipment Gasurbhram jacket but this seems a bit excess (definately for Kili).

Any recommendations would be welcome.

Thanks in Advance.

James
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Re: Kili/Aconcagua Down Jacket

Postby radson » Mon Apr 08, 2013 2:38 pm

You are probably best asking on ukclimbing.com as all your potential choices are UK brands.

http://www.ukclimbing.com/forums/i.php?f=11
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Re: Kili/Aconcagua Down Jacket

Postby chickentikka » Mon Apr 08, 2013 4:18 pm

I've climbed both of these mountains in the past year. Before this I was a bit of a novice, so I can understand your concerns. All the websites will give you a very long lengthy list of things to bring (everything but the kitchen sink), and you won't end up really needing most of it.

The trick to staying warm is just to stay dry and to change into dry clothes whenever you get to camp before your body temperature drops. I wish someone had told me this first.

You don't really need a down jacket on Kili and I saw plenty of people do Aconcagua without one as well. Kili in particular is just not that cold. Layering a bunch with a waterproof goretex shell on top will suffice just fine. Spend your money on a good goretex shell. I used the OUTDOOR RESEARCH FORAY jacket and recommend it.

That said definitely bring some sort of puffy down jacket as you will be more comfortable, especially when just lying around camp. The only time I wore my down on Kili was at camp when I was sitting in the mess tent hanging out. Even on summit night it's not that cold. Barely freezing. My down jacket was most useful as a pillow.

I'm not familiar with any of the jackets that you mentioned. I would say that you dont need anything fancy. I climbed Kili and Aconcagua with a knockoff northface jacket that I bought in Vietnam for 50 dollars. I think you could buy something at WALMART, or the equivalent, for around 30-50 bucks and probably have plenty of jacket for both of these mountains truth be told.

Once again, the trick is just to stay dry and to change into dry clothes whenever you get to camp before your body temperature drops. If you don't you will suddenly find yourself very cold and having a -30 sleeping bag and 500 dollar down jacket won't actually help much unless you get rid of that layer. In fact, your probably better stripping completely naked and getting in your sleeping bag if you don't have dry base layers. It's a bit counterintuitive, but it's the truth.

I climbed Kili in shorts on 3 out of 5 days. On summit night I wore long underware and the goretex shell (top and bottom) with cheap wool gloves (the kind you buy at a petrol/gas station). We all started with warm down jackets and took them off within 30 minutes of starting our climb. I ended up not even wearing my gloves for most of it.

I was never cold at any point on either mountain provided that I was 1) dry and 2) moving. The only parts of me that got cold were usually my feet (when my socks were wet) or my upperbody if I neglected to change into something dry (having gotten sweaty) when I stopped moving at the end of the day. If you don't do that you'll be surprised how cold youll get and how quickly. Putting on that down jacket isn't much use if you don't change that bottom layer. My advice is to make sure you have three base layers of synthetic material that dries easily and that you make sure to dry them each day. I actually prefer just nike synthetic sports shirts for this. Then layer up as needed. Keep a fresh pair of socks for summit day. Don't use them until then.

There will be lots of people on Kili with 10k worth of new shiny gear. But you'll also see the porters climbing it in next to nothing: cheap nylon wind pants, an old wool hat, and a cheap pancho. What YOU will need is somewhere in between that spectrum.

Aconcagua is definitely colder, but the main thing is the wind. When its windy and dark you don't really want to be outside for very long without good boots and and mitts. During the day its usually sunny and in this case you won't be that cold. The good news is that, unless you are ungodly slow, there is no reason to be outside on Aconcagua at night, I started my summit day at 9:30 A.M. and was back at camp by 4 pm. Just make sure you have something to cover all your skin in your pack to protect you from frost bite (caused by the wind). A scarf or buff is perfect, it doesn't need to be thick or heavy. That's usually good enough.

Your experience on Kili will greatly inform your needs for Aconcagua, everybody handles cold a little differently. However, don't feel like you need to buy a 500 dollar jacket. If you can afford it great.

I found handwarmers and toe warmers useless on aconcagua. They didn't even seem to work. I threw them away. I did, however, resort to putting my socks in my cooking pot to try and get any moisture out of them at 6000 meters on Aconcagua. So keep some dry socks.

Here are links to my videos for Kili and Aconcagua. I'll warn you, they are quite long (and probably a bit boring and egotistical), so you might want to just skip to the parts that you need. (I made them for my family and myself) But they will give you a great idea of the weather and what you need to wear and when.

Kili
https://vimeo.com/gregpechorin/tylerkili

Aconcagua
http://vimeo.com/62553700

Kili was an absolute joy. You're gonna love it.
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Re: Kili/Aconcagua Down Jacket

Postby skyward22 » Tue Apr 09, 2013 2:50 am

You really might want a down jacket on Aconcagua. It is cold and windy.

The Neutrino Plus is an excellent jacket--my vote is for it.
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Re: Kili/Aconcagua Down Jacket

Postby Chimo » Tue Apr 09, 2013 2:37 pm

For Kili, as many shared, you will probably not need it. Wind can be more of an issue. There was no wind when I did it (was in January) and my outer "shell" was a thick fleece, 3-5 cotton t-shirts, running shoes, nylon over pants with trekking pants, without gloves for most of the time, etc. I was in the area and it wasn't really planned ahead, so it can be done with very basic clothing/equipment. But it is not unusual to be quite windy. A good shell with some layers should be enough.

For Aconcagua yes you can almost reach the summit in bikini if you are there on the right day. But you may also almost need an 8000m kit on other days. I have been there once and at that time no one reached the summit for over 2 weeks (it was very early in the season). High altitude rescuers from Chili turned around after 1 night spent in cholera/berlin camp, other locals who did climb it several time spent about a week in Nido until they also turned around. Porters who could do it from BC in 2 days also turned around at Nido. Weather was too bad, strong wind gust and very cold (around -35 plus windchill if I remember well). Weather can also change very quickly. So better be prepared for the worst.

Neutrino plus/endurance seems fine. It is one I may get for my next attempt (the one I have doesn't compress enough and took way too much space in my pack). I was looking at the feather friend volant which seems to have similar fill. Not very thick, but with other layers it should be enough to go through a bad night or reach summit in non ideal (but not extreme) weather.
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Re: Kili/Aconcagua Down Jacket

Postby 96avs01 » Tue Apr 09, 2013 5:53 pm

Neutrino Endurance is a great jacket. Overkill for Kili for sure, and likely overkill on Aconcagua 90% of the time.
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Re: Kili/Aconcagua Down Jacket

Postby pvnisher » Tue Apr 09, 2013 7:32 pm

I haven't done either of those two mountains, just stating that upfront.

But in general, be cautious of people who say that based on their one time on that one peak, all you need is X. You already know that the weather varies from day to day, even at your house. It will do more so in the mountains.

I'm not talking down to anyone, and like I said, have never been to those mountains, or even those general mountain ranges. I could be way off. But if I based my second Rainier climb (miserable weather) on what I encountered the first time (bluebird for days), I would be dead.

I'd rather be too warm than too cold. You can always unzip, or not put it on.
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Re: Kili/Aconcagua Down Jacket

Postby chickentikka » Wed Apr 10, 2013 2:01 pm

Pvnisher's advice is excellent; you should be prepared for dangers of all types. I just do not believe that a 500 dollar down jacket is going to really make a difference on Kili and even Aconcagua (especially if we are talking about the normal climbing season).

Let's try and imagine how you get killed on Kili or Aconcagua. I could definitely imagine one dying because they have wet clothing and get hypothermia. I could also see dying because they are not prepared for altitude and do not take the proper steps to acclimatize, or better yet, ignore or are ignorant of the symptoms of AMS. I could see them dying because they do not have adequate shelter in the case of a terrible storm. I could see them dying because they do not have gps, a compass, or a map and get lost (especially in bad weather with poor visibility). I could see them dying because they have health defects that they didn't check for. I can imagine taking a route with a lot of rock slide potential could kill you. So could hiking during a thunderstorm. I could see them dying because they do not have a radio to call for help or are climbing alone unguided on an untraveled route. These are all real dangers that you should consider when climbing and prepping for these mountains. Yes, they are dangerous. A $500 down jacket won't be the difference between life and death in any of these scenarios. A good waterproof top layer, plus a few underlayers is sufficient in any weather on Kili and probably any weather on Aconcagua, on the normal route, during the normal climbing season. Fortunately having a guide means you don't have to worry about most of these things.

For those mountains, I do think a down jacket is the difference between being very comfortable hanging out at camp at night and being a bit chilly so definitely bring one. It just doesn't need to be high end.

Mallory climbed on Everest in all his expeditions without a down jacket, even teasing the Aussie Finch who did wear one for looking silly. He was right; It wasn't the cold that ended up killing Mallory but a fall. Until his body was found in the 90s, people speculated for years that he froze to death. Even when people do freeze to death it usually because they were not prepared for the aforementioned dangers and a good jacket doesn't save them.
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Re: Kili/Aconcagua Down Jacket

Postby radson » Thu Apr 11, 2013 1:14 am

Just to elaborate on what pvinisher's said. Get a good down jacket for Aconcagua. Dont heed chickentikka's advice.
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Re: Kili/Aconcagua Down Jacket

Postby chickentikka » Thu Apr 11, 2013 6:42 am

What's wrong with my advice? I said, "bring a reasonably priced down jacket, it won't save your life, but it will make you much more comfortable." You disagree with that?
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Re: Kili/Aconcagua Down Jacket

Postby radson » Thu Apr 11, 2013 7:30 am

chickentikka, well done on climbing 2 mountains in mild conditions and well done for perhaps not being as susceptible to the cold as others but you are showing an incredibly ego-centric bias to your recommendations.

Aconcagua is a bloody dangerous mountain. I freely admit , I have a conservative streak but the adage of hoping for the best and preparing for the worst saves lives. Yes if one climbs it in late January/Early Feb one may hit a sweet spot of relatively benign weather but chances are they may encounter really bad weather. Coupled with bad weather and someone sick and or injured you possibly have a situation of being exposed to a lot of wind and low temps for a very long time. -20 degrees at at high altitude is not the same as -20 at sea level. It's exponentially wore. We are all more susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia the higher we go and we have to protect against that. Plus why would you travel all the way to Aconcagua and not bring a 1 kg jacket?

The seven summits already attracts dangerously unprepared individuals who put themselves and others at risk from glib assessments of risk. Yes one doesn't need the most expensive down jacket but your saying that "A good waterproof top layer, plus a few underlayers is sufficient in any weather on Kili and probably any weather on Aconcagua, on the normal route, during the normal climbing season" is dangerous bullshit.



http://tomasdinges.wordpress.com/2009/03/11/death-and-the-mountain-aconcagua-highly-detailed-incident-report/

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2009-01-10/guide-climber-dead-3-climbers-rescued-off-aconcagua/261688

http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/-/breaking/8910571/dead-climber-s-family-say-guide-should-be-quizzed/
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Re: Kili/Aconcagua Down Jacket

Postby chickentikka » Thu Apr 11, 2013 8:00 am

I don't disagree with anything you are saying. Aconcagua is a dangerous mountain and I said as much. I also listed all the primary dangers that I could think of. I have zero issue with your conservative streak. It's good to be safe.

However, I fail to see how a 500 dollar down jacket will make a difference in saving your life in these situations. I also do not see why a 500 dollar down jacket is necessarily better than a gore tex layer with dry under layers changed, added, and subtracted as needed. Educate me why please if you think I am wrong. No issues. It might be lighter, that's about all I can think of.

For the weight, I agree a down jacket is great to have. But I really fail to see it saving your life. Anybody who thinks having a 500 dollar down jacket will necessarily keep them from getting pulmonary edema or hypothermia needs to understand that it won't. For that reason I have emphasised that staying hydrated, dry, and properly acclimatising are the most significant variables in the regression.

Also, for what its worth, if we were talking about tents, stove, sleeping bags, boot or gloves, I would not be so cavelier. If cash is a constraint, I think it is better spent on those items.
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Re: Kili/Aconcagua Down Jacket

Postby radson » Thu Apr 11, 2013 9:01 am

FFS, get over your $500 issue. A good down jacket not necessarily costing your magic $500 mark in most circumstances will make the difference between a comfortable trip and a shitty trip on Aconcagua. In other circumstances, yes it could be the difference between life and death. Of course it will help offset hypothermia if worn in a timely fashion over other layers. It is generally the warmest garment one can wear in the mountains. Have you had your tent flattened by winds or snow, rescued someone or walked behind someone heavily fatigued who is spiralling down because fatigue is leading to hypothermia leading to more fatigue. If all goes well on Aconcagua a good down jacket keeps you cozy, if not going well its insurance that could save your life.
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Re: Kili/Aconcagua Down Jacket

Postby chickentikka » Thu Apr 11, 2013 9:08 am

Radson, we more or less agree now. Sorry, I can't help being cheap and value conscious, it's the nature of my job and culture.

Assuming you are on the normal route, there are ranger stations and refuges at all the main camps: Confluencia, PDM, Nido, Cholera. The same goes for Kili. In an emergency, such as when your tent gets flattented, I suggest getting to one of those rather than trying to stay warm overnight in 50 mile per hour wind in your down jacket. You are never much more than an hour walk descent away from such refuges/and stations except for summit day, which you should avoid in poor weather and poor visibility. If you can't move then call for help. There will be many people on the trail assuming you are climbing in season and do not elect to climb on a day with terrible conditions.

While the rangers don't usually bother to leave their shelters much, on days when there are lots of people summitting they do a very good job of looking after the climbers. Guides from the other groups do as well. People were always asking if I was all right and needed any help. It's a really friendly setting by and large. The same goes for Kili.

On Kili you will be guided, so trust them to look after you. They do a good job. As I said earlier, your experience on Kili will greatly inform you for everything you climb after it. I think it's a great, relatively safe way to start climbing big mountains. Aconcagua is a step up, but also very similar in many ways such as dealing with the scree and the altitude.
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Re: Kili/Aconcagua Down Jacket

Postby chickentikka » Thu Apr 11, 2013 9:45 am

Also, another interesting lesson I learned climbing another 6k peak in S. America is that if you get cold at night, sometimes just getting up and going for a walk will do the trick.

My partner was a heavily experienced climber with 12 years of extensive climbing experience, including Everest. To save weight he elected not to bring his sleeping bag (something he regretted and that I am in NO WAY advising). He did have his down jacket, pants, and millet boots to sleep in.
Anytime he got cold he just got up and went for a walk. The lesson here is just that getting your body moving is better than sitting in a few thousand dollars worth of down gear motionless.

This wasn't obvious to me when I first started. I thought, I should just put on every piece of clothing that I had and bunker down in my tent. I was surprised at how long it would take me to get warm in this instance. If I was wet at all then sometimes I just wouldn't which was frankly scary.
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