The mountains of Mexico and Ecuador are big, high and wild. These volcanic wonders soar from the deserts and plains below to heights over 20,000’, yet they offer some of the finest mountaineering challenges around for those looking for a high, but accessible summit. With huts high on most of the mountains, we can count on some refuge, but these great peaks can be inhospitable places even in climbing season. If everything goes right, our ascents will rarely involve battling storms, but as with every range, some days can be clear and friendly and find us climbing in only a few layers, while others can be stormy and cold with every type of precipitation falling in abundance. Weather in the mountains can change quickly and temperature fluctuations can be considerable. Even when it’s clear out, the winds and thin air can combine to make 18,000’ feel like a challenging place to be.
Regardless of the weather, high-altitude mountaineering comes with a unique set of challenges. Moving on even moderate terrain can feel difficult at altitude. Keeping fingers and toes warm and bodies hydrated and functional can be challenging at times. With this comes an exaggerated need for light, but functional equipment. As a result, we want all of our clothing and gear to be light, versatile, and carefully considered. We want our gear to perform in fair weather or foul, and be adequate to the task while being light enough to allow us to enjoy the climb without being bogged down by a heavy or cumbersome pack or by the wrong clothing or gear.
While each specific objective can require a slight adjustment in our kit, these are the basics of what we want to have available to us. All of our international expeditions will involve hiking on and off trail, climbing in boots and crampons, and will also all involve a mix of snow, ice and maybe even rock or scree. Depending on the weather, you may find yourself wearing short sleeves or everything you brought. Wherever we are in the world, on all of our climbs we’re going to want to put together an action suit – a combination of clothing that will keep us comfortable but not sweaty when we’re moving – and to have enough insulation to keep us warm when we’re not. Whatever the case, having well-fitting, high-quality gear will undoubtedly lead to a more enjoyable trip.
We have selected these items with great care to give everyone the best chance of staying warm, dry, and happy. Please call or email us if you have any questions. We’re here to help.
Bring all of the items on this equipment list!
- Underwear – Wool or synthetic
- Socks – Wool or synthetic. Some people like a thinner wool sock with a liners. Bring 2-3 pairs for overnight trips.
- Long Underwear – Medium weight tops and bottoms.
- T-shirt – Synthetic, quick-drying
- Lightweight Fleece Shirt – For example, the Patagonia R1 Hoody
- Softshell Jacket – Ex: Mammut Ultimate Alpine Hoody
- Softshell Pants – Courmayeur Advanced Pants
- Shell Pants – Waterproof, breathable pants with a full-length side-zipper for putting on over boots when the weather gets severe. Gore-Tex is one such material used by many manufacturers.
- Shell jacket – Requires a helmet-compatible hood.
- Insulated jacket – Required, with a helmet-compatible hood and either down or Primaloft insulation. For example, Mammut’s Rime Pro Jacket. (Micro-puff jackets are too light for expected conditions.)
- Lightweight Gloves – Windproof gloves, for warmer conditions. For example, the Black Diamond Arc
- Mediumweight Gloves – Lightly insulated. For example, Black Diamond’s Kingpin glove.
- Heavyweight Waterproof Gloves – For example, Black Diamond Guide Glove
- Warm Hat – Wool or synthetic, and snug enough to wear under a helmet.
- Buff, or Balaclava – Protection from wind, cold and sun.
- Sun Hat – The more coverage the better.
- Gaiters (optional) – For soft, slushy snow conditions. OR brand work best over plastic mountaineering boots.
- Passport – Don’t forget it!
- Lunch/Snacks – 1 lb per day of a variety of tasty, high energy foods
- Water Bottles – Two 1-liter bottles required. No bladders
- Water Bottle Parkas (optional) – For early-season and overnight climbs
- Sunglasses or Glacier Glasses – Should be high-quality, dark, large and fit snugly or have side-shields.
- Ski Goggles – Clear or light in color, in case of blowing snow.
- Sun Block – SPF 30 or higher
- Lip Balm – SPF 15 or higher
- Toilet Paper – Just in case! Blue bags will be available at most trailheads.
- Headlamp – For alpine starts, for example, the Black Diamond Spot
- Trekking Poles with Snow Baskets– Highly recommended for saving energy and your knees.
- Garbage Bags – 1-2 compactor bags.
- Personal First Aid Kit – Moleskin, ibuprofen, aspirin, antacids, personal prescriptions, band-aids.
- Diamox – Bring a personal supply of Diamox, a common altitude prophylactic.
Technical Climbing Gear
*Rental Equipment should be procured from your local climbing shop to ensure a good fit.
- Mountaineering boots – Full-shank, insulated, waterproof mountaineering boots are required for all of our climbs. For example, La Sportiva Nepal Evo, Scarpa Phantom Guide. Koflach Degre and Scarpa Inverno are available for rent.
- Crampons – 10 or 12-point, steel crampons. Aluminum crampons aren’t suitable for typical steep climbing in the Cascades. Examples are the Black Diamond Sabretooth and Serac.
- Ice Axe – 50 to 65cm long. For example, Black Diamond’s Raven.
- Climbing Harness – Alpine-style, for example, the Black Diamond Couloir
- Carabiners – 1 non-locking, 2 locking
- Climbing Helmet – For example, the Black Diamond Half Dome.
- Climbing Pack (optional)– 25-35 liters
- Headlamp – For alpine starts
- Hiking sneakers – Comfortable and lightweight
- Overnight Pack – 45-55 liters. For example, Black Diamond Speed or Epic
- Bowl, Spoon, & Cup
- Sleeping Pad – For example, Therm-a-rest’s NeoAir
- Sleeping Bag – Rated 0-30 degrees, with compression stuff sack
- Toiletries – Toothbrush and toothpaste, floss, eyewear, etc.
- Ear Plugs – If you don’t bring them you can’t complain!
- 1 Gallon Ziploc bag – 2-3
- Book – Light reading for downtime in the hut
- MP3 player – Sounds better than snoring
- Pillow – We’re not kidding – you may never have one on an expedition again, but for sleeping at almost 14,000 feet, it’s great.
- Camp chair – If it has a backrest you’ll be glad to have it while hanging out around camp during rest days.
- Ear Plugs – If you don’t bring them you can’t complain!
- Backup batteries – For any and all of your electronics