When it comes to alpine climbing, generally the choice is to take minimal gear and move fast and light (i.e. cold), or slow and heavy (i.e warmer). The danger in taking minimal gear is of course that the weather could take a turn and trap you at a higher and colder elevation where the consequences are significant. To have the assurance that the ultralight sleeping bag kit can keep me warm while functioning in the fast and light genre is no small feat.
I’ve never been a huge weight nerd, and have always been the guy who made fun of my friends for making a big deal over a few pounds. I mean, how much difference can a few ounces really make? That is, until I started dabbling in bigger, harder, more technical alpine climbs— climbs where details really matter and a few ounces can actually make or break a climb. Cutting a few days supply of food can really lighten a pack, thus saving precious weight and space which enabled a faster ascent/descent. Every pound matters, and when you push yourself up against the limit, you find out pretty quick.
While ticking some of the most famous peaks in the Americas, I came to count on Therm-a-Rest’s high-performance ultralight gear. Below are a few stories from my moto-tour mountaineering trip down the Pan American Trail where these pieces of gear made an impact.
Location: Tocllaraju, Cordillera Blanca, Peru.
During the push from Base Camp to High Camp, space and weight were critical. The compactness and weight of the Hyperion afforded me the ability to fit everything I needed into a 30L ultralight pack, while not sacrificing comfort or warmth during an open bivy at 17,200 feet.
Location: Machu Picchu, Peru.
Sleeping in the jungle is an awful, sticky, sweaty ordeal and to be honest, I tended to avoid it in favor of the colder highlands. In South America, you can cross a 14,000 pass and within an hour find yourself at sea level in the middle of a sweltering jungle. Figuring out how to live in both below freezing and tropical environments is no small feat. Thanks to the Vesper, I slept like a baby, falling asleep to the sound of howler monkeys and woke up ready to hike and camp Machu Picchu in the morning. The quilt was so easy to kick out my legs and arms for breathability in warmer temps while the Synergy Link connector, insulated footbox and snap neck kept the cold at bay on the mountain.
Location: Chopicalqui, Peru.
A pillow is something that is usually the last item on my priority list. Generally, it’s not so much an issue of weight as much as it is one of space, and I’m not one to take anything that isn’t completely necessary. However, lately, the pillow is something that I don’t leave without, as it is easily stuffed literally anywhere— stuff it in your pocket if you need to! A little comfort goes a long way for morale when you’re stuck in a storm at 18,000 feet.
Location: Ranrapalca, Peru.
If you had told the mountaineers of yesteryear that there would be a sleeping pad that can be stuffed down close to the size of a soda can, they would have called you crazy. Well, welcome to the future! Trying to squeeze our climb of the north face of 6162m Ranrapalca into our three-day weather window, we went as light as possible, even bringing a lightweight tarp for shelter instead of a tent, and taking ramen noodles for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Despite a rogue rock ripping a hole in our tarp and me puking every last ramen noodle I ate, we had a successful climb, falling fast asleep on our two-inch-thick air mattresses each night of the climb.