I am hiking Aconcagua next January, and, being a dirtbag climber, would like to use the gear I already own. I have Asolo TPS 520 GV hiking boots, and I was wondering if they will suffice with crampons such as the Petzl Charlet Vasak Flexlocks. Will the boots be warm enough? —Danica Marsden | Philadelphia, PA
THE “BIG A” MAY BE one of the Seven Summits, a sugary teat that nourishes children, rich folks and vegetarians, but it remains a worthy adversary. “The Colossus of America,” at 22,841 feet, is no mere speed bump along the trail of fame. Even in summer the mountain is an Andean meat locker lashed by gales, snow and sleet. Then there are crevasses, rockfall and the specters of HAPE and HACE.
Unless you want to have an ugly-toe contest with Reinhold Messner, repurposing the un-insulated TPS isn’t going to pass muster. I will assume by your use of the phrase “hiking Aconcagua” that you mean you will “hike the shit out of it,” rather than actually go hiking, because as far as I know there aren’t any picnic tables up there. So, at a minimum, you will do a “tourist route” such as the Polish Variation and at a maximum the proto-psychotic Humar/Kozelj on the awesome South Face. But, it doesn’t matter which line you have picked, my friend, you still must lay down for high-altitude boots such as a two-in-one, heavily insulated job with integrated gaiter such as the Asolo Manaslu GV ($960), or a plastic double boot with removable liner such as the Asolo AFS 8000 ($450), which is cheaper but also requires a heavy-duty gaiter. Those Petzl crampons are fine for either model, although I would step up to the more technical Petzl M10 if the Humar/Kozelj tops your tick list.
The good news is that the TPS 520 GV is an excellent leather hiking boot, and if you are really just hiking in the high desert and gazing with distant and appreciative awe upon the continent’s high point, then you’ll be happy as a lobotomized lama with that boot. And even if you intend to climb, you’ll still need those TPS 520 GVs for the 30-mile approach. The bad news is that since you don’t own proper expedition boots, I doubt you have a pee funnel or any of the other specialized expeditionary items necessary for the endeavor, and all that stuff will cost more than all the mate in Argentina. Sorry (not really), but that’s how it is. Next!