Aconcagua Expedition - The Training

Aconcagua training hike: Rhinog traverse, South Snowdonia

The Lakes

How do you train to scale Aconcagua (highest mountain in the Southern Hemisphere) when you live in Peterborough (flattest place in the known universe)? Well, you start in Wales, or Scotland or the Lakes or Dartmoor... Anywhere with substantial lumps and bumps and a good smattering of shocking weather.

Friday after work: Bomb over to Wales with reluctant partner in tow, and car load of new gear to try out courtesy of OutdoorGB.

Sat morning: following poached egg and Linda McCartney sausage in Barmouth, set off fully loaded up what is surely the second steepest street in Wales - neighbouring Harlech holds the global record for this particular phenomenon with its 40% gradient!

Bye bye seaside town, hello great wall of Rhinog: the Rhinog traverse basically follows a giant dry stone wall along a mountainous ridge in one of the quieter parts of North Wales. It must surely be visible from space.

The Nab

Plenty of opportunity for my boots on test to show their mettle. There's a reason the Scarpa Manta Pro has become a solid favourite with trekkers. And no it's not just the colours, however the bold black, turquoise and silver uppers with a flash of orange sole sets them apart.

The hammering rain, slippery rocks and boggy underfoot conditions gave 'the Mantas' something to think about. Generally it's not advised to hike for 2 days straight off carrying a heavy pack with brand new boots, and if you do, blisters are the price you pay. In this case though, the boots, and not forgetting the Lorpen Heavy Trekker socks out-did all expectations and kept the worst of Welsh weather at bay and feet warm, comfortable and blister-free.

Up on the ridge, protected from the inevitable November wind by 'the Wall' which neatly follows the skyline, the views were stunning. The estuary woods and flood plain one way, the whole of the Irish Sea the other.

I'm carrying about 14kg on my back. This is the sort of weight I'll be hauling on Aconcagua (only at altitude). Thank goodness OutdoorGB recommended the Deuter Air Contact Lite 60+10 rucksack, one of the lightest on the market at 1990g. It's women's specific, highly adjustable, and on it's virgin voyage gave me nothing to complain about at all. Handy features like the hip band pockets were duly stuffed with tasty snacks. The water resistant material is a gorgeous claret red colour too - what's not to like?

As the light faded we got off the ridge to a small reservoir. Found a 'sheltered' (only relatively, as it turned out) spot to camp and settled down for the night. I'm not going to lie; this was one of the worst night's "sleep" I've ever had due to the racket of monsoon-like rain which eased up after 4 solid hours only to be replaced with a tempestuous wind tugging on the tent pegs until dawn.

I'll give them their due, Sea to Summit have developed a blinder in the Ether-Lite XT insulated (women's specific) sleeping mat. Despite pitching the tent (rather poorly) on a significant diagonal slope, the mat actually stayed more or less in place and the 10cm it created between me and the ground dulled the impact of a misplaced rock or two and kept the cold and damp at bay as rain was flowing beneath the tent.

Crummock Water

Next day - woken up by the raven cronking, the sky had stilled and the reservoir was a flat calm mirror. Within an hour we were back on the ridge and the rain descended.

Other than a quick hello from 2 hill runners and their dog, we met no-one for 2 days, until we had dropped below the cloud and were treated to an amazing sunset on the descent into Barmouth for chips and the long drive home. Just a little bit more ready for Aconcagua after a wild Welsh weekend.