Click here for more details & images from the traverse of Bolivia’s Cordillera Real range.
I hiked the 150 mile (241 km) CRT in August of this year, which is “dry” season in the Bolivian Andes. It is also winter, however, due to the fact that the Cordillera Real is situated so close to the equator, temperature fluctuations are relatively minor throughout the year.
Ninety percent of the route was done at altitudes between 4000 m (13,123 ft) and 5000 m (16,404 ft), and the temperatures ranged from 14ºC (57.2°F) to -12ºC (10.4°F). Despite the fact that it is technically considered to be dry season, in recent decades heavy rains, snowfalls and high winds have become increasingly common in the Cordillera Real between May and September. From a gear perspective, this meant I needed to be ready for a wide range of conditions, with a versatile, lightweight kit.
Overall I was happy with my gear selections. I was never uncomfortable during the hike, and felt prepared for any meteorological scenario that may have occurred. My base weight for the CRT was 9.8 lbs (4.4 kg), and the total weight came in at 13.1 lb (5.9 kg).
|ITEM||WT. (OZ)||SUB (oz)||SUB (kg)||COMMENTS|
|MLD Prophet||16||Big brother to my long-time favourite, the MLD Burn. Chose to go with increased volume due to big food carry (6/7 days) and cold weather gear. In hindsight, I may have gotten away with the Burn.|
|Pack Liner (Trash Compactor Bag)||2||Cheap & effective|
|MLD SoloMid XL||12||Very quick set up / Holds up well in a storm / Ideal amount of space for 6’1″ guy.|
|Guylines – Kelty Triptease||1||Guyline of choice for many years.|
|Stakes – Mix of sizes & styles (8) / Mostly MSR Groundhogs||2.8||Groundhogs are great; in addition to their durability, the red colour makes me less likely to lose them than the generic silver.|
|Pad – Thermarest NeoAir XTherm (Regular)||15||Upsized from the NeoAir XLite, due to extreme temps / Double thumbs up / The most comfortable (and warm) mat I have used / 5.7 R-Value.|
|Quilt – Katabatic Sawatch 15||24||Conservatively rated 15°F / Best quilts/bags I have used.|
|Bivy – Katabatic Bristlecone Bivy||7||Adds 5 – 8° warmth / Like a windshirt for quilt.|
|LokSak 20×12 (Food Bag)||1.2||Hundreds of nights in the boonies using LokSaks / Never had a critter problem / Seals usually start to go after about six weeks of regular use. Dolphins last longer.|
|Gatorade Powder Container||1.8||For many years my rehydrating vessel of choice when going stoveless. One of the few original contributions I have made to the UL gear world!|
|Toaks Titanium Spork||0.3||Top end wrapped in orange tape so I won’t lose it.|
|Reconstituted sports drink bottles (2)||2.4|
|Platypus Hydration Bladder (2 LT)||1.2|
|FIRST AID / HYGIENE|
|Sunscreen (repackaged in tiny btle.)|
|Hand Sanitizer (repackaged in dropper btle.)||I haven’t had a case of the backcountry trots since 1999…….I think a big reason is diligent use of hand sanitizer.|
|Aquamira (repackaged in dropper btles.)|
|Toothpaste (mini tube)|
|Dental Floss||Doubles as sewing thread|
|Antiseptic Wipes (2)||Clean cuts / wounds|
|Triple Antibiotic Cream (tiny tube)|
|3M Micropore Medical Tape||Breathable, paper tape / Adheres well.|
|Ibuprofun (8)||Vitamin “I”|
|Sewing Needle||One armed blind folks can sew better than me.|
|Duct Tape, Mini Tube Super Glue (repairs)||To compensate for lack of sewing skills|
|Nivea Lip Balm SPF 30||Kept with sunscreen & hand sanitizer in shoulder pocket.|
|Rain Pants – Montbell Versalites||3.6||Lightweight, quick drying, and a surprising amount of warmth for something that weighs less than 4oz / Not super durable.|
|Rain Jacket – Montbell Torrent Flier||8.6||It never rained during the traverse. Jury still out. In the past I preferred the Peak Shell over the Torrent Flier.|
|Base layer – Montbell Merino Wool L.W. Tights||4.8||Not too thick, not too thin. Thumbs up.|
|Insulation – Montbell Superior Down Parka||8.6||Very warm for the weight / Snug hood / I’ve used this and it’s predecessor, the UL Down Jacket, for the past eight years.|
|Insulation – Patagonia R1 Hoody||10.9||10th Anniversary with my R1 this year / Uber-versatile / Love it.|
|Extra Socks – Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew||2.6||Three years old and still going strong.|
|Extra Socks – Smartwool Expedition Trekking socks||3.0||Warmer pair for sleeping.|
|Dirty Girl Gaiters||1.3||Perfect for scree slopes, of which there were a bunch on this hike.|
|Bandana (1)||0.5||Towel, neck/face protection, condensation wipe, convenience store holdups when low on cash.|
|Outdoor Research PL Sensor 400 Mittens||2.9||Great mittens. Combined with the inner gloves and rain mitts, hands are fine down to -12 to -15°C|
|MLD eVent Rain Mitts||1.2||Outer Layer for hands.|
|Warm Hat – Montbell Chameece Beanie||1.3||Excellent beanie / Not too thick / Stretchy enough to fit my big noggin / Don’t think it’s available in the US at the moment.|
|Phone – Samsung Galaxy S7 (Unlocked)||5.4||Good photos & Video / Have used an unlocked phone in recent years, to avoid heavy roaming charges when overseas. Just pick up a different SIM in each country and pay local rates.|
|Stuff sacks – HMG Cuben Fiber (3)||2.5|
|Montbell Power Head Lamp||2||This headlamp has grown on me | Lightweight, double-click, four settings, good battery life, 160 Lumens max | No longer miss my old Black Diamond Spot.|
|Wallet/Credit Cards/Passport||0.7||Used thin plastic card holder as Wallet|
|Swiss Army Classic||1.3|
|Suunto M-2D||1.2||Lightweight, adjustable declination; compass of choice for years | (Note: No longer made. Will upgrade to Suunto M3 Global in near future).|
|Wall charger, cover, cord||3|
|Small LokSaks for Valuables (2)||1||Protection for phone, charger, wallet|
|Shorts – Zip-off Columbia model||7||Not good / First case of chafe I’ve had in five years / A little surprising as I’ve owned theses shorts for a long time.|
|Windshirt – Montbell Tachyon Anorak||1.9||This is my third model / Each has lasted around 8 to 10,000 miles / Surprisingly durable & warm for something so featherweight.|
|Base layer – Montbell Merino Long Sleeve Zip Neck||5.9||Great baselayer / Not too thin, not too thick / Spot on for shoulder season conditions.|
|Montbell Chameece Inner Gloves||0.9||First trip with these gloves – double thumbs up. Most durable liners I’ve used; and I’ve used a lot over the years.|
|Smartwool PhD UL Min Socks||1.6||These were a freebie from Winter OR, 2015 / Previously I’d never had much luck with thinner Smartwool models, but I have to say this pair has been very durable.|
|Hat – Adapt-a-cap||2.5||Back from the dead. Had it repaired and sewed up. Not as good as new, but still functional / From what I’ve seen, the latest models have a different design, and aren’t in the same league as the old ones.|
|Shoes – Brooks Cascadia 11||24||Better than the much maligned 10th incarnation / So far I’ve gotten close to 500 miles out of this pair.|
|Fizan Compact – Hiking Pole (1)||5.6||Tent setup / Fencing practice during breaks……Tokyo 2020 here I come.|
|Timex Ironman Watch||1.5||Light, cheap, durable, reliable.|
|Sunglasses||2||Polarized lenses / 100% UV Protection / Picked them up at the train station near Machu Picchu / $5 / Bargain.|
Post Trip Notes:
- NeoAir XTherm Sleeping Pad: I upsized from my NeoAir XLite (small – 8 oz), mainly for the final hike of the trip (the Altiplano Route – trip report still to come), where I was expecting temps between -15°C and -25°C. Could have gotten away with the lighter mat for this hike. Nonetheless, I have to say that the extra warmth and length were appreciated. The XTherm is the most comfortable mat I’ve used.
- Torrent Flier Rain Jacket: During pre-trip planning, I thought about taking one of my lighter options, such as the Frog Toggs or Montbell Versalite, to save a few ounces. In the end I decided to go with the more durable and slightly more waterproof Torrent Flier, mainly due to the total length of the journey (two months). Replacement options would have been hard to come by in Bolivia.
- Chameece Inner Gloves: Over the decades I have used a lot of different liner gloves, but have never found a pair that I found to be particularly durable. Until now. During the CRT we were often rock scrambling or descending long and steep scree slopes; these gloves held up like a champ. By the end of the trip, my hiking buddy (Ryan “DM” Sylva) was looking at getting a pair as well.
- Shorts: I went with the Columbia zip-offs rather than my Patagonia Baggies, so that I could wear the pants around town in between hikes. Should have brought both; pants for town, Baggies for trail. Dumb decision.
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