The Peaks of the Seven Continents

Ultralight Hiking – what does that even mean?

In a Linkedin Group there was a link to an article about Ultralight Hiking HERE and after attempting to read it, I was dumbfounded. I need to step aside here for the next few comments, then I’ll get back on the topic of ultralight hiking in response to this article.

Ultralight Hiking Pack recommendations from the article

Ultralight Hiking Pack recommendations from the article

Ultralight Hiking Backpack Weight Recommendations

This is the type of information we get in this article. I’m contemplating a total newbie first time ever hiker at 180 pounds loping along the trail with a 36 pound backpack. On a day hike. And imagine the expert toting along a 65 pound backpack. Wow. As the spinner generated text so aptly states “The mind really boggles when you start researching the topic.” Here’s a real quote though, and one that addresses the whole ultralight hiking mentality.

“it is easy to get into the trap of opting to save a pound or two in weight”

And that sums it up nicely. If you’re intelligently boggling your mind by researching the topic of ultralight hiking, you’ll start tossing weight right and left until you’re trimmed down to your own minimum weight. That is what it’s all about.

When working on my Couch to Colorado 14er Training Program I recommended a maximum weight of 12 or so pounds for a day hike on one of these huge and popular mountains. That’s not even ultralight hiking weight either. That allows for a lot of extras that you could easily do without. It’s just that as a “couch to…” book it’s designed for newbies, who don’t know what is most important for their own hiking needs. Once you’ve been hiking for a long time you get a pretty good idea on what is essential or not.

Ultralight Hiking action shot

Ultralight Hiking action shot


What’s in my ultralight hiking pack?

When I do a hike up Quandary, a Colorado 14er near Breckenridge, I used to carry a lot more. Now I’m down to this simple 3 pound pack setup.

  • Ultimate Direction SJ Pack: 8.2 oz
  • Snacks and TP: 5.2 oz
  • Gloves, Hat, Bandanna: 3.7 oz
  • TNF Flashdry Vest: 6.5 oz
  • TNF BTN Hoodie: 5.3 oz
  • 3/4 Full Water Bottle: 19.4 oz
  • Total: 48.3 oz or 3.02 lb
Ultralight Hiking Daypack with gear spread out

Ultralight Hiking Daypack with gear spread out

Even my winter hikes here are with a very similar pack. I might carry a hooded down jacket instead of the vest, and I might carry two water bottles, but add in the two of those together and I’m only up to 5 pounds.  Going that light I don’t have a lot of margin for error, so if something goes wrong I’ll have to be prepared to suffer a little bit. I’m intimately familiar with the trails so I don’t have to worry about route finding or being lost. This kit is good for me in a temperature range from about 15-50 F. I can’t make a general recommendation as to whether this would work for you or not. If you feel inclined to try your hand at ultralight hiking then please experiment gently on known familiar terrain and work your way down slowly.

Ultralight Hiking Pack Video:

Here’s a video I made showing the above items packed in my pack as I pull them out so you can see how they all fit. Keep in mind that this is actually what I do take on my Colorado 14er hikes, even those of 10 or more miles, like Grays from Bakersville or the Grizzly Gulch Fork.

Obviously this is a minimum to carry and I don’t recommend it to anyone of any level of sanity or lack thereof. Remember that Ultralight Hiking can be quite dangerous and you MUST start off slow and take proper precautions for safety and any emergency equipment or gear. Do not rely on cellphone service and rescue crews. You are always on your own.

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Ice Climbing Lincoln Falls Part 2

April 8th, 2014 | Posted by Charles Miske in Climbing | North America | Photo Gallery | Trip Report - (Comments Off)

Todd Gilles and I had a great time Ice Climbing on Lincoln Falls, an area at about 12,000′ elevation on Mount Lincoln, a Colorado 14er. The approach and walk-off are part of a hiking route to the summit of Mount Lincoln called “The Amphitheater”. I don’t think there are too many ascents of that route in a given year, according to the reports on HERE.

I posted a photo gallery of some of the photos I took while climbing the route most often called “Scottish Gully” HERE and now I can share some of the photos taken by Todd Gilles [FACEBOOK PAGE]. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

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Carstensz Gear Guide to Boots

March 28th, 2014 | Posted by Charles Miske in Gear | Oceania - (Comments Off)

I explored clothing for traveling, trekking, and climbing on Carstensz Pyramid in my LAST ARTICLE so now we’ll look at the Carstensz Gear Guide to Boots. As stated in the previous article, you’ll most likely spend

  • a day or two in Bali
  • a day or two in Timika or some similar sized town
  • several days on the trek
  • a day climbing to the summit of Puncak Jaya and rappelling down

Each of these has some diverse need for footwear.

Carstensz Gear Guide – Bali Footwear

In Bali you can wear sandals most of the time and never need anything heavier. The climate is warm and the beaches are inviting. I really recommend that you leave your sandals in Bali if you plan on returning. You’ll really appreciate having a clean pair after all the mud and muck of the rest of the trip.

Carstensz Gear Guide Recommended sandals in the tide at Bali beach resort

Recommended sandals in the tide at Bali beach resort

Carstensz Gear Guide – Timika Footwear

Keep in mind that many trips will not be returning to Timika or whatever jumping-off point you’ll be starting from. With that in mind anything you take to Timika will be used on the rest of the trip. The porters carry your bags once you arrive at the trail head so it’s not really too complicated to add in an extra pair of something. Most of my group wore those high density foam sandals and their hiking boots while in Timika. Whatever you do though it would be a good idea to use the same socks here as on the rest of the trip. I’ll recommend them shortly.

I climbed Orizaba in my Salomon trail running shoes

I climbed Orizaba in my Salomon trail running shoes

I had chosen to wear my Salomon 3D Ultra shoes as my primary footwear in Timika. They were just a bit warm in the day but the Goretex waterproof outer was great during the frequent rain. If you have the extra room and weight in your gear, a pair of trail running shoes is a great alternative shoe to take with.

Carstensz Gear Guide – Trekking Footwear

There aren’t too many alternatives to the trek to Base Camp on Carstensz. Almost every Carstensz gear guide published by the guide companies and previous climbers will suggest Wellingtons like these Baffin Men’s Express PT Rain Boot. I wholeheartedly agree. You will most likely be walking up to 10 miles a day for 6 or so days. They should be reasonably comfortable but don’t spend a lot of money. I ended up giving my boots away to the porters afterward. They smelled so bad from being soaked the entire trek that I couldn’t bear to put them in the duffle to return home with.

Carstensz Gear Guide Suggestion: Wellies - you'll live in them for days in rugged slippery terrain

Carstensz Gear Guide Suggestion: Wellies – you’ll live in them for days in rugged slippery terrain

If you choose to put insoles in, they should be closed cell foam. Any open cell foam will absorb water and lead to blisters or trench foot or worse. They will not dry out. Closed cell foam will not absorb water. Socks need to be at least semi-synthetic and a pile or loop construction. Ragg wool will not dry. In fact, most wool and cotton will not dry no matter what you do. The synthetic socks, like Thorlo will dry out fairly well in your sleeping bag. Try them in the boots on the treadmill at the steepest inclination (like 15%) that your treadmill will do at about 1.0 MPH. You probably will never walk faster than that on the trek. Make sure it works before you go.

You will be walking in knee-deep mud, stepping on slippery roots, crossing wet lashed log bridges. You do not want to fall. Believe me. I did and tore up some rib cartilage that took me several months to heal from. The simple cheap square lug soles seemed to be the best for this terrain.

In camp at night you’ll want to immediately set to work drying your socks. Take an alternate pair and hang one to dry from your daypack while you hike and wear the other pair for the trek. You could also stuff them down your shirt and let your body heat dry them like on a mountaineering trip. You should switch to an alternate pair of shoes in camp then while you try to dry out your Wellies. Most of those on my group wore their trendy foam sandals but I wore my trail running shoes. I don’t think I would have been happy in the holey foam shoes, since most camps had slimy wet mud and a few had standing water. It’s up to you though. Keep your socks dry whatever you do.

Carstensz Gear Guide – Summit Footwear

Most of the guide companies recommend in the Carstensz gear guide they publish that you bring an alpine style climbing boot like the Scarpa Charmoz. I had waffled several times while training. Part of me just wanted to take my Salomon trail running shoes, since they’d worked for just about everything I’d done previously. I could even climb 5.8 in them and practiced that for a few weeks to see how they worked out. Whatever shoes or boots you take for the summit, I do recommend that you seal them up with an extra pair of socks in a silicone or otherwise waterproof kayak style bag and don’t touch them until you get dressed for the summit. A dry pair of socks and boots will really cheer you up.

Rope Solo 5.7 in Salomon Trail Running Shoes - Training for Carstensz Pyramid

Rope Solo 5.7 in Salomon Trail Running Shoes – Training for Carstensz Pyramid

I finally settled on the classic Scarpa Charmoz. Most everyone else on the trip had various light hikers, like the HiTec boots. Between the two I think that the Scarpa did better for climbing. Despite being Goretex they filled with water on the rappels down in the torrents of rain running down the limestone grooves. Because they were Goretex the water also stayed inside the boots. My toes got quite cold and very wrinkly wet. It was the next morning before they looked even close to normal.

Descending in Freezing Rain with very wet feet

Descending in Freezing Rain with very wet feet

I’m not sure what would have worked better, if anything. I probably could have been just as comfortable in the Salomons. It would have been easier to get them on and off to drain them. Being much lighter they would have dried out faster too. Something to consider would be one of the approach style shoes like the LaSportiva B5 which I think is available in a new version with high top Goretex. If by some miracle I ever go back to Carstensz Pyramid I might do that.

Wrapping Up

You’ll be reversing the order of the trip then, trekking back to an airport, flying to civilization, hanging out on the beach and going home. Trust me when I say that almost everything you take on the trek should be considered expendable. I ended up throwing almost everything away when I got to civilization. Some of it I was able to donate to the porters. Keep that in mind when you’re making your gear decisions.

If you have any questions, post them here or on my Facebook page and I’ll be happy to answer the simple ones as best I can.

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If you’ve dreamed of climbing the highest peak on the continent of Oceania, you’ve undoubtedly had a look at a Carstensz Gear List. If you go to the different guide companies they will put up their list for you to read and prepare. My own biggest gripe about the average Carstensz Gear List is that they seem pretty copy/paste and don’t consider the serious and extreme conditions that you will endure on this trek and climb.

Descending in Freezing Rain - your Carstensz gear list should have rainwear

Descending in Freezing Rain – your Carstensz gear list should have rainwear

Carstensz Gear List: Bali Tourism

Many of the guides and outfitters that service this area will include a day or two before and/or after your trek and climb in Bali or another beach resort area.

Bali Clothing:

  • 1 – Swimsuit – fast drying works best
  • 1 – Thin airy travel pants
  • 2 – Thin airy travel shirt
  • 2 – Thin airy undies

That should be all you need in the way of clothing for your beach resort phase of your expedition.

Does your Carstensz Gear List consider your beach days in Bali?

Does your Carstensz Gear List consider your beach days in Bali?

Carstensz Gear List: Papua Clothing

You might be in the West Island area, maybe Timika, for a few days waiting on weather for your flight. It might be a bit cooler at times, and insects and rain could also affect your comfort level. You will be leaving a bag in Bali most likely, and some outfitters do not return to Timika to get a bag left there. That means that everything you have in Timika will be going on the trek with you. Do not bring your Bali clothing on the trek. You will want some relatively clean and decent smelling clothes to put on when you return to Bali. So when you leave Bali, wear the following.

Timika Clothing:

  • 1 – very thin, very light weather resistant trekking pants
  • 1 – thin and light base layer shirt
  • 1 – thin and light undies
  • 1 – thin light water-resistant windbreaker
  • 1 – tech (running) baseball cap

Remember, these are your trekking clothes. You should be fine in Timika with those items on.

The Local Airport in Timika

The Local Airport in Timika

Carstensz Gear List: Trekking Clothing

The trek might be the worst part of the trip. It can be long, miserable, wet, muddy, and get colder each day you’re out. Then on the return trek it will get warmer each day. While most outfitters will give an estimated time for the trek do not get locked into that. Allow a few extra days for roadblocks, weather and emergencies. The less you have with you the better, overall. If you’re already experienced in expeditions, such as having climbed Kili, you know. Otherwise, get used to having to wear the same set of clothing for a couple of weeks. You already have some of these trekking items in your Timika list so add in the following.

Trekking List

  • 1 – pair of quick drying shorts
  • 1 – set of alternative or backup undies
  • 1 – tech fabric t-shirt
  • 1 – thin waterproof/breathable parka with zipper vents
  • 1 – thin waterproof/breathable pants with zipper vents
  • 1 – thin tech (helmet liner) beanie
  • 1 – fleece jacket with hood
  • 2 – pair fleece gloves with rubber pads, one pair weather resistant
Decked out in trekking clothes from my Carstensz gear list

Decked out in trekking clothes from my Carstensz gear list

Carstensz Gear List: Climbing Clothing

For climbing day on Carstensz you’ll be on jagged limestone cliffs using fixed ropes. I recommend that you keep this second set of clothes zipped up tight in a waterproof cargo bag and do not touch it until you get dressed to head for the summit in the middle of the night. You can use your windbreaker and waterproof/breathable jacket and pants if you have been able to keep them dry. If you have any doubts, add in the extra set to this list.

Summit Day Clothing

  • 1 – pair rugged thin softshell climbing pants
  • 1 – pair undies reserved for summit day
  • 1 – base layer set (pants/shirt)
  • 1 – fleece/hybrid/softshell jacket
  • 1 – medium weight synthetic puffy
  • 2 – pair treated leather gloves
  • 1 – synthetic buff (neck tube)

Climbing Carstensz might be a once in a lifetime opportunity. Do not go cheap and do not risk having the wrong clothing.

On the summit of Carstensz Pyramid, Puncak Jaya on 30 April 2013

On the summit of Carstensz Pyramid, Puncak Jaya on 30 April 2013

Carstensz Gear List Consulting

If you are in need of further information about the Carstensz gear list, based on my own successful experiences, then please, buy the book I wrote about my climb Carstensz, Stone Age to Iron Age.

If you need some question answered that isn’t covered here or in my book, I do offer Google Helpouts consultations at a great rate, and they’re well worth the money and time. I have consulted with dozens of people about their own concerns for a Carstensz trip, and so far several have already had successful climbs. If you take a chance on Carstensz, you should definitely increase the odds in your favor.

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