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Climbing Mount Aconcagua With Waltham Watches: Part 1

Climbing Mount Aconcagua With Waltham Watches: Part 1 Featured Articles

All images courtesy of Owen Davies (86imaging.com).

The below post is by Hugh Taylor who, along with partner Luke Blezard, will climb Mount Aconcagua – the highest point in the Western and Southern hemispheres at an elevation of 6,960 meters (22,837 feet). They are climbing to support the “Dream Big, Rise Higher” charity, and are doing the trek with three Waltham watches. 

When climbing a frozen mountain what watch do you wear? What considerations must a person take when selecting a timepiece that will be both useful and survive (reliably) the trek up a dangerous, steep, and chilly path? I don’t know if I have all the answers, but I am going to personally find out.

As a watch blogger and a lover of adventure sports, I’ve always been a fan of rugged mechanical sports watches. Especially those designed with mountaineering or polar exploration in mind, arguably the two pursuits in which a mechanical watch is still preferable to a digital alternative (I’ll explain exactly why in a little bit). It wasn’t until now, however, that I’ve had a chance to put that theory to the test, and truly appreciate the fundamental role a fine-tuned timepiece plays in keeping me alive in one of the most hostile environments on earth.

Climbing Mount Aconcagua With Waltham Watches: Part 1 Featured Articles

The Waltham Aeronaval CDI Black Matter Watch

This story goes back about a year when, over a couple of Pisco sours in a lively bar in Lima, Peru, an old school friend and I decided we would have a crack at the tallest mountain outside the Himalayas. In a moment of clarity, we understood what life was about and toasted a decision to truly live, do something radical that we’d one day be talking about to our grandchildren, push ourselves outside our comfort zones, and hopefully achieve something that will remind us for the rest of our lives that we can do a hell of a lot more than we think we can.

Climbing Mount Aconcagua With Waltham Watches: Part 1 Featured Articles

Training climb, May 2015: Luke and I in a whiteout at the top of suitably named Mount Pisco, Peru, 5752 meters.

Of course, we weren’t the first people to think our stars had aligned after a few too many. And the next morning when we woke up, we were somewhat less warrior-like than we had been just a few hours ago. But this time, instead of writing it off as another ridiculous idea, we realized this was something we were both truly gunning for.

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A bit of research on the mountain gave us a little context and a small dose of nerves. One of the Seven Summits, Mount Aconcagua, 6962 meters high, sits in the heart of the Andes with Chile to the West and Argentina to the East. Despite its location in a warm arid area, with temperatures in nearby Mendoza rarely dipping below 30°C during climbing season, the mountain’s summit is extremely exposed and temperatures at the top are typically between -10 and -35°C. Add on wind-chill from the near-constant gale-force winds, and the experienced temperature is closer to -60°C.

Climbing Mount Aconcagua With Waltham Watches: Part 1 Featured Articles

The plan was certainly radical. It was going to take a shed-load of research, organising, and training. When it came to choosing the right watch, Ariel suggested we get in contact with Waltham Watches, that just so happened to be the brand worn by the lead role of the book I was reading, Endurance, which describes legendary adventurer Sir Ernest Shackleton’s voyage in the Antarctic.

Climbing Mount Aconcagua With Waltham Watches: Part 1 Featured Articles

We approached Waltham telling them about our project and sent them the following requirements for this special aBlogtoWatch adventure. We stressed that below -20°C, most battery-operated devices simply won’t function and that many mechanical options won’t either because the oils start to congeal and the movement slows down. What we wanted was a watch with either special oil for extreme temperatures, or a chunky, well-insulated case. We wanted a rubber or NATO strap that won’t catch on clothing and that has enough room to fit over two base-layers, two mid-layers and two jackets. It needed a highly legible, illuminated dial, which will show up well on summit day, when we’ll be starting out well before dawn. And it needed to be light, but as strong as a Russian tank. We were very pleased to see that Waltham was excited by the idea and extremely confident their watches would cut the mustard.

Climbing Mount Aconcagua With Waltham Watches: Part 1 Featured Articles

Left to Right: the Waltham XA Pure (Small Second), Waltham ETC Black Matter (Chronograph), and Waltham CDI Eclipse (GMT)

In early November, they sent me all three models from the Waltham Aeronaval Vanguard (aBlogtoWatch reviewed the Waltham Aeronaval CDI Black Matter watch here) collection. They looked to be the perfect fit for the job. The watches have thick Titanium G5 cases and look like something out of an Apache helicopter. The cases have sharp angles and have a masculine vibe. The watch dials are well balanced and the lume works well. Despite the size and the large PVD-coated steel plate over the case back, they are also pretty lightweight. They have a thick rubber strap, which opens and closes easily and has plenty of room to go over my clothes. The Waltham Aeronaval Vanguard watches certainly looked up to the task, but the one question going through my mind was: with no special oil, will they be able to deal with the cold?

Climbing Mount Aconcagua With Waltham Watches: Part 1 Featured Articles

Yesterday, December the 8th, we set out. According to the mountain guide agencies we have spoken with, of the 1,000-or-so people who attempt to summit Aconcagua each year, only 30% make it, and over five die. If all goes to plan, we’ll be summiting on Christmas Day and we’ll be back in Mendoza doing wine tours a few days later.

Come back in the New Year to read how it went, how the watches held up, and watch our video. We’ll be sure to have plenty of good snaps too. For more information, blogs, and pictures, visit our “SummitToAconcagua” page on Facebook. While we know our Waltham watches will likely survive the climb, we theoretically have less assurances that we will too. waltham.ch

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  • Spaceguitar

    This is excellent. I can’t wait to see how your journey unfolds, and very best of luck to you.

    These are amongst my very favorite columns on ABTW; actual use articles. Death to the desk diver/racer/climber watch! Haha.

  • ZBT71

    Godspeed gentlemen. I’m looking forward to hearing about your and the watches’ success.

  • Ines Mamblona

    Cool article! want to know more.Love the WATCH+ADVENTURE combination!!

  • Boogur T. Wang

    Stout of heart and strong of Spirit!
    Onward Gentlemen, Onward thru the Fog!
    Reminds me of my late Uncle Edouard. At the drop of a hint he was always off to the nearest summit.
    God Speed Your Adventure!

  • spiceballs

    Looking forward to the next installment of this saga and to hear how you and the Walthams did. Wishing you both the best of luck and fair weather for your journey.

  • Larry Holmack

    Very cool!! Can’t wait to read the next installment!
    Glad to know that Waltham has been rescued from the shelves of Walmart and KMart!! Oh…and the watch is really cool looking also!!

  • Whoisi

    Godspeed. Looking forward to hear your story.
    I am wondering what watch should I wear to Harbin on this New Year’s Eve also.
    Anyone can suggest: Mechanic or Quartz? Can typical watch operate in -20c? Do I need a special watch?

    • Shinytoys

      I’m about 90 miles from NYC, and if the weather continues you can wear Bermuda shorts 🙂

      • Whoisi

        lol

    • Boogur T. Wang

      Whenever one is in doubt – always remember -> G-Shock.
      They just work!
      Harbin as in the PRC?
      Consider a well-made facial mask for the pollution and warm clothing for the weather.

      • Whoisi

        Thanks for assure me that G-Shock would be good for rough environment. Easy use and reasonable price, if it damage by cold weather 🙂
        Yes, Harbin in PRC.
        I hope the pollution might be better when I be in Harbin. Thanks.

  • hatster

    You mean you didn’t use a smart watch for the expedition? I can’t think why? I predict in many years time we will be reading about other mountains, this time of discarded first and second-gen smart watches… seriously, great idea for an article, would love to see more pieces that take this approach to talking watches. And a brand i know nothing about…

  • Shinytoys

    Safe Journey. Who would ever guess that Waltham would step up for the project. I’m more than thrilled that the Waltham brand is coming back from the dead, a favorite of mine from vintage collecting, it’s heart warming to see the company has a pulse and wants to prove their metal in an extreme adventure sport. God speed all you travelers, I’m anxious to hear about the trip and more about the watch.

  • Twinbarrel

    I remember when Mike Horn took with him a specially developed triple cased Pam92 on his Arktos journey around the north pole in 2006. This is just as fascinating a story I am keen to follow. All the best and thank you for taking this on.

  • Adam Young

    Has there been any updates from the intrepid crew? I hope they (And the watches) made it to the summit safely, and they didn’t go too over the top on those Wine tours afterwards 🙂

    • Ariel Adams

      They are alive and well, and will be sharing new content about the climb soon. Thanks for asking.

    • Hugh Taylor

      Hey Adam, thanks for the words. Yeah we made it back and we had an awesome experience!! Part 2 has just gone up.

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