Fresh off the back of completing the Montane Lapland Arctic Ultra earlier this year, #TeamMontane athlete Katy Parrott set her sights on taking on one of the world’s highest mountains, Broad Peak in Pakistan.
Tackling this challenging, cold and exposed environment requires expert kit you can totally rely on. Lucky for Katy she had the Anti-Freeze XT Packable Down Jacket to hand! Keep reading to discover more about her incredible expedition and to hear how our womens down jacket shaped up when faced with the extreme elements at high altitudes…
Over the summer of 2022, I joined a team embarking on an expedition attempting to climb Broad Peak (8047m), the 12th highest mountain in the world. We spent 2 months living on the Goodwin-Austen Glacier in the Karakoram Mountains, Pakistan – the 47th country I have visited in the world.
Before getting to base camp at 4800m, we undertook an 80km trek along the Baltoro Glacier. It was important for acclimatisation for the rest of the expedition but was an incredible adventure in it’s own right.
We started the trek at around 3150m - the last place we would see any greenery for about 6 weeks! The trail was along rocky glacial terrain, which we shared with extremely gnarly mules carrying most of the expedition kit. We averaged about 20km a day, slowly gaining altitude, surrounded by towering snow-capped peaks, passing large ice structures and crossing flowing glacial rivers. As we got further away from civilization, the camps got more and more wild!
Once arriving to the base camp location, we had to establish camp. You don’t find many flat platforms on a rocky glacier, so it took a good day of digging to make somewhere comfortable enough to call home for the next 40 days.
After being snowed in for the first couple of weeks, we then started our rotations up the mountain. Having only been over 5000m a couple of times before, I knew this expedition and every rotation climbing higher would be exploring my unknown. Honestly, I had no idea how I would cope physically and mentally above 5000m…
Why the Anti-Freeze XT Down Jacket?
To give myself the best chance of coping with the high-altitude environment, choosing the right kit was essential. For longer rotations up to camp 3 (7050m), we would face temperatures ranging from over 20°C to well below 0°C, meaning I needed to be prepared for either extreme. The stand-out bits of key kit for me were the Fireball jacket for the warmer temperatures, Alpine Mission gloves and the Anti-Freeze XT Down Jacket for the much colder temperatures.
The Anti-Freeze XT definitely became my best friend, both at base camp and up on Broad Peak. Whilst climbing lower down the mountain, it packed down small enough in its stuff sack, to fit into my Fast Alpine 40L pack along with all my other kit. It only weighs around 400g, this meant it had the perfect combination of warmth to weight ratio.
I’m a warm person when I’m on the move, but as soon as I stop I get cold pretty quickly! Whenever I stopped for a snack, or to cook in the porch of the tent I would throw the Anti-Freeze XT on over the top of my other layers and it always did an amazing job at keeping me toasty warm.
Higher up the mountain (6500-7000m) in colder temperatures I wore the Anti-Freeze XT Down Jacket as an outer layer to climb in and it performed extremely well. The PERTEX outer layer stood up against the elements; which included wind, snow and ice. I found the internal chest pocket extremely useful for storing small items that needed to stay warm – my phone and spare batteries. I also used the hand pockets to stash spare gloves - usually the Prism Gloves.
Climbing Broad Peak
Climbing Broad Peak involved multiple acclimatisation rotations, where we also had to establish our three camps on the mountain. For example, the first rotation took us up to camp 1 (5700m) to sleep, with a short trip up to camp 2 (6250m), and for the next rotation we went straight up to camp 2 to sleep, with a short trip up to camp 3 (7050m).
We would generally climb at night into the early morning, when the conditions were colder and more stable on the mountain. This meant breakfast would be somewhere between 0030-0200, prior to the 2km trek across the glacier from basecamp to the bottom of the fixed ropes. Here we would don our climbing gear and start jugging up the ropes with our jumars in time for sunrise, and reach camp in time for second breakfast at a normal time! Taking part in the MLAU only a few months before was excellent practice for strange sleeping patterns and cooking in the cold. Taste and appetite changes at altitude, so we would often have to force each other to eat our porridge or mash potato!
The conditions on Broad Peak were different every rotation we climbed, from heavy snow initially underfoot, to exposed icy rock later on in the expedition. This meant that every climb felt like a new experience, which I absolutely loved. The climbing was extremely tough at times, but I was pleasantly surprised with how I coped with the altitude without any supplementary oxygen (even if I did get out of breath simply cleaning my teeth!).
The incredible views were always the ultimate motivation to keep on climbing. Above 6500m, we were pretty much looking down on the surrounding mountains (except neighbouring K2), which made it feel like we were on top of the world. The sunrises were particularly beautiful – I’ll never forget looking back to see oranges fade into yellows, blues above the glacier and ridges below.
Tragically, the expedition didn’t end how we wanted, but I will be forever grateful to the local team at basecamp who helped to look after us, to have learned so much from my fellow team members and to have experienced such a spectacular place. I hope this is just the start of my high-altitude adventures, though it has certainly reinforced the extreme challenges and dangers these also pose. Thank you to Montane for your continued support.
Find your unknown
Katy reviewed our womens Anti-Freeze XT Down Jacket, which is also available for men. For more down jackets suitable for a wide variety of adventures this winter take a look at our entire mens and womens down jacket range.
Feeling inspired by Katy’s expedition and keen to push your own limits? This season, we want you to trust your kit so you can find your unknown, see our dedicated page to discover more.