Sydney Paez Duncan is an aspiring mountaineer from Denver Colorado. At the ripe young age of 26, she is currently training to summit North America’s highest peak, Denali in Alaska sitting tall at 20,322ft / 6,194m. I have quite the girl crush on this chick. I’ve got 5 years on her but she’s already accomplishing the most amazing feats. Last week alone, she summited four peaks in four days, all around 17,000 feet in Colombia. I flew to Colorado to hang with her after a mutual friend intro’d us. It was a blind shred date and one of those starts to a friendship you know is going to meander through many adventures.


Syd’s got some gear. Stuff I haven’t even seen before. She knows her shit and knows what works and what doesn’t. Tried and tested at 17,000ft, I asked her to talk me through five of her can’t live without mountaineer items.



#1 La Sportiva Spantik mountaineering boots

sportiva mountaineer boots


What are they:

These are a double leather boot with a removable liner which makes them a fairly warm mountaineering boot. They are great for glaciation mountains as well as ice climbing. An all round sturdy, reliable boot.


Why I love them:

Because they have removable liners, I can customise the boot for the perfect fit (I’m replacing the factory liners with intuition liners which can be heat moulded to your foot).


Why I’d recommend them:

At the end of the day, certain brands fit certain feet and these are the ones for me (as well as Salewa boots). Find out what works for you and stick to it.


Check out La Sportiva Spantik mountaineering boots



#2 Buff Headwear

Buff headwear


What are they:

Buff is a super light-weight wind, cold and sun, protective little tube of fabric that you wear on your neck or head.


Why I love them:

Simplicity is key in the big mountains. It’s a small light-weight piece of fabric that serves more than one function (you can also use it to tie your hair up!).


Why I’d recommend them:

It’s a necessity in the big mountains. When you are on a glacier at 17,000ft, you are basically in a convection oven (especially in Alaskan summer when the sun doesn’t set). Sunscreen only goes so far. The only way to prevent being fried is by covering up. This little tube of fabric goes a long long way (I also use it when skiing to protect my lower face from the harsh elements).


Check out Buff Headwear



#3 Hestra GlovesFall Line glove

Hestra gloves


What are they:

These are simple, leather technical ski gloves and really durable (it takes me about 5 years to go through a pair!).


Why I love them:

I prefer gloves to mittens so I can still use my fingers when digging snow pitts, using ropes or drinking beers. They are super warm and insanely durable. They come with a small carabiner so when I take them off, I can clip them to my pack and they don’t get full of snow. Genius.


Why I’d recommend them:

They are long lasting and they have never let me down.


Check out the full range of Hestra gloves



#4 Julbo Vermont Classic Limited Edition Glacier Sunglasses

Julbo sunglasses for glacier travel


What are they:

These sunglasses have leather sides to cut down on sun exposure on high alpine glaciers. When you’re high on a glaciated mountain, you have UV rays constantly bouncing at you from every angle. Snow blindness is a serious danger in the mountains and makes it near impossible to move in dangerous situations should you burn your retinas. If you do become snow blind, you are a burden to your team and can endanger everyone so it is very important to constantly take care of your eyes.


What I love them:

First of all they look fly! How bad-ass are these glasses especially in white!? They have a 7% visible light transmission rate which means they only let 7% of harmful UV rays into your eye. Even though that is a very low percentage, you are so exposed (on glaciers) that your eyes still ache at the end of the day, further proving the importance of a solid sunglass at high altitudes.


Why I’d recommend them:

I’ve tried other glacier glasses before and most of the time they sit so close to your face, that the second you start to move, they fog up. These have great air-flow and they are super comfortable. This is so important when you are out on a 12 hour day.


Check out the full range of Julbo sunglasses or the limited edition Julbo Vermont Classic



#5 Melanzana Micro Grid hoodie



What are they:

Melanzana is a company out of Leadville Colorado. They hand-sew everything right in their store so you know everyone is paid fair wages and you know they stand behind their product. Essentially, it is hoodie made of a technical waffle fabric that keeps you warm and wicks moisture away from your body.


Why I love them:

I love the fit of the hoodie. Melanzana’s signature is their hood, which can be cinched down with a drawstring around you face and neck to cut out light and wind. So comfortable. I also wrap it around my large down jacket and use it as a pillow case when camping on high mountains. Once again, this is an item that has more than one function, something that is so important when you are carrying everything you need to survive for a month, in a hostile environment.


Why I’d recommend them:

It’s a great product. They are really durable and the guys that make them really stand behind their work. If you ever have a problem you can go back and they can fix it for you, not that I ever have had an issue. I like to support local businesses and it’s great to put a face to a product. It has that Colorado soul to it.


Check out all of Melanzana’s products (they make a sweat hoodie dress!).


Follow Sydney Paez Duncan on her Instagram. Can’t wait to see all the pictures from Denali this summer. Good luck with the training girl. You’re truly one in a million.


Hiya, I'm Alexa. Always on some sort of adventure! I'm excited to share my stories & introduce you to other rad women, also living the dream. I'm here to inspire you to do the same :-)


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