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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

What does a typical Everest expedition look like? Post 2: Days before departure.

Days before departure (late March to very early April)

Packing is a laborious task for mountaineering.  Every bit of your climbing gear needs to fit into something that can be checked AND weigh under the 50 lb limit.  Airlines do not allow sharp objects (climbing axe, crampons, medical needles, etc.) in carry-on luggage and these things often poke into things that do not like to be poked (e.g., sleeping bags, down parka, tents, and containers that need to hold liquid or air).  I find this part to be both exciting and exhausting.  The exciting part is that I know the climb is finally coming.  After months of preparation, planning, and saving, I am finally ready to leave.  There is also a bit of stress because we all need to go over our entire gear list to make sure we are not packing more than necessary but also bringing the necessary equipment to climb.  On typical trips where I fly into areas that do not have equipment stores, I find the stress to be too much for a single day of packing.  I pack over several days - often packing, unpacking, repacking, and repeating the process several times.  Few climbers talk about these days because we are all ready to go and these days seem to fly by so quickly that none of us track these details in our journals.  Here is what my Denali packing looked like days before my departure:


Yep, a total mess in my office but I could easily track what I had and what I didn't have ready to pack.  Most of the massive things in the picture above are down so they pack really small.  After I got everything in travel shape, my final packing looked like this:


I still had way too much packed.  The bulk of the stuff packed above included a 4-man tent (12 lbs), cookware (stove, pot/pan, utensils, etc.) that are necessary for all big climbs but on Everest will be provided by Summit Climb.  I also packed a rope and more climbing gear than I needed but we never brought it up on Denali so the extra weight didn't bog me down.  Oh, one other minor difference between Denali and Everest; the US National Park Service (NPS) forbids animals on park mountains.  Thus, all climbers much carry all their supplies.  We had sleds and large packs for Denali.  On Everest, the Tibetans allow pack animals on the mountains to help ferry loads.  More on those differences later....