Thursday, December 20, 2012

Equipment - Summit Day

If you were going to remodel a kitchen, you would probably begin by constructing an image of the finished product then work backward from there.  I take the same approach to equipment choices for Everest. In this case the finished product is me standing at the summit. Let us linger over that image for a moment  I look a bit a tired, but my hair has a clean part on the left.  Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" is playing.  A flock of specially trained high-altitude doves is released and they flutter up about me. Yes. This is good. Very very good.

I am wearing a down suit, a one piece garment constructed by Marmot. You cannot do better than down when it comes to lite-weight combined with maximum heat retention.  I have never warn a down suit on a climb, but there have been times I wished I had. So this is a new piece of gear purchased specifically for Everest. It was available in just two color choices, both of which strike a contrast to the snow sufficient to suggest This man is lost.  I bought the suit online, with no love from Groupon, for the sum of $1,200.

My feet are swaddled in La Sportiva Olympus Mons climbing boots. These state of the art boots were designed specifically for 8,000 Meter Peaks.  They are lite, warm, and sturdy. The built in over-boot, reaching almost to my knees, provides further warmth while acting as a gator to keep loose snow out. The Olympus Mons are tall and stackish in the fashion popularized by '70's rock band KISS.  Gene Simmons would approve.  I purchased my boots from Backcountry Essentials for $1,000.

The cumulative effect of my cold-weather climbs thus far has resulted in a condition that renders my feet prone to cold. In the past I have just spirited on. Not so with Everest. For this climb I have purchased the Hotronics Foot Warmers, an after market adaptation originally designed for ski boots.  Electric heating elements installed beneath the insole are powered by a lithium battery pack attached to the outside of the boot. These units are capable of generating 120 Fahrenheit for up to 9 hours, effectively eliminating the risk of frostbite to the feet. At $250 for the kit, one purchases protection at the remarkable price of just $25 a toe. Sold!

My hands are protected by a pair of the fab new lobster mittens.  These gloves offer much improved dexterity over conventional mittens, crucial to the manipulation of one's mechanical ascender. Yet the bunching of fingers provides shared warmth and circulation. Odds are good I will also have chemical hand warmers inside these mittens. It will be difficult to not recollect my bachelor party of many years back, wherein I extracted a live lobster from a tank and fended off a bouncer exclaiming "I've got a lobster and I'm not afraid to use it!" $150.

I will be wearing a climbing harness with various metal apparatus jangling from it. I already own the jangling items, but will need to purchase the harness as I somehow left mine in New Guinea this summer. My old harness will be of no use, in the conventional sense,  to the native peoples who now possess it. They do not climb the steep rock face that draws Climbers to Carstensz Pyramid. But ever resourceful, one can rest assured it is being used by them for something. I imagine a pig is being restrained by it now. Climbing harness $110.

In this summit photo I have briefly pulled down my oxygen mask. I will be wearing a Topout mask and delivery system. Topout has a working reservoir bag that allows a climber to inhale a higher concentration of oxygen for every breath, even at the same flow rate as other masks. This enables a climber to travel faster, and for longer periods.  The mask and oxygen tank strapped to my back are provided by International Mountain Guides under the basic program fee I have paid. But I have chosen to purchase an additional tank of oxygen for summit day, delivered by Sherpa to the south summit. This will enable me to flow O2 at 4 liters per minute, as opposed to the more typical 3 liters. The benefits accrued include warmer body temperature, faster movement (through areas of risk),  and the greatly reduced risk of running out of oxygen should a bottleneck of climbers form.  Extra bottle of O2 delivered to the south summit of Everest $5,000.

My head gear on summit day will feature a neoprene balaclava, warn with good result in Antarctica,  and a pair of mirrored goggles. Delirious climbers often forget to remove these items for their summit photo, resulting in an anonymous image that for all purposes could represent Woody Allen's moment on top of the world.  I plan to clear my goggles and balaclava from my face if I am successful in reaching the top of Everest. If I am not, I plan to lay claim to the photo of someone who did summit but forgot to remove their head gear.