Friday, January 18, 2008

Feathered Friends

The upper limits of Mt Everest sit squarely in the jet stream. The reason that most climbs happen in the month of May is that throughout the year, the top of the mountain is buffeted by winds so fast that it remains unclimbable. Then in May, right before the summer monsoon season begins, a few weeks of calm weather prevail and the jet stream raises high enough that you have the opportunity to sneak up to the top in relative calm. This doesn't remove the temperature extremes, just the wind. Negative 40 is a standard temperature seen at high camp on summit day, so imagine what that would do with winds. I have a great picture of me on Washburn's Thumb, Mt McKinley in negative 40. The difference here is that Washburn's Thumb sits at 16,500', which happens to be 1,000' below the elevation of Everest Base Camp. All stars coming into line, add another 10,000' on to that before I'll be at Camp 4, preparing for our summit push. Please note the frost on my forehead. There's no other way to say it, negative 40 is cold. Mind numbingly cold.

In order to be comfortable in high winds, I'm having a down climbing suit built specifically for this trip. In a nutshell, this is a giant ball of down, wrapped around you in a way where you look like that kid on "Christmas Story"- the one that was all bundled up and then after his mom had just finished wrapping him up for school said that he had to hit the bathroom? Yeah. You have this little teeny slit where you can see out of and the rest of you is encapsulated in foofy down. It's truly kick-ass, but when I tried on a sample for sizing purposes it made me sweat inside of 3 minutes.

Feathered Friends is a local outfitter in Seattle and which focuses on specialized high altitude climbing equipment. It's actually a bit of a local legend and it's walls are adorned with climbing memorabilia from countless climbs spanning the globe. Unlike REI which is a sales machine for the masses, Feathered Friends is there to provide specific gear to a specific market, and based on this experience making such high quality gear, I went in and had one sized. I'm a humongo fan of the bumblebee look- easy to find in the white landscape and not all that common. So the fabrics I chose are wind resistant, breathable and bright, screaming yellow.

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