Sunday, July 28, 2013

High Altitude Success Secret: Beards

THIS ARTICLE is based on a study done by the Wisconsin Institute of Physiological Performance Science in which oxygen utilization by mountaineers on Everest was examined. The oddball result of this:

By 7,500 metres, the bearded sample showed, on average, a 7.3% rise in ORI compared to the clean-shaven mountaineers, by 8,000 metres, the gap had grown to 10.7% and on the summit, bearded climbers were processing oxygen almost 15% more efficiently, a differential which could mean the difference between life and death in Everest's harsh climate.
So apparently, there is a positive effect of allowing your beard to grow out while on a mountain. Since the subjects of the study were encouraged to grow or not grow facial hair, the potential for chicken/egg effect was diminished. In this case you would be left wondering:

  • A) do climbers who allow their beards to grow become more efficient at utilizing oxygen?
  • B) are climbers who are better at utilizing oxygen naturally more inclined to let their facial hair grow?

Letting my beard grow for the cause

Trail running at 9,600' with facial hair for better oxygen utilization
Since I had my first over-exposure to a biting cold wind on Rainier in April of 2007, I have had to allow my beard to just do its own thing. I trim it with electric clippers to a very short 1/32" about every two weeks In the meantime it can become as long as 5/16" if I'm eating normally. I think protein consumption and exertion or training levels do have some impact on this.

I have to say that on every one of my speed runs on a Colorado 14'er I have been a bit on the shaggy side. I have also had great success on Kilimanjaro, Orizaba, and Carstensz with a fair amount of facial hair. Based on my own anecdotal evidence, I suspect there is something to this theory. I hope to hear more positive mountaineering results obtained from other lapses in hygiene...

Resting in the tent to allow the best possible facial hair growth

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Alpamayo Gear List

From the San Juan Mountain Guides Website, here's the gear list for Alpamayo:

6000 Meter Double Boots with Crampons

General Equipment

Duffel Bag: Large durable bag for airline and in-country travel and organization.
Backpack: Internal frame, 50-60 liters max. Guides’ pick: Osprey Aether 60 or Variant 52
Sleeping bag: Down or synthetic bag rated between 15-20 degrees with compression stuff sack. Guides’ pick: Neutrino Endurance 400
Sleeping Pad:  Full-length Therm-a-Rest air mattress.
Pocket knife: 2-3 inch blade, simple, light
Cup/Bowl & Spoon:  Versatile plastic/lexan type.
Small thermos: Optional, but nice to have
Water bottles: 2 liters combined capacity; bottles or bladder. Guides’ pick: Nalgene or Platypus
Water Bottle Insulators: OR or similar sleeve type water bottle insulators

Weighing gear in Talkeetna Alaska

Climbing Equipment

Adjustable Trekking Poles
Harness: Adjustable leg loops are essential.
Locking carabiner (2): Pear shaped, wide mouth.
Non-locking carabiners (4): Wire gate biners are best
Boots: Climbing boots.  Double boots or insulated single boots with zippered gaiter.
Crampons: Step in crampons.  Guides’ Pick: BD Sabretooth
Ice Axes: 2 Technical Ice Tools.  Guides’ Pick: BD Cobra

Clothing and Personal Equipment

Travel Clothing: 2 sets of travel/town clothing is usually suffiicient
Hiking boots: Lightweight hiking boots or approach shoes for acclimatization hikes and around town.
Socks: 2-3 pair of medium weight wool or synthetic blend socks.
Base layers: Synthetic t-shirt and synthetic long underwear
Mid-weight Layer: For over your long underwear and under other external layers. Guides’ Pick: OR Centrifuge Jacket
Soft shell pants: Warm enough for cool mornings and nights, yet light enough for warm days. Guides’ Pick: OR Cirque Pant
Soft shell jacket: Your workhorse jacket with a hood. Guides’ Pick: OR Alibi Jacket
Insulated Jacket: Down or synthetic with a hood. Guides’ pick: OR Virtuoso Hoody
Hard shell jacket: waterproof and breathable, no insulation. Guides’ Pick: OR Axiom Jacket
Gloves: 3 pair. 1 mid-weight, 1 heavy-weight, 1 light-weight. Bring mittens if you get cold hands easily.
Hand Warmers: 2 – 3 packets to stick in your gloves.
Hats: one with brim, one for warmth
Balaclava: BUFF’s are also acceptable.
Sunglasses: With Category 4 lenses.
Goggles: A standard paid of ski goggles will suffice.
Sunscreen and lip balm: water/sweat-proof. SPF 50 or higher recommended.
Headlamp: with extra batteries. Guides’ pick: Black Diamond Spot
Toiletries: Toilet paper, baggie for used TP, toothbrush/paste, wet wipes, hand sanitizer, etc.
Personal first-aid kit: for your personal meds/needs; guide will have a large one as well
Stuff sacks: for convenient packing
Digital Camera
Book and/or iPod/iPad
Lunch food: Everything you eat between breakfast and dinner. May include: bagels, dried meats, cheese, trail mix, candy bars, peanut butter, etc…

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Alpamayo Itinerary

It's not one of the Seven, but I think it's one of the most beautiful mountains on our planet. For that reason alone I've decided to head to Peru and climb 19,512' Alpamayo. Summit day includes a couple thousand feet of steep snow and ice climbing up to 70 degrees or so. AI 2-3.

I'll be going with San Juan Mountain Guides in Ouray CO and for more information on this climb, and to reserve your spot for next year, [CLICK HERE]

Here is the itinerary as listed on their website:


Depart U.S. for Peru arriving late evening. We will be there to pick you up at the airport and transport you to our hotel near the US Embassy in the Mariscal Sur district.


Today we travel to the high mountain town of Huaraz (9,500 ft.), and our hotel accommodations for the evening.


In Huaraz, we organize equipment and food for our expedition.  This also serves as a valuable acclimatization day.


Drive to Cashapampa (9,000').  Along the way we will pass through many smaller Peruvian villages and enjoy beautiful views of many Cordillera Blanca peaks, including the massive Huascaran. We begin our trek up the lovely Santa Cruz Valley to camp at Illma Corral (11,500').


Another splendid day of trekking in the high Andes to reach our base camp (13,500') for Alpamayo.


We hike a load of equipment and supplies to camp 1 (moraine) and return to base camp.


Today we hike to and stay at moraine camp.


A rest and acclimatization day at moraine camp.


Today we will move to Camp 2, also known as Col Camp.  This is one of the more challenging days of the expedition, as we will be navigating crevasses and some steep two-tool climbing with heavier packs on the way to our camp at 18,000'.

DAY 10

Summit Day on Alpamayo (19,512').  After we cross the bergschrund it is approximately 7 – 9 pitches of 55 – 70 degree neve and ice climbing to the summit ridge and the top of this sought after peak.  We will rappel the route back to high camp.

DAY 11

Extra summit day or rest day at Col Camp.

DAY 12

Extra summit day on Alpamayo.  Alternatively and if the group is feeling strong, we may choose to climb Quitaraju (19,820') by it’s North Face.  Though not as steep as Alpamayo, the route is longer and crests the magical 6000 meter mark.

DAY 13

Descend to basecamp from Col Camp.

DAY 14

With the aid of horses we will descend from basecamp back to Cashapampa and continue to Huaraz.

DAY 15

Depart Huaraz and return to Lima.

DAY 16

Return to the US.

Photo and information from San Juan Mountain Guides website.