Vikings in Fishnets

Vikings in Fishnets : 26th April 2011

This is going to be a blog about gear. No, I haven’t turned into a techno geek with ‘all the gear and no idea’. The right gear can mean the difference between success and failure on Everest, and if you get into trouble then it can be the difference between life and death. I’ll tell you later about the Vikings and their sexy fishnets.

Let’s start with gloves. I have five pairs. Two liner gloves for warmth – I usually wear one pair in bed as most nights drop to well below freezing inside the tent and sometimes to below -10c. Plus three outer gloves, including rope gloves for abseiling or arm wrapping (to save time, instead of setting up to abseil down steep slopes, we often wrap the rope around our arms and facing downhill use big strides to get down whilst allowing the rope to run through our hands), and some thick down mitts for the extreme cold to ward against frostbite. I have two pairs, ones with fingers that are easier to climb in and ones without fingers that are warmer. Hobson’s choice. I would ideally like both at the same time.

Snow blindness is a real risk so we need the right glasses and goggles, category 3 or 4 lenses. People regularly under-estimate the double light intensity from the sun and ice and have to be guided off the mountain temporarily blinded. Good headgear that either protects from the sun or the cold is also essential. Temperatures in the Western Cwm on the way to the summit can swing by 50c in minutes as the sun goes in and out of the clouds. That’s like walking out of a freezer straight on to a beach on a lovely summer’s day, then just as you start to relax and sunbathe, walking back into the freezer with no idea of how long you’ll be there. Nice.

We all wear the standard harness with karabiners to clip onto fixed rope when it’s available, and a jumar for pulling up on ropes. Plus radios, abseiling gear, helmets to protect from falling rock, and ice axes for rescue from crevasses and transceivers to locate us after an avalanche.

Now for the clothes. I usually wear two layers for climbing and three for high altitude. I could write a book about the styles and materials available, but this is where the fishnets come in. Thomas, the Norwegian ‘Viking’ in our team, swears by them. He has fishnet leggings that look disconcertiningly like tights as if he’s off to a party in drag, and matching vests that belong more to a beach in Bognor Regis. They must work though, as he leads expeditions across Greenland wearing just his fishnets and a gortex outer layer. That’s impressive. In fact, I might get some but they would only be for arctic conditions, not our next party in Colchester.

By the way, I have actually been doing some climbing. We have just scaled Lobuche peak (20,000ft)…twice. The second time we camped on the top for two nights. We’re now back at Everest base camp to rest before beginning to tackle the big one.

Picture 1: Lobuche Peak and our campsite

Picture 2: Everest in the background taken from Lobuche Peak