Packing gear for a trip to Everest is not a trivial matter. In fact, it is a huge undertaking and much more complicated than it has been for any of my previous trips. I first downloaded the gear list from the guiding company into a spreadsheet. Then slowly, the one-sheet list grew into a workbook, with separate lists for clothes, climbing gear, medicine, food, personal care, books & digital equipment.
Because of the extreme altitude and conditions, I had to acquire a lot of new gear. Some, such as boots and insulation suits, are quite expensive and hard to find for my small size. Luckily, Wild Things Gear generously sponsored most of my clothes with custom-designed PrimaLoft suits and custom-tailored shell/softshell layers.
It was a blessing to have the support of Marie Meunier, the owner of Wild Things Gear, who took care of me like a mom! She helped me organize my equipment, taught me how to coordinate my clothes layers with other accessories (such as gloves, boots, goggles, and a helmet), and worked with me in making the suits fit my specific needs. Trying the new suits reminded me of my childhood experience of putting on new clothes that Mom made for me on Chinese New Year, which was a special moment because we were too poor to afford buying new clothes. Donning homemade new clothes on Chinese New Year was our ritual.
To better protect my toes, I bought a pair of La Sportiva Olympus Mono boots. Very few brands make extreme altitude boots for women, so I had to get a men’s pair at the smallest size, 39. Unfortunately, the break in process was extremely painful and stressful.
Despite having a lot of room in the toes area, my ankles and lower calves were being crushed and badly bruised during the first few weeks. I got my friend Paul Cormier from IME and Stan and Dan Sports in North Conway to custom-adjust the boots a couple times, but I still wasn’t confident in how they would perform on the mountains. I couldn’t keep on trying to break in new boots here with my already well-bruised ankles. So I decided to pack in my old Kolflach Arctic Exped boots as well.
Another complicated matter is medicine. Even a super healthy person who never needs to visit doctors in normal situations can run into many unexpected problems at extreme altitudes, such as severe cough, diarrhea from bad foods and infections, and even life- threatening pulmonary or cerebral edema. Being away from modern healthcare for two months, I have to be prepared for any situation. My friends, Dr. David Coleman and Dr. Steve West, helped me obtain enough medicine to supply a personal pharmacy and patiently educated me on how to use them. David even wrote me detailed step-by-step instructions that I can follow to treat myself under different conditions, and he taught me the efficient way to organize medicines for expeditions.
Though the guiding company is preparing all the meals, I decided to bring a lot of snacks to supplement my nutrition on the mountain. Based on my previous experience, meals on these expeditions are normally heavy on carbs and fat, but relatively low on protein and fiber. Because of my training regimen during the past few months, my body has got used to a diet that is high in protein. So I brought a lot of protein bars, powders, and nuts to provide extra protein for two months.
Packing for this trip was complicated. On the start of this trip, I will be trekking in relatively mild conditions for 14 days to base camp. This means different boots and clothes for trek. Once in base camp, I would be busy training to prepare for high altitude climbing. We would establish two base camps to reduce the amount of equipment we have to carry up and down the mountain.
The main base camp, which will be our main home, is located at 17,700 ft. The advanced base camp at Camp2 is located at 21300 ft. Each camp will have duplicate equipment and gear. I’ll be traveling between them several times in order to get used to the high altitude.
Now you start to get a picture of what I am putting into my three big duffel bags!