** After fifteen safe and successful years Jamie has finished guiding 8000m peaks. **
This page remains here for your reference.
Everest and other 8000m expeditions are as real as it gets. You need a lot of gear, plan it very carefully and remember that you have to carry your personal equipment on the mountain. You can now buy most the expensive/hard to find items in Kathmandu.
Basically you should plan with 5 specific climates/functions in mind:
+ summit day and 7500m and above
+ normal variable mountaineering conditions
+ intensely hot mountaineering conditions
+ base camp/ABC living
+ travel-trekking to the mountain
Obviously much of your gear will fulfill multiple roles. Although there is no strict weight limit you shouldn't have more than 40kgs of gear and, if on a guide-assisted climb, no more than 8kgs of snacks/treats.
Conditions on summit day vary tremendously from day to day and year to year. You have to be prepared for the worst. It is essential to be fully insulated with down all over and to be fully wind-protected. With so little oxygen in the air you have trouble keeping warm, even while exercising, and even using bottled oxygen. We start around midnight and 8000m nights can be rather chilly to say the least.
The best are the top of the range mitts from OR (Outdoor Research), their Alti Mitts or Black Diamond, eg Mercury Mitts or Absolute Mitts and all are normally available in Kathmandu. They will be closer fitting and less bulky than down mitts (such as the Rab ones) but just as warm. Ensure they have a system for looping around your wrist or can be attached to your down suit.
You normally use a down suit from 7000m upwards, but nowhere else on the mountain unless conditions are particularly bad.
Underneath it is normal to wear a mid-weight
thermal top next to the skin, a stretch fleece (sleeveless) body suit over that
and then an expedition weight thermal or fleece over that.
A down suits is essential for Everest, Lhotse and Makalu and is preferable for Cho Oyu-Shishapangma but if you go for down pants and down jacket ensure the waist area is well protected. The down jacket should be one of the thickest made. Something thin like a North Face Nuptse jacket is NOT good enough. For pants, down bibs are better but down pants with braces will do.
Down suits are now available in Kathmandu for around $400. Some designs are better than others (we will show you the best) but all are serviceable.
Clear goggles are very useful, to protect your eyes from the wind on that midnight start, and darker goggles can be useful for climbing above 7000m in windy conditions. Do have good sunglasses as well as goggles tend to fog up except in windy conditions.
You need to plan a system to keep in your down suit
specifically for the summit attempt. If you have a system with tubes you MUST keep the tubes
under your suit the whole time, only digging them out to drink, otherwise
they will freeze, insulated tubes or not. Perhaps the safest system is 2x 0.5
litre (16oz) Nalgene bottles; they fit into chest pockets easily and are not as
bulky and heavy as 1 litre bottles (because you are not carrying as much water,
of course). These bottles are usually available in Kathmandu but bring from home
if you are able to buy at home.
That is not a lot of fluid so many people prefer a camelback that goes under your down suit; be very careful with filling it and ensure the cap is screwed down properly.
Please do discuss with me; boots are one of the most critical items. You need the warmest boots available. Generally the best are the Millet Everest (red and black in colour) but other manufacturers are now putting out more options. Any boot that features Thinsulate inner boots is NOT suitable, they hold moisture.
Millet Everest boots (and others) feature a removable inner boot, stiff foam middle held together mainly with wide velcro straps and around it all a built-on gaiter. These boots, used and new, are usually available in Kathmandu. They are surprisingly light and extremely warm but a bit clumsy. All have a built in gaiter; no separate gaiters needed. It is normal to use them from Everest ABC on the Tibet side, Everest BC on the nepal side and from camp 1 and above on Cho Oyu and above camp 0.5 on Shishapangma. It is not useful to have another set of plastic boots.
The boots should fit well but not tight as your feet can swell at altitude. Do NOT get boots two sizes too big.
ENSURE YOUR CRAMPONS FIT whichever system you are using. Grivel G12's with an long extension bar and the latest Petzl's with the plastic strap system for heel and toe fit big boots well and are simple to put on.
2x brand new thick socks for the summit attempt, these should be mainly wool. One pair for wearing to the summit, one for backup. I don't recommend liner socks but if you do prefer them then merino wool seems best.
There are more and more solutions to help keep your feet warm. It is unusual to get frostbite in Millet Everest boots but you feet definitely get very cold. The electric systems seem a hassle but are probably the most effective, see Explorers Web. I have used chemical warmers (see Wikipedia) and have had hit and miss results. Sometimes they have activated, other times not.
On Everest it is normal to use your big pack as you are carrying bottled oxygen. On other oxygen-free mountains if conditions are good it is likely that you will leave this en route once past the most difficult sections. This should be very light, eg Mountain Hardwear Scrambler - or use your big pack.
5700-7100m: you are climbing at the beginning or end of summer and mostly it is not particularly cold during the day in the sun. When there's no wind and the sun is shining a thermal top is enough, backed up by a fleece or light down jacket for rest stops and a windproof breathable jacket for when the wind picks up. When the sun goes the temperature drops dramatically.
Have a range of gear so that you can change to exactly what will suit the various conditions.
+ high quality glacier glasses and cheapie spare glasses
+ good sun hat
+ warm hat that fully covers your ears
+ neck gaiter/buff or thick balaclava and very thin balaclava. You will be able to change to exactly what suit.
+- a face mask-breath warmer is optional - cold air coughs can become debilitating and investing in some sort of face mask or buff is essential. A buff and either a thin balaclava or balaclava with mesh for the mouth is the minimum but there are better products such as the Psolar range, the BX Balaclava or the more versatile Psolar LX Lightweight Facemask.
+ brand new liner gloves
+ brand new fleece gloves/windstopper gloves eg Black Diamond Windweight
+- perhaps some mittens or gloves that are in between the warmest Primaloft mitts and windstopper gloves. Gloves with leather palms for rope handling are better than simple liner gloves unless you have both.
+ collapsible trekking poles, eg the Black Diamond range (some people prefer to use only one; that is OK)
+ light ice axe although there are steep sections on most mountains there are fixed ropes and so it is better to go light than technical.
+ strong crampons with anti-balling plates. If you bring light alloy (aluminum) crampons, also bring heavy duty crampons.
+ light harness - Black Diamond Couloir is good but there are others
+ jumar with sling/cord, Petzl seems to be the best on icy ropes
+ belay device - ATC, figure of 8 etc, what ever you are familiar with and can be used in "no brain'"mode
+ 2x locking karabiners, several plain karabiners, safety sling, 1x long prusik cord to complement your jumar or 2x prusiks (1x long, 1x short).
Best is reasonably new 4-5 season sleeping bag with at least
1kg/2.2lb of down. I feel that second-to-top of
the range eg
Mountain Hardwear Wraith, around -29C/-20F, is enough but this is debatable; the top of
the range bags with 1.3kgs of down are heavy, although are very comfy. Good bags are available in Kathmandu but
are only a little cheaper than the USA. You can rent reasonably good bags.
Having two bags can be useful, and that means you can leave one on the mountain, but this isn't necessary. A less expensive alternative to a second sleeping bag is to bring an older, less warm sleeping bag and add a down liner (or better, a quilt/duvet bought in China over the top). There are several other strategies, do discuss.
Thermarest (or similar) and foam pad. Sleeping on a COLD glacier, a Thermarest isn't enough so the combination is better and safer. Pro-lite 4's are better than thinner ones, but any will do, just remember you have to carry it. The thinner your Thermarest, the better your closed cell foam pad should be. If you go with only a closed cell foam mattress then the RidgeRests are great, and should still have a very thin second closed cell foam mattress underneath. All are available in Kathmandu.
+ expedition-weight set of thermals
+ set of mid-weight thermals - white or light in colour can be useful - see below
+ plenty of nearly new socks of various thicknesses, including light or mid-weight
+ fleece or softshell jacket
+ alpine climbing jacket - windproof and breathable
+ climbing bibs/sallopettes - windproof, breathable - and perhaps a thinner pair of windproof pants
+ wind-suit. This is an alternative to using a jacket and bibs on the mountain. Some people like them while some don't, and they are hard to find. If you bring a suit also bring windproof, breathable jacket for the trek sections.
+ leggings/light trekking pants for warm conditions walking and climbing
You need a set of leather boots for
walking from base camp to advanced base camp (Everest, Tibet side) or the many runs you do
between ABC and Camp 1 on Cho Oyu / Camp 0.5 on Shishapangma. The terrain is rough with a lot of rock to trip on. These boots should be broken in but still capable of lasting the
expedition; they will see a lot of use. These will also do as camp shoes.
Do bring all leather boots, and if you are used to lighter cross trainers, you might want to bring them along as well for easier day trips.
Gaiters are not necessary for these boots.
+ big volume but light backpack, eg Mountain Hardwear South Col or Osprey Aether 70/85 or if going light, the Black Diamond Quantum 65 etc. Even on our guide-assisted climbs, you still end up carrying a lot of bulky down gear moving between camps so you should have a large but relatively light big pack.
+ larger (35-45 litre) daypack with a waist belt for travel and acclimatization day trips
+ water bottles/system for carrying 2-4 litres
+ pee bottle (that doesn't leak!)
+ headlamp. The LED multi-bulb ones are great around camp, with two sets of good batteries enough for an expedition. For climbing the ultra-bright LED torches are the best, avoid all headlamps with normal bulbs, they break up there.
+ roll-on deodorant. You will be amazed at how approachable you still are after five days without a shower IF you have deo!
- helmet, Cho Oyu: Although there is a danger of rock fall from the lake area to C1, the whole slope is visible so you have plenty of warning. You are welcome to bring a helmet but virtually everybody does without.
- helmet, Shishapangma: There is no danger of rock fall anywhere, although you are still welcome to bring a helmet, but virtually everyone does without.
- helmet, Everest: although there is minor rock fall above North Col to high on the mountain nobody uses a helmet to save weight.
During the middle of the day at 6000-7000m on the snow, the sun can be INTENSE. Every expedition had a couple of days where you feel breathless in the sun. It really helps to have one set of white or light-coloured thermals, at minimum a white silk-weight top or airy, loose shirt.
+ white, collared cotton shirt or white set of thermals with long sleeves
+ optional nose sun protector for use with your sunglasses. Anything will do, home-made is fine, as long as it doesn't interfere with breathing.
+ good factor 20+ lip balm (Banana boat (available in Kathmandu) or Dermatone
+ good sunscreen
+ sunscreen that doesn't freeze, like a Dermatone stick, or small enough that you can warm in a pocket
Around base camp and ABC you can wear camp shoes or leather boots. Although climbing boot inners are warm, the sharp rock underfoot trash them.
+ Substantial down jacket. As well as wearing this to the summit perhaps, you'll wear this around camp during the evenings.
+ thick fleece pants or Primaloft pants, eg Mountain Hardwear Compressor Pant.
+ second sleeping bag, essential for Everest, optional but useful on other mountains. This should be 4 season although a fleece lining (available in Kathmandu) can do wonders. It saves you a lot of ferrying if you have two sleeping bags, one for BC-ABC and one for on the mountain. You can get serviceable sleeping bags in Kathmandu for US$200-300, and boost it with a quilt or duvet over the top.
+ sleeping bag liner. Silk is nicest but cotton or fleece will lessen the rate of grime accumulation.
+ base camp inflatable mattress (Thermarest or Exped or similar) and closed cell mat. On the guide-assisted climbs we provide a combination closed cell foam pad and an open cell mattress for BC and ABC but a Thermarest is still more comfortable.
+ BC-ABC pee bottle
You will use this gear from touchdown in Kathmandu to base camp. Obviously there is a lot of crossover; most of this gear can be used on the mountain too. Gear storage in Kathmandu is free so you can leave a clean set of clothes there, if you want.
+ trekking pants and shirt
+ thermal top
+ fleece jacket
+ windproof, breathable jacket
+ sleeping sheet for use in the not so clean Tibet hotels, silk is luxurious and great for using with your sleeping bag too
For the trek from BC to ABC be prepared for fine weather, wind and snow.
There are dozens of gear shops in Kathmandu but they mostly sell locally made gear, even if the gear has a "North Face" label. There are a few better quality shops though, with a selection of (Korean) North face, Mountain Hardwear, Millet, Vaude and other brands.
You can find good new and secondhand Millet boots, cheap thick down jackets, cheap down pants, sleeping bags, and all sorts of fleece gear (made from Korean fleece).
Closed cell foam mattresses are easy to buy, and this saves packing space while flying.
We provide 3 substantial meals at BC and ABC, and afternoon tea but you will still want plenty of snacks for in between times, especially while climbing in between camps. Variety helps when you don't feel like eating. Protein bars, as well as energy bars can be very useful. Count on sharing a few with the sherpas too.