Quest For Everest: -44 With The Wind Chill
In 'Quest For Everest' Steve Whittington is sharing his training experience with us as he prepares for a big challenge: climbing Mount Everest in March. Make sure to check out the other blog posts in this series.
Part of my training for Everest is not just increasing endurance, cardio and strength. There is also gear prep and making sure the systems all work together the way they should. With that in mind, I have been marching around in my new high altitude boots to break them in. Further to that goal, I have left the outer boots in my garage overnight (they are a double boot system) to simulate putting on a frozen boot in the morning on the mountain. Trust me, it can be quite challenging – there have been times at altitude in which putting on my boots took 15 minutes alone!
All that said, when a weather watch was announced on the radio that outside temperatures would be plummeting below -40, I got excited! Perfect! I can try out my high altitude system to see how it all works! Now to be fair, I have several down suits and have been to altitude many times so I have good understanding of what to expect. But for this climb I have basically all new gear, so I wanted to see how it all worked together in the cold. (Trying everything on in your basement is a test but not a very good test.)
I geared up and threw a 50 pound sandbag in my backpack for good measure. With the wind howling I headed outside and marched around my neighborhood for 90 minutes. Nothing too taxing; I went slow trying to conserve energy and not break a sweat like I will in the mountains. It was an excellent trial. I certainly was not cold – in fact I was quite soaked in sweat upon my return. I did learn a few things about the venting systems in the suit, while being mindful that exposed skin will freeze in seconds (it was -44° with a wind chill after all). My high altitude gloves did not cut the mustard at those temperatures and I had to switch to my mittens. Overall, I was really happy I was too warm. I will do another trial with a change in the base layer systems, however on Everest it will be colder and I will be hypoxic and have less capacity to generate warmth. Being too hot at -44° on low altitude flatlands was not a bad thing.