One of the things I really love about expeditions is the gear preparation! Planning what is needed, going through what you have, making sure everything is in order, ordering new gear if necessary. Essentially just ensuring I have everything I need and nothing extra, that every single item will be used.
Being an engineer, I naturally have a gear list in Excel, based on previous trips. The list keeps evolving, and improving, and after each trip I mark what was worked and what didn’t. Having said that – the grand total weight, including 2 duffels should be around 42-45kg. So it’s not that bad!
Overall weight is not really an issue to or at Base Camp, but the higher you go, the more important weight gets as every extra kilo carried is a lot of extra effort, and the higher you go the more effort those extra kilos require!
Thus, I have tried to ensure that the gear I carry, especially what I plan to use for my possible summit attempt(s), will be as light as possible. Granted, I am not keen on carrying any extra weight to the lower camps either!
There is so much to say about gear, so let’s start from the basics – the trek.
We will slowly be ascending on foot from the village of Askole (about 3000m), all the way to Base Camp at 5000m over 6 or so days, in order to acclimatize and get used to going uphill.
At least during the first two days it should be sunny, dry and dusty. Once we move up on the glacier, days should be pretty warm and nights a bit cooler. Although we could also be facing rain or snow – who knows – so it is good to prepare for that as well.
On my feet I will be wearing (in my opinion) the best hiking boots in the world – Haix Airpower P9 Desert. Extremely durable boots that weigh a mere 760 grams, and are used by for instance special forces all over the world. I have never had any issues with blisters or fatigue with these on my feet! As for what’s inside the boots – I prefer to use double liner socks.
When looking for or trying on new boots - rule number one is that they must feel comfortable immediately and not feel tight anywhere. Once you've started using them, they will of course slowly form to fit you feet even better, but if they aren't comfy from the start they probably will never be.
If I’m in shorts, I will also be using some sort of short gaiters, or cut-off socks, to prevent dust and stones from entering my boots.
For sunny days I have a pair of Arcteryx shorts. If the weather is windy or wet, I will wear either Arcteryx Sigma AR trekking pants and/or my (very) old and trusty Jack Wolfskin softshell trousers. On my upper body – depending on the temperature and conditions - a T-shirt, a long sleeved Arcteryx Motus or a Helly Hansen Lifa Merino Lightweight Crew shirt. This HH shirt is super, with a thin layer of moisture-wicking material underneath and merino wool on top, and I will be wearing that as well for most of the days on the mountains.
Then of course a hat, buff and sunglasses 😎
The pack, my trusted old 50l Jack Wolfskin, should be pretty light at this point; water, snacks, shell jacket (Arcteryx Alpha), lightweight insulated jacket (Arcteryx Cerium LT, I love this one) and shell pants. Plus some technical gear such as laptop, camera, a light tripod/selfie stick, iphone, satellite terminal etc... Yes I am a techie nerd haha 😅!
Overall, around 10-12 kg. Just the "essentials" i.e something to wear during breaks or if the weather turns (and stuff I will not trust into the duffels, such as electronics). Perhaps as well a thin sleeping pad, to sit on during breaks.
The last item is a trekking pole. Why only one? Because my other hand will be busy shooting pictures 😜
The camera is an Olympus OM-D M5 mk3, with a Zuiko 12-200mm lens. It is a Micro-Four-Thirds, meaning it is small and light, and that the lens is actually equal to 24-400mm on a regular camera.
My iphone 11 will also see heavy use as a camera. You can be sure that there won’t be a lack of pictures, videos or stories after this trip!
I will carry enough SD memory cards to be able to take thousands of photos and many many hours of video. For editing (and for writing, watching movies etc) I will use my Macbook Pro, and also bring a small backup disc. You can never have enough backups on a trip like this!!
For communications, once the wifis and cell coverage disappear, I will hopefully have an Explorer 510 terminal from Savantum who have every possible communication device for travel!), to which I connect my phone and then use the satellite network for transmission. Though the satellite SIM subscription is freaking expensive, so need to be a bit careful with what I send. On my last expedition it worked wonderfully and I was even able to do whatsapp video calls to home 😁
So that is pretty much what I’ll be wearing and carrying during the trek into Base Camp. All the other equipment will be carried by local super strong Balti porters, and we will have access to that only in the camps. My two duffels will be split so that one has the stuff I may need during the trek - sleeping bag & pad, extra clothes etc. All the climbing gear will stay in the other duffel until we reach base camp, where I will hopefully see it again!
Aside from focusing a bit more on equipment weight, I made a couple of decisions after the last trip in 2017.
I had issues with my Thermarest sleeping pad being way too thin - I could feel every single lump of snow beneath me, no matter how much I tried to smooth them out. So, after doing my research I ended up with an inflatable Exped XL mattress. It is wide, long, thick and soft, easy to inflate, very small when stowed and despite that surprisingly light. And this is the sleeping pad I will also be using in the higher camps.
The expedition will also supply us with some sort of foam mattresses for BC – after all, that is where we go to rest and recover!
A good sleeping bag is of course essential, as nighttime temperature often drops below freezing. I have two – one for BC and one for the other camps.
The other big decision I made concerns the sleeping bag for the higher camps. The bag I’ve had with me on the last couple of expeditions needed to retire.
So after looking at the options and asking around, I ended up with a Valandre LaFayette, that is both light and relatively roomy. Lighter means it is only half the weight of the old one, plus it takes up less space when compressed. Roomy means I don’t feel like a sausage in it. The drawback is that it’s not quite as warm, but I will compensate for that by wearing my down suit inside, if necessary.
More comfort, more space, less weight – that’s the way I like it!
Then, for moving higher up the mountain, there are two phases – acclimatization and summit attempt.
Mostly during the acclimatization rounds, underneath I will wear Helly Hansen long underwear. As a mid layer, if needed, Helly Hansen Power Stretch Pro or even the thin Arcteryx Cerium LT, and on top my Arcteryx shell jacket. On the legs power stretch fleece pants and shell pants. Wearing the mid layer is dependent on how cold it is, usually one layer is enough at least a bit lower down.
Especially on Gasherbrum, when you get to Camp 1, it will be like a sauna when the sun rises, as the mountains form a reflective bowl around the glacier we’ll be going up, and the sun will be beaming directly on us. In that case, a thin long sleeved shirt is all that is needed. Needs to be long-sleeved unless you want to fry your arms!
The sun can really be hot up there, despite being at a high altitude, and it will sap all your energy very easily, so the layering needs to be smart and easy to change. On hot days light coloured clothing is obviously best, unfortunately those are pretty hard to find as everything seems to be available only in black!
The last phase is the summit attempt. Leaving high camp it will be crucial to try and go as light as possible. The plan is to wear the same bottom and mid layer as earlier, and on top a super warm Haglöfs down jacket and pants.
What about hands and feet?
When you leave BC, you generally use your high-altitude double-layered mountaineering boots with a removable thermal bootie. Inside will be liner socks and heavy mountaineering socks. How many layers are inside will again depend on the conditions.
On hands, lower down Black Diamond work gloves. For higher up thin fleece gloves plus Outdoor Research Alti mitts. As spares for the summit attempt, down and wind stop mittens.
To finish it off, buffs and hats of various thickness, and sunglasses 😎
Looking at technical gear, the list is actually pretty short.
Ice axe, Crampons, Petzl Altitude Harness, 2 larger and 4 smaller carabiners, a couple of slings, an ascender (used for ascending the ropes), and finally a figure 8 for belays and descending.
Then small stuff like thermos, a few Platypus bottles, headlamp, leatherman, etc.
As to snacks, I'm bringing some Nosht chews, and Puhti energy packs. Will also bring some coconut oil, the stuff I use in my morning coffee every day - as it contains tons of energy, so I will always add some to every warm drink I have. Haven't decided yet how to package that, as in cooler temperatures it is solid but closer to 20 degrees it is runny. May have to put it in some sort of small tight containers so it is easily available.
For sure will need to fit some candy and other goodies in there too - this is an environment where you will need all extra energy you can swallow, as your appetite usually diminishes the higher you go, although that is where all that energy would be important
The rest is just personal stuff such as soap, toothbrush, first aid kit, something to read etc. Nothing exciting there 😴
That's just about it! Will go over everything, in use, as the expedition progresses.