Saturday, February 28, 2009

Life and Death Gear

We had some gear from previous climbs but we did not have enough gear for 5 people. We also wanted to make sure that we had the best of everything - the weather is severe and very unpredictable on Mt. Everest. We all wanted to come home alive and with all our appendages. We did a lot of research. Dan flew to Ohio and drove to a little town called Granville to the Everest Gear Store to try on and buy Millet One Sport Everest boots for himself and the boys (luckily they all wear the same size). I took a couple of days with each of the kids to go gear shopping at Sojourn in Barrie and MEC and Europe Bound in Toronto. We also ordered things through the North Face catalogue, and various on line stores in the U.S. We had been told that Nepal had cheaper gear but a lot of the items were knock offs. This information was quickly confirmed when Alan was trying on a pair of down pants in Kathmandu that had a North Face label on one leg and a Mountain Hardwear label on the other leg.

A year ago - the lists

A year ago, five people were madly preparing to leave for Nepal in a month. Alan had gotten permission from his new employer to take a two and a half month leave of absence, and Adam and Laura had gotten permission from their university professors to write their final exams some before and some after their climb. Dan was trying to make sure everything would run smoothly at the office and I was making up lists and checking them twice. There was a personal gear list, a medication list, a house list, a dog list, a food list, a pre-pay list, a cancel list, a photocopy list, a bank list, a document list, an outfitter list, a question list, a phone list, an appointment list, a today list, a tomorrow list, and the lists went on and on. Everyone had a room in the house to put their gear and the dining room was the food room. We were told that Nepal did not have a good supply of energy snack foods so I was going to take over a 20 kg. bag just of food.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Did the university make us more daring?

Alan wrote an excellent summary of our climb and submitted it to the Queen's alumni office shortly after we returned from our climb. It was published in the latest Queen's Alumni Review along with some photos. Read it if you get the opportunity. He hit on all the highlights.
Four of the five Mallorys are graduates of Queen's University in Kingston -Daniel, Barbara, Adam and Alan. Did the university contribute to our desire to push the limits? Maybe it did and maybe it didn't. Being purple, slamming, skydiving, dancing on tables in Grant Hall and hopping around residence in a bunny outfit - maybe that is daring and pushing the limits - we'll let you decide.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Danger in cleaning off a car

I can climb mountains but have problems when I dust off a car.
This past weekend was most interesting. I received my first broken bone. With all the adventures we have had in the past it is amazing that I haven't broken one before and the story of how it happened is almost embarassing. I was cleaning off the cars at the cottage preparing to go to cross country skiing near Parry Sound. I slipped on some ice, heard a crack, a pain that brought tears to my eyes and I was on the ground half way under the trailer. I knew I was in trouble and started yelling for Daniel to help me. He did not immediately respond to my call for aid since he was shovelling the back deck and singing to himself. My dog however did respond giving me lots of kisses while I wallowed around on the ground in the snow trying to hoist myself up. Daniel eventually came to my rescue and helped me crawl to the cottage. (my best option since Dan did not want to hurt his back and the snow boat looked like more pain than help) Once in the cottage, Adam came to my assistance and took me by snowmobile to Dan's parents' cottage where I could at least lie down in a lazy boy chair while the boys took the snowmobiles to do some work in the bush and pick up Laura and her friends. Six hours later, I was in Parry Sound hospital being x-rayed and Dan and Adam were outside trying to figure out how to get into the car that they locked the keys in. I am now home with an air cast on and a walker to help me get around the house. This is my sanctuary for at least a week according to the doctor who saw me in Parry Sound where I got the fastest medical treatment I have had in the past 10 years. Not being a very good patient, I will see how long I can survive at home.

Beasts of Burden on Mt. Everest

Laura and I are going to be doing a presentation on low oxygen levels at high altitudes and I thought I would share some of the information.
There are 3 Beasts of Burden on Mt. Everest.
1. JOKYO The Jokyo, also called Dzopko or Zuikos, is a yak/cow cross and carries supplies below 3500m. On our trip we saw lots of them below Namche Bazar. They are used instead of yaks at lower levels because yaks have thick skin with few functioning sweat glands and lots of hair; therefore, they overheat at lower hotter altitudes.
2. YAK The yak carries supplies above 3500m up to Base Camp at 5300m. At Base Camp there is 1/2 the amount of oxygen that there is at sea level. They are truly amazing animals with special phyiological adaptations. They have a large chest cavity which permits the development of large lungs and a large heart. Their trachea is longer and more flexible which allows the yak to adjust quickly to oxygen demands allowing them to breathe rapidly if necessary. It is believed that yaks' red blood cells have a greater ability for oxygen absorption but scientists are unsure why. Some believe they have larger red blood cells; thus, more hemoglobin for the oxygen to attach to. Others believe that their hemoglobin composition has a greater affinity to oxygen. Still others believe that when the animal is stressed its spleen releases large quantites of red blood cells. Male yaks have been known to survive as high as 7200m.
3. HUMAN PORTERS - both male and female. Porters are not Sherpas. Porters come from the low valleys and in the caste system that exists in Nepal they are considered at the bottom. They are very very poor and all that I met were illiterate. They have an extremely hard life. Other than when they pick up your bags in the morning and drop them off at the next teahouse you have very little contact with them. (My porter Dawa was the exception since he was told to stick to me like glue.) The government, better outfitters, and compassionate trekkers and climbers are trying very hard to ensure that porters are treated more fairly.