November 18, 2009
In October, as a warm-up and gear test before the scheduled trip to Mount Everest this spring, Expedition Hanesbrands made its first journey to Nepal. The Hanesbrands Mount Pumori Expedition was focused on the evaluation of new and prototype Champion and Duofold apparel and outerwear. Other objectives were to build a team and work out kinks in preparation for Everest in April.
Expedition leader Jaime Clarke guided Todd Craig, Scott Simper, Sara Lingafelter and a handful of others, including Hanesbrands employees and a film crew, on the three-week expedition. The target was Mount Pumori’s 23,494-foot summit, which protrudes upwards about five miles west of Mount Everest on the Nepal/Tibet border.
The summit push did not go as planned. Weather held mostly clear on the climb, but a big snowpack and melting ice proved a serious danger this season. After a nearly three-week effort, Clarke decided to call off the summit attempt between Camp 1 and Camp 2 on Pumori’s South Ridge Route. Falling rock and ice created too much danger, Clarke noted.
Other climbers on the mountain had been injured, including at least one sleeping in a tent. The Hanesbrands team tried climbing at night when temperatures were colder — and less rock and ice falls — to escape the danger, but it didn’t go as they’d hoped. “No mountain is more important than your team members and their safety,” Clarke said in a podcast on http://climbwithus.com.
About three weeks before that summit push, the group, which varied from novice to expert mountaineers, landed on the mountainside runway in Lukla, a town at 9,380 feet in the Khumbu region of eastern Nepal. In a blog post Clarke wrote that “Sir Edmund and his Sherpa friends cut this high-altitude runway from terraced potato fields in 1964. Recently paved, the runway is an astonishing 12-percent grade. It stops at one end with a brick wall and at the other with a cliff.”
Like most teams in the Everest region, the group began their trek from Lukla. Early mornings and long treks each day brought the team cumulatively from roughly 9,500 feet in elevation to about 21,000 feet (on the climb) over the course of the expedition.
Sara Lingafelter, a writer and rock climber who lives in Seattle, where she runs the blog RockClimberGirl.com, wrote daily reports on the trek. “The section from Gorak Shep to [Pumori] Base Camp was harder than expected for some,” Lingafelter wrote in an update. “The cumulative fatigue of so many days on the trail, plus our ever-increasing elevation, made those last few hours of climbing over rocky terrain, up switchbacks — and what felt like ridge after ridge — not a given.”
On the trek, like a solid yellow line on a road, the group passed walls of mani rock dividing the hikers from those coming down the trail. The meticulously placed stones were carved with Sanskrit symbols for Om Mani Padme Hum — generosity, ethics, patience, diligence, renunciation and wisdom.
Symbolic and verbal blessings had become common — though not insignificant — as the group continued trekking towards Pumori, or “unmarried daughter” in the local Sherpa dialect.
About 16 days into the expedition, while observing Pumori from Base Camp, the first wind gusts arrived with some high cirrus clouds. At the time, it wasn’t a huge concern. But weather, and ultimately safety, helped prevent the group from being able to summit, Clarke reported.
Despite not making the summit, the trip accomplished much of what it set out to do: Test not-yet-available Champion and Duofold apparel and outerwear, including Clarke and team’s first test of the company’s elusive “summit suit,” a high-tech outerwear piece that will be publicly unveiled this January. Read gear and trip reports on the Mount Pumori Expedition at http://climbwithus.com/#/updates.
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