GJ: You’re an attorney by day and blogger by night with RockClimberGirl.com. What are you trying to show people by pushing the limits of adventure?
SL: Correction: It’s more like I’m a climber by day, and a nearly non-practicing attorney the rest of the time. I’ve been winding down my legal practice for a while, and only have a couple of cases left to close. I’m not trying to show people anything, to be honest. I do enjoy sharing my love of climbing with others. I especially love helping girls and women get excited about playing outside, and trying things they thought they’d never do. But, at its base, my outdoor adventures are purely selfish. I love spending time outside, with good friends, in settings that give me a chance to learn about myself. I love feeling strong and fit, and I love glorious views.
GJ: What gear did you bring with you and how did it work?
SL: Some personal gear from various manufacturers and a bunch of Hanesbrands gear. I actually wound up not using my personal gear at base camp — I lived in my beloved light-blue Duofold base layer, which I believe is a prototype of a base layer that may be released this winter. I wore that stuff for days on end, day and night, in absolute comfort. I relied heavily on the socks provided by Hanesbrands for trekking, layered with my Injinji toe sock liners. I’m very blister prone, and with that sock combination, a great fitting pair of Garmont hiking shoes, and strategic use of duct tape I managed to make it the entire trip without a single blister. The soft shell pants Hanesbrands provided left something to be desired in terms of appearance. But in terms of comfort and warmth they worked out great for me. Because our weather was so dry and sunny, I didn’t get to put their hard shell jacket and pants to much use. Instead, I spent most of the time bundled up in my expedition puffy. Also, I pretty much lived in my Ibex Jacy Capri pants. I wore them for travel and parts of the trek; then wore them as pajamas, and for the trip home. (Disgusting, I know, to wear a pair of pants for a month, but they held up really well!) My two pair of Julbo glacier glasses way outperformed my expectations. I had one pair with non-prescription lenses, and one pair with prescription lenses — since my eyesight is terrible, and I couldn’t rely 100 percent on contact lenses. It turned out my contacts did great until the very end of the trip. But when I started to have trouble with them I was incredibly thankful I had my RX Julbos as a backup. Two surprises: I brought a Cold Avenger Pro mask, by Talus, for high altitude climbing. I didn’t get high enough or cold enough to need it climbing, but I did sleep with it on at night. It helped dramatically with reducing respiratory discomfort from the cold, dry air at base camp. I also have never really used Buff headwear, and I used at least one, if not two Buffs, pretty much constantly — mostly over my nose and mouth for sun protection and to keep dust out of my airways.
GJ: What was the hardest thing you endured while on the expedition? How did you cope?
SL: There were two “hardest things” for me. One was sitting at base camp, listening to the guys up on the mountain on the radio say their goodnights, and then listening to avalanches and rock falls all night (Nuptse was really active while we were up there). I worried until I heard the “all clear” in the morning. Most of us had really vivid, usually terrible, dreams while we were at altitude. I had my share while the guys were on the mountain. It definitely gave me an appreciation for our remoteness, and the possible consequences of high altitude mountaineering. The other hardest thing was the evening that we all sat down and my health came up as a topic of concern. I’d spent two nights at base camp and was not acclimatizing as well as we all hoped. I had a bad altitude headache, my appetite was almost non-existent, and my pulse-ox was lower than what we like to see up there. As a team, we discussed the possible options and outcomes. We ultimately decided that we’d see how I did that night and the next morning, but if I hadn’t improved, I’d have to go down. I had a bad night — my headache was so bad I hardly slept, and over-the-counter meds at that point barely touched the pain. When the sun started to come up in the morning, I knew there was no choice. I started packing an overnight bag, but I didn’t even think to pack up anything else — I just assumed I’d be back in a couple of days. It didn’t occur to me until my second night back down in Pheriche that I might not make it back to base camp. Luckily, though, my body just needed a few extra days. When I went up for base camp part two, I felt great except for a headache at Gorakshep, which was alleviated by over-the-counter medication. During my second stay at base camp, I hardly even needed over-the-counter meds; I really just needed to take a little more time on the way up.
GJ: What was the most embarrassing thing that happened to you on the expedition?
SL: I guess I should be embarrassed by my tolerance for my own filth. I just assumed I wouldn’t shower at base camp, so I didn’t take shampoo, just ActionWipes. One day, Jamie asked if he could use my shampoo and was appalled that I hadn’t brought anything for showering. Finally, toward the end of our time at base camp, Ang Tshering commented one morning about the availability of the shower — a subtle hint. I finally did shower, using the communal hand washing soap to wash my hair. The hot water shower tent at Pumori base camp was pretty bad ass. I think it was my favorite shower of my entire life.
—Read Sara Lingafelter’s reports on Mount Pumori at http://climbwithus.com/#/updates.