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‘Expedition Champion’ Mount Everest Climb

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This morning, in a press conference at North Carolina State University, Hanesbrands Inc. and Champion Athleticwear made the official announcement to launch “Expedition Champion,” a multi-month expedition to climb Mount Everest in spring 2010. The expedition leader, Canadian climber Jamie Clarke, will make a bid for the summit while testing specially-designed Hanesbrands apparel and outerwear made by the company’s R&D team.

As I wrote earlier today, I have been hired as a freelance journalist to join the communications team for the expedition! I will travel to Base Camp at 17,700 feet to write, photograph, and report on the climb this coming April.

The climbing team will continue up through April and May, attempting a summit push after I depart. (Maybe next time I can join them going for the top!)

There is a neat interactive map and a breakdown of the climb at www.climbwithus.com. The climb’s planned route, culled and summarized from the site, entails the following “steps to the summit” itinerary.

Base Camp — After a weeklong trek, the team will arrive at 17,700 feet and set up Base Camp. This is where the communications team will stay, reporting live from a tent on the ice as the climbers continue above.

Camp I — At 18,500 feet, the air pressure is exactly half of that which exists at sea level. The Expedition Champion team will cross this threshold going through the Khumbu Icefall on the way to Camp I (19,900 feet), which is used primarily as an equipment depot.

Camp II — At the base of the Lhotse Face sits Camp II (21,300 feet). With little atmosphere to filter the sun and reflective snow covering everything, the area can quickly turn into an oven on a clear, windless day, despite the altitude. Running rivers of melted ice flow during the day but instantly freeze at nightfall.

Camp IIICamp III, at 24,500 feet, sees tent sites that are literally carved into the Lhotse Face. This Camp is known for its steep, icy slopes. Like previous camps, the sun’s emergence can create the feeling of a solar oven. Climbers can remove certain layers in the heat, but must keep their skin covered at all times to prevent sunburn.

Camp IV — Upon reaching Camp IV at 26,000 feet, climbers enter the “death zone,” so called because above this height survival is not physiologically possible for long periods of time due to the lack of oxygen. Climbers use Camp IV as a spot to rest and store gear before beginning the final push to the summit.

Summit — The top of the world! The summit of Everest officially stands at 29,035 feet above sea level. For most of the year, the jet stream will blow right over the summit, producing hurricane-force winds of up to 120 mph. In May and in early autumn, however, the jet stream moves northward slightly, providing the best windows for climbing. Temperatures remain bitterly cold all year round, and can be as low as 100 degrees below zero Fahrenheit.

Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay first climbed to the summit on May 29, 1953. Since then, more than 4,100 successful ascents have been made on the mountain. This includes Jamie Clarke, who made the top on a prior expedition and is going back this spring for his second attempt.

Innovations in climbing gear and cold weather clothing have made climbers safer than before, but the unpredictable weather and treacherous terrain still make the summit of Everest one of the most dangerous places on the planet.

The most common time to reach the summit is just before sunrise, and climbers spend 20 minutes on average on it before descending. Mount Everest’s summit is a small area — about the size of a chair’s seat — that is ultimately exposed and above the clouds.

For gear on the summit, most climbers wear a thick full-body down suit to protect them from the cold. Expedition Champion climbers will be wearing Duofold layers next to the skin — the same choice of Sir Edmund Hillary years ago — and they will employ a Champion layered gear system designed specifically for the trip by the Hanesbrands R&D team.

Gear Junkie is launching a Channel to document Expedition Champion and Regenold’s participation in the trek up the mountain. Watch the site for updates and sneak peeks at the innovative apparel and outerwear in the works for this climb!

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