October 24, 2007

?Habla Espanol?

For the past week, I've been so bilingual that I'm even beginning to dream in Spanish! With multiple e-mails written to Government officials requesting permits and advice on logistics, I've had plenty of practice on my Spanish-speaking skills!
Our expedition will include attempts on Pico, La Malinche and Izta. Iztaccihuatl is next to Popo, an active volcano which is restricted from climbing. Permits are necessary to enter the IztaPopo National Park and require passing a military checkpoint along the way. For these reasons, the logistics involved in climbing Izta are far more involved than for the other two peaks. Were it not for the fact that at 17,159 feet Izta is the 7th highest peak in North America, we probably wouldn't be interested in climbing it. But another chance to exceed 16,000 feet is just too tempting to pass up. The real complication at this point is that in addition to the typical governmental bureaucracy, I have to communicate solely in Spanish - that makes things progress very slowly!

We're actually on target with logistics, though. We've pretty much settled on butane fuel canisters which can be secured in our checked baggage. All of our technical gear has been O.K.'d by the airline as well (Doug took some things down to the Idaho Falls airport and asked security to tell him what was legal to carry onboard or check, and what was restricted. A great idea when the majority of your gear is so unusual.)

Bus scheduling is 50% complete. Specific reservations just need to be made once we determine a concrete daily schedule. Medical forms are being completed and Jeff will secure group medications such as Diamox for severe altitude illnesses, antibiotics for infection and whatever else the good Doctor sees fit. (Probably a few canisters of Oxygen for the older crowd!!!)

Tents, sleeping bags, personal technical gear and clothing as well as food have been arranged for. An exhaustive gear list was e-mailed to everyone today so a complete checklist of items can be made prior to our "gear check" day. Gear check is an event that takes place a day or two before we leave for the expedition to ensure that everyone has the essential personal gear and all group gear is packed and accounted for. We also compare the individual weights of our backpacks and other non-essential gear and try to come as close to each other (and a pre-determined "ideal weight") as possible. In this case, all essential gear for Pico, the longest climb of the three, should weigh approximately 50 lbs or less and fit in a compact backpack of no more than 65 liters. In comparison, we had 75 liter packs and an average weight of 68 lbs on our trip to Mt. Rainier. The difference is the total number of days we intend to spend on Pico: 2, versus 4 days on Mt. Rainier.

Of course we also plan a light food and fuel contingency for the possibility of 1-2 days more in the event of bad weather or emergency bivouac. The formula's for how much gear, what is considered essential, and what defines a contingency supply comes from a combination of the amount of personal experience and specific physical needs of each climber. That is one huge reason why expeditions tend to include teams of similar experience and fitness levels. The more homogenous the team in all aspects, the easier the planning and the more realistic the preparations.

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The Ultimate Expedition

We take many side trips during our journey through life, but remember, your life is unique and the outcome each day is up to you. Find greatness every step of the way as you undertake the ultimate expedition - your life!