3 Important Lessons From Mountain Expedition Travel | BUFF USA
Kylie Fly / 3-22-2022
Eager to make the commitment, my mouse hovered over the “select flight” to Mexico button. I was ready to go for it. I told Austin, who was sitting next to me at the table sipping his morning coffee, “we’re doing this” and booked the flights. With a few months to prepare for our mountain expedition, I knew we had time to get logistics sorted. The first step to every good adventure is to commit. Once dates are set and investment is in, your objective becomes clear and it’s time to start training!
Planning an international expedition to a new place can be complicated. A lot of Googling and turning to friends who know the area is an obvious first step. After some very real debate, we opted out of renting a car and decided we’d Uber (Welcome to a new generation of travel), and take the local buses around the country to get where we needed to be. Many of our locations were in faraway places with no service and rugged roads to get there, so we knew we were in for a real adventure even before the expedition! As the months ticked by in planning our expedition, here’s how it went down.
What are you good at? Identify your strengths for both yourself and your partner. If you’re a super organized planner that loves to do lists and logistics of budgeting, then consider your role as the booker of Airbnb/lodging, flights, car rentals if any, and mapping out the trip from point A to Z. If your strength is in knowing what gear is essential and what can be eliminated, consider leading the packing logistics as you begin preparing for the trip. Austin and I like to lay out all our gear while we pack side by side, delegating shared and personal equipment so we know we haven’t missed anything essential. We split the food between both of us, sharing the weight for our luggage, and at the end of the day we know we discussed everything together. With two eyes on gear and heads together, the odds of forgetting something important decreases. As the trip progresses and you’re in the mountains, it’s nice to delegate tasks like assigning someone in charge of boiling water and getting food prepped, while another can start organizing and sorting gear for the climb. If one of you speaks the local language and the other doesn’t, take the lead in translating and communicating. The ideal partnership is working together as a team for overall success. Delegating roles and taking responsibility for tasks is a great way to do that!
2. Get the Gear
Pack light. You don’t want your pack weighing you down unnecessarily on your approach or summit day. When going high into the alpine or up big mountain routes where you’re carrying all your essentials on your back, you need to ensure you have the right gear for the job. Select gear that has multiple usages covering as many bases with one product as possible. I bring exactly one hat. A breathable, lightweight, foldable hat that fits perfectly under helmets and also blocks the sun. I also pack my merino fleece beanie because it’s warm and cozy for time at basecamp, fits well under my climbing helmet and also comfortable for hanging out at coffee shops and gathering supplies in town. A product that takes you from cafe to the highest mountain peak is ideal. Merino wool is naturally wicking and insulating, and goes with everything. I always include a cozy and breathable merino wool buff for my neck and a lightweight UV protecting buff to double as a headband, as well. Pro tip: when I’ve been in a bind and broken or lost hair ties, I’ve used my buff to hold a ponytail as well! Win.
3. Get in Sync
Once everything has been sorted and delegated it’s time to get in sync. Just because a partnership has chosen to have one be in charge of mapping the route and another in charge of making sure the transportation is booked, doesn’t mean you don’t also do your homework. Put your heads together and review the entire trip together. Make sure you both have an eye on the route you’re climbing, that you’re well acquainted with the details of the climb, the logistics of how to succeed, navigating technical climb terrain and current conditions, as well as ensuring you both understand what needs to happen to get there. If you’re the translator, communicate with your partner so they understand what’s going on. Don’t lean on one person to handle everything and sit back and enjoy the ride, be an active participant in the expedition and offer your advice, experience, and ideas to the group and share in the many decision making processes that will occur.
The best and deepest lessons learned during travels and expeditions in mountainous regions is to go with the flow, plan for the worst and hope for the best. Maintain a positive attitude, because when you fall ill with altitude sickness or an unexpected ailment it can be easy to get discouraged. Attitude is everything in the mountains. The best mountain partner is the one who knows their stuff, and can keep it together when things go wrong.