In this blog, we have a look at some of the different harnesses available, and give you some pointers to help you choose the right harness for you.

People come in all shapes and sizes and for this very reason, so do harnesses. Some harnesses may not fit certain people correctly but will be perfect on others, so it really is vital to try a number on before you select the one for you. Remember, a badly fitting harness can, in the extreme, be dangerous.

 

 

Start by answering the following two questions

1. What type of climbing do you intend to do with your harness?

When properly looked after, a climbing harness should last you some time, so it?s really worth considering your future aspirations for the sport. Do you only ever want to climb indoors? Do you intend to climb it all ? sport, trad, winter? Having a good think about this will help you get a harness that ticks all your boxes. Bear in mind that the more disciplines you want it to cover, the more compromises you may need to make, often in comfort and weight.

2. How much do you want to spend?

Harnesses range from around $45.00 to over 200.00 for professional use. Your budget will of course narrow or widen your options, but even with the cheaper harnesses there is still a fair bit of choice.

Comfort and fit

The waist belt should sit just above your hips. Once you have tightened your harness, you should be able to get a flat hand in behind the waist belt but you should not be able to pull a fist out. Your leg loops should feel secure but comfortable, a good indication of proper fit is being able to slip a flat hand in between the leg loop and your leg comfortably. Your harness should feel comfortable to stand and sit in. When sitting down, make sure the buckles aren?t digging in. There has recently been a real push to move from the traditionally padded harnesses to contoured laminate harnesses, which remove bulk and weight and in some cases retain a high level of comfort. Try both types and let the way it feels dictate what you buy.

Adjustability

The 3 main types of sit harnesses are;

  • Fully adjustable ? meaning you can adjust both the waist belt and leg loops.
  • Fixed leg loop ? meaning you can only adjust the waist belt and not the leg loops.
  • Alpine harness ? available in fully adjustable and fixed leg loop, super lightweight with a the belay loop often only attached to the waist belt.

The amount of adjustment in the fit of your harness will depend a lot on the type of climbing you intend to do. If you intend to do a lot of outdoor trad and winter climbing then a fully adjustable harness is essential in order to get it on and off over bulky clothes, crampons and boots. If you intend to climb indoors and maybe outdoors in fair weather, then a fixed leg loop harness may work for you. Another consideration is your size when you first buy your harness. Many people enter the sport in order to get fit and often lose a fair bit of weight after their first few months, so if you think this will be case for you, then a fully adjustable harness would be the way to go. You ideally want the harness to be in the middle of its adjustment range when wearing it, so that you have room to manoeuvre.

Buckles

Until a few years ago the standard buckle on a climbing harness was known as a ?double back? buckle which meant that in order for it to be safe the webbing would need to be threaded back through the buckle. Currently most harnesses are now fitted with a ?speed adjust? buckle, this has the benefit that the climber does not need to remember to double back their buckles. It?s important to realise that there are pros and cons to each system. Double back buckles have the benefit that once done up ? that?s it. They will not move at all. But they have the drawback of being considerably more awkward to do up, especially with gloves on. Speed adjust buckles have the great benefit of simply pulling them tight, easy with gloves on, but the slight drawback is that they can suffer from ?creep? and will need to be tightened and checked over the course of a long day.

The Rise

The obvious fitting requirements of your waist size and upper thigh will dictate the general size of the harness (eg. small, medium, large). Harnesses also use another measurement, known as the ?rise? and this is a very important measurement to consider. The rise is the distance between the waist belt and the leg loops. When this distance is too short, the climber will be pushed forwards when the harness is loaded, and when the distance is too long, the climber will fall backwards when the harness is loaded. Women?s specific harnesses typically have a longer rise and men?s a shorter one. A correctly fitted harness will, when loaded, mean that around 75% of weight is taken on the leg loops and 25% on the waist belt. Some harnesses are available with an adjustable rise, which can be helpful if you?re having trouble finding a good fit.

The only true way to test whether the rise is correct for you, is to see how it works when fully loaded. The only way to do this is to hang in the harness.

Gear Loops

The number of gear loops you will want on your harness will again come down to what type of climbing you expect to do. If you intend to only climb indoors, then you?ll only really need one or two gear loops. Sport climbers usually need three to four loops, whilst trad and winter climbers will want five and above. However if you try on a harness and it fits perfectly, but has more gear loops than you need, it really doesn?t matter, a correct fit is far more important.

Some specific considerations

A few other details you may want to take into account. If you intend to go winter climbing or ice climbing, make sure the harness padding is constructed from closed cell foam, so that it can?t become water logged. If you want to take it climbing in the Alps, then weight will need to be a big consideration and often comes at the expense of comfort. There are lots of other clever features on harnesses and once you?ve gone through the essentials, the rest will be down to personal preference and taste.

petzl harness

Harnesses for kids

Children below 30-40kg (usually under the age of nine) will need to be fitted with a full body harness. This is because they often?have small hips and a high centre of gravity and run the risk of falling out of a sit harness if inverted (upside down). ?Also children of this age tend to have insufficient stomach muscles to maintain an upright position and stand much more chance of turning upside down when they fall. A general rule of thumb, if trying a sit harness on a child, is to try and pull it down over their hips and if this is in any way possible then a full body harness will be needed.

Care and maintenance

Looking after all of your climbing kit is absolutely essential. Your climbing harness is your direct and only link from you to your safety chain (rope, anchors, belayer) and needs special attention. Always keep your harness away from harmful chemicals and direct sunlight (where possible), storing it in a dry dark place when not in use. If it gets dirty or has been exposed to salt water, then cleaning it with lukewarm water is usually all it takes, then dry in a warm (not hot) room away from sunlight. There are specially made cleaning products for soft climbing kit, made by companies such as Beal. You can also use pure soap flakes to clean your harness, but if in any doubt then only use approved cleaning products. When you remove your harness always slacken off your leg loops, so that they don?t warp or get worn in exactly the same place. When properly looked after your harness should last you a fairly long time, depending, of course how often you climb and where you climb.

So, to sum up, it?s clear that fitting a harness should be as detailed as fitting a pair of climbing shoes. Unless you are replacing an old harness with the exact same model and size, you really can?t know that it?s the right one for you until you?ve sat in it under load. This is why it?s usually best to have your harness fitted by an experienced person.

We had great weather during Singapore’s National Day weekend and it was a great time to visit the local crag.? With Climbers from Korea and Croatia, as well as the US and Singapore, we had an international gathering on the wall! A great warm up for our upcoming trip to Batu Caves!

During the climbs we snapped a few shots of all the action!

Taking a moment to study the route.? Climb with your eyes first, then climb with the hands and feet!

First lead climb on an outdoor wall here in Singapore.? Not a hard climb, and a great opportunity to concentrate on clipping in and topping out!

A nice easy wall, to practice lead climbing and getting solid in the basics, including topping out!

Taking on the face of the rock instead of climbing the crack.? Awesome job challenging yourself.? Only improving the techniques.? Its all good practice on top rope!

It’s nice to belay from the shade…? Taking cover from the heat whenever it’s possible.? Great job belaying as well!

It was a fun day out!? Contact us if you would like to have a private group session or join our intro to outdoor rock climbing clinic and get a taste of climbing outdoors!

We also have a great trip lined up for Batu Caves.? Don’t miss the action!

“Like most things in life, the journey is usually more important than the destination.”

We all have childhood dreams. Some of these get fulfilled over the course of life, accidentally for the lucky ones, or with great resolve, intent and effort for the tenacious ones. Some get forgotten or lost in ?adulting?, and some we hold ourselves back from due to fear.

Last month, Wildfire Expeditions spoke with someone who never let fear or apparent impossibilities of those dreams stop her. Watching the live interview, even having known her half my life, I was caught by the matter of fact tone she uses to describe experiences beyond what most of us could even fathom. As if she rolled out of bed one day, decided to be a freediver and went straight to setting national records!

I decided to do a deeper dive with a fellow adventurer, whose exploration of life has led her to discover new worlds both within and without.

 

WF: Would you describe yourself as a fairly patient person?

*both of us burst out laughing even before I finished the question*.[Aside]?A Tunisian memory sprung to mind. Back in 2009, our very first trip overseas together, Anqi utilised her full arsenal of 3 French words to goad the hapless mini van driver to moving with a less than half-full van ? something that NEVER happens. You allez! Toute de suite! We allez! Now! Something in her resolve must have communicated itself to him, transcending language and protocol. This is clearly not someone who takes No for an answer.

Anqi: So no, I am not a patient person. I was caught by the beauty of watching a freediver in action, the freedom of moving without big chunky apparatus, the elegance of his fish-like movement through the water as he cut cleanly through all our scuba bubbles. Then and there, I decided I am going to freedive. I was actually intrigued by freediving and read the manual of freediving by Umberto Pellizari, but I didn?t think it was something I could do. But when I saw the Freediver in action in real life when I was breathing air out of my scuba tanks, I knew right away it was something I wanted to explore.

(Watch the Wildfire Expeditions live?interview?with Anqi?for more context into her story and how she transitioned to freediving.)

 

WF: So being impatient, how did you first learn breath hold? And subsequently, how did you train yourself to record breaking standards in freediving? ?

Anqi: I would say that my freediving progress was very gradual. The advantage I had was that I was a Scuba diving instructor already so was already very comfortable being in the water. When I started freediving I progressed in small baby steps, overcoming different barriers initially in breath hold, to the fear of the deep and the most difficult challenge was equalisation, especially advanced equalisation for deeper dives.

From Philippines to Greece to Mexico, I trained all over the world and competed in freediving events wherever and whenever I get the opportunity. I was very fortunate in being able to interact with the best freedivers in the world, train with them and learn from them.

WF: In my mind, there was always that dichotomy between letting go and relaxing to allow yourself to go deeper and the motivation, desire, effort needed to push your body to extreme levels of exertion. Isn?t one at odds with the other? How do you manage that?

AnqiπŸ˜• Yes I agree that this is very contradictory indeed. Besides the physical demands, freediving is mostly mental, which has been the biggest difference for me in experiencing freediving compared to other sports. Initially I had pushed myself with certain depth goals, but later I realised freediving was not such a sport like a 100m sprint where you can use brute strength to reach your goal. I learnt from many failures that this strategy does not work. Instead Freediving requires a lot of inner awareness, patience and adaptation. It is the kind of sport where you need to arrive at the goal without the expectation of arriving. Like most things in life, the journey is usually more important than the destination. The way I manage it is to not focus on the end goal but to cherish every moment that I am freediving, for example practising all different disciplines is one way to be an overall well-rounded diver rather than one just chasing for the deep.

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WF: You told me once about the adage: scuba divers dive to see the world, freedivers dive to look within. I thought that was a beautiful summation. Do you feel that freediving has changed you or affected your perspectives, and how you live life?

Anqi: Freediving is probably the purest way to connect and explore our oceans. It is also for me a form of meditation. When I dive into the deep, I feel all my worries fade away. You feel so small, like a tiny drop in the vast ocean. It gives me perspective in life. Many things I worry about seem insignificant in comparison. The ocean is beautiful, life is amazing, and connecting back to nature can make you feel alive. That?s all I need, not societal status, great wealth or endless diversions. Freediving helped me see that a simple life can be rich if it is lived fully.

?

WF:?You are the first Singaporean to medal in Honduras last year, finishing third in the constant weight no fins discipline at the Carribean Cup. You also set 4 new national records in all depth disciplines at the CMAS World championships?right around Singapore?s National Day in fact.

Being born and bred in Singapore, we both know that Singapore does not give handouts. For a non-mainstream sport, what kind of support have you been able to get?

Anqi: It is my dream that Singapore will become a nation that supports Sport on a bigger scale. Sport is great avenue for youth development and community bonding.?Freediving is not in the Olympics or SEA games so it is not a supported sport in Singapore unfortunately. I have not been able to get any financial support for competing or training from the country or dive federation. Luckily most of the competitions I had joined were around the region in Philippines or Indonesia. I dug deep into my personal savings to fund my own training and competition. In order to compete at the world championships in Honduras last year, which was more expensive and further away, I reached out via crowdfunding and received enough support to join the competition. I am very thankful and grateful for the opportunity. It inspired me to go all out to compete in 2 more competitions after the world championships and break more records. My hope is that the sport will be recognised internationally, so that future athletes can receive national or corporate support to pursue their depth dreams. For myself it may not be financially possible to be competing full time, but I know the depths of the ocean will be there for me and I will always dive for the love of it.

 

WF: Ever since I?ve known you, you have been pushing limits, in whichever sport or activity you choose to pursue. Running, touch rugby, ultimate frisbee, yoga, diving. You have either competed at national level or worked to achieve instructor certification in each of these sports. And they are so different. What motivates you?

AnqiπŸ˜• Sometimes I think I tried so many things that maybe I am a jack of all trades but master of none. I enjoy at different times in my life various activities and always try to do my best at them. I guess I am just motivated by a sense of adventure and the outdoors. I have always been active and love to be outdoors / in nature and I like to try different things!

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WF: What is occupying most of your time at the moment??

Anqi: I have started an ocean conservation project called the Sea Glass Project last year to bring awareness about keeping our oceans pollution free through making sustainable choices. This is a passion that has kept me very busy!

You can read about Anqi?s inspiration for the Sea Glass Project here:?bit.ly/seaglassproj, and purchase her amazing jewelry at:?Seaglassproject.etsy.com

Malaysia is open for diving for adventurers based in Malaysia! Explore the wonders of Pulau Sipadan, one of the top dive destinations in the world. Book now with Wildfire for the best availability and rates: wildfirexpeditions.com/tours/sipadan or contact us at info@wildfirexpeditions.com.

Are we there yet? Where is French Ridge Hut?!?! I remember clearly that the distance marker and signboard at Pearl Flat reads “French Ridge Hut –> 3 hr” after the river crossing, and we are now 3.5 hours into the hike and I still do not spot the bright red French Ridge Hut. The last 3.5 hours was sheer torture. The only consolation I had was the beautiful mountain backdrop behind us once we got high enough and we had a clear view of the red Liverpool Hut standing strikingly across the Matukituki Valley. This was definitely a full body workout. This section of the trail constantly required me to grab on big fat roots and branches of trees to hoist myself up the steep muddy terrain in the jungle with high-steps. And it definitely did not help that we had full intention to camp in the valley for this 4 Days 3 Nights trek, so we were carrying tents and food supply in our heavy backpacks.

I was trudging step by step with my face down, trying to avoid the strong glares from the hot sun. My perspiration was also washing off the sunblock that I had diligently applied in the tent this morning.

“Come on! I see the toilet!”, Patrick, my fiance, hollered loudly.

I peered up and squinted my eyes against the blinding sun, and there it is. The STRIKING RED TOILET. I have never been so happy to see a toilet in my life! My whole body is aching, but I am so glad we finally made it!

Finally, after what seems like eternity, we hear chattering in the distance, and we can see the toilet and the striking red French Ridge Hut! We are totally thrilled!?

A Guide to Hiking to French Ridge Hut (and Beyond)

Located in the Matukituki Valley area?and?Mount Aspiring National Park?in the?Otago?region (near Wanaka), the French Ridge Track is deemed as an advanced track that is 16.2km long one way, and you will return via the same track. Typically, most people would attempt this over 3 days:

Day 1 – Raspberry Creek car park to Aspiring Hut

Day 2 – Aspiring Hut to Liverpool Hut or French Ridge Hut

Day 3 – Liverpool Hut / French Ridge Hut to Raspberry Creek car park

Patrick and I always enjoyed doing these treks in a slightly different way, and this time round, we decided to do just that. Make this a camping trip and spend one more day in the wilderness and do a day hike around French Ridge Hut.

Start of French Ridge Track
Don't forget to take a peek at Rob Roy Glacier!
To the left of the trail, you will see and hear massive waterfalls too
I'm loving the clear turquoise blue water!

This section of the track is relatively flat, and the biggest challenge you face is probably the hot sun and a couple of small water streams that you will encounter along the track, but if you have the agility to jump from rocks to rocks, your shoes will be safe from getting wet!

Reaching Mount Aspiring Hut

The Aspiring Hut is gorgeous! This is a New Zealand Alpine Club hut, and sleeps 29 pax, and is definitely one of the better-equipped hut with facilities such as flush toilets. We took a short snack break before pushing on towards Pearl Flat to find a decent camp spot for the night.

Do note the capacity limit of these swing bridges that you will cross throughout the trek
Awe-inspiring!
Clear mirror reflection of the peaks and glacier on the water!

Today had been a relatively easy day, with approximately 4 hours of walking. And… decision has been made. We are sleeping here tonight! What more can one ask for? Snow-capped peak and glacier view, and clean water streams for cooking. So we?dropped our backpacks to explore the area and to see how close we can get to the glacier waterfall!

The moon is peering out as the sun sets. Better get the tent set up before the whole valley is covered behind the shadows of the mountains and we lose light and warmth.

It had been a cold night! We woke up with frost on our tent, and we were just waiting for the sun to hit our tent so we get motivated to get out of our sleeping bags and enjoy the view with a cup of hot tea in our hands!

Frost everywhere around us!

We could see hikers making their way towards Liverpool / French Ridge Hut, as you definitely want to get there earlier as you are unable to make bookings, and is on a first come first served basis. You definitely do not want to reach there late and without a bed for tonight in the hut if you do not have a tent.?

Sun is finally hitting where we are and warming up the valley

We got to the ice cold river crossing at Pearl Flat and this is the intersection where one will choose to go towards Liverpool Hut or French Ridge Hut. From here on, it will be a painful hike through the steep muddy terrain where the roots and branches would become your best friend. You will be hugging them non-stop along the way!

Stepping into this ice cold river water will wake you up for sure!
A much-needed rest as we trudge on with our heavy backpacks

Finally above the treeline but where is the hut?

We made it! But we are not done till we find the perfect campspot for the night. There were lots of bivouac shelters (or bivvy / bivy) made out of rocks that looks really decent! But unfortunately our tent was too big for that.?

French Ridge Hut
What an amazing backdrop for a toilet!
Guess this is it! Our camping spot for tonight

It is known that French Ridge Hut has some of the best sunset viewing spots. After our dinner feast of tomato sauce meatballs, is time to let our eyes have a feast too.?

Everyone's getting ready in their sunset viewing seats
It is going to be a night with bright round moon peering over us

Woke up to the sounds of Keas flying and chirping outside our tents. We were told that Keas are extremely curious birds and are especially attracted to bright coloured items. Hence, to avoid having our orange tents drawing too much attention to these beautiful birds, we dismantled our tents and left them in the hut before we start?our day hike up beyond the French Ridge Hut to get a better view of Mount French and the Quarterdeck Pass.?

Spotted lots of beautiful flora and fauna along the way

Followed some occasional cairns along the way and finally getting closer to the glacier and snow!

Spot the turquoise blue glacier lake that has formed at the foot of the cliff

After some hours of fun exploration, we start heading back towards the hut.?

Got back to the hut and as the weather forecast is calling for rain the next day, we decided to head towards Pearl Flat to camp so that it would be a shorter hike out to the car park before it rains on us. Right after lunch, we started making our way down.

It was still tough hiking down the steep terrain but it was definitely more manageable than before.?

Here’s our camping spot at Pearl Flat!

Clouds coming in later in the evening. New Zealand weather does change drastically at times

To avoid getting caught in the rain which was predicted in the afternoon, we had an early start towards the trail head. Beautiful and cool day out!

Back to Raspberry Creek car park

It had been an epic 4 Days 3 Nights adventure camping out on this track! It may have challenged me physically and mentally, but it was so rewarding and I would definitely go back for more. For more blogs on our adventure in New Zealand, check it out here!

Looking for unique experiences that does not follow a typical itinerary, is an off the beaten path trip that is not too crowded? Our New Zealand treks and?glacier exploration trips in this region might be the perfect fit for you. For more information, contact us at info@wilfirexpedtions.com.

Like all of us, when ?lockdown? happened, we expected it to last for a month. Then, like all of us, we were surprised when it seemed to go on and on. Maybe that sounds a bit dramatic, or maybe some of you are feeling stir crazy as well. We live in Colorado, a little over an hour from the Rocky Mountain range ? a year-round playground right in our backyard! When the state closed access to trails due to Covid-19, it was reassuring to know that we could access wilderness as soon as lockdown was over.

The walks, runs, and bike rides on trails around the city have been great, but the longer it lasted, the more we longed for the crisp, clean air and mountain solitude. Once restrictions started to ease, we planned our first hike and soon after, headed out to the mountains.

We started out early on Saturday morning to beat most other people to the trailhead…or so we planned. It was a beautiful drive through the winding canyon towards Indian Peaks wilderness, and we were excited for the morning ahead of us. Until we saw the policeman in the middle of the road, alerting drivers that the trailhead was full?!

Not to be deterred, I checked the map and found another small trail to a lake in an open space protected area ? a little off the beaten path so not very popular. The easy trail was more of a long walk in the woods than a hike, but it was still great to be outside with very few people!

The starting point at mountain lake 8000ft (2439m) above sea level was a short walk away. From there, we set off on a 5-mile (8km) loop gaining less than 1000ft (305m) of elevation – a great way for our legs to ease back to sloping terrain after over 3 months of flat city life. Our previous day out at altitude (over 11000ft!) had been for snowboarding in March ? an entirely different season and what feels like a lifetime ago!

Being out in the spring air was refreshing, with the smells and sounds of the forest all around.

The hike was shorter than planned, but exactly what we needed! The forest of green aspen and pine trees with mountain peaks rising tall above open meadows and an added bonus of the small mountain lake nestled within its midst, was a great start to the weekend. What a way to get back into nature!

The pandemic is still prevalent, but this should not stop us from planning and preparing our next adventure when travel resumes. We still have hopes of getting to Taiwan at the end of the year, so check out our Xue Mountain trek and our Holy Trail trek.

We also have lots of how-to videos, sharing of tips on topics such as photography, backpacking, climbing, diving and trekking on our Youtube Channel and website, to prepare you for your next adventure while staying at home. Subscribe to your Youtube channel now to receive updates whenever we upload great content!

?Annapurna, to which we had gone emptyhanded, was a treasure on which we should live the rest of our days. With this realization we turn the page: a new life begins.

There are other Annapurnas in the lives of men.?
??Maurice Herzog,?Annapurna

Although the sentiment behind this quote was a Herculean first ascent of a virgin 8,000er, it resonated strongly with my experience of Nepal ? albeit on a much more diminutive scale.

Despite my proximity to Malaysia (living in Singapore), my first real trekking experience was in the Himalayas, an accidental adventure which shifted the focus of my travels since. With no concrete idea of what a multi-day trek at altitude would entail, I landed in Kathmandu with the must-sees dutifully mapped out, eager to discover, armed with a Lonely Planet and plenty of naivety.?

At an elevation of 1,400m above sea level, there was just enough crisp in the night air for a pleasant change from the humidity of Singapore. ?What beautiful temperatures we are going to get in the mountains?, I thought in blissful ignorance, ?4,100m will feel just a little cooler.? (On top of everything else, ?wind chill? has not quite made its way into my lexicon.)

The next 4 days became an exercise in humility. Huffing and puffing each day while dragging an out of shape body up the slopes of the Ghorepani ? Poon Hill region was as much a mental challenge as a physical one. Watching elderly ladies chug past me hoisting bags and sacks on their shoulders gave me motivation ? after I got past the mortification.

Nepal was also where I first experienced ?mountain spirit?, the camaraderie of fellow hikers and mountain people that crossed my path, always with an encouraging word or a smile when the spoken language failed. This lovely energy from strangers would become a constant feature in treks the world over.

On my second trip, eight years later, I joined two friends on the Annapurna Base Camp trek, one of the most popular in the region. The mountains have not changed. Prayer flags line the trail, and stupas and traffic dot the valley of Kathmandu.

We were blessed with a gorgeous winter trek over Christmas and our guide regaled us with stories and piled us with gourmet meals enroute.

Strong connections were formed with the crew and a scant 3 years later, I returned with Wildfire Expeditions to Mardi Himal, an off the beaten path trek still within the Annapurna region.? It starts beautifully up a quiet path through the village into the forest, where we were led by rhododendrons strewn along the trail like a red carpet.

We incorporated some yoga into this trek at the lower altitudes. Our wonderfully hospitable hosts, rearranged the dining room for our wellness hour. Our wellness hour one morphed into party central just a couple of hours later as Raksi and Nepali music flowed, the two bemused tourists were warmly welcomed into their midst!

We found time to clown around during the lighter hiking days, inspired by Nature?s backdrop.? The weather remained changeable. In one day, we went from dry forest ?to a blizzard!

In the last decade, I have visited Nepal thrice. Each time, the landscape took my breath away, somehow always more awe-inspiring than I remembered. Gazing upon the iconic Machaphuchare with its peak shaped like a fish?s tail the sense of familiarity and wonder never ceased. In March 2017, the air was still crisp, the weather predictably unpredictable, the altitude just as punishing to sea level lungs, and the panorama even more breath-taking than in my memories. There simply aren?t words to describe the views, the emotion they inspire, and the experience.

As the world is gradually coming out of Pause, I look forward to the day I can take to the mountains once more. ??????

If Nepal calls out to you as much as it does to us, join Wildfire Expeditions on our next very special Mardi Himal trek. Trek is suitable for families and groups of all ages. Check out our website for more information about this amazing location! If you are looking for something a bit more challenging, then check out our other treks in Nepal, including our special Annapurna Base Camp Trek.

Talk to anyone about trekking in the Central Asia region, and the list goes on and on. In particular, one of the most raved about treks in the Pamir-Alay area has been crowned the title of “Asian Patagonia”. It got its name from the stark resemblance to the majestic beauty of the South American Patagonia, which offers hikers the alpine meadows, endless valleys, high ragged peaks, and white snowy landscapes with glaciers surrounding the peaks of Sabakh (5823m) and Aksu (5365m). With anticipation, we drove to Uzgarysh village, and met up with our hosts. We were showered with typical Kyrgyz hospitality, served traditional home-baked bread known as Lepeshka with constant topping up of tea and coffee.

After a hearty breakfast with our host, we are ready to embark on our journey! Blessed with great weather and clear blue skies, we followed the trail by a massive river called the Laily-Mazar Canyon,?and the sunrays flicker like glitter on the river surface.?

Even the cows and horses were out and about to bask in the sun.

That’s where we are heading towards! The majestic peak that appears right before our eyes.

“Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still. “- Dorothea Lange. There is always time to stop for a photo to capture that beautiful moment.

Curious adventurists we are, we decided to do a quick detour to the other side of the river bank to see what this captivating land offers!

Marching on!?

I was beguiled by the beauty of this place. As the sun sets, the?sky was ablaze with the rich and bold colours of the setting sun. As night falls, the moon rises and the sky changed to a purple tint. We fell asleep in the tent listening to the sound of rapids from the canyon, to the nature lullaby that relaxes our body and mind and were soon lured to sleep.

Good morning world! We woke up to motion outside the tent. Curious, we peeped out of the tent and were greeted with cows grazing the grass near the river.

After a quick breakfast, we are off to explore the peak that have been in sight the whole time.?

Relaxing day out! Quick siesta before we proceed with our day trip exploration.

The river valley is surrounded by birch trees lining the river banks, juniper thickets scattered all around, and as we got closer to the peak, we were so close to the glacier! Surrounding rocks and slopes bear the tracks of ancient glacier activity.

Found a great spot for a rest. Surrounded by massive glaciers and snow capped peaks in the background.

Much as we would love to continue with the exploration, we had planned for a quick 2 Days 1 Night trek instead of the whole Aksu – Sabakh trek itinerary, so at this point, we had to turn around to start our descent.

Our kind and hospitable host was very kind to offer to pick us up from the trail head at 3pm, so at the arranged time, he was indeed out there to welcome us back! We were excited to see him! Just like seeing our long-lost friend whom we have not met for years (in actual fact, it had only been 1 day)!

Back in the host’s guest house, we were offered food but we had to kindly decline the offer as we needed to continue a long drive to our next destination. And finally, I managed to convince the younger of the 2 little girls to take a photo with me! I guess she was amused at how I was playing peek-and-boo with her.

Time to say goodbye to our wonderful hosts. Their hospitality and kindness towards guests are just beyond what one can ask for.

Want to experience the typical warm hospitality the Kyrgyz shower their guests with? Want to join us on this beautiful trip to the Asian Patagonia? Looking for more wild adventures in?Central Asia? Wildfire Expeditions offer trekking, mountaineering, sight-seeing and horseback riding trips within Central Asia region.?Contact us?to find out more!

Trekking Nepal always inspires wonderful images and thoughts of the vast expanse of the Himalayas.? But when it’s time to start packing, that’s when reality sets in.? Questions that every trekker asks themselves start going thru the mind…

I wondered how difficult the trek would be.?What if my pack is too heavy? Will I be fit enough? What if I get altitude sickness??These were all questions I asked myself, and maybe? you are thinking the same thing if you?re planning on trekking to Everest Base Camp.

There isn?t an easy answer to these questions. The difficulty of the Everest Base Camp (EBC) trek depends on many factors. In this post, I?ll go over the factors that can make the trek difficult, and how I got around them and successfully made it to EBC, and how you can too.

What makes the Everest Base Camp trek potentially difficult?

Altitude

The altitude is by far the most challenging part of the EBC trek, especially for people who haven?t been at high altitudes before.

To put the altitude in perspective, EBC is about 500 meters higher than the top of Mont Blanc (the highest point in the Alps)!

Altitude sickness doesn?t discriminate. No matter how fit, young, or experienced you are, it can affect anyone.

Avoiding altitude sickness

Fortunately, it?s possible to get around the difficult altitude by acclimatizing.?Ascend slowly?is the best advice I can give for the altitude.

By slowly, I mean that after you?re above an altitude of 3,000 meters, you shouldn?t gain more than 300 to 400 meters in sleeping elevation per night, and for every 1,000 meters you should schedule a rest day. If you follow this rule, you?ll reduce your risk of developing altitude sickness.

Another great way to acclimatize is to stay hydrated (honestly, a great tip for life in general). I recommend drinking four or five litres of water each day during your EBC trek.

On top of drinking a lot of water, be sure to get 8+ hours of sleep per night and eat properly. It?s all about staying healthy so that your body has the energy to acclimatize!

Diamox?is a commonly used drug that your doctor might prescribe to you before you go to Nepal or other high altitude destinations. It doesn?t completely remove the need to acclimatize (especially above 5,000 meters), but it does help a lot of people.

Regarding Diamox, you should consult with your doctor if you?re interested in using it. I prefer to acclimatize naturally, so I haven?t looked into Diamox too much (I did meet people using it on their EBC trek).

Length

When I trekked to Everest Base Camp, it was by far the longest trek I?d ever done. In total, you?ll trek about 130 kilometres and gain about 400 to 800 meters in elevation each day.

Walking every day for 12+ days is tiring for most people. You need to put in a lot of work to be rewarded with the views at base camp, and they?re totally worth it!

Along with the numerous walking days, the closer you get to EBC, the colder the temperatures are. Depending on the time of year you trek, it can get pretty cold at night.

Backpack Weight

During my journey to Everest Base Camp, I trekked without the use of porters ? meaning I had to carry all of my gear on my back.

Before your trek, try to lighten your load as much as possible. You don?t need to carry your city clothes up to EBC, just bring one or two sets of trekking clothes. You also don?t need multiple pairs of shoes; a good pair of hiking boots or trail runners will do just fine (add a pair of sandals if you wish).

Trust me, when you?re at 5,000 meters in altitude every ounce counts.

The alternative is to hire porters, which is a good idea if you feel you won?t be able to carry all your gear even after eliminating useless items.

Food Poisoning

Unfortunately, it?s fairly common to have to deal with stomach issues while on the Everest Base Camp trek.

If you?ve just flown from a western country, your stomach is likely not used to the bacteria you may encounter in Nepal. There are a few things you can do to decrease your risk of stomach issues.

First, take probiotics before your trip. These can help improve your gut flora.

When you?re in Nepal, make sure to never drink unfiltered water. Yes ? even that clear glacial stream you see likely has Yak dung in it. In Kathmandu, you can buy chlorine tablets to filter your water. Alternatives to chlorine tablets are Sawyer filters and boiling any water you drink.

On your trek,?avoid eating any dishes containing meat. In the Khumbu, locals do not kill animals. This means that any meat being served in a tea house was carried in from the lowlands, a multi-day unrefrigerated journey. It?s cheaper to order vegetarian dishes anyway.??

Even with the above strategies, you might still have stomach issues (I did). If you do, just take a rest day to recover. Drink lots of tea and be sure to get some electrolytes. Resting and recovering is very important so that you can get back on your trek as soon as possible!

Making the Everest Base Camp trek less difficult

While the things I?ve outlined above describe the difficulties of the Everest Base Camp trek, there are a few things that you can do to decrease the difficulty.

Fitness Training

Proper training can make your trek?much?easier.

You don?t need to do any crazy strength training, but having good core strength will help your balance when wearing a heavy backpack.

Cardio training is more important. The EBC trek is basically just a long hike at high altitude, so great ways to train for it are by going on hikes, running, and cycling. Climbing up and down stairs is a good way to train if you have access to a tall building.

When you?re getting comfortable with the hikes near your home, try doing them with a loaded backpack. It?s crazy how much tougher it can make them!

If you do cardio training in the months leading up to your trek, you?ll be in much better shape than the average person attempting to reach EBC.

Altitude Training

This is only an option for some people, but if you live in a place with access to reasonably high altitudes (3,000+ meters), you can get partially acclimatized before your trip.

If you live in Colorado, you have a bunch of 4,000-meter peaks that are great for acclimatization.

[If you are here in Asia, a great place to prepare is the mountains of Taiwan.]

Understand that acclimatization only really lasts for about a week, so you can only do this type of training just before you leave on your trip.

Avoid Bad Weather

Avoiding bad weather in the Khumbu Valley is normally fairly easy.

Plan to do your Everest Base Camp trek between the months of October and May. The summer is monsoon season and there will be a lot of precipitation. Avoid the winter months (December, January, February) if you don?t like cold weather.

When trekking, start early each morning. During my trek in May, every day began with clear blue skies and then turned to clouds (and sometimes a bit of rain/snow) at around 2 pm.

By starting early, you?ll be able to avoid the bad weather (for the most part). You?ll get better views too!??

Good Gear

You don?t need to go spend $500 on a jacket, but be prepared for cold temperatures, rain, light snow, and wind.

Any gear needed for the trek can be bought in Thamel (tourist district in Kathmandu) very cheaply. The one exception to this rule is footwear. While hiking boots can be bought in Thamel, it?s a better idea to buy them at home so that you have time to break them in properly. It?s wouldn?t be fun to be on day 2 of your trek and have your feet covered in blisters.

Trekking to Everest Base Camp is something almost everyone is capable of. While it can be difficult, proper preparation can help manage the difficulty.

If you?re still a bit worried about this trek being too challenging, remember that there are a bunch of other?great treks in Nepal?that might be more suitable for you!

I hope this post helps you successfully complete your trek! Let me know if you do! If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments.

If you?d like to read more, check out my journal-style post about?my trek to Everest Base Camp!

Moving quickly and efficiently whilst multi-pitch climbing is a real art, and will greatly improve your experience. Here are some great techniques and tips? on how to hone your skills, and get more out of your day.

Bad stance management and lack of planning can lead to all manner of problems, and the longer the route, the more serious this becomes.

Prior planning and preparation prevents particularly poor performance.

 

Research your routes

Plan your routes thoroughly before you leave, including descents and alternatives if your chosen route is busy. Having a good understanding of a route before you go will mean that you can also have a good idea of the type of rack you?ll need. If it?s a lot of crack climbing or lower grade stuff, then you can leave the micros at home. If it?s a face or slab, then you may not need any large cams, and if it?s polished limestone, then swap your cams for hexes. The route description will really help you make some of these decisions.

Photocopy (and laminate) the relevant guidebook pages and maybe leave the guide book behind or put it in the second?s pack. Make at least two copies in case you lose one. Making notes on the back of the photocopy on descent, gear, and important beta like belays and tricky route-finding can save you lots of time. If you know someone who?s done the route before, then have a chat with them before you leave.

Why take 500 pages when you only need two? You?re more likely to get out a piece of paper and check the route than a whole guide book, and it?s a lot easier to do this when you?re halfway through a pitch. Attaching it to a bit of cord will mean you won?t drop it. You and your second can easily access it and ensure you don?t waste time going off route. It will also save you time at the bottom of the route, and means you don?t waste time pouring through the guide book.

Pack right

Organise and pack your kit the day before, not in the car park or at the bottom of the route. Time spent sorting out your gear and changing clothes is time spent not climbing, and if you leave it till the last minute, you?re much more likely to have forgotten something vital.

Pack your kit so that when you arrive at the crag your helmet comes out first and goes straight on your head, followed by your harness. Then the ropes for your second to flake while you gear up.

When you?re packing your gear, think about how you like to rack it. Maybe clip all your quickdraws together, so when you pull them out they can go straight on your harness and not in a mess on the floor. Clip nuts and cams together in separate bunches, and arrange your slings so they are ready to go with karabiners already on them. Another option is to group your gear together according to the gear loop it?s going to go on, so when you pull it out it goes straight on the relevant loop. It?s not about rushing, but about a minimum of faff.

If you?re going to be carrying rucksacks up the climb, it can be useful to have one that will fit inside the other, enabling the leader to climb without a pack.

Warm up your body and mind

If it?s a short walk in to the crag then warming up can be tricky. If you?re driving to the venue then keep the car warm or wear a belay jacket to keep your body temperature up. I usually wiggle my toes, fingers, wrists and ankles to get them loose and lubricated. When walking in start mobilising the bigger joints ? the aim is to mobilise and loosen up but not stretch. If it?s a longer walk in then use the time to discuss the route and get warm.

It?s also a good idea to get your climbing head on during this time. Put aside other thoughts or stresses and start thinking about the route description and the types of moves that might be needed (lay backs, jamming etc). Try and remember (positive) experiences on similar rock and grades. So much about climbing is psychological, and taking time to focus properly will mean you begin the climb in the right frame of mind.

Beginners Rock Climbing Thailand
Multipitch Rock Climbing Thailand

Get on with it

It?s amazing how fast the time can go when you?re at the bottom of a route, but if you?ve prepared properly before you get there, then it should really only be a few minutes before you?re climbing.

Whilst the leader sorts the gear, the second flakes the ropes and sorts their personal gear and packs or stashes the rucksacks away. Once you?ve both tied on and checked each other, have a quick reminder of climbing calls or rope pulls to make sure that you?re on the same page, and then the leader puts on (pre-cleaned) rock boots, opens up chalk bag and heads up.

The second will often keep approach footwear on but may loosen off the laces and have rock boots laid out ready or if cold keep ?em stuffed in their jacket to warm them up. Once leader shouts ?safe? the second needs to be in their boots and totally ready to climb by the time the rope is pulled tight so that when the leader calls ?climb when ready?, you are!

Beginning your route with this level of efficiency will put you in a great position to maintain it for the rest of the climb.

The big one ? stance management

A lot of time is wasted at belays and on multi-pitch climbs and that time can add up quickly. This system doesn?t require you to move any faster but will allow you to leave the belay and continue climbing more efficiently.

Make sure you both know how you like to rack your gear on your harnesses (have a system, even if you adapt it for different routes). This can be talked through on the walk in or the day before. Doing this will mean that at belays you can both be doing something to enable the leader to get going again asap.

TIP:?Use different coloured tape to colour coordinate the nuts on their racking karabiner.? For example small nuts are marked with red tape as is the karabiner they?re racked on, medium nuts with blue tape etc.? This enables the second to very easily re-rack the leader without having to constantly ask where things go or handing them to the leader to sort.? The leader should be sorting the ropes while the second re-stocks the leader?s harness. If the second hands it to the leader or clips it to the belay then the act of re-racking involves more movements and actions than is necessary.

 

Climbing in Singapore
Arapilies, Australia

Here?s what normally happens

The second arrives at the belay, clips themselves into it, and then takes the cleaned kit (usually in a mess) from their harness and hands it to the leader who then has to?sort?it, leaving the second with nothing to do.?Or the second takes the kit and clips it to the belay, and then the leader unclips it from the belay and racks it on their harness. Two people doing one job. Then, if you?re leading in blocks (same leader for the whole route) the ropes need back-flaking. Once flaked and the leader on belay, only then can the climbing?resume.

Taiwan Tours
Nice Anchor for Belaying from Above

What if we did this instead?

As the second climbs the pitch they strip and sort the gear and rack it neatly on their harness in a way that will enable them to re-rack the leader?s harness. I put all wires onto one krab, re-sling sling draws (60cm slings tripled up), cams on one side or on one part of my harness. If using the Yosemite racking technique (see Tip: Yosemite racking) then,?as a second I can rack the quickdraws in the Yosemite way ready to put straight onto the leader?s harness ? in one movement?three or four quickdraws can be transferred from the second?s harness to the leader?s. Any cams or large nuts with extendable slings should be shortened in readiness. I rack all of my cams on individual krabs and if I need to extend the cam with a quickdraw, I?ll leave the krab on the cam to make stripping and sorting easier.

Upon reaching the belay the traditional roles can be reversed somewhat because the second knows how the leader racks their kit. Because they have organised the stripped kit onto their harness, the second is in the best position to remove it and re-rack the leader. The leader back-flakes and sorts the ropes ? why? Because they?re the ones who have spent the last five, ten, fifteen?minutes coiling or stacking it at the belay! So surely they know best how to back flake it (and can?t blame anyone but themselves if there?s a tangle!).

The system above is based on the same leader, leading for the whole route, but even if you?re leading in relay (swinging leads) the system doesn?t really change that much. There should be no need to re-flake the rope, but instead of doing this the new second (already at the belay), can rack the new leader with the kit that wasn?t used. While the new leader can be looking at the route description for the next pitch. If the second is to lead the next pitch then they should be stripping and sorting the gear from the route onto their harness ready for their lead as they climb.

This system involves less actions/movements and gives defined roles to each person depending on who?s best placed to carry them out. Basically, the second deals with the gear, the leader deals with the ropes. If one finishes their job first, then they can help the other (this system obviously assumes a fair amount of competence on the part of the second).

These are techniques that we teach and practice during our climbing trips to Lopburi Thailand.? A beautiful multipitch climb with 6 pitches to work thru to become efficient.? Join us for our climb clinics and become more efficient at multipitch and overall climbing!

If you?re planning on travelling the Trans-Mongolian Railway, or just want to visit Mongolia after travelling in China, you?ll need to know how to get from Beijing to Ulaanbaatar.

There are a few different ways to make the journey ? the fast and expensive flight, the normal direct train, and the cheap way. This post will show you how to get from China to Mongolia for less than $50.

You can also use this post?s information in reverse (travelling from Mongolia to China).

Beijing to Ulaanbaatar Route Overview

Here?s a brief summary of the cheap route from Beijing to Ulaanbaatar:

  • Take an overnight bus from Beijing to Erlian (a small city on the Chinese side of the China/Mongolia border).

 

  • Hang out in Erlian for a few hours if you?d like ? there?s an odd dinosaur park/museum that is worth visiting.

 

  • Take a shared taxi across the border from Erlian to Zamyn-Uud (a town on the Mongolian side).

 

  • That evening, take the overnight train from Zamyn-Uud to Ulaanbaatar.

 

  • Arrive in Ulaanbaatar in the morning!

 

Getting from Beijing to Erlian

I took the overnight bus from Beijing to Erlian (Inner Mongolia) and found it quite comfortable. The overnight bus has flat beds rather than seats(although if you?re on the taller side like me, you won?t be able to fully stretch out).

Bus schedules in China change frequently, but as of December 2018, it?s been reported that the Beijing-Erlian (also called Erenhot) bus departs from the?Yongdingmen?bus station. Tickets cost 180 RMB ($26), and the bus leaves at 5:30 pm. I?d recommend heading to the station around lunchtime to make sure that you are able to get a ticket, and then go hang out somewhere nearby until departure time.

The bus will stop at a service station once or twice throughout the trip, giving you a chance to buy some water/snacks. Early in the morning, the bus will stop for a few hours to give the driver some time to nap. Expect to arrive in Erlian at around 8-9 am.

What to do in Erlian

In Erlian, you?ve got to check out the?Dinosaur Museum of Erenhot?if you?ve got a thing for weird museums. You?ll likely be approached by a driver as soon as you get off of your bus, so just tell them (or use Google Translate) that you want to go to the Dinosaur Museum. Make sure to negotiate. Entry tickets to the museum were 50 RMB when I visited.

When I went, another traveller that I met at the bus station had already found a driver, and we ended up paying a total of 100 RMB round-trip (the driver will wait in the parking lot while you visit the museum).

Crossing the China/Mongolia border

To cross the border, you?ll need to take a shared taxi/jeep. Drivers approach you, either at the bus station or in the main square of the town. Make sure to negotiate a price upfront ? expect to pay between 50-80 RMB.

You?ll likely have to wait around for a bit while your vehicle fills up with other passengers. It?s a good idea to grab some snacks nearby, as the immigration process can take a while.

The jeep will drive you to the border control building. It has a giant rainbow arched over it ? you can?t miss it. You?ll go through the typical border-crossing process, just have your passport ready and it?ll be fine.

There was a bit of confusion when it was my turn to be stamped into Mongolia ? the immigration officers looked confused when looking through my passport and then called over one of their colleagues. The new officer continued to look through my passport, flipping through the pages with that same confused look. They then asked me ?Do Canadians need a visa for Mongolia?? ? I said no (the truth), and two seconds later my passport had a Mongolian stamp in it.

I guess the officers hadn?t ever dealt with a Canadian passport before, so didn?t know if I needed a visa or not. Pretty funny how they just took my word for it, rather than looking it up.

We had to wait for about an hour after exiting Mongolian immigration, as our jeep was held up in the vehicle search line. I was having a conversation with one of the Mongolian dudes that were in the same jeep as me, and he started telling me how he smuggles cell phones across the border. He then opened up the well-wrapped box he had been guarding carefully and showed me the hundred or so iPhones that were inside. Glad that didn?t get caught at the border.

Welcome to Zamyn-Uud, Mongolia

You?re now in Mongolia, congrats! You?ll immediately notice how different the two countries are, and get a taste of a typical Mongolian town.

There isn?t much to do here, and the only thing of note is the town square with it?s few shops. It?s worth going for a short walk around town and picking up a SIM card if you want one.

Getting from Zamyn-Uud to Ulaanbaatar

Getting from Zamyn-Uud to Ulaanbaatar is rather simple. Upon arrival in Zamyn-Uud, head to the train ticket station near the main square.

There is a daily train departing from Zamyn-Uud at around 6 pm, and arriving in Ulaanbaatar at 8:30 am.

Tickets cost?25,600? ($10) for a hard sleeper. Try to purchase your ticket as soon as you arrive in Zamyn-Uud before they sell out.

The train is fairly comfortable but had no AC so it was quite hot as it rolled through the steppe before the sunset.

All in all, getting from Beijing to Ulaanbaatar with this budget method will cost a total of $46 (not including a visit to the Dinosaur Museum in Erlian).