Climbing Logic: 10 Ways to Make the Most of Your Next Expedition

expedition list

Photo Cred: Silas Rossi

1) Do Your Homework
This is the foundation that your entire trip will sit on, so make it solid. Start by brainstorming every possible piece of your expedition and develop a list of unknowns. This is the who, what, where, when and how of your trip. Dig around – Google Earth, past trip reports and American Alpine Journals, guide books, and fellow climbers, guides and locals are all great sources of info. Find a mentor or two to help with the things you haven’t thought of. Have several backup plans in place in case things aren’t what you expected. Identify objective risks. Together these things will start to paint a picture of what you should expect and plan for.

2) Be Organized
Regardless of your method (file folders, excel docs, iPhone notes, or checklists), being organized will ensure that you cover your bases and (hopefully) not forget anything. Small stuff sacks of different colors to help organize smaller items are helpful in the field. Sleeping bag stuff sacks work well for larger items and clothing.

3) Train
The more fit you are the more fun you’ll have and the more productive you’ll be. Simple. Find a workout regimen that works for you and get after it. Remember to GO CLIMBING if preparing for a climbing trip!

4) Set Up Emergency Communication
Like it or not, in this day and age you should consider some form of emergency communication. What you bring will depend on where you are going and how long you’ll be gone. Research and know the limitations of each type of device. Satellite phone, VHF/UHF radio, SPOT, and PLB (Personal Locator Beacon – think professional grade SPOT) are all commonly used devices. Reliable and regular weather forecasts are extremely useful. The combination of having a satellite phone at base camp and PLB with you out of camp works well. You can rent a PLB at www.plbrentals.com. Also consider purchasing accident and trip insurance.

5) Prepare Your Gear
The success of your trip relies on your gear and clothing working well. Make sure that everything is in good shape. New stuff is great, but be wary of bringing items you haven’t used before – there is often a learning curve to using it well.

6) Bring Good Food
Regardless of where you are going, eating well will help keep you and the crew psyched and relaxed. Food stress from too little food or simply bad food isn’t something you want to deal with. A good spice kit and frybake pan (www.frybake.com) are essential!

7) Document Your Experience
Documenting your adventure will teach you a lot about yourself, be helpful on your next trip and help you spread the word about your awesome adventure. And it’s fun! Take LOTS of photos or video and jot down some thoughts while away. Extra camera batteries and a solar charger could be well worth the money and effort. I also keep gear lists and evaluate 2 things post-trip:
1) What I brought that I didn’t use.
2) What I didn’t bring but wish I had.

8) Allow For Transition Time
A big expedition takes a ton of preparation. Give yourself a few days (or more) just prior to leaving to really focus on the last minute details and packing well for your trip. Schedule some time to spend with loved ones. Don’t start off your trip stressed because you haven’t had the time to get everything done that needs to be. On the return side, give yourself a couple of days to acclimate to the “real world” and get over that jet lag.

9) Go Back to Basics
A) Drinking water – What will you water source be? What’s the best way to make it potable?
B) First aid – Take a WFR course. Bring a large first aid kit for base camp/vehicle. Some of my go-to items include steri-strips, gauze, betadine, benzoin, ibuprofen, pain meds, and a couple of QuikClot pads.
C)Repair kit – Bring items that are universally useful. Needle-nose vice grips, wire, zip-tie’s, seam grip, speedy stitcher, duct tape, ski straps, and screwdriver and driver bits of various sizes.
D)Basic navigation – maps, compass, altimeter. There are no substitutes for these basic tools.

10) Trim the Fat
Do you really need those plaid pajama bottoms? In general, bring less. It’s amazing how little you can get by with. Do consider bringing extra essentials – especially things that break easily or could get dropped thousands of feet. 1 pair of sunglasses for 3 weeks of glacier time is pretty bold. Socks, lighters, ice tool picks, stove pumps, headlamp, lip balm and a belay device are usually worth bringing extra of. In short, by the time you hit the trailhead, step off the plane, or pack the Land Rover, you will be able to focus on executing the plan you’ve put in place. You’ll foresee many of the variables that could be thrown at you, and be well prepared to deal with those you didn’t.

Silas Rossi is a climber and IFMGA mountain guide. To learn more about trip planning or to hire Silas for your next mountain adventure contact him at Silas@Alpine-Logic.com or go to www.Alpine-Logic.com.

5 Comments

  • Ryan says:

    Great tips, Silas! Congrats again on your AK FAs. I can also vouch first-hand that he knows his stuff. Thanks for posting!

  • Thanks for the comment Ryan. We are going to start seeing more from Silas. :)

  • Whitehorse Jeff says:

    Great list Silas; if I’d had it when I started out 40 years ago I would have saved myself some lessons learned the hard way.

  • For what it’s worth, the American Alpine Club is a great resource for that research/trip planning, rescue insurance and possible discounts at huts & lodges along the way in & out. The basic membership alone is worth every penny on an expedition or long road trip. I would add that to the list too…

Comments are closed.