Gordini Gloves – WanderGear Wednesday

by Beth Whitman (November 19th, 2014)

Gordini GTX Storm TrooperMy hands get cold long before any other part of my body. Even on the hottest of days when riding a motorcycle, I need gloves because the wind on my hands just chills me to the bone.

For this reason, I knew that in preparing for the Snowman Trek I’d need really warm gloves since much of my time would be spent well above 15,000 feet.

I was somewhat aware of Gordini gloves from my many trips to the Outdoor Retailer Show in Salt Lake City. But since I don’t normally participate in snow sports, they really weren’t strong on my radar until I started looking for quality gloves that would properly protect my hands at altitude.

So, I started looking more closely at what these folks had to offer and discovered a range of gloves that would serve me well in the Himalayas.

On the coldest of days, I wore the GTX Storm Troopers. These are rated for 20 to 32 degrees. I didn’t know it when I got them, but that range was actually perfect in terms of what I experienced on the trek. We had some snow but perhaps only one snowy pass that might have been colder than 20 degrees.

Gordini Tactip WindstopperFor emergency purposes, these stayed in my daybag every day just in case we did run into a bad storm. But when they came out, they kept my hands perfectly warm.

Two cinches, one at the wrist and one further back on the lower arm, kept the gloves tight against my clothes and prevented any wind from getting in. And the goatskin fingers and palm were a nice padding against my trekking poles.

The GTX Stormtroopers are wind and waterproof. But best of all, their lined insulation is what kept my hands warm. Really warm.

Available on Amazon for about $65.

On days when the temps weren’t quite as low and I just needed some protection against wind and light rain, I wore the Tactip Windstoppers.

These were a perfect ever day glove with the added benefit of having touchpad-friendly fingertips. This meant I could use the camera on my iPhone without having to take off my gloves.

Now that I’m home, I’ve discovered these are great gloves for running in cold weather as they are light enough that I don’t sweat through them but they stop the wind.

Available on Amazon for about $30.

Both of these gloves are keepers for when I do the Snowman Trek again in 2016. :-)

Be Bold,

Beth

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Snowman Trek: Success!

by Beth Whitman (November 17th, 2014)

Snowman Trek Group Tigers NestI completed the Snowman Trek more than a month ago but haven’t yet posted about my experience.

Mostly it’s because I spent some down time in Kauai after the trek and then went to Thailand to lead a tour of fab women on our Northern Thailand and Laos Hill Tribe tour.

But I also haven’t written about it because it’s difficult to know where to start writing about such an epic trip. 25 days, 220 miles across Bhutan’s Himalayas.

For future posts, I’ll likely break the trip down into a photographic journey and share stories based on some of my top images but here’s the overall skinny…

First, the trek wasn’t as difficult as I had expected. My greatest fear was that I (or Jon) would have issues with the altitude and have to immediately descend and return home. That did not happen (although we did run into one group that had to descend because one of their team members was too ill to continue).

I was also quite concerned about a misstep on what, at times, was a pretty treacherous path. A slip and fall could mean a broken ankle, elbow or banged head and an emergency evacuation in a helicopter back to civilization. Luckily, that also did not happen.

The path demanded absolute concentration with every step. If Jon or I saw the other person fiddling with an iPod or turning around to see who was bringing up the rear, we would remind each other, “No multi-tasking!” While none of us fell, we all had close calls where we nearly Jon Beth Snowman Trektoppled over on the rocky and/or muddy terrain (see bottom image as an example).

We started with a small group of four but one of our team members left after 10 days when a large blister on his heel became infected and too painful to continue.

As I expected, I was the slowest in the group. On most days I didn’t mind this. But on days when it started to snow and the passes seemed never ending, I silently cursed our wonderful guide for saying again and again, “Camp is just ahead, Mam.” It never was. And I knew that. Sometimes it was another hour and, to me, that’s not “just ahead.”

Some days I walked in silence while on others I listened to music on my iPod or podcasts on my iPhone, always with just one earbud in so I could stay alert to potential dangers.

Most every day I wished for a hot shower. A proper hot shower. Not a bucket bath (which I was treated to just twice during the 25 days).

Once we hit pretty regular freezing temps and high altitude, I wore the same clothes–a long-sleeved Icebreaker merino wool top, Columbia hiking pants and lots of layers–nearly every day until I could wash them or really needed to make a change.

Snowman Trek Beth MudI loved being offline during the trek. No email. No social media. No deadlines. That kind of detox is dangerous because you can get used to it pretty quickly. (It’s also likely another reason why it’s taken me so long to write this post.)

It’s really difficult to “re-enter” after any trip and one in which you’ve been offline is even harder. To compound the issue, Jon and I went to Kauai after the trek and then I returned to Bangkok to meet up with a group to lead our Thailand and Laos tour. In total I’ve been away for nine weeks.

No, I didn’t really miss “home.” Mostly because I spent the majority of those nine weeks with Jon and, I suppose, “home” is where Jon is. Sure, it’s nice to come back and have access to all my favorite things (my blender for making protein shakes, regular workouts, and my closet full of too many clothes), but I don’t need those things to be happy.

Throughout the trek I asked myself if I would do it again. I knew it wasn’t a question to be answered during the trek. But when I returned to email and discovered a number of inquiries from people who wanted to join me for the next Snowman, it felt right to commit to doing it again. So… 2016 Snowman Trek, here I come! Want to join me? You’ve got plenty of time to get ready for it and I feel fairly confident I can provide you with a roadmap to success. :-)

Be Bold,

Beth

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Icebreaker Tech Top Long Sleeve Crew ~ WanderGear Wednesday

by Beth Whitman (November 5th, 2014)

Icebreaker Merino Tech TopI had not fully grasped the value of merino wool and, more specifically, Icebreaker merino wool, until I started doing some heavy duty hiking earlier this year. I suppose if I’m confessing, I have to admit I really got turned on to it because of Jon, who’s almost always right and also almost always way ahead of me on these types of things.

While I was hiking in the Pacific Northwest in t-shirts and non-technical clothes, Jon was wearing Icebreaker t- and long-sleeved shirts. When the weather started to warm up and he was sweating more, his Icebreaker shirts, frankly, never smelled.

So, I knew this was what I’d need on the Snowman Trek. A trip where I’d be hiking for 25 days and wouldn’t have access to laundry facilities during that time. Sure, there were a couple of days when we’d have enough time to wash clothes and dry them in the sun (if we were lucky), but bucket-washing just isn’t the same as doing laundry at home.

I ended up bringing six Icebreaker items with me including: a short-sleeved top that I wore at the beginning of the trek while we still had warm-ish weather at lower altitudes; the Tech Top Long Sleeve Crew (pictured above) that I wore on more days than I care to admit; a hoody that I wore when I needed something fresh to change into at camp; a lightweight zippered jacket; a balaclava that I wore to protect my face on the coldest of days and as a neck-warmer when I needed something to protect my neck; and a pair of socks.

The Tech Top Long Sleeve Crew was my go-to base layer for much of the trek. While most of the trek was spent between 12,000 and 15,000 feet, we did get up to about 18,000. So it was cold. And sometimes snowy.

In addition to this base layer, I usually also wore my Icebreaker zippered jacket and either a Canada Goose rain jacket or a North Face insulated jacket. Always layers. Always.

After a certain point on a long camping or trekking trip (in this case, 24 nights), you realize there’s no reason to change your clothes every day. If what you’re wearing is working, why not keep wearing what you’re wearing? Especially if no one is going to see you because it’s so cold you’re wearing so many layers on top of your base layer. So that’s what I did. I wore this Icebreaker top for more days that I’d like to publicly admit.

Yes, it was comfortable. But it also held up well to the odor test, even after days and days of use. And unless you’re one crazy person, it’s unlikely you’ll wear one top for more days in a row without a proper washing than I did the Long Sleeved Tech Top during the trek.

My other big takeaway from months of training hikes and then the Snowman Trek itself is that Icebreaker merino clothes are incredibly soft. Much softer on my skin than any other merino wool brands I’ve tested out.

Big bonus? Outside of hiking, this is a top that I can’t wait to wear all winter long as a warm base layer. Bring on the snow, Seattle!

Icebreaker clothes are not cheap. This top sells on Amazon for about $100. But I can tell you it’s going to last a lot longer than other merino brands and you’re gonna just love it.

Be Bold,

Beth

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