Category: Review

Reviews of books, workshops, dvd’s etc applicable to the Seven Summits

Battery Pack for Charging a Phone

One thing I rely on for my expeditions is a battery pack for charging my phone. My model of choice at the moment is a Goal Zero Guide 10 Plus Battery Pack. It’s got plenty of juice for charging my phone a few times. It’s light and compact too.

Charging the Goal Zero battery pack
Charging the Goal Zero battery pack

On my recent trip to Alpamayo I took my Guide 10 battery pack and my Nomad 7 solar charger. About half of the days were sunny so I didn’t really have to worry about keeping the battery pack juiced up. Another climber on the trip brought his along too, for his phone. Sometimes on these trips I’m the only one with Goal Zero gear, so I’m the one that ends up charging everyone else’s toys. He was using his phone primarily as a camera. I used mine for music as well.

Guide 10 Battery Pack

With the battery pack to store the solar energy from the panels, it’s easy to charge your gear at night when you’re not using it. In fact, one trick is to keep it in your sleeping bag with you. I think the warmer temps inside the bag improve charging efficiency.

Charging droid with the Guide 10 battery pack
Charging droid with the Guide 10 battery pack

I’ve experimented a bit with the Guide 10 over the years. I’ve replaced the batteries with AAA using the handy adapter. This is great for keeping headlamp batteries charged, though I think the new USB charging headlamps might be a better more efficient option for charging with the battery pack. I’ve also experimented with different types and capacities of AA batteries. I keep three cables in an Eagle Creek zipper storage bag with the Guide 10 battery pack. The three I use most on an expedition:

  1. Micro USB
  2. Sony Camera Cable
  3. Mini USB

Those three cables serve my needs and weigh very little. In the zipper bag, about the size of a grade school pencil pouch, they take up no room and are easy to manage. Over the years I’ve learned quite a bit about organizing my pack and making it easy to do stuff, even in the dark.

Battery Pack and USB Charging Cables in zipper pouch
Battery Pack and USB Charging Cables in zipper pouch

I actually carry this battery pack zippered case in my carry-on bag when flying and use it to charge my phone for long flights when there isn’t a USB socket in the in-flight entertainment console. I fly economy. If you have any other suggestions or tips, please, go to my Facebook Page and share some pics and tips there, or comment below. I’d love to hear from you.

Disclaimer: I am a Goal Zero Athlete and am provided equipment to test

Safe Water in Mexico with Purificup

Before I left for Orizaba I was concerned about getting safe water in Mexico. I’ve been sick on a few mountains before. I didn’t want to risk this summit on bad water. I went to Orizaba in 2008 and was too weak and inexperienced to finish. I felt ready this time. I have been using the Purificup Water Purifier. It’s small convenient and easy to use.

Safe water in Mexico packing my filter
The Purificup in place with my gear before I left for Orizaba

To ensure safe water in Mexico I packed my Purificup with my other gear before I left. I usually pack it in a neoprene bicycle bottle cover. It’s the right size, and can help prevent bangs, scratches, and freezing. Here I wrote about how to prepare and how to use the Purificup. I was very impressed with the way it provided safe water in Argentina when I attempted Aconcagua.

Purificup in Neoprene Sleeve for Safe water in Mexico
Purificup Upper Left in Blue Neoprene Sleeve

Safe water in Tlachichuca Mexico

My friend Todd and I used Servimont, an Orizaba logistics company in Tlachichuca. We stayed in their bunkhouse. Across the courtyard from the lodge is a bath house with sinks. I went to make safe water in Tlachichuca with my Purificup. I set my Nalgene on the nearly level window sill and removed the caps from the Purificup. The filter unit fits over the wide mouth bottle. I filled the dirty water cup from the faucet and set it atop the filter, then walked away to do other stuff while gravity did its thing.

Safe water in Tlachicuca at Servimont
Purificup in the window sill at the Servimont Bath house

In the meanwhile, Todd used his pump filter unit. He filled an empty one quart poly sports drink bottle with dirty water. He stuck the hose from the filter into that bottle, and the other end of the hose into his Nalgene. He started pumping.

Safe water in Tlachichuca with a pump filter
Todd pumping water through his filter unit

I went back and forth sorting my gear and filling the cup at the top of the Purificup. Three nearly-full cups is a liter of water in the Nalgene. It takes only a few minutes per cup, and the best part is it can be done without any intervention or attention. In no time I had two full Nalgenes.

safe water in Mexico with gravity fed Purificup
Filling the Nalgene with purified water via gravity and Purificup

Todd on the other hand was still pumping away. And getting warm in the sun from his efforts. After he was done he still had to catch up on the gear sorting I’d been able to do in between fills of the Purificup.

Safe water in Mexico with water filtration
Still pumping at the filter in the Servimont facility in Tlachichuca

Long story short I was able to get four liters of water ready for our first day on the mountain. Sadly, or happily as the case may be, we managed to hit the summit within 30 hours of arriving at base camp. Otherwise I was going to test the Purificup with the surface and irrigation water. Probably a lot like the water on Aconcagua I expect. A normal trip to Piedra Grande base camp at 14,000′ on the route to the 18,500′ summit of Orizaba spends about 3-4 days acclimatizing before the summit.

Orizaba highest mountain in Mexico
Todd and I on the Summit of Orizaba at 18,500′ highest mountain in Mexico

After we returned home, Todd said he needs to check out the Purificup for his future climbing trips.

Thank You Tomaz Humar

I’ve been reading this excellent book about a historic, tragic, and controversial modern climbing legend Tomaz Humar.

Last week I did a great toprope solo ice climb near home. The next day I fell down a flight of stairs in my own house, descending from my bedroom heading toward my training room. I was totally shocked and incapacitated laying in a huddle at the bottom of the stairs. I was dizzy for a day, and couldn’t bend or reach or pull anything. Even putting my socks on hurt.

I finally got in to see my doctor, who diagnosed at least one cracked rib in the rear, with some peripheral damage to my obliques and serratus, maybe some deep bruising in my intercostals. Could have been a lot worse I suppose. He did say that due my relative “youngness” compared to my age, and my excellent health, I had a great prognosis. But he did warn me about beginning training too soon, and recommended 4-6 weeks before returning to my current activity level.

This overlapped with my planned trip to Aconcagua, and after some heartfelt soul-searching, I cancelled Aconcagua 2012. I went into a little funk for a few days, and have started very slow treadmill walking and Ski Erg training just to flush blood and chemicals through my muscles and joints to aid in my recovery. But overall, yeah. Down.

I have spent some extra time reading my book, and got to the chapter about Tomaz’s 3 meter fall into the basement of the house he was building. I was struck by the relative similarity. An alpinist struck down in his own house in a simple easily avoided fall. Wow.

“When you are ill you have one problem. When you are healthy you have many problems” – Tomaz Humar

I read about the severe damage and the pain he endured for months, his struggle to recover and rehabilitate, to get back into the mountains, not knowing if it was all over and the wheelchair, his “red Ferrari”, would be his constant companion for life. He was mis-diagnosed by his local surgeons, then referred to a clinic in Germany, where he was operated on repeatedly, and given a painful and strict training and rehab program. Almost exactly two years after his accident he summited Shishipangma, an “easy” climb, to test himself, and while he would never fully “recover”, he was back in action.

My little cracked ribs seemed so small in comparison. So I won’t be doing Aconcagua this spring, I will have to cancel a few other events and things. Have to take a month off training. It won’t be the first time. It won’t be the last. Time to plan new goals, new summits, new objectives.

I can make it happen, and be patient.

Book Review: Die Trying

Die Trying: One Man’s Quest to Conquer the Seven Summits


By Bo Parfet with Richard Buskin

Bo Parfet “retired” as an investment banker at a pretty young age, and managing his savings carefully by taking shortcuts and going somewhat around the system, managed to complete the 7 summits (actually 8, hedging his bets on the Messner vs. Bass list) in a mere 4 years.

He began as an out-of-shape wanna-be mountaineer, and it’s fun to read about his growth as a human being, and the miserable failures he achieves along the way. His adventures are great reading, from his tryst with a Russian official to being smuggled into Carstenz past a blockade, one thing leads to another, and while at first I didn’t really like him, or his style, I eventually began rooting for him.

I highly recommend anyone interested in doing the 7 summits first read this, just to make sure. Especially if you’re doing the Messner list (includes Carstenz which until the recent activity near Elbrus was considered the least stable political environment for a 7 summit peak). The misadventures and mistakes alone are worth getting this book, if only to be sure that you don’t fall into the same traps.

Review: Where the Mountain Casts Its Shadow : The Dark Side of Extreme Adventure

Where the Mountain Casts Its Shadow : The Dark Side of Extreme Adventure

by Maria Coffey

As you get deeper and deeper into the Seven Summits Quest, eventually it will hit you. People die doing this. People with spouses, children, parents, siblings. They leave behind families and friends, some of whom never ever recover from the loss. Death in the mountains just is.

And we know it. In the group adventures I’ve been on so far it’s typical for us to sit around the first dinner on the mountain, eating by headlamp, when the discussion turns to “if I die out here, just push me into a crevasse and kick my stuff in after me.” Really. Quite common.

Practically though, it would cost a huge fortune to haul a body and gear out of any of these remote corners of the world, and speaking as a mountaineer who’s been there, I know I’d much rather have any insurance money spent on helping my family get set up in a new life, not on hauling a corpse back – even if it does equal closure for the left-behind.

And I do speak from experience, having nearly died in a storm on Rainier. All but one of my team were pinned down by the wind, unable to move. As I laid there in the hollow the wind carved out around my supine body, my eventual coffin, staring into the white abyss, the thought flickered through my mind “this is it then”.

This book is a series of stories glued loosely together based on the author’s long association with the mountaineering world (she was the girlfriend of Joe Tasker, who died on Everest, and for whom her torch obviously flickers however strongly throughout the book). She has stories of death and disaster, and the permanent scars on the climbers and their loved ones.

It’s painful to read at times, and if there isn’t a single second in which you question your own desire to climb, your own motivation, your own goals, you’re in total denial. She does explore a few stories as examples of that too 😉

Her own obviously unresolved issues with all climbing in general litter nearly every page, so I’m not sure if I recommend this book to the spouses of climbers – I’d hate to be responsible for any possible marital discord.

Because of my experience, I read this book with a special, perhaps warped insight. I do highly recommend it for anyone who embarks on this quest. Please, read this, ponder, and decide for yourself, before you get so far into it that it’s impossible to back out. “This is my final summit” are literally famous last words.