Monday, February 19, 2007

What pong?

“You don’t shower for more than a week?!” That’s one of the shrieks I often hear when I talk about the Everglades Challenge to landlubber folks. When I was climbing, it was even louder; “You don’t shower for a month”?!

It’s never bothered me, not having to shower. When we lived on the boat for the two years as pre-schoolers, and every subsequent Christmas holiday for over 20 years for a month, every now and then we’d find a secluded waterfall on a secluded beach and wash bodies and clothes.

Baby wipes are the key. I budget for two a day (my partner’s eyes roll – “just two?”). One in the morning as a pick-me-up, and another in the evening to wash all the grime off and to try and keep my sleeping bag just that wee bit fresher. And when I’m paddling, I use
Gurney Goo to stop any bum rash – the Tea-Tree antiseptic additive also smells great.

My longest times without showering were always that month’s climbing expedition I managed to find time for during the nineties (and was single). Climbing at altitude, I always believed we smelled cleaner because there was less grime in the air. We never complained of our fellow climbers because we could never smell them.

But my theory was shot at the end of a month’s climbing in Peru, attempting Huascaran (6,768m/22,204ft). We’d
already taken nearly a couple of weeks trekking part of the Cordillera Blanca on our way to climb Pisco Oeste (5,752m/18,871ft), which was a great climb and excellent acclimatization for Huascaran, our main objective.

We spent nearly ten days on Huascaran, finally thwarted within half-a-day of the summit at 6,550m (21,490ft) as the snow bridge had collapsed on the only route up, just a couple of days before our push for the summit. Unfortunately, three fellow climbers had fallen down the crevasse to their death. It was a sombre moment when we’d heard the news and seen the choppers making the airlift.

But we made it back to Huaraz for a couple of days R&R before the long return drive to Lima and flight back to NYC, where I was living at the time. In my wee cabin in Huaraz, I had thrown off the kit I’d been wearing for that month in a corner and jumped in the shower. I was a wee while, and coming out could smell something very dead in my room. I hunted everywhere around this old wooden cabin looking for the carrion, to finally discover that the smell indeed emanated from that pile of clothes in the corner.

* There are some good shots of Pisco and Huascaran at
Jagged Globe’s website. The top shot above was taken a couple of hundred metres from Huascaran's summit, above the Gargantua Col. Middle shot: Wash day! Bottom shot: Half way up the Gargantua Icefall, Huascaran's crux - fun slopes at 85degrees. That's me in the orange.

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