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How to Avoid Being a Poser… and other Mountain Wisdom

March 11, 2011
poser - [poh-zer]
noun -  someone who pretends to belong to a group only by affecting the
attributes of the group. 
Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions by
Richard A. Spears. Fourth Edition. Copyright 2007.
Published by McGraw Hill.

Sunrise on Mt. Hood, with the mountain casting it's own shadow. Photo by Colin Stapp

Prior experience is not a prerequisite for joining one of the Climb  to Fight Breast Cancer teams.  However, there are a few things to know before you climb that will not only help you, but keep you from looking like a “poser” too…

The first thing to be aware of is… cotton kills.  Not literally, but the reason being is that cotton does not insulate when it gets wet.  In fact, it doesn’t do anything except stick to you and make you cold.  That is a bad thing.  So you would think knowing that ahead of time would mean not bringing anything cotton to a place where it can get wet and cold, right?  Well, on Mt. Hood we have seen all manner of cotton items, ranging from sweat pants to Levis and even shorts.

So what does one wear in the mountains?  This is one time a polyester leisure suit would work…ok you can leave the leisure suit at home and just bring the polyester.  Synthetic materials rule outdoors and that is why nowadays everything is made from the lightweight and quick drying polypro, capilene, fleece and, more recent, soft shell.  These items, even when wet, will keep you warm and that is what you want…not to be cold, but warm and comfortable. Ideally you should be synthetic, head to toe.  There is one cotton item that is indispensable.   That is the ever popular bandana.  Bring two if you like – they rock.

Safety is our main concern and our guides exceed all measures of expectations during our trips. Whenever we are out on a glacier or snow field, the rule of thumb is having helmets on just in case.  Climbing helmets are designed for rock and alpine climbing.  They are durable, lightweight and even have attachment points for your headlamp.  That is what they are made for.  Bike helmets are made for biking…not climbing.  Yep, you guessed it, we have seen them up high on the mountain.  Don’t overlook renting a helmet designed for climbing and leave the bike helmet in the garage.

Backpacks are a necessity on all of the trips.  On some climbs you need to carry more gear and therefore need a bigger pack.  Keep in mind, your stuff should go in the pack.  It is meant to efficiently carry weight when packed properly. Strapping gear to the exterior not only makes you look like Jed Clampett and the Beverly Hillbillies but defeats the intention of the pack. So make sure all items fit in your pack.  If they don’t, it is a sign you don’t need that item.

Pets are great and dogs are wonderful companions on outdoor excursions.  We have never had a participant bring a dog on a trip though, and for good reason.  Fido is better left at home than up on snow and rocks.  So, yes,  it seems odd to say we have seen dogs on Mt. Hood as well (a darling black lab greeted me on the summit a few years ago). You will have plenty of new climbing companions and won’t need your canine friend with you.

Glissading is the art sliding down a mountain…on your bum.  We often turn to that tactic on our descents, when conditions are safe.  You can cover a lot of territory, quickly and quite honestly it is a blast!.  The one thing you should NEVER do is Glissade with crampons.  It is dangerous, aka not safe.   It never fails though that we see other climbers flying down the mountain without removing the 10-points of steel strapped to their boots.  Please remove your crampons ahead of time and save the ski patrol a trip up the mountain.

So in summary:

  • No cotton
  • No bike helmets
  • Pack items in your pack
  • Leave Fido at home
  • No crampons while glissading

Then come prepared to have the outdoor adventure of your life, meet some incredible people and not look like a poser while you are out there…

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