Girls Night Out
This one is for the ladies ~ and any of you men wishing to know what extra logistical hoops your gals jump through in the mountains!
Every year, more women than men, call to ask about personal “concerns” they have about signing up to climb their first peak. This blog post is for the brave women that join us never having been camping, climbing or adventuring before. Hygiene questions usually trump anxieties about fundraising and training.
Question: Are there bathrooms on the mountain? Answer: In some cases, yes. There are “outhouses” in the camping areas. They are, shall we say, “rustic” but allow you to use the facilities with a door, roof and privacy. Higher on the mountain, the guides will usually build an ice wall that allows for much privacy.
Question: What if I have to relieve myself while I’m climbing? Answer: This is the most popular girl question of all. When you are roped up, if you have to go, you stay roped up. I know how horrifying this sounds, so please continue reading! The positions on the rope are far apart, so much so that you generally have to shout or pull on the rope to get the attention of the person in front of you. If there is low cloud cover, there are times you do not see one another, and communicate via rope tugs (all this is learned in snow school). I point this out so you realize that should you have to go to the bathroom while roped up, no one can see you. Frankly, no one wants to! The men will turn their backs and you’ll have to literally shout at the top of your lungs to get them to turn back around again. Every girl is nervous for this moment and I’m telling you truthfully, you don’t need to be. Depending on the mountain and the conditions, there are locations sometimes where you can get off the rope to go. The bottom line here is – never unclip without your guide’s permission and supervision. None of this will be a big deal to you at altitude like it is right now at sea level. Your team takes breaks approximately every hour so you have plenty of chances to go!
Question: What is a pee funnel? Answer: This is an item listed on most international gear lists, and is optional on most domestic peaks. Ladies, you’ll be glad you have it. Check out the web site. Just go with it!
Question: Will I have to carry as much group gear as a man? Answer: The guides arrange the trip’s group gear into piles and each climber selects a pile to add to their backpack. I have never ever seen a guy pick the smallest pile while women are on the trip. Ladies, that isn’t to say we can’t shoulder our weight just as well, we can. It is just good manners not to strap the women with the heaviest gear and usually the dudes are fighting for the biggest gear piles, leaving us the oatmeal & fuel bottles. Last year on Mt. Shasta, my backpack unfortunately broke just before going to the trailhead. One of the other climbers immediately scooped up the tent stakes I was set to carry as my group gear (thanks Kent!).
Question: Will my backpack be as heavy as a man’s? Answer: In a word, no. Generally speaking (and there are always exceptions), women’s clothing isn’t as heavy as the men’s clothing, so our backpacks are lighter. If you bring the kitchen sink, yours will be unbearable regardless! When you are tempted to shove in an extra jacket or book, keep in mind that ounces = pounds and pounds = pain.
If you have more burning questions, please email me at the Climb to Fight Breast Cancer and I’ll happily answer. It does not matter if you are male or female, you’ll be a great climber. I’ve seen our female guides outpace the men and carry exceptional loads on their backs. Don’t let your girl concerns get the best of you. Ask questions before you leave for your trip. Be confident that you are going to rock your climb and have the time of your life!