Hi It’s Paul. I said earlier I would write a bit about some of the gear that I used and what I thought of it, so here goes.
By far the most significant piece of new equipment that I had on my expedition this year was my Psolar mask (www.psolar.com). This really does keep the Khumbu cough away better than any medicine. Initially I didn’t wear it much during the day however by the end of a day I would find that I had a dry, sore throat and a minor cough. Under normal circumstances my sore throat would get much worse at night, however after wearing the mask whilst I slept, I would wake up with no sore throat or cough at all. I wore it every single night from Namche onwards, with the sole exception of when I was using oxygen. If you are looking at the models on their website I had a Bx balaclava and a Lx mask. I found the balaclava to be too hot and I didn’t like the feel of it on my hair, so I only wore the Lx mask. But that’s just me, and Attila who also had both, often wore the balaclava at night.
I would recommend getting at least two masks/balaclavas because the heat exchanger does get very dirty when you are wearing them so much. Attila had bought the anti-fog foam, and I would suggest that you buy a few of these, because otherwise it really fogs your glasses up. Attila seemed to be able to get his anti fog foam to work, but I couldn’t so well. I would try to wear the mask while climbing, but I found that it made it too hard to see out of my glasses. A couple of times I climbed without glasses, because I really wanted to use the mask.
Towards the middle of the expedition, I started leaving it around my neck during the day, and whenever I would feel a little dryness, cough or a sore throat, I would pull it up over my mouth for 5 minutes and that’s all it would take to make the problem go away.
I can’t recommend this strongly enough to people going climbing in places where the air is cold and dry. They are not expensive (about $40), which I think is very reasonable for the product.
The other benefit of the mask is that it does keep you warm. At night I would often be hot, even though I was using a reasonably lightweight sleeping bag (in fact it’s the bag I use for hiking in Summer in Australia).
On the subject of the Khumbu cough; a couple of times I did cough and the mask wouldn’t stop it. If you don’t get on top of the cough your throat gets more irritated and you cough more, creating a never ending cycle. I have found that codeine tablets or codeine syrup is the best product for quickly stopping a serious cough. In some countries I understand that codeine (an opiate) is banned, but you can easily buy it very cheaply without prescription at the many chemists in Kathmandu. Some people say that it’s dangerous to take codeine in the mountains because it can lower your respiration rate, but I have never noticed any major impact, other than it makes me very drowsy. I probably used it about 5 times during the expedition.
Last year I used Hotronic electric foot warmers www.hotronic.com (the M3 model, with semi custom insoles) and was very happy with them. I haven’t used any other brands, so I can’t compare. This year I also had a heated vest from Jett www.jett.us.com and for me it was an amazing experience; a kind of glimpse into the future, because this is how all our clothes will be some day. The vest was thin and the battery weighed very little, so it doesn’t feel like the type of garment that is going to keep you warm. But it does. I wore the vest all the way from Camp 2 to the summit of Everest and back down again and I never once put it on the warmest setting. There are three warmth settings and I used one and two. What I found even more surprising, was how easy it was to regulate your heat just by adjusting the temperature control. When you are climbing on a steep face, with a backpack on, it’s not easy to take layers off or put more on, and the ease at which you can change the warmth of your clothing was a whole new experience for me. When the wind direction and speed is changing regularly you do find that your body temperature varies a lot, but with the press of a button you can adjust for it. Managing your temperature is not just about comfort; it’s vital to avoid perspiration and subsequent deterioration in the warmth of your clothes.