Episode 139: It’s Just A Phase

Now that we’re on our way down from Mt Everest the group has settled in to the daily  routine of trekking in the himalayas.

We hike for 6-8 hours each day and then walk into our nightly camp which is usually a tea house. After we drop our gear off in our tents the group heads inside to relax. For the majority of the trekkers, relaxing means playing a certain card game called “Phase 10”. Megan brought the game with her and it’s proven to be very popular and somewhat of a godsend. It was Phase 10 that kept the group sane during our unplanned layover in Dingboche on the way up.

After playing a few rounds of cards we usually have a large dinner prepared by our staff. After that is more time to relax and play cards. Most of us are pretty exhausted by day’s end so we retire to our sleeping bags.

In the morning we have our sherpa alarm clock knock on our tents to wake us up. It’s usually Chimi and Mingmar with hot tea and coffee. After a few minutes of tea drinking to try and clear the sleep from our heads it’s time to pack up and head for breakfast before we begin the day’s hiking.

You’d think that we’d all have the packing up routine down by now but I have to admit I don’t know if I ever will. See, these expedition-rated sleeping bags are extremely warm because they are able to capture a high amount of air inside them which insulates you from the cold. That air is great to have when you’re sleeping but when you try to pack your bag it really becomes a hassle. The sleeping bags do not want to relinquish their bounty of trapped air which makes it a real battle to stuff the bag into it’s compression sack.

Everyone has their own technique but in general you spread your bag out and sit on top of it using your body weight to push the air out. Once you’ve got it flattened a bit you can fold it in half and then in half again to gather the residual trapped air and you sit on that again to push it out. Next you grab the bag by it’s head opening and start stuffing it into your compression sack. It always goes easy at first with the bag all flattened but by nature these bags want to fill up with air and loft. So, while you’re stuffing the bag into it’s sack it’s filling up with air again and you enter a battle with the bag to fight it’s lofting. This involves a lot of additional sitting to push the air out, some cursing, more sitting and then more cursing.

None of it would be very difficult back at home but here at altitude it can be a real workout. I break a sweat each morning trying to pack away my sleeping bag!

In the end though the bag relents and the victor is able to finish stuffing the bag into it’s sack and then pulling the compression straps to make the volume of the packed bag even smaller.

Another victory!

Jon Miller

Total Running Time: 30:54

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